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Last updated: Fri. Apr. 25, 2014 - 08:08 am EDT

Mad Ants move within win of D-League title

Win at Santa Cruz sets up possible Saturday home party

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NBA D-League Finals

Fort Wayne Mad Ants vs. Santa Cruz Warriors

Game 1: Mad Ants 102, Santa Cruz 92

Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum (10:30 p.m. tape delay CBS Sports Network)

Game 3 (if necessary): 7 p.m. Monday at Memorial Coliseum (CBS Sports Network)

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The Mad Ants hope to turn Saturday night into championship night in Fort Wayne.

The Ants beat Santa Cruz 102-92 on Thursday in the Kaiser Permanente Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three NBA Development League Finals. Game 2 is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum. Game 3 (if necessary) is 7 p.m. Monday at the coliseum.

On a day when he was named co-MVP of the D-League, Mad Ants guard Ron Howard turned in one of his finest games, scoring 23 points with eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks.

"No question it's been a special day," Howard said in a phone interview. "It's been a special year. God has blessed me and my family, that's all I can say. I'm just so happy for the organization."

As usual, however, Howard wasn't alone in making big plays.

Tony Mitchell struggled to shoot from the field, missing 12 of his first 16 shots. But he finished by hitting 5-of-8 and scoring 15 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. Mitchell's deep three-point shot with 55 seconds left made it 97-90 and essentially sealed the win.

The Mad Ants had a number of strong defensive plays late to keep Santa Cruz from getting open looks.

"When it gets down to the wire we want to defend," Howard said. "We want to defend, force turnovers and rebound at the defensive end. That allows us to run and use our wings and operate in the open floor."

Four other players finished in double figures scoring: Matt Bouldin 13, Trey McKinney-Jones 12, Will Frisby 12 and Sadiel Rojas 10. Rojas logged a double-double with 11 rebounds.

Ramon Harris played only in the fourth quarter, but he hit a huge three-pointer, pulled down three rebounds and blocked two shots.

"Ramon is a guy who is calm when he gets in," Howard said. "I don't think he played until the fourth quarter and he comes in and hits a big three. Give credit to him. He's ready when his number is called."

Santa Cruz was led by Cameron Jones with 24 points and Seth Curry with 18. Curry scored all of his points in the second half. Lance Goulbourne had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Mad Ants are now 5-0 in the playoffs and have won 11 consecutive games dating back to the end of the regular season.

"If we stick together and play as a team," Howard said, "good things happen."


Fort Wayne*31*28*15*28—102

Santa Cruz*23*28*22*19—92

Fort Wayne: McKinney-Jones 5-8 1-2 12, Rojas 4-10 0-0 10, Frisby 4-5 4-6 12, Bouldin 3-11 6-7 13, Howard 10-20 3-6 23, Ohlbrecht 2-5 0-0 4, Mitchell 9-24 4-7 25, Porter 0-1 0-0 0, R. Harris 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 38-87 18-28 102.

Santa Cruz: Nwaelele 4-16 1-1 10, Goulbourne 3-8 4-4 10, Kotzur 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 9-17 5-7 24, Curry 4-14 9-11 18, Alexander 5-13 1-2 11, Gardner 1-6 2-2 4, Thompson 4-11 4-4 13, Baker 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-89 26-31 92.

Three-point goals: FW/8-22 (Mitchell 3-6, Rojas 2-6, McKinney-Jones 1-2, R. Harris 1-2, Bouldin 1-5), SC/4-22 (Jones 1-2, Thompson 1-3, Curry 1-6, Nwaelele 1-9). Rebounds: FW/60 (Rojas 11, McKinney-Jones 8, Howard 8, Ohlbrecht 8, Mitchell 8), SC/44 (Goulbourne 11). Assists: FW/24 (Howard 8), SC/16 (Curry 3, Garner 3). Steals: FW/6 (Howard 2), SC/10 (Jones 3, Curry 3). Blocks: FW/9 (Frisby 4, Howard 2, R. Harris 2), SC/3 (Alexander 2). Turnovers: FW/21, SC/13. Total fouls: FW/27, SC/24. Attendance: 2,544.

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