The motto for last night’s Canton Charge victory of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants was “Never Say Die!” Canton spent over three quarters of the game trying to game superiority and in the end it was just one point needed for the hard fought victory as 3,942 fans assembled for Cavs Night with the Canton Charge. The victory improved the Charge’s season record to 17-9 while dropping the Mad Ants to 15-11. The season series between the teams stands tied at two wins apiece.
The first quarter was off to a wild and crazy start as nine lead changes and five ties were put in the books. Canton took the battle of the paint with 22 points inside, hitting 12 out of 19 for 63% but at the buzzer it was Fort Wayne ahead by one. Jorge Gutierrez did his part by dishing out six assists for Canton in the first quarter.
The second quarter started with advantage Fort Wayne as they took the lead by as much as eight points, but with 4:57 left in the half, the Charge went on a quick 7-0 tear to pull within one at 43-42. Both teams went basket for basket on the next eight possessions when Gutierrez went full court on a steal to score two with a penalty bonus to give the Charge a 53-52 lead. The Mad Ants were not done for the half just yet when Chris Porter forced himself under for a layup with .8 on the clock taking a one point lead for Fort Wayne to the locker room.
It was incredibly tough physical basketball in the third with Fort Wayne putting on the crunch and forcing eight Canton turnovers for 10 points while hitting 8-of-9 on the free throw line. It was looking grim as the Mad Ants went ahead by as many as 11 points outscoring Canton 26-17 in the third quarter. As the fourth quarter began, the Charge was facing a ten point deficit.
With just 7:31 left to play and down by nine, Canton began to fight back tooth and nail with an impressive 15-2 run while forcing 11 consecutive missed shots at the Mad Ants end of the court. Fort Wayne’s Tony Mitchell converted a jumper to bring the lead over to Fort Wayne’s side leaving the Charge one point down. After a pair of free throws, Canton was on top 101-97 with a scant 17.2 left to play.
On the next possession, Mitchell took the inbounded ball down court, stopping at the 26 foot mark to drill a triple bringing the score 101-100 in favor of the Charge. Fort Wayne forced a foul on the next inbound and Gutierrez missed both attempts that opened the door for a last gasp chance for Fort Wayne. Sadiel Rojas took the ball the length of the court where a battle ensued under the hoop and Fort Wayne was unable to get the ball in the hoop with three tries against a strong wall of defenders. After a review of the final seconds, the referees awarded the ball to Fort Wayne with 0.3 left on the clock but a blocked inbound try and a Charge recovery of the ball brought the screaming crowd to their feet.
Gutierrez finished with a career high 32 points on 9-of-17 shooting, nine assists, four rebounds and two steals in 41 minutes. Kevin Jones added 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with nine rebounds in 32 minutes. Arinze Onuaku came off the bench to supply his 25th career double-double of the year with 10 points, 10 boards and two blocks in 23 minutes. Cleveland Cavaliers assignment Sergey Karasev added nine points and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
Mitchell led Fort Wayne with 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting with seven rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and three blocks in 37 minutes. Darnell Lazare and Trey McKinney-Jones each added 14 points and five rebounds. Sadiel Rojas supplied 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals in 24 minutes of relief. Fort Wayne forced 21 Canton turnovers resulting in 23 points.
The two teams will wrap up the weekend set tomorrow, February 1, at 7:00 p.m. in Fort Wyane. Fans can follow all of the action with up-to-the minute stats and a live YouTube stream of the game on CantonCharge.com.