The Fort Wayne Mad Ants president Jeff Potter said that his 2014 D-League championship team is one of the best in D-League history on April 28. The Mad Ants swept their way through three playoff series, culminating with a 119-113 victory over Santa Cruz on Saturday night. The D- League championship is the Mad Ants first in their seven-year existence.
Tony Mitchell led all scorers with 32 points while Ron Howard and Matt Bouldin finished the game with 23 and 20 points, respectively for the Mad Ants. Seth Curry led the Warriors with 29 points.
Fort Wayne led by as many as 20 points in the second half of the decisive game but Santa Cruz wouldn’t go away quietly. The Warriors took their first lead (103-101) since the opening quarter with 5:01 remaining when Mychael Thompson’ converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a made lay-up. The game then see-sawed back –and-forth a there were four ties and two lead changes before the Mad Ants sealed the victory. Howard hit a jumper to take go ahead 113-111 and the team never looked back en route to the six-point championship win.
Fort Wayne also defeated Reno and Sioux Falls in the playoffs. The Mad Ants, led by Mitchell (22.5 pg), topped the century mark five times in the playoffs. Sadiel Rojas led the team with 9.3 rebounds and Bouldin averaged 6.0 assists during the playoffs.
Fort Wayne (40-16) won 23-of-their final 26 games and is the seventh team to sweep through their playoff series since the league began operating in 2001 -- Rio Grande Valley (2013) was the only other team to do so in as many games.
“I think it says we’re one of the best to ever play in this league,” Potter said. “Am I biased? Yes. But why not? We won some ungodly number like 23 of 26, and I think we’re one of the best to ever play in the D-League. Some teams may have had better players, but there’s never been a better team, in my opinion.”
Fort Wayne was a very veteran laden team as they had only one rookie, Trey McKinney-Jones. Mitchell was their only player on the postseason roster to spend time in the NBA this season.
The Mad Ants, who are affiliated with six different NBA clubs -- Indiana, Detroit, Memphis, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Orlando --, only had five players with NBA contracts sent down this year. The five players were Jamaal Franklin, Peyton Siva, Solomon Hill, Orlando Johnson and another Tony Mitchell.
D-League Co-MVP Ron Howard led Fort Wayne with 20.5 points while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor. He also dished out 4.3 assists and grabbed 4.3 rebounds a game. Howard is the D-League's All-Time leading scorer with 4,324 career points.
Mitchell also averaged over 20 points a game during the regular season (20.2) while also grabbing 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. McKinney-Jones (15.2 ppg), Bouldin (12.1) , Rojas (12.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Tim Ohlbreht (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) also averaged double figures.
Additionally, head coach Connor Henry was named Coach of the Year.
Prior to this year, Fort Wayne best season was last year when they went 27-23 and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Overall, the Mad Ants are 157-193 during the regular season and 6-2 in playoff games.