Over three thousand fans braved the cold winds and snowy roads to make their way to Canton Memorial Civic Arena this past Saturday. It was a trip well worth the effort as both teams fought to the finish. It was one of the most evenly matched contests of the season as both teams traded baskets and fought for rebounds. In the end, it was the Charge on top 90-85 at the final buzzer bringing the team up to 18-11 for the season and into first place in their division while dropping Fort Wayne to 13-15.
A mere two points separated the two teams after one quarter of play as Canton snared 22 rebounds (seven of them offensive) limiting Fort Wayne’s second chance opportunities. The Charge shot an impressive 56% in the second quarter but with five turnovers to the Mad Ants could only increase their lead by one to 42-39 at the half.
Fort Wayne came out swinging in the third quarter and managed to briefly take a one point lead with a 55% shooting from the field. Canton regained the lead and managed to pull ahead by eight as the third quarter faded into memory. It was then that it got exciting. The Mad Ants went on a tear. With the Charge leading by nine with 4:42 left in the game, Fort Wayne had a 12-3 run in just 4:06 to tie the game 85-85. The Charge’s JaJuan Johnson drew a loose ball foul and was nothing but net on the two free throws. Fort Wayne’s Tony Mitchell then drew a shooting foul while driving to the right of the basket but missed both penalty shots. Canton tacked on a three point lead from the charity stripe as Luke Harangody missed a three point attempt with 1.9 seconds left. The Charge sunk two insurance points to lock the win as the crowd went wild!
Kyle Gibson led Canton with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting with two rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. Micheal Eric came off the bench to notch his ninth double-double of the year by pouring in 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting with 13 boards and three blocks in 22 minutes. Dominique Johnson scored 17 points in 31 minutes in his first start of the season, while Josh Selby supplied 11 points with eight rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes in also his first start of the year for the Charge.
Harangody finished with a double-double of 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting with 13 rebounds in 42 minutes for the Mad Ants. Mitchell netted a game-high 23 points on 9-of-27 shooting with eight rebounds and four steals in 41 minutes. Fort Wayne grabbed 21 offensive rebounds in the game, finishing with 51 as a team.
The Charge and Mad Ants will next meet again for the penultimate match up of the season series between the two East Division rivals on Monday, February 4th at 7:00 p.m. in Fort Wayne. The Charge's next home game will be February 20th.
CANTON CHARGE POSTGAME QUOTES
CHARGE HEAD COACH ALEX JENSEN
(On tonight’s game): “It was physical and a tough game. There will be a lot of guys who are sore tomorrow. It will be fun to watch the boxing out on both ends since there was probably a lot of scratching, holding and complaining by both of us, but we played hard. It’s always nice, whether you win or lose after a game, when you can’t fault your guys for not playing hard. Good things will happen if you do.”
(On using a different starting lineup and rotation tonight): “I am glad that we came together and won. I think Josh (Selby) played good tonight and he will play better the longer he is here, however long that may be. It is all about taking the small steps forward. That’s where we started off slow, but then as the season went on we got better and better. Things happen like the normal roster changes, Arinze (Onuaku) had the injury and he’s not gottten back to where he was in top form. That’s the thing about the D-League: your opportunity will come.”
G KYLE GIBSON
(On how they were able to win tonight): “I think the second half was basically defense and cutting down on their offensive rebounds. Once we cut down on that, we were able to run. I think JaJuan (Johnson) got a dunk in the 3rd and I got the layup at the foul (that gave us an advantage). Cutting down on the stops and limiting them to just one shot I think helped us get in the better grove and helped our defense, which got the crowd into it.”
(On defending Fort Wayne’s final attempt to tie the game): “In the huddle we were talking about switching the ball screens or handoffs, but I kind of read my defender. I had a feeling he was going to set a screen because he just hit one on me in the same corner at the same wing. I told JaJuan if they come together we are going to switch and that’s exactly what they did. I just pressed up on them, made a couple dribbles, and made them take a desperation shot”.