Celtics Hold off Rally to Beat Mad Ants
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The Maine Celtics, presented by Unum, bounced back from an overtime loss at the hands of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to earn a win today, 138-126 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Sam Hauser led Maine (5-4) with 29 points on 7-15 shooting from long-range, adding four rebounds. Denzel Valentine was two assists shy of a triple-double, posting 23 points, 17 rebounds, and eight assists. Bruno Fernando finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Deonte Burton posted 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Jaysean Paige had 16 points and three assists. Brodric Thomas turned in eight points, five rebounds and five assists.
Fort Wayne (3-5) was led by an outstanding performance by Gabe York, who finished with 45 points. It is the most points scored by a Maine Celtics opponent this season.
Thomas banked in a running layup to open the game. Justin Anderon buried a three for the Mad Ants on their first possession. Burton came out hot, utilizing his pull-up jumper and slashing ability for 13 points by the halfway point. Juwan Morgan scored from the low post after a Fort Wayne timeout, and a stretch of stifling defense helped the Celtics out to a 30-18 lead. Anderson would score five points to bring the game within single digits, and Walt Lemon Jr.'s buzzer-beating layup capped off a 9-0 run by the Mad Ants to end the quarter, with Maine holding a 30-27 lead.
Hauser scored 11 points in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter to help give the Celtics some breathing room. Anderson and Will Vorhees helped Fort Wayne chip into the deficit and a technical foul on Chris Clemons shrunk the lead back to three, 43-40 after the ensuing free throw. Nate Hinton and Gabe York powered the Mad Ants into the lead mid-quarter. Hinton was assessed a flagrant 1 foul for the second consecutive game, sparking the Celtics to a 10-4 run behind a lob to Fernando and a euro-step finger-roll in transition from Clemons. York briefly returned the advantage to Fort Wayne, but Hauser's corner three gave Maine a 69-66 lead at the break. The Celtics shot 51.9 percent (27-52) from the floor, 38.5 percent (10-26) from deep and 3-4 (75 percent) at the line in the first half. The Mad Ants shot 45 percent (23-50) from the floor, 44.4 percent (8-18) from deep and 7-7 (100 percent) at the line.
It took nearly two minutes for a point to be registered in the third quarter before Fernando finished a lob from Burton. The Mad Ants went on a 5-0 run to tie it, but Fernando threw down two more rim-rattling dunks to put Maine up, 79-73. York led another charge for Fort Wayne, who responded every time the Celtics built a lead near double-digits. Eric Demers lobbed a pass off the backboard to Burton for a highlight-reel alley-oop. Valentine capped off an 8-0 Maine run and knocked down a pair of threes following a Mad Ants' timeout, giving himself a double-double through three. The Celtics led, 101-94 heading into the fourth.
Valentine stayed hot, hitting another three along with two from Paige to put Maine ahead by 14 early in the final frame. Russ Smith hit a couple of shots to bring Fort Wayne within single digits, but a five-out lineup from the Celtics featuring Hauser at center outpaced the Mad Ants until York cut it close once again. Fernando and Valentine's clutch two-way play earned Maine the victory. The Celtics finished at 53.8 percent (50-93) from the field, 39.1 percent (18-46) from distance and 13-17 (76.5) at the stripe. The Mad Ants shot 41.3 percent (43-104) from the field, 33.3 percent (13-39) from distance and 18-20 (90 percent) at the stripe.
The Maine Celtics travel to Detroit to see the Motor City Cruise on Jan. 30. They return to The Expo to face the Grand Rapids Gold on Feb. 4 and Feb. 6.
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