Fort Wayne's Comeback Attempt Falls Short against Erie
ORLANDO, Fla. - The league leading Erie Bayhawks (8-1) never trailed and fought off several Fort Wayne surges on Tuesday night to hold on for a 106-103 win.
Erie was paced by 28 points from Naji Marshall and 22 from Cassius Winston in the win while shooting 45 percent from the floor. Winston hit four of his six three-point attempts and Erie hit 11 as a team. Fort Wayne (3-6) overcame a cold start to finish 41 percent from the field and outrebound Erie 50-48.
Erie came into the game hot, jumping out to a 14-2 lead while Fort Wayne started 1-of-11 from the field. A Jarrod Uthoff reverse layup with 7:06 left in the first pushed the Bayhawks out in front by double digits at 12-2. Back-to-back three pointers near the three-minute mark from Daxter Miles Jr. and Brian Bowen II cut the Mad Ant deficit to 19-14. Fort Wayne would erase the much of the Erie lead, getting a 13-point Bayhawk lead down to four in the first quarter, but the Bayhawks pushed back out to an eight-point lead with 5.5 seconds left on a Will Magnay free throw worth two points.
The second quarter was a good deal of trading of baskets with Erie keeping Fort Wayne at arm's length throughout most of the quarter, with the gap rotating between five and seven points. A Winston three at 4:36 pushed the Erie lead back to double digits at 44-34. Erie led 51-44 at halftime, led by Winston's 11 points and 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range.
The lead for Erie fluctuated between eight and 14 points throughout much of the third quarter. Fort Wayne attempted to threaten but a Winston three with 5:44 left pushed Erie back up 67-56. Fort Wayne's Quincy McKnight made his first professional basket on a three pointer with 3:47 left in the third. On the next possession, Devin Robinson blocked a shot then scored on the other end to draw Fort Wayne within 71-65. But a late in the shot clock basket from Uthoff and a fast break dunk for Marshall gave Erie back a 10-point lead just as quickly. The Bayhawks led 78-70 after the third.
Miles Jr. finished through contact early in the fourth as the Mad Ants started the quarter quickly, getting them within four before Caleb Homesley finished at the rim to end the nearly two-minute Erie scoring drought. Fort Wayne had multiple chances to tie the game with consistent defensive stops but couldn't cash in near the eight-minute mark when a Marshall second chance basket pushed the Erie lead back to four. An Amida Brimah put back with 3:42 to played tied the game at 94, Fort Wayne's first tie since the first quarter, before Marshall answered again on the other end to give Erie their lead back and an Uthoff three pushed the Bayhawk lead back to five. A 7-0 run gave Erie a 101-94 edge with just over two minutes to play.
Fort Wayne fought back again as Josh Gray caught fire in the fourth and tied the game at 101 with 56 seconds to play with a layup. Fort Wayne had the chance to take the lead near the half minute mark, but a turnover on an inbounds play led to a Marshall breakaway basket and foul call; he added a free throw with 18.1 seconds left to push Erie's lead to 104-101 and they would hold on for the 106-103 win.
Uthoff added 19 points for Erie.
The Mad Ants were led by Gray's 21 points, six rebounds and four assists; he scored 11 of those in the fourth on 5-of-7 shooting. Bowen II had an efficient night scoring 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and adding nine rebounds.
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