THE DRIVE ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF CONTENTION
The Grand Rapids Drive (22-24) came back from 20 points down to tie the score at 99 after trailing the entire game, but the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (28-19) took back control from there and eliminated the Drive from the playoff picture, prevailing 126-119.
The Drive went on an 18-6 run to open the fourth quarter after trailing by eight at the end of the first quarter and 13 at halftime. Henry Ellenson converted a three-point play to force the game’s first tie, but Tyler Hansbrough responded with a three-point play of his own immediately after and the Drive were not able to tie the game back again.
The NBA veteran Hansbrough had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Fort Wayne, Alex Poythress had 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds and Trey McKinney-Jones had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Loyd also had 21 points, as he and Hansbrough combined to go 23-of-24 from the foul line. As a team, the Mad Ants hit 34 of 39 free throws.
On the Drive’s side, Kevin Murphy led the team in scoring for the third consecutive game with a game-high 32 points. Lorenzo Brown had 28 points and five rebounds and Ray McCallum had 23 points and seven assists. Pistons assignee Ellenson had 13 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out.
A physical defense for the Drive meant the whistle was their enemy all night. They committed 33 fouls to 17 for the Mad Ants, and even after Brown dunked to cut the Fort Wayne lead to two in the fourth quarter the Drive bench was whistled for a costly technical.
The Drive were very efficient from the field, especially in the second half, finishing shooting 52 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. But it was not enough to make up for the Mad Ants’ prolific volume and efficiency at the charity stripe, especially since they supplemented it with 48 percent shooting from the field and 12 offensive rebounds to six for the Drive.
Grand Rapids pulled within a half-game of Fort Wayne in the standings on Feb. 22 when they beat Long Island to improve their record to 20-17, but the teams have gone in opposite directions since, and this loss put an end to the Drive’s playoff hopes. They will remain without a playoff appearance in three seasons as a franchise.
These teams meet for a rematch in Grand Rapids tomorrow night, March 25 at the DeltaPlex.