If there was one thing that had Fort Wayne Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor concerned heading into Friday's home game with Reno, it was his team's energy level after the long travel day across nearly 500 miles starting at 4:15 a.m. Friday morning.
He needn't have worried.
The Mad Ants scored 13 of the game's first 15 points and led from tipoff to final buzzer in a 106-86 victory over Reno (15-30) at Memorial Coliseum.
The win moves Fort Wayne up to the No. 7 playoff seed with four games to play. Mathematically, the Mad Ants still have a shot at winning the East Division, with Canton atop the standings, two-and-a-half games in front.
“I was really impressed with the way we came out to start the game, I was really worried about that,” Ticknor said. “This group, they just seem to have a lot of toughness and they seem to bring it almost every night.
“And if it's not one guy, somebody else picks it up.”
While Tony Mitchell has led the scoring surge for the Mad Ants over the last four games, he got plenty of help Friday. Mitchell had with a game-high 25 points, but Brandon Wallace notched a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Anthony Richardson and Sadiel Rojas added 14 points apiece.
Mitchell has averaged 36.2 points per contest over the last four games.
Rojas scored all of his points in the fourth quarter as Reno closed to within eight at 78-70, but Fort Wayne responded with a 16-0 run to put the game away.
The Mad Ants led by as many as 24 points, soothing Ticknor's nerves about fatigue after beating Iowa on Thursday night and having to leave for home early Friday.
“We were facing a veteran team that is way better than their record and we were leaving the hotel at 4:15 a.m. this morning to catch a flight back,” Ticknor said. “So it was a rough travel day.”
The Mad Ants earned their 25th victory of the season on Friday, setting a new team record for the six-year franchise.
“It is a feather in the cap to our players, but it is not where we want to be,” Ticknor said. “We have higher goals than just to win 25 games. It was a team effort (Friday), contributions from everyone up and down the lineup.”
Fort Wayne (25-22) will host its final regular season game Sunday against Texas (19-27). Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Pink for a Cause: The Mad Ants played in special pink jerseys Friday night as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Each player's individual jerseys are up for auction at www.fortwaynehoops.com with the bidding coming to a close Sunday evening. Proceeds will benefit the Lutheran Cancer Center.
Mad Ants 106, Bighorns 86
Reno 18 25 25 18-86
Fort Wayne 24 32 20 30-106
Reno: Greene 2, DuPree 12, Samuels 16, Tucker 10, Blalock 6, Jackson 10, Charlo 13, Russell 6, Farmer 11.
Fort Wayne: Richardson 14, Smith 7, Wallace 16, Mitchell 25, Harris 4, McCamey 11, Porter 6, Rojas 14, Thomas 9.