Updated: Saturday, 08 Dec 2012, 11:56 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 08 Dec 2012, 11:56 PM EST
PORTLAND, Maine - The Maine Red Claws (4-2) held a slim six-point lead through the first three quarters of Saturday night's contest and withstood a furious fourth quarter by hitting eight of their last 10 free throws to get their first win at home the season, defeating the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2-5) at the Portland Expo Building, 116-113.
The win, coupled with a Springfield loss tonight, moves the Red Claws into first place in the East Division.
The Red Claws opened up a 30-22 lead after the first quarter with the strong play of Chris Wright and a balanced attack that saw eight different Red Claws scoring. Fort Wayne stayed in the game with a strong second quarter, paced by Walker Russell's 14 points in the second stanza to cut the lead to 57-56. A buzzer beater by Micah Downs gave Maine a 59-56 edge at halftime.
Russell opened the second half with a floater to cut Maine's lead to one, but a 13-2 Maine run led by Xavier Silas' five points and Chris Ayer's three blocks helped push the Red Claws' lead to 11, and it appeared that Maine was on cruise control.
But the Mad Ants hung around, as Sadiel Rojas threw in eight points in the quarter, including six in the last 1:30 to cut Maine's lead to two. Maine grabbed four quick points in the frame to end the third, 84-78.
Russell led Fort Wayne with 29 points and had three assists and three steals. The Mad Ants' other top contributors were Ron Howard (27 points, four assists, three steals), Rojas (18 points, eight rebounds, six steals) and Tony Mitchell (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists). Howard, Rojas and Russell combined for 19-of-19 from the free throw line.
Maine earned its first home win with a stellar performance from Shelvin Mack (26 points, eight assists, five steals), who earned Adidas Player of the Game honors, with Chris Wright (21 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two steals), Kris Joseph (18 points, seven rebounds, two steals), Micah Downs (17 points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks) and DaJuan Summer (12 points, 11 rebounds) rounding out the Red Claws in double figures. Chris Ayer also made his presence felt (nine points, six rebounds and three blocks) in the win.
The Red Claws are 2-0 against Fort Wayne this season. The Red Claws and Mad Ants will meet again next Friday in Fort Wayne, the first of five more meetings this season. The Red Claws will play tomorrow night against the Canton Charge in the Portland Expo Building at 5 p.m.. Fort Wayne plays on Wednesday at Canton at 7 p.m.
Ground rules for posting comments: No profanity or personal attacks. No racially charged comments. If it's not something you would say to someone's face, it's most likely inappropriate. Please comment on the subject of the story itself. If you do not follow these rules, we will remove your post. Repeat offenders will be banned from making future comments. Keep it civil, folks! WANE is not responsible for the content posted in this comment section.