For the first half of the game, the Armor’s defensive intensity that helped them defeat the Maine Red Claws last week was absent in Friday night’s 118-110 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
“We didn’t come out with the defensive mindset we did in our previous game,” said head coach Bob MacKinnon.
The second quarter that came back to hurt Springfield (1-1). After leading 30-25 after one, the Armor went through a dismal 12 minutes as the Mad Ants (2-0) outscored them 36-21.
Fort Wayne’s backcourt of Walker Russell and Cameron Jones, who had 17 of his game-high 31 points in the first half, took advantage of the defensive lapse.
Offensively, Springfield didn’t help itself either, by committing 10 turnovers and shooting 2-13 from behind the arc. The Armor didn’t attack the basket like they did against the Red Claws, which was the strategy going into the game.
“We took bad three-point shots in the first half. That’s why we got down. We shoot the ball well when we go in and out, but when we go down and jack up the first one that’s the one we miss,” said MacKinnon. “We’re good shooters when we shoot good shots; we’re bad shooters when we shoot poor shots.”
In the second half, the Armor found that aggression on defense that lacked in the first.
The Armor cut the lead to six early in the third quarter, but every time Springfield threatened, Fort Wayne countered. Mad Ants guard Corey Almond hit back-to-back threes to help give Fort Wayne a little breathing room after Springfield brought the score to 68-62.
Springfield began the fourth trailing by 12, but just like the third quarter the Armor began to chip away at the lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Armor reduced the lead to three, but Jones responded with a three from the wing on the next possession to give the Mad Ants a 98-92 lead.
With 3:30 left, the Armor again cut the lead to three, but just 20 seconds later Russell responded with a difficult shot from the baseline to bring the lead back to five.
“We stopped allowing easy drives,” said MacKinnon. “We got back in the game because we picked up the defensive intensity.”
The Armor’s best chance to capture the lead came with just over a minute to go. After a Jeff Foote layup, the Armor went to a full court press and trapped Jones as soon as he received the pass. Jones forced a pass to half court, which was intercepted by JamesOn Curry. He immediately hit Jerry Smith in the corner for three, getting the Armor within one at 104-103.
Once again Fort Wayne responded by knocking down free throws down the stretch. Russell, Jones, and Tory Jackson combined to sink 18 of 18 free throws in the final minute of the game.
“It’s hard because you’re always fighting uphill and we dug ourselves that hole by not coming out with a defensive mindset in the first half,” said MacKinnon.
Curry led the Armor with 28 points and 10 assists. Smith chipped in with 22. Newly acquired Jeff Foote, a 7-foot center, provided a lift to the frontline scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds (six offensive).
Fort Wayne’s backcourt all had big games. Jones had 31 points, Russell recorded his second double-double of the season with 24 points and 14 assists, while Almond and Jackson finished with 19 and 18, respectively.
Springfield hits the road for a game Saturday night against the Red Claws (0-2).