The Grand Rapids Drive (22-24) will miss the NBA Development League playoffs for the third straight season. On Friday, the Drive’s hopes of making it to the postseason for the first time since moving to the 616 from Springfield, MA were dashed in a 126-119 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (28-19).
After trailing by 20 points, the Drive chased another comeback bid, something they’ve become accustomed to doing this season by going on an 18-6 run to start the fourth quarter. Henry Ellenson, on assignment from the Detroit Pistons, tied the game in the fourth but NBA veteran Tyler Hansbrough (brother of former Drive draft pick Ben Hansbrough) retaliated instantly with a three-point play (the hard way) of his own and the Mad Ants never trailed again.
Although they shot 52% from the field in the game, Grand Rapids had a tough night all around. Collecting only six offensive rebounds all game, Grand Rapids trailed by eight points after the first quarter, by 13 at the half and by 12 after three quarters. They were whistled for 33 fouls including a bench technical in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Murphy led the Drive in scoring for the third consecutive game, this time with 32 points. Lorenzo Brown scored 28 points and Ray McCallum returned to form by adding 23 points and seven rebounds after a poor shooting effort last time out. Ellenson finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Alex Poythress led the Mad Ants with 30 points on the same night his former college team, the Kentucky Wildcats, beat UCLA in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. Hansbrough, whose UNC Tarheels also won their matchup with Butler on Friday night, added 28 points and 11 rebounds as he continues to dominate since signing with Fort Wayne. Jordan Loyd scored 21 in the game and Trey McKinney-Jones finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Grand Rapids will host Fort Wayne on Saturday night in the second game of their home-and-home series at the DeltaPlex Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.