That wasn’t the way the Canton Charge wanted to end March, or start April, for that matter. The Charge lost to the Grand Rapids Drive 94-83 on Friday night (3/31) and followed up that loss with an encore, as they lost to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants 111-108 on Saturday (4/1).
Their next game won’t be until their first game of the playoffs, which start on April 5th as the fourth-seeded Charge take on the Raptors 905 at home.
On Friday, against the Drive, the Charge were unfortunately getting blown out of the water for much of the contest until a second-half rally allowed them to get close enough in the points total for the score to be respectable. They were down 53-36 at the half although John Holland had 19 points of 9-11 shooting from the field.
The reason that they were losing is simple, as it’s the same reason they lost the previous contest. Without Kay Felder or Quinn Cook on the team, there is no other guard on the roster that can take over the game as a scorer and playmaker. In fact, Jordon Crawford, Mike Williams and Kevin Olekaibe combined to go 4-19 from the field and 1-10 from three-point range against the Drive.
While the Charge had lost their three previous games to the Drive, the Charge held the Drive to 94 points which should make any game winnable. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the firepower to complete the mission.
Holland finished the game with 36 points on 13-21 shooting from the field and 6-10 shooting from three-point range but didn’t record any assists.
Cameron Jones finished the game with an inefficient 15 points, knocking in 5-13 shots from the field and 1-4 shots from three-point range.
Larry Sanders and Eric Moreland combined for 19 points, while Sanders recorded a team-high three blocks and Moreland recorded a game-high 21 rebounds despite the Drive center Ramon Harris shooting 12 shots from behind the arc and drawing both Moreland and Sanders out of the paint.
That type of spacing is what allowed Lorenzo Brown, Ray McCallum and Bruce Massey to combine for 49 points and knock in 26 field goals. Only 4 of those field goals came from three-point range.
The Charge looked far better against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as they were able to dominate on the boards early and have as large as a 17-point lead over the Mad Ants by halftime. Eric Moreland played the role of a playmaker, Larry Sanders was a big-time enforcer and John Holland was the primary scorer as he had 21 points at halftime.
Gerald Beverly finished the half with 8 points.
What changed for the Mad Ants was Georges Niang scoring 20 points in the second half, starting with a three-ball on his first shot and the first shot of the second half. That took the Mad Ants balanced scoring attack to a different level and for the offensively challenged Mad Ants, that’s not a battle they’re likely to win. The Mad Ants managed to keep the Charge in an up-and-down game in the second half, which is unfortunate for the Charge because that does nothing but cause rushed shots and turnovers, especially because they were without two of their primary ball-handlers and decision-makers.
At the end of a frantic and high scoring third quarter, the Charge’s lead was cut from 11 to 8. The Mad Ants, having cut the lead down to single-digits, took advantage of the Charge’s lack of scoring options in the fourth quarter.
Although Williams finished the game with 15 points and Moreland finished the game with 12 points, neither scored in the fourth quarter. Holland finished the game with 30 points, but there weren’t many of those points that were hit in the fourth quarter. Perhaps if Sanders would have converted more than 2-10 field goals, the Charge would have had a big enough lead for the Mad Ants not to overcome it. Nonetheless, the bigger culprit was the inefficiency from Crawford and Olekaibe, who combined to shoot 4-15 from the field.
With the bulk of the scoring to Jones and Beverly in the fourth quarter, the Charge couldn’t put enough points on the board to keep the lead against the balanced scoring attack of the Mad Ants, it’s as simple as that.
In the playoffs, the Charge can’t hope for Felder to be sent down for the playoffs although it’s a possibility. With that being the case, head coach Nate Reinking will have to rely on Holland and Jones, the Charge’s most consistent perimeter players, to play heavy minutes. Jonathan Holmes, a stretch-four with a fair bit of athleticism, will also need to step up. He finished the back-to-back finale by shooting 3-15 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range across the two games.