Despite having home-court advantage for game one of the 2014 NBA D-League Finals, the Santa Cruz Warriors struggled to capitalize early on. The opposing Fort Wayne Mad Ants proved to be off to the races from the word "go," and thus, jumped out to an early double-digit lead midway through the first quarter.
To kick things off, Santa Cruz looked lethargic; slow out of the gates and were unable to keep the pace, set initially by the offensively versatile Mad Ants.
But as the second quarter began, the Warriors woke up and came roaring back. Led by the ever so clutch Cameron Jones (who finished with 24 total points in the contest), Mychel Thompson and company were able to cut down Fort Wayne's commanding lead a bit.
Though Santa Cruz came out with guns blazing in the second, they proved to let up, just a bit, with mere minutes remaining in the first half. That said, an even more impressive third quarter by the home team ensured that they were able to put their best collective foot forward heading into the game'e final period. This were a competitive contest, to say the least.
As the two teams exchanged metaphorical jabs on offense and traded buckets (highlighted impressive runs by each respective teams in mere minutes at a time) throughout, it was clear this game would come down to the wire, and it most certainly did.
Heading into the postseason as the D-League's first seeded team, it's clear that the Mad Ants would appear to be the more superior team, at least on paper. With the game on the line, the visiting team proved to have just a little bit more gas in their collective tank as they propelled ahead to ultimately sink the Warriors' hopes of a victory.
And frankly, Fort Wayne has Tony Mitchell to thank for that.
Though Ron Howard (who was named co-MVP from this past season just hours before game one) went on to score 23 points of his own, it was the NBA alum Mitchell who stepped up in the clutch the most and sank some of the most important shots of his young career.
The high-flying forward led the way for Fort Wayne down the stretch, not only scoring 25 points of his own, but also playing his best basketball of the game in the fourth quarter. Letting it fly from all around the perimeter, Mitchell officially put his stamp on the game by sinking a dagger of a three-pointer with under a minute remaining to give his team a seven-point lead that would soon prove to be unsurmountable for Santa Cruz.
Fort Wayne won game one by a score of 102-92. For more of Mitchell's late game prowess, watch the clip below.