Tonight's game is a makeup of a game that was canceled back on February 10 due to weather/travel difficulties. A quick glance at the standings tells you that this game doesn't matter as much as it would have then as neither team is competing for a playoff berth.
However, with their next three games are against each other, Fort Wayne and Erie will be battling for fifth place in the East Conference and to avoid finishing second to last, ahead of lowly Springfield.
Tonight's matchup is the eighth of 10 games these teams will play this season. Fort Wayne currently leads the series 4-3 and has won the past two meetings. The Mad Ants roster includes former BayHawks Oliver Lafayette, who played for the team last season, and Rod Wilmont, who was cut by Erie in the preseason this year.
Game 46 Preview: Fort Wayne Mad Ants (17-27) vs. Erie BayHawks (18-27)
Fort Wayne coming in: The Mad Ants come to Erie riding a three-game winning streak. They have not won more than three games in a row all season, so they'll have that as an additional motivating factor for tonight's game. Starting tonight, each of the Mad Ants' final six games is on the road, so they have their work cut out for them.
Erie coming in: The BayHawks lost two critical games in devastating fashion over the weekend against the Dakota Wizards, ending their playoff dreams and snapping what was a season-high five-game winning streak. Erie is just 8-13 at home this season, but they have a chance to improve on that mark with four of their final five games at home.
BayHawks keys to success:
- Get the shooters involved.
The month of March was a great one for the BayHawks until this past weekend when they squandered away back-to-back games down the stretch. The biggest reason for their success was the hot shooting of Blake Ahearn and Mike Gansey. With the return of Cedric Jackson on Saturday (and the assignment of Darnell Jackson from the Cavs), the BayHawks' offense had a whole different focus.
Touches and shots were hard to come by for both Ahearn and Gansey, and the offense became stagnant, revolving around one or two players. Both Ahearn and Gansey are too good to be underused as they were on Saturday. Darnell Jackson won't be there tonight since he was released by the Cavs yesterday, so there should be additional shots to go around. In my opinion, those shots should go to Ahearn, Gansey, and Ivan Harris, especially when Cedric Jackson drives to the hoop and draws extra attention from help defenders.
- Limit the Bryant/Sweetney combo
The Michael Sweetney experiment has been, for the most part, an effective one for the BayHawks. The big man has shown a deft shooting touch and a nice arsenal of post moves. You can see glimpses of why he enticed the Knicks as a lottery pick a few years and a few dozen pounds ago. The one area where I think Sweetney has proven to be a detriment to the team is when they play him at the power forward position beside John Bryant. Offensively, it's tough for other teams to match that kind of front line size, but Dakota exploited them on the defensive end, pushing the ball up after makes and misses and utilizing the quickness and agility of their 4s and 5s. Sweetney and Bryant are each effective on their own, but together, they seem to do more harm than good.
- Continue to control Rob Kurz
Rob Kurz is another reason to limit the Bryant/Sweetney combo. Both players would struggle to defend the 6'9" Kurz, who is very comfortable stretching the defense. In four games against the BayHawks this season (he missed three of their matchups earlier this season), Kurz averaged just 9.3 points per game. Aside from the 16-point, 19-rebound effort he had in a 93-82 win over Erie back in November, Kurz has been pretty much a non-factor against the BayHawks. But Kurz was named an all-star for a reason, and this Erie roster is different than the ones that Kurz faced earlier in the year. The BayHawks need to be conscious of where he is on the court at all times. If they can keep his production down, they'll have a good shot to win the game.