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Ants clamp down on league champs

November 11, 2017 GMT

Je’lon Hornbeak didn’t think he played that well when he attended an open tryout Sept. 23, hoping to snag an invitation to the Mad Ants’ training camp.

“Personally, I don’t really think I was shooting that well, but they said I was shooting pretty good,” Hornbeak said. “As long as they’re cool with it, I’m happy with it.”

Coach Steve Gansey was more than cool with what Hornbeak, a rookie out of Monmouth, did that day and even more Friday night, when he totaled 18 points in a 104-77 victory over defending champion Raptors 905 at Memorial Coliseum.

“That’s what I expect from Je’lon,” said Gansey, lauding his willingness to shoot the ball (he was 3 for 11 from the field), his fearlessness from long range (3 of 7 from 3-point range) and his ability to get to the free-throw line (9 for 9).

“He’s got to be ready to fire it at any time. Getting to the free-throw line nine times, that’s good. We want him to shoot that ball. They’re going to be running after him and we want him to make quick decisions.”

The Mad Ants (2-1) needed a dependable long-range shooter to fill the void left by Nick Zeisloft. Hornbeak, who played 15 minutes in the first two games, looked like he could be the guy, although Walt Lemon Jr. was again the offensive leader with 21 points to bring his season average to 26.7.

Hornbeak got 15 of his points in the first half, when the Mad Ants built a 57-40 lead, and they never trailed against the Raptors (1-2), who were paced by 14 points apiece from Lorenzo Brown and Davion Berry.

Hornbeak, 23, who averaged 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals last season at Monmouth, had two of the Mad Ants’ 11 steals as they held the Raptors to 36.6 percent shooting.

“That was the best defensive effort I’ve seen in a long time (from) the Mad Ants,” Gansey said. ”(To allow) 36 percent (shooting) to a really, really good half-court basketball team, and hold them to only two made 3s, that’s tough in this league to defend like that.”

The Mad Ants outscored the Raptors by 27 points with Hornbeak on the floor.

″(Defense) was the main key,” said Hornbeak, a 6-foot-3 guard, who played two years at Oklahoma before transferring to Monmouth. “We knew they were the defending champs from last year and we really just wanted to stop them. They beat the team (Long Island) that we lost to pretty good in the opener, so we wanted to make a statement by beating them.”

Stephan Hicks had 17 points for the Mad Ants, who play the Windy City Bulls tonight in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

jcohn@jg.net