PORTLAND – It’s just not a Maine Red Claws game if Mario West doesn’t crash into the stands at some point, trying to finish a drive to the hoop as he’s fouled or to save a ball from going out of bounds.

West was everywhere on Sunday, charging to a triple-double — 27 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds — to lead the Red Claws past the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 117-94.

The win snapped a six-game losing streak and breathed life into the team’s playoff hopes.

“I’ve never had (a triple-double) before. Not even in high school,” said West. “But it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We needed a win and just need to build off it now. We come out and lay an egg the next game, this won’t mean anything.”

The Red Claws, now 15-27, are in a fight with six other teams for the eighth and final NBA Development League playoff spot. Fort Wayne (19-23) currently holds the No. 8 spot.

Sunday’s win was an indication that at the very least Maine, in 14th place in the standings, will not go down without a fight.

West was not the only star player: DeShawn Sims had 29 points, Jamar Smith put up 10 and had nine assists.

A collective defensive effort produced eight blocked shots, 11 turnovers, and held Fort Wayne to just 40 percent shooting.

Maine also led for the entire second half — a rarity this season — and got 28 assists as a team.

“It feels good for sure,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge, whose team hadn’t won in a month.

“You look at the box score and it looks like we had a great night offensively. But it was all from defense. We got easy shots off our defense.”

Ainge used three big men at times: adding Stephane Lasme to the mix with Magnum Rolle and Bamba Fall.

“They’ve all played center for most of their life but having them out there together worked for a crazy stretch,” said Ainge. “It might not work every night.”

Maine took a 33-17 lead into the second quarter using a 6-0 run and four 3-pointers from Sims. Fort Wayne battled back, taking the lead at 43-42 with 5:48 to play in the half, but Maine recovered down the stretch.

A 6-3 run in the last minute with all six points from West made it 57-52 Maine at the half.

“He was superhuman tonight,” said Ainge. “Ten assists for him? I’m very proud of him. He made it happen.”

The Claws kept the lead for the duration of the third quarter, and built on it, taking an 84-75 advantage into the fourth.

Rarely has Maine played with such a sizable lead down the stretch.

“That’s kind of new for us,” said Smith. “We just finally started clicking on defense and were getting the stops we needed tonight.”

Maine held guard Chris Kramer to 13 points and former Red Claw Darnell Lazare to just six.

Sims said the team’s size is really adding up.

“We can play bigger,” he said. “We’ve got a real good lineup now.”

Maine returns to the court this week with a two-game series against the Texas Legends (19-24), currently in ninth place in the standings.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]


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