LITTLE ROCK, ARK — After a close battle for much of the game, the Potawatomi Fire pulled away in the fourth quarter and held off a tough challenge from the Little Rock Lightning to win 128-114. Deshawn Munson had another big night as the reigning TBL MVP tallied 37 points, 19 rebounds, and eight assists. The Fire also got a huge line from Chuck Guy, with the First Team All-TBL guard going for 21 points, seven steals, and six assists. Guy’s seven thefts set a new Fire record, topping Munson’s high last year which he accomplished three times. Former Baylor star T.J. Maston recorded another 20-point night, with 22 points to go with six rebounds and two steals.
Tevin Foster went for 13 points and two rebounds while Theo Johnson was the fifth Fire player in double figures with 12 points on four of five made three pointers. Lyle Hexom had nine points to go along with nine rebounds. K.D. Moore had eight points, two rebounds, and two steals.
“I thought our guys really battled today. There was a lot of adversity. Little Rock played extremely well, played extremely physical, and did a really good job. They gave us a lot of issues at times. But our guys stepped up, continued to fight and in the end, they did what we asked them to do and got the job done,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “Their power forward/4-man (Percell Washington) can really stretch the floor, and if we didn’t get a hand up and challenge him, we were in trouble. But their guys were shooting the ball well — they were getting to the paint which was something we were trying to keep them from doing. Every time we made a run, we would kinda have a hiccup that let them back in the game. But our guys stepped up the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.” When asked about coming home after three road wins, Dannhoff added, “It doesn’t get any easier, even being at home. There are tough teams coming in and we still have a lot of work to do to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. But it is nice to have three road wins to start the season.”
The game was tied after the first quarter at 27 each and at the half with 57 apiece. The Fire opened up a slight lead in the third quarter, leading 90-86 going to the fourth. The visitors outscored the hosts by 10 points, to set the final margin at 14 points. The Fire did not shoot well in the first half but picked things up significantly in the second, hitting 67% of their shots to finish at 53% (48/91). They made just 5 of 21 (24%) attempts from outside compared to Little Rock’s 9 of 23 (39%). The Fire were again outshot at the foul line, making just 27 of 43 (63%) freebies, while the Lightning were 25 of 31 (81%). The Lightning owned a small edge in rebounding, 44-37.
Percell Washington led three Lightning players with 20 or more points. The Little Rock power forward had 29 points, nine rebounds, and four assists while Taylin Banks had 27 points with six assists and Tremont Robinson notched 25 points and seven boards. Both Banks and Robinson each had four steals.
After three road games to open the 2023 season, the Fire return home to Shawnee for their home opener at FireLake Arena on Friday night, March 17. The Fire host Rockwall 7ers, with tip off at 7 p.m. The Fire beat the 7ers 130-96, last Sunday in Princeton, Texas. The next Coach’s Corner of the young season can be heard this Wednesday, March 8 with play-by-play voice Chris Cox and Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. The show begins at 7 p.m. and can be heard on KGFF – Shawnee’s Hometown Radio Station (100.9 FM / 1450 AM / kgff.com)
BOX SCORE COMING LATER
ABOUT THE FIRE AND THE BASKETBALL LEAGUE
The Potawatomi Fire concluded their first TBL (The Basketball League) season in June 2022, winning 21 of 29 games played including the playoffs. They were 18-6 in the regular season to earn the third seed in the Central Conference portion of the playoffs. They won their first round playoff series before falling in the conference semifinal round. The Fire are the first professional basketball team owned by a Native American tribe (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) in Oklahoma. The Fire compete in the Central Conference of TBL, a men’s professional basketball league, now with nearly 50 teams in over 20 different states across the U.S. and Canada. The Fire organization was named the 2022 winner of the Jim Koch Award as TBL’s Best Ran Business, despite the Fire being a first-year franchise. The dance team of the Fire, the Fire Girls, was named Best Dance Team.
The TBL season begins in late February and runs through June, concluding with a championship playoff tournament. The players that make up the rosters of the TBL teams are former NCAA (Division I, II, or III) or NAIA athletes. Many have played in the NBA or NBA’s developmental G-League and professionally overseas for several years and are continuing their careers closer to home or seeking a larger contract in another professional league.
Story by Justin Wollard • Photos by Landon Kidney