SHAWNEE, OKLA — The 2023 home opener for the Potawatomi Fire was a record-breaking night. Before a record crowd, many of which were seeing the new team for the first time, the Fire delivered one of the finest nights in club history. They set new seven team records including points in a game (152), largest margin of victory (56), assists (38), steals (16), turnovers forced (27), field goals made (56), and field goals attempted (105) in a complete destruction of the Rockwall 7ers, 152-96. Four Fire players scored more than 20 points and seven players were in double figures. Seven players also had at least seven rebounds.
Chuck Guy was “That Guy” on Friday. The First Team All-TBL posted a crazy stat line with 21 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds, and six steals. Reigning MVP Deshawn Munson had another big night, continuing to impress with a team-high 28 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists. Lyle Hexom had 24 points to go along with nine rebounds. Hexom was money from outside, going 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. K.D. Moore had 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Tevin Foster went for 16 points and four assists. Former Baylor star T.J. Maston tallied 14 points with seven rebounds. Fire rookie Rashaun Coleman had ten points in just over seven minutes of action. Chris Brand had nine rebounds to pair with eight points. Theo Johnson had seven boards, with five points and three assists.
“We felt pretty good the last couple of days in practice,” said head coach Mark Dannhoff. “We were just really focused. You could just see it in the guys’ eyes and their demeanor throughout practice. I think a lot of it had to do with just being home, and getting to play in front of our fans. And then to come out and see what a great crowd and how enthusiastic and how fired up they were to see the Fire.”
When asked how the team responded to the “scare” against Little Rock last weekend, Dannhoff talked about being prepared for every game. “We talk about it all the time. You gotta bring your game every day, you can’t take days off. They did that tonight and came out and played extremely hard. We talked about getting off to a good start and they certainly did that.”
On the improvement in shooting percentage from the first to the second half: “We talked about it, especially the easy ones – the ‘bunnies’ around the rim. We weren’t knocking them down. We started making those and making our free throws. We quit trying to hit home runs and just hit singles.” On the balance of his team, Dannhoff responded, “When they play hard and play together, they’re a special unit. When they play hard and that shows up, especially on defense, we’re a pretty good team. Our goal is to continue to do that. We’re very competitive in practice and that shows up in games. We will certainly need our bench to step and continue to play well like they did tonight, with three games in four nights (next weekend).”
The Fire led by 16 (32-16) after one and 18 at the half (63-45). The Fire scorched the nets in the third, going for 49 points to push their lead to 38 points (112-74). They closed the game with a 40-point fourth quarter to win by the team record 56 points. The Fire shot 53% from the field, with a team record for attempts and makes. They also topped previous club marks for assists, steals, and turnovers forced.
Darrice Whitley and Britt Hammons each had 25 points for Rockwall. Garret Brockman led the 7ers with 10 rebounds.
The next Fire home game will be Thursday night, March 23 when the Fire host their in-state rivals, the Enid Outlaws. It will be a reunion of sorts for several members of the Fire. Coach Mark Dannhoff, along with assistant Emmanuel Toney and players Chuck Guy and K.D. Moore were all with the Outlaws last season. The three-game home stand will conclude on Saturday, March 25 against the Little Rock Lightning. The Fire will conclude a three-games-in-four-days with a trip to Enid on Sunday, March 26. The radio call of all games can be heard on KGFF 100.9FM / 1450AM with Chris Cox on play-by-play. Fans can also watch the streams on TBLTV.tv with a paid subscription. Fire live streams also include Cox’s radio calls.
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