ENID, OKLA – Having played their third game in four days against tough, physical opponents, the Fire struggled to put the ball in the basket and suffered their first loss of the season, losing 91-86 at in-state rival Enid. A combination of tired legs and the tough Enid Outlaw defense held the Fire to 37% shooting from the field. The 86 points by the Fire were their lowest output of the season and well off their 120 points per game season average through the first six games.
“We played like a fatigued team,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “It’s never easy to play three games in four days, but at the end of the day, Enid played really well and made the plays they needed to make to win the game. Give Enid all the credit — they out-executed us down the stretch.”
Lyle Hexom led the Fire (6-1) with 19 points, including making 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. Je’lon Hornbeak was next with 12 points including three treys. Paul Harrison and K.D. Moore each had 11 points, with Harrison having a team-high 10 rebounds. Theo Johnson had ten points off the bench with a pair of three-pointers. Two of the top Fire players, 2022 All-TBL First Teamers Deshawn Munson and Chuck Guy, were held to seven points each. Munson also had six assists and five boards while Guy had six rebounds. Chris Brand also had seven points and six rebounds. Starting big man T.J. Maston was ejected just four minutes into the game after receiving two quick technicals for arguing a foul non-call.
The Fire trailed through the first and second quarters and went to the break, down 40-36 at halftime. They turned things around in the third period by outscoring the Outlaws 30-20 to grab a 66-60 heading to the fourth. The Fire even extended their lead in the early fourth quarter by as much as 10 points, before Enid turned it late outscoring the Fire 31-20 in the final frame. The Outlaws sealed the game down the stretch, hitting big shots and free throws to claim the victory.
Bright spots for the Fire in the loss included outshooting the Outlaws from outside as the Fire were 11/33 versus just 5/20 for Enid. The Fire bench was also solid, holding a 40-19 over the Outlaw reserves. Free throws were the difference in this game, just like in the first game Thursday. Enid was a stellar 20 of 25 (80%) from the line, with the Fire struggling some at 13 of 20 (65%). Enid also led in points in the paint with a 48-36 edge.
Shawn Stith Jr. led the Outlaws with 21 points, while Ruston Hayward had 20 points.
The Fire will look to get back on track with a pair of tough matchups next weekend. On Friday night, March 31, the Fire will host the defending TBL champs, the Shreveport Mavericks at 7 p.m. The Fire blew out the Mavs in Shreveport on March 1, winning 128-89. Then on Sunday, April 2 at 2 p.m., the Fire will welcome a new TBL team, the Wichita SkyKings to FireLake Arena. It will be the first-ever meeting between the clubs and also Chick-fil-a Day At The Fire on Sunday. If you can’t be at FireLake Arena, you can listen to both games with Chris Cox on the radio call on KGFF 100.9FM / 1450AM – Shawnee’s Hometown Radio Station. Or you watch the stream on TBLTV.tv with a paid subscription (with Cox’s call being the audio for the stream).
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