SHAWNEE, OKLA. — The first-ever meeting between the Potawatomi Fire and the new Wichita Sky Kings did not disappoint. The battle for first place in the TBL Central Conference came right down to the wire, with the Fire edging the visiting Sky Kings, 119-117. Paced by their recently named TBL All-Stars, Chuck Guy and Deshawn Munson, the Fire turned away the Wichita challenge with a late fourth quarter spurt.
After the Sky Kings’ guard Derrick Colter hit a step-back jumper with 7:33 left to give Wichita a 97-93 lead, the Fire used an 11-0 run to go up 104-97, capped off by big Je’lon Hornbeak three-pointer. The Fire would hold that lead to the end, despite the Kings getting within a single point with a minute remaining.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, close and tense throughout. No team had a lead larger than nine points in a game with 17 lead changes and 11 ties. While most categories were relatively equal, some told the story of the game. The Fire held a narrow edge in rebounding, 50-43. Wichita dominated in bench scoring (60-28). And the biggest stat, which turned out to be a moot point: the struggle of the Fire at the foul line, missing 20 freebies (33/53 for 62.3%). The game saw 63 fouls called in total on both teams.
“If we hit our free throws, it probably would have been a little bit of a different game,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “It would’ve changed the dynamic of the game but you know here’s what I think: I think that we continued to stay together. We continued to battle every time we worked our way back. We had some adversity again, and we didn’t let up. We continued to fight and fight all the way through the end until we finally ended up on the right side of things.”
Chuck Guy had 24 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals. Guy also was 3 of 5 from outside. Deshawn Munson had 23 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. Named 2023 TBL All-Stars to Team Blake (combination of Central & Midwest Conference players) earlier on Sunday, the two leaders of the Fire continue to showcase their All-TBL First Team performances of a year ago. Mark Dannhoff was also named as head coach of Team Grant, and will look to guide his guys, both Guy and Munson and the rest of their Team Blake teammates to victory. Ironically, former Fire head coach Derrick Rowland, who returned to Albany in the offseason to coach the Albany Patroons, will guide the opposition team of Team Blake (East-West Conference players).
Dannhoff was grateful for the all-star honor but deflective of his praise. “Well, first of all, we all appreciate the kind words,” he said. “But I’m just really pleased for Chuck and Deshawn to get this opportunity next weekend. But you know when you have two all-stars, two First Team All-TBL guards, they did what they were supposed to do. They stepped up their game. They got everybody else to raise their game to the highest level to get the outcome that they wanted.”
T.J. Maston also topped the 20-point mark, finishing with 21. The former Baylor Bear also had six rebounds, four assists, two steals, and was 9 of 10 from the foul line. Je’lon Hornbeak again came through with a pivotal effort off the bench, with 17 points including three big triples, seven rebounds, and two steals. K.D. Moore had 16 points to go along with four rebounds. Lyle Hexom added seven points, while Theo Johnson (6 pts) and Paul Harrison (5) rounded out the Fire scoring.
Teddy Allen, who was also named Sunday to the TBL All-Star Game for Team Blake, led the Sky Kings with 37 points.
The Fire will break for the 2023 TBL All-Star Weekend April 7-8 in Easton, Pennsylvania. The All-Star rosters will be split into two teams. Team Blake is a combination of the East & West Conferences. Team Grant is a combination of the Midwest & Central Conferences. Blake Gabou is the 11-year-old CEO of JRTBL, while Grant Gabou is the 8-year-old president of JRTBL. The Gabou brothers are the grandsons of Evelyn and David Magley, the heads and owners of TBL as the CEO and President. In addition to the All-Star Game, TBL All-Star Weekend will have a Three-Point Contest, Dunk Contest, Celebrity Game, and JRTBL free clinic. The weekend will be hosted by the TBL’s Lehigh Valley Legends on the campus of Lafayette College. Fans can view the All-Star action on TBLTV.tv.
The next regular season game for the Fire will be Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. when they host the Oklahoma Panthers, for Live United Night sponsored by United Way of Pottawatomie County. The Oklahoma Panthers were previously known this season as the Southeast Texas Panthers but were forced to fold for financial reasons. The team was relocated and reconstructed in El Reno, Oklahoma. Many of the Panthers’ players have ties to the Oklahoma City metro area or played college basketball for schools in the state of Oklahoma.
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, were named Best Dance Team.
The TBL season begins in 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 as well as 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