SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire have an opportunity to win The Basketball League Central Conference regular season championship with wins at home this weekend. On Thursday night the first place Fire return from an 11-day break and will host the third place Wichita SkyKings, and on Saturday night, the Fire host the fifth place Little Rock Lightning. Both nights tip off at 7 p.m. from FireLake Arena. Wins in both games will give the Fire the regular season title outright, while a win in either game will secure at least a share of the Central title.

All three meetings this season between Thursday’s opponents have been absolute battles. The Fire edged the SkyKings by a bucket, 119-117, in Shawnee on April 2. In their first trip to the new TBL franchise, the Fire captured a 105-90 in Wichita on April 22. The Fire held a two-point lead heading to the fourth quarter before pulling away for the double-digit win. The third matchup was an absolute classic, won by Wichita in double overtime, 138-133. The SkyKings tied the game with two-tenths of a second remaining in regulation to send the game to the first overtime. Chuck Guy hit a jumper with 21 seconds in the first free frame that sent the game to the second extra period.

While the Fire have taken all three contests with the Lightning, two of those matchups have been tightly contested late into the final frame. The Fire took the March 11 game in Little Rock by a 128-114 final score, but the game was much closer than the score indicated. Potawatomi controlled matchup number two in Shawnee by a 122-96 score. The third meeting was another battle in Little Rock, filled with all sorts of drama on April 15. With under three minutes remaining in the game and the Fire holding a four-point lead in an intense game with several technical fouls, severe storms knocked out power at Southwest High School causing the game to be suspended. Only recently it was determined that the Fire won the game by the 86-82 final score. The Lightning have been hot down the stretch winning six of their last nine games, including a home 112-105 win last weekend over Wichita.

Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff had this to say regarding the tough Central Conference schedule. “Even though it’s 24 games, it’s a long season. There are a lot of weekends where you play three games in four days or three games in five days and none of it’s easy, especially playing in the Central Conference. No disrespect for any other conference. They’re all good very good teams in the conferences. I’m sure they would speak the same way about their conference but there are no nights off in the Central. It doesn’t matter who you playing and we had a very, very difficult schedule. We played all the top teams currently in our conference four times each, which wasn’t really balanced that way but you know what? That makes us better. It allows us to prepare for the playoffs and we’re okay with that. But nothing is easy and we know we’ve had our moments and our hard moments during the season so that’s what we look at as we build closer to finishing this season out and beginning the playoffs.”


Last year’s TBL MVP Deshawn Munson leads the Fire with 18.1 points, one of seven Fire players in double figures. K.D. Moore is second at 16.9 ppg, then Chuck Guy (15.3); Darin Johnson (14.4); Lyle Hexom (14.1); T.J. Maston (13.7); and Ruston Hayward (12.3). Paul Harrison and Tevin Foster are right behind at 8.9 points. Munson also leads the team with 11.7 rebounds per game, followed by Hexom (6.8 rpg), Guy (5.8), Moore (5.5) and Maston (5.3). Chuck Guy leads the team with 9.8 assists per game while his fellow TBL All-Star Munson is second at 7.5 assists per night.

“We’ve talked a lot more, not so much what’s at stake, but how hard we’ve worked, ” Dannhoff said, of his message to the players regarding finishing the season. “All the time we put in. All the practices. The training camp. All the things that we’ve had to do. How hard the season has been to this point. That it won’t get any easier moving forward but we have to be in playoff mode. That we need to continue to play every possession at a high level and everybody needs to do their job every possession. There’s no taking any plays off or possessions off or time off. Everybody has to be on the same page. So we really talk about us in that sense because we really haven’t talked about winning a championship or winning the regular season championship. We’re just focused on us and taking it step by step and we have two steps left in the regular season. We’re going to stay focused on Wichita up until the horn goes off Thursday night and then our focus will go to Little Rock. And, we’ll take that step and we’ll see where we finish.”


With the departure of former leading scorer “Teddy Buckets” Teddy Allen (27.9 ppg) to the Canadian Elite Basketball League at the first of May, the SkyKings have taken on a more balanced scoring attack, much like the Fire. Six Wichita players are in double figures, led by TBL All-Star Game MVP Terrell Brown at 13.1 points per game. Jachai Simmons, Julian Winton, Brandon Watkins, Kam Williams, and Derrick Colter also average double digits. Johnny McCants (7.9 rpg) and Watkins (7.1 rpg) are the top rebounders, while Colter and Winton average over three assists each to lead the Kings.

Dannhoff commented on the tough final weekend of opponents, beginning with the SkyKings. “Two of the better teams — two of the teams that are playing their best right now at the end of the season. Wichita is so explosive offensively and really shoots from the three-point line extremely well. They also have bigs inside that can score and they’ll get to the paint. They’re excellent on the offensive glass. Then they mix their defenses up well and they’re aggressive with a lot of activity on defense. Now all three games we’ve played to this point have been very close games, all the way down to the end.  Only one of them did we get a chance to really pull away. So it should make for a great game on Thursday night. I know they’ll be ready to play and we’ll be ready to play and should be a lot of fun.”


Percell Washington is the man for the Little Rock Lightning, leading his team in points (23.0) and rebounds (12.2). Newcomer Quwan Marshall is second at 21.9 points per game, with Tremont Robinson third at 16.3. Robinson is second on the glass at 6.8 boards per game and leads the club with 5.7 assists per game. The Lightning caught fire down the stretch after several roster changes, and enter the last weekend of the regular season having won 6 of 9 games including wins over Wichita and Enid in that stretch.

Dannhoff spoke on the improved Lightning club: “You know they’re playing extremely well. They just beat Wichita the other day at home which is a really good win for them. And then they turned around and got beat by Enid two days later, who they’ll face in the playoffs. But they’ve added some new pieces: they’ve got really good guards and they’ve got a number of people that can shoot the three as well and they’ve got some inside pieces. Jacquil Taylor and Purcell Washington, who is really versatile, play inside out. So they’re a dangerous, dangerous team because they have nothing to lose but to show up, play hard and try to get a win on the road. So anytime they’re kind of situated where they’re going to be in the playoffs and it doesn’t matter how they do, that makes them extremely dangerous.”

Both games can be heard on KGFF Radio 100.9 FM/1450 AM/ or watched on with a paid subscription, with Chris Cox on the play-by-play call in both formats.


The Fire sit in first place in the Central Conference at 19-3 entering the final weekend’s two games at home. The Shreveport Mavericks are in second place at 19-4 with one game remaining, hosting Rockwall on Friday night. Wichita sits in third at 18-6 with two games remaining. The Enid Outlaws are the fourth place team at 11-11 with two games left. Little Rock (7-12) is the fifth and final team to qualify for the playoffs from the Central. The Lightning are busier than most with a home game vs Oklahoma on Friday and then road games at the Fire on Saturday and at Wichita on Sunday afternoon. Fourth-seeded Enid and fifth-seeded Little Rock are already set to meet in Enid next Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs in a one-game play-in winner take all matchup. The winner of that game moves on to face the number one seed, either on Thursday, June 1, or Friday, June 2. The top three teams (Potawatomi/Shreveport/Wichita) will all receive a first round bye, regardless of their order of finish.

The TBL Playoff format and schedule is as follows:

Round 1 – May 30
24 teams
(One game “play-in” at the higher seed’s venue)

Round 2 – June 1-5
16 teams (division championship)
(Best two out of three games, lower seed gets first home game, and higher seed gets next two if necessary)

Round 3 – June 8-12
8 teams (conference championship)
(Best two out of three, lower seed gets first home game, and higher seed gets next two if necessary)

Round 4 – June 15-19
4 teams (regional championship)
(Best two out of three, lower seed gets first home game, and higher seed gets next two if necessary)

East Conference vs Midwest Conference
Central Conference vs West Conference

Round 5 – June 22-26
2 teams (national championship — “the Lillie”)
Regional champs
(Best two out of three, lower seed gets first home game, and higher seed gets next two if necessary)



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 • Photo by Landon Kidney