SHREVEPORT, LA — Two of the issues that have been negatives throughout this year, even in big wins for the Potawatomi Fire, unfortunately, came back to bite them on the road Thursday night. Turnovers and poor free throw shooting cost the Fire in a first place battle with the Shreveport Mavericks, as the visiting Fire fell, 121-113. The Fire committed 19 turnovers compared to 12 for the Mavericks. Even more glaring were the free-throw shooting numbers as the Fire only made 13 of 28 shots from the foul line (46%) compared to 20 of 22 (90%) for Shreveport.
“We just had so many turnovers,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “Either guys were not ready to catch the ball or not delivering it on time. You know, I have to go back and look (at things.) We had our opportunities. Both beginning in the second half where we tried to stretch the lead a little bit and didn’t get it. And we continued to fight the entire time but we just continued to hit adversity every time we turned around tonight.”
Lyle Hexom led the Fire with 28 points including three of six from outside. Deshawn Munson just missed a triple-double, going for 18 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. Chuck Guy also nearly had one as well, with 16 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds.
T.J. Maston had 12 points while Ruston Hayward had 11 points to go along with eight rebounds, and three assists. Paul Harrison, in his first game as a visitor at the Gold Dome after playing with the Mavs in 2022, had nine points with six rebounds.
Dannhoff also spoke on the woeful free throw shooting by his club. “Yeah, I mean it’s been an issue for us all year,” he said. “In some games, we would come out and shoot extremely well and make the game easy. Other times we come out like we did tonight and just don’t get it done at the free throw line, and it tends to cost us.”
What made the turnovers and free throw shooting even more frustrating for the Fire was the fact they had a great shooting night otherwise. The Fire shot 60% from the field (46/76) compared to just 47% (44/93) for the Mavericks. This stat was also reflected in points in the paint, with the Fire holding a decided 72-46 cushion. Both teams were nearly identical from the outside, though the Mavs took more shots and made more of them: 13/33 compared to 8/21. The Mavs also held the edge in points from turnovers, converting the Fire miscues into a 27-14 edge.
The back-and-forth tense battle featured eight technical fouls as well as 51 total fouls called on both teams. Shreveport led by nine (34-25) after one quarter but the Fire came back strong (32-22) to grab a one-point lead at the half. Shreveport regained command with a seven-point edge in the third quarter (29-22) and outscored the Fire 36-34 in the fourth quarter for the eight-point victory.
Kadavion Evans had 31 points to lead the Mavericks. Evans, who played with several Fire players for Dannhoff and the Enid Outlaws in 2022, was originally going to play for the Fire this season but instead chose to return to his hometown of Shreveport and play for the Mavericks. TBL All-Star Paul Parks had 23 points for the Mavs.
Shreveport (16-3) with the win, takes over first place in the Central Conference, by a half game. But the Fire (15-3) still have the tiebreaker with three wins in the four games between the clubs this season.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Friday afternoon, May 12: The originally scheduled game on Friday, May 12 at Rockwall has been canceled. The Fire receive the win via forfeit and move to 16-3, now tied with Shreveport.)
Potawatomi is home on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14th with an afternoon battle at 3 p.m. with their in-state rivals, the Enid Outlaws. All moms/ladies get in free on Ladies Day at FireLake Arena.
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 • Photo by Landon Kidney