WICHITA, KANSAS — The Potawatomi Fire pulled away from Wichita SkyKings in the fourth quarter, turning a two-point game into a 105-90 win. Normally the Fire have a more balanced scoring output, with five to eight players in double figures. But Saturday night, huge individual performances from K.D. Moore and Darin Johnson pushed the Fire to victory.
K.D. Moore had 36 points, which was one off his TBL career high. Moore hit on 14 of 25 field goals and added five rebounds and two assists. Darin Johnson had 35 points and set his new TBL career high. He also set a new Fire record with 14 made free throws as he missed only one of 15 attempts from the charity stripe. DJ knocked down five of his 12 three-point attempts and also had three rebounds. Lyle Hexom made a big contribution on the glass and defensive end, grabbing 17 boards (16 defensive) and two steals to go along with 10 points.
“Wow, I tell you, Wichita is really challenging,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “They are good. They play extremely hard. And when they’re making shots, it’s tough. But you know what I told the guys at halftime, I love their resilience. Again we got down early, not that we wanted to do that, but continued to go possession by possession to get back in the game. We put ourselves in the situation to have the lead at halftime and we built up it from there.”
What has been one of the few negatives at times this season for the Fire was a considerable strength Saturday at Wichita. The Fire shot 82.9% (29 of 35) from the foul line as they again attacked the rim, repeatedly drew fouls and converted their opportunities at the line. The SkyKings however, preferred outside shots and fadeaways and were just 4 of 9 from the foul line. The Fire trailed by five after the first quarter but led by five at the break. The Fire took a 69-67 lead into the final frame and used a 36-23 finish to capture the key victory.
This was the first-ever visit for the Fire to Wichita as it’s the first year of the SkyKings as a TBL franchise. The second matchup of the season was filled with drama like the first meeting (which the Fire won 119-117). The second go around included ejections and stoppages due to the live emcee for Wichita interfering with the game action.
Isaac Johnson had 20 points to lead the SkyKings. Johnny McCants had 18 rebounds to go along with 13 points.
The win moves Fire to 11-1, keeping them first in TBL Central. Next up is a bonus home game on Tuesday night April 25 versus the Oklahoma Panthers. That game was originally scheduled as a road game in Beaumont, Texas on May 19 but was rescheduled after the Panthers were relocated to El Reno, Oklahoma. Season ticket holders get in free and all other seats are just $5.
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