WICHITA, KANSAS — The Potawatomi Fire fell for just the second time this season, dropping a heartbreaker 138-33 in double-overtime to the Wichita SkyKings at Charles Koch Arena. Despite the loss, the Fire (13-2) keep the top spot in the TBL Central Conference, just ahead of Shreveport and Wichita. K.D. Moore led the Fire with 28 points and 10 boards while TBL All-Star Chuck Guy notched his first triple-double of the season on 14 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds.
“This was just a great game in the league,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “Give credit to Wichita. They played extremely hard. They made some big plays down the stretch. You know they deserved to win it as much as we did but I’m really proud of our guys.”
The SkyKings controlled the game in the first period, leading by 12 after one. The Fire responded in the second quarter with a 14-point edge and took a one-point lead at the break. The game remained tight through the next 34 minutes of game action: Wichita had a 91-87 after three quarters. The teams were tied at 115 after regulation and at 126 after the first overtime. The game featured 27 lead changes and 22 ties.
It was the second time in three meetings this season that the game went down to the wire (Fire won 119-117 on April 2 in Shawnee). After two free throws from Wichita gave the Kings a 113-111 edge with 43 seconds left, Lyle Hexom hit a three that put the Fire on top with 24 seconds to go in regulation. After the Fire’s K.D. Moore made one of two free throws, the SkyKings’ Julian Winton missed a layup but it was put back with just two-tenths of a second remaining by Jachai Simmons. (The SkyKings also had a similar ending on Friday evening, but that buzzer-beater gave them the win over Rockwall, 100-98.)
The overtime continued the back and forth but this time, the Fire were the ones to equal the game in the closing moments, with Chuck Guy hitting a jumper with 21 seconds to force the second extra frame. After Deshawn Munson gave the Fire a two-point lead with 74 seconds left in double OT, Wichita’s Kam Williams scored his team’s final seven points to seal the victory.
The Fire basically played eight players and all eight players were in double figures. In addition to Moore and Guy, Paul Harrison had 21 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Starting big men T.J. Maston and Lyle Hexom each went for 17 points. Maston also had eight rebounds while Hexom knocked down three treys and grabbed six boards. TBL All-Star Deshawn Munson had 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Ruston Hayward and Darin Johnson each had 10 points, along with five and six boards respectively. Hayward also handed out four assists.
Several stats contributed to the Fire’s second blemish of the season. The Fire committed 22 turnovers to 12 for the home team. Thus, the SkyKings led in points off turnovers 25-17. Wichita also had a 25-6 edge in fast break points. The up-and-down exploits of the Fire at the foul line were down on Sunday as the Fire missed 15 free throws (21/36 for 58.3%). The SkyKings were only slightly better (27/39 for 69.2%) but did make six more charity stripe attempts. Wichita also made 13 of 29 (45%) from outside while the Fire made just 8 of 32 (25%) three-point attempts.
While the Fire gave a tremendous effort despite suffering the loss, Chuck Guy was especially noteworthy. In addition to recording the team’s third triple-double this year, Guy was Iron Man, playing all 58 minutes of the game. Dannhoff applauded Guy’s performance on Sunday. “Well, he’s just the heart and soul of this team,” he said. “I mean, we go as he goes. He’s gonna fight to the end. He’s gonna play with a lot of passion. He plays as hard as anybody there is in the league if not anywhere in the world. He wants to win as badly as anybody and he leads this team. Just a credit to him with his fight, his determination, his grit, and the team follows.”
Simmons led the SkyKings (14-4) with 36 points and nine boards, including 6 of 8 from outside. Brandon Watkins also had 20 points and seven rebounds. Isaac Johnson also had 17 points and ten boards.
Dannhoff offered these statements on how the Fire would respond going forward. “We just need to refocus just like we do when we win. Now we’ll talk about the things we didn’t do well and things we did well on this step. Then we have to just take that next step and focus on Enid. We can’t live in the past. We can only focus on the things that we can control and that’s next week.”
The Fire battle in-state rival, Enid next Thursday night, with tipoff at the Stride Bank Center in Enid at 7 pm on May 4. Then, on Sunday, May 7, it’s POGO day at the Fire when the Fire host Pearland. Pottawatomie GO is a community effort to achieve and sustain measurable health improvements to help everyone in our community.
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