SHAWNEE, OKLA— Sometimes you forget how talented the Potawatomi Fire are. Balanced wins were commonplace throughout the regular season, with 6, 7, 8, even 9 or 10 players scoring in double figures in a Fire win. And then there are nights like Saturday’s game against the rival Enid Outlaws. The Fire starting lineup excelled, delivering 89 of the team’s 101 points in the 101-86 playoff series-clinching win. And while that line is very impressive, what’s equally impressive are the across-the-board stat lines from several of their top guys.
Where to start? How about K.D. Moore with 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists and a TBL career high four blocks. Or two-time All-Star Deshawn Munson, who just missed another triple-double with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists. Or First Team All-Central Team member and fellow All-Star Chuck Guy, continuing his MVP-caliber campaign by going for 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals, and a block while also hitting 6 of 7 free throws and knocking down a pair of triples. What about Lyle Hexom, with his double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds to go along with two blocks and two three-pointers. Or maybe T.J. Maston, who controlled the inside in the third quarter with 13 of his 15 points in the period as the Fire extended their lead for good. Just an all-around outstanding performance by one of the best starting fives that this league has probably ever seen.
Ethan Chargois had 26 points and nine rebounds while Marvin Johnson tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Outlaws in their final game of the 2023 TBL season.
“Well, we’re certainly pleased to be able to advance tonight,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “You know Enid is a really good team. We knew that they would come ready to play, play extremely hard, and compete to the end which they did. What have we played them, now six times? There wasn’t one game where they didn’t show up and compete and play hard — they’re really good. … They execute their stuff. They play hard on defense. And they’d really stretch you out with their ability to shoot the three.”
“I just thought Chuck Guy ran and controlled the team and did everything we needed him to do. We go as he goes,” Dannhoff continued. “I thought K.D. Moore was terrific on defense, rebounding, scoring, and pressuring the rim. Thought Lyle Hexom was really good, scoring and rebounding. T.J. Maston and Paul Harrison did a great job. Playing the five and really contributing and playing off each other. T.J. was great, especially in the third quarter. And Deshawn Munson — he had a couple moments of frustration early but really came together and then he was really strong. At the end of the day, you look at the stuff he does and you’re just amazed but you know how good he really is.”
A back-and-forth first quarter saw the Fire lead by as much as ten points before the Outlaws stormed back and cut the deficit to one (28-27) after the first quarter. The rivals continued to trade buckets for much of the second quarter with the Fire extending their lead to seven, only to have Enid rally back and even get a lead with a minute left in the first half. But baskets by Moore and a three from Tevin Foster gave the Fire a 52-48 edge at the break. As they’ve done many times this season, the Fire came out of the locker room charged and ready and took control of the game, growing a four point edge into as much as 16 points before a buzzer trey from Tay McKnight cut the margin to 13 points (80-67). The teams were again nearly even in scoring in the final frame as the Fire played much better down the stretch as compared to Thursday’s game one final minutes.
The Fire shot 51% (40/78) and held the Outlaws to 38.6% (32/83). Neither squad shot that well from outside, with both teams making nearly 27%. Both teams made 15 free throws, but the Fire attempted ten more shots (30-20). The Fire had a decided advantage (66-46) in points in the paint, as has been the case throughout 2023. The Outlaws had small edges in fast break points (14-7) and bench points (21-9).
All TBL Playoff rounds from this round out are best-of-three series, with the higher seed going on the road in the first game and then hosting in games two and three if necessary. Even though they’re the higher seed, the Fire will start on the road this week versus the winner of the other Central Conference semifinal/round 2 between #2 Shreveport and #3 Wichita. That game will likely be on Thursday night, June 8. The first Fire playoff home game in the next series will likely be next Saturday night, June 10. Fans can check here on the Fire site or on social media for more information on playoff schedules and tickets.
Dannhoff talked about the potential matchups in the next round: “Either one is gonna be a tough matchup for us. They’re both very good teams that play extremely hard. They can shoot the basketball, very offensive-minded with a lot of weapons from the three-point line. And if it’s Wichita they’ve got some inside guys. The inside guys at Shreveport have really improved too, so it’s gonna be a really tough series no matter who it is on either night.”
Fans can also listen to the action on KGFF 100.9 FM/1450 AM/kgffradio.com, with Chris Cox on the call. You can also watch the games on TBLTV.tv with a paid subscription. Cox’s radio call is the audio for the live stream for all Fire home games. All TBL live streams are provided by the home team in each game.
ABOUT THE FIRE IN 2022 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