SHAWNEE, OKLA — In year one of this in-state rivalry, it was the Enid Outlaws taking five of six regular season meetings from the Potawatomi Fire. In year two, it’s the Fire with the upper hand, taking three or four regular season meetings from the Outlaws.
Led by last year’s TBL MVP Deshawn Munson as well as K.D. Moore and T.J. Maston, the Fire topped their in-state rivals, 108-98. Munson just missed a triple-double with 20 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. K.D. Moore shared the team high in points with 22 and rebounds with nine. He also had three steals.
T.J. Maston had a strong game, or better yet, a super strong second quarter. The 6-8 former Baylor Bear scored all 22 of his points in the quarter on 10 of 12 shooting. Chuck Guy had 13 points with five assists. Lyle Hexom scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Chris Brand had eight points with five rebounds.
“I think the guys really were focused to start the game,” said Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff. “I thought we played really good defense throughout, other than a few fouls on some jump shots. We just gave up way too many offensive rebounds. I mean, we gave up 98 points … and we gave up 23 offensive rebounds. It’s certainly an area we gotta be better at. We’ll continue work on it and we’ll get better as we go. But I really like the bounce back game against a very good team.”
The Fire led for over 44 minutes of game action, with their largest lead of 19 points (93-74) coming in the early fourth quarter. The Fire lead was five after one; 15 after two and eight heading to the fourth. The big difference in the Fire win came from points in the paint, with the Fire doubling up the Outlaws at 68-34. The Fire outshot the visitors 53% to 41% from the field, while both teams shot 67% from the foul line. While Enid did outshoot the Fire from outside, 10/28 for 36% compared to just 4/18 (22%) for the Fire, the home team enjoyed a decided edge inside the arc, going for 62% (37/60) as opposed to 43% (28/65).
Dannhoff added thoughts on some of his top guys and their performances in Sunday’s win. “I thought Deshawn really set the tone and showed that he was focused and aggressive offensively. And throughout the entire game, I thought he was good defensively as well,” said Dannhoff. “And then T.J. came in and really gave us a boost as the T.J. we’ve been waiting for a few weeks now. But he’s that guy when we started the season, so really pleased with his focus and the way he came out and performed. And K.D. again, another terrific defensive performance and then turning around and scoring on the other end and making big plays for us.”
On the evolving abilities of the 2022 TBL Defensive Player of the Year, Lyle Hexom: “Lyle’s doing a really good job. He’s becoming very versatile for us. The ability to guard the post and turn around and guard a scorer on the perimeter. Really proud of him. The progress he’s made from training camp until now, it’s just been really impressive.”
Dannhoff continued, “I do want to say, I know Chuck had a frustrating night in many ways but to be honest, his floor leadership was far and above, you know the frustrations he was having. Without him running the team and keeping the guys focused on the things we want to do, you know maybe it doesn’t turn out this way. But all of them had a really terrific game and other guys who came in and stepped up as well.
The Outlaws were led by three players in scoring, each with 16 points — guard Martaveous McKnight along with forwards Ethan Chargois and Justin Miller. Chargois and Miller also led Enid with 11 boards.
Potawatomi now stands at 17-3, just a half game back of Shreveport. The Fire own the tiebreaker over the Mavericks, having beaten the defending champs three out of four times this year. Enid is now 9-11 in the Central, in fourth place.
The Fire have two regular season home games remaining: on Thursday, May 25 vs the Wichita SkyKings and Saturday, May 27 vs the Little Rock Lightning. Both games tip off at 7 p.m. The suspended game from April 15 vs Little Rock is also scheduled to be completed on May 27, should it be needed for playoff seeding. More details on that late fourth quarter game resumption will be released as they are available from TBL. The Fire have already qualified for the playoffs and will finish no worse than third. They’re still in a strong position to capture the Central Conference regular season crown and will do so by winning out in their last few regular season games.
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