SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire returned from the All-Star break in style, racing out to a commanding early lead and never looking back as they trounced the Oklahoma Panthers, 128-90. K.D. Moore led the Fire with 25 points, one of six Fire players in double figures. Moore also had five rebounds and made both of his three-point attempts. T.J. Maston and Tevin Foster had 22 points each. Foster made three treys and was 7 of 8 from the foul line. TBL All-Stars Deshawn Munson and Chuck Guy each had double-doubles, while nearly picking up a triple-double. Munson had 13 points, and 13 rebounds with eight assists while Guy had 14 points, 13 assists, six rebounds, and four steals. Lyle Hexom had 16 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.
The Fire (9-1) jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the game’s first few minutes, with the game’s first nine points all by Maston. That lead was 36-17 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was more competitive as the scrappy Panthers played close and the Fire lead was 22 points (62-40) at the intermission. The Fire opened things up in the second half, pushing their lead over 30 that left the score 98-67 after three frames. The home squad never trailed in the contest and led by as much as 40 points. The Fire controlled most of the stat categories, including fast break points (46-15), second chance points (25-12), and points in the paint (80-42). While the Fire were narrowly outrebounded 57-55, they outshot the Panthers by a wide margin, 56% to 34%.
Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff liked his team’s effort to start the game. “I really was pleased with our intensity. The urgency we played with early, I thought it was a really good carryover from the way we ended right before the All-Star break. To pick up where we left off considering the time off, was really pleasing.”
Devin Hutchinson led the Panthers (1-7) with 18 points while Kealen Coats had 16. The Panthers were formerly known this year as the Southeast Texas Panthers after last year being the Beaumont Panthers. But financial and logistical difficulties forced them to relocate and they wound up in El Reno, Okla., in an arrangement between team market owners of Southeast Texas, former NBA center Kendrick Perkins and Jay MacDonald, along the TMO of Enid Outlaws, Jonathan Reed.
Fire fans should note that a rematch with these same Oklahoma Panthers was just added to the schedule on Tuesday night, April 25 at 7 p.m. This game was originally scheduled as a road game on May 19 as part of a south Texas trip but has been moved to a bonus home game for the Fire. All season ticket holders get in free and all other seats are just $5.
Next up for the Fire is a road trip to the Natural State as they will visit the Little Rock Lightning on Saturday night at 5 p.m. The last trip the Fire made to Arkansas on March 5 was one of their closer wins of the early part of this season, with the Fire pulling away in the fourth quarter and winning 128-114. The Fire are looking to avoid some of the issues that they encountered on that trip by traveling to Little Rock on Friday. But Dannhoff still is impressed with the Lightning, despite their current place in the Central Conference standings. “It’s a quick turnaround but we’re gonna go over the day before. Get there, get something to eat, and relax. But they’re a very good basketball team. They’ve added a couple of new players, but I really like their team. They’ve got a good inside presence and they’ve got some guards that can really score and pressure the rim.”
The next Fire home game is next Friday night April 21, and it’s another “Showdown With Shreveport.” The Fire have controlled both matchups this season with the defending TBL champion Mavericks, but every game in the short history between the clubs has been tense and hotly contested. It is also the Fire’s Pink Out game for breast cancer awareness, sponsored by SSM Health-St Anthony Hospital-Shawnee.
BOX SCORE: FIRE 128, PANTHERS 90
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