ROYSE CITY, TEXAS — On a Friday night in early March, the Potawatomi Fire were ignited in their first-ever game, notching a 112-104 win over the Rockwall 7ers. Deon Lyle led the Fire with 24 points including five three-pointers made.

The Fire jumped on top early, scoring the game’s first eight points, and led by the same margin at the end of the quarter (24-16). Hot shooting continued for the Fire into the second quarter as they led by seven at the half (46-39). The largest lead of 17 points for the Fire came midway in the third quarter at 62-45 before the 7ers would rally back. The Fire were able to withstand the Rockwall rally (along with scoring and timing issues) to hold on for an eight-point win in their debut. The Fire never trailed during their first official TBL contest.

Lyle (Hastings, Neb.) who played collegiately at Texas-San Antonio, went 7 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 9 from outside. He also added eight rebounds and made all five free-throw attempts. Also in double digits were Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) with a double-double: 14 points and a team-high 9 boards, along with Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) with 15 points.

Other notables for the Fire were Javen McNeill (West End, NC / Fayetteville State), Leon Hampton (Jackson, Miss. / Stillman College), and Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) with eight points each. Former Oklahoma Sooner David Godbold (Oklahoma City, Okla.) added six points and five rebounds, while former Oklahoma State Cowboy Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica) chipped in with five points and three boards. Allen was outstanding defensively, anchoring the team’s defense with six blocked shots.

Joe Powell led Rockwall with 26 points, one of five Rockwall players in double figures. The game was played at Royse City High School, just east of Rockwall, Texas. Rockwall is also in its first year as a new TBL franchise.

“We played great defense in the first half, holding them to 39 points. The biggest thing was figuring out how to win. They pressured us but we figured it out down the stretch what to do. But there’s plenty to clean up going forward as we learn the system and develop chemistry,” said Potawatomi Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. Rowland has previously coached in the league, including a 2019 postseason TBL championship title with the Albany Patroons.

This game is the first of a five-game road stretch for the Potawatomi Fire to begin their inaugural season before their first home game in Shawnee, Oklahoma at FireLake Arena on March 19. The Fire is the first professional basketball team owned by a Native American tribe (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) in the United States.

The Potawatomi Fire competes in the Central Conference of The Basketball League, a new men’s professional basketball league with 44 teams in 20 different states across the country. The TBL season begins in March and runs through June, concluding with a championship tournament. The players that make up the rosters of the TBL teams are former NCAA (Division I to III) or NAIA athletes. Many have played in the NBA or NBA’s G-League as well as professionally overseas for several years and are continuing their careers closer to home.

Story by Justin Wollard • Photos by Landon Kidney