LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — One night after suffering their worst loss of the season, the Potawatomi Fire managed to salvage a narrow victory in the last game of their debut season’s first half. The Fire held off a late Little Rock rally and escaped with a 97-95 win over the Lightning on Saturday night.

Deshawn Munson and Anthony Allen again led the way for the Fire, with each recording double-doubles. Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) had 28 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) had 23 points and 11 boards.

Dwayne Lathan (Ruston, La. / Indiana State) had 12 points in his first start of the season. Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) led the Fire with 13 rebounds. David Godbold (Oklahoma City, Okla. / Oklahoma) added 11 rebounds while Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) chipped in 11 points off the bench.

After leading by three after the first quarter and by two points that halftime, the Fire trailed 73-71 entering the fourth quarter. A layup by Munson with 7:30 remaining gave the Fire the lead at 82-81 which they would hold for the rest of the game. The Fire led 97-92 with a minute left, fought off several chances by Little Rock to tie or take the lead, and held on for the close victory.

The Fire dominated on the glass (64-44), in points in the paint (54-36), and outshot the Lightning 44-33%, but their struggles at the foul line and in turning the ball over helped keep Little Rock in the game. The Fire made just 24 of 50 free throws (48%) and committed 16 turnovers.

Jaskarn Bajwa led the Lightning with 23 points while Percell Washington and Romeo Smith each had 21 points.

With the win, the Fire finish the first half of the TBL season at 9-3, in a second place tie with the Enid Outlaws, trailing Shreveport at 8-2. Questions from some league teams remain regarding the unbalanced TBL Central Conference schedule that allows teams such as Dallas to avoid playing some of the top teams in the league. The Fire are not scheduled to play the Dallas Skyline at all during the 2022 regular season. The Fire also do not have a game scheduled with the 1-10 Waco Royals, though Dallas and Waco play each other five times. Enid also plays both Dallas and Waco only one time each.

The Fire are now on break for two weeks, pausing for TBL All-Star Weekend on April 15-16 in Syracuse, New York. The All-Star festivities include a three-point contest, a dunk contest, and an international battle between the TBL All-Stars and the NBL-Canada All-Stars. The next regular season game for the Fire will be on Friday night, April 22 at 7 p.m at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, when they host the Rockwall 7ers.

The Potawatomi 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 The Basketball League (TBL), a new men’s professional basketball league with 44 teams in over 20 different states across the country. The TBL season began 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.

Box Score

Story by Justin Wollard • More photos coming later