SHAWNEE, OKLA. — In their first season, the Potawatomi Fire are playoff-bound.
The Fire used a monster 41-point performance from Mustapha Traore and held off the Rockwall 7ers to win 124-116, clinching the Fire’s spot in the TBL Playoffs. The seedings and schedule will be determined over the season’s final three weeks.
“We played just well enough to win,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “It was sloppy down the stretch — a 20-point lead whittled down to an eight-point win. We can’t relax like that and need to be better at closing out a win.”
Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) had 41 points on 15 of 22 (68%) shooting. The 41 points were a season-high for the Fire for points scored by an individual. “It was great for Mustapha and his confidence,” Rowland added. “And we needed him tonight.” Traore also had seven rebounds and was 11 of 13 from the free throw line.
Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) was just short of another triple-double, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) earned a start and chipped in 16 points including 3 of 6 from outside. Fire newcomer Zach Shepherd (Seattle, Wash. / Prairie View A&M) also hit 3 of 6 from outside, on his way to 13 points in his first game for Potawatomi. Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) registered his ninth double-double of the year with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Drelan Tripplett (Oklahoma City, Okla. / York (NE) College) also earned a start and had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Fire never trailed during the contest and led by as much as 19 points (107-88) before the 7ers closed the game on a 28-17 run to narrow the final margin. It was a 12-point edge after one quarter (35-23), 10 points at halftime (59-49), and 14 points after three quarters (96-82). Many of the statistical category battles went to the visitors including rebounding (57-54), points in the paint (66-60), fastbreak points (32-15), and bench points (44-18) but the most important stat — final score — went to the home team. The Fire did dish out more assists (22-11) and also made more shots from outside (10 to 6 treys) and free throws (28-20).
Jacoby Ross led Rockwall with 34 points, including four triples. Quinn Taylor also had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
The win keeps the Fire near the top of the TBL Central Conference standings at 13-4, trailing Enid and Shreveport pending the weekend action. After a five-game homestand to start the second half of the season, the Fire are on the road for the first time in nearly a month with a Mother’s Day Sunday afternoon visit to Little Rock with tip-off at 3 p.m.
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.
Story by Justin Wollard • More photos coming later