SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire finished their inaugural regular season in much the same way as many of their games have played out. A solid all-around effort from their starters and more specifically from their All-Star point guard. Strong outside shooting. Timely shots from the bench. Mostly good but some bad that often plagued the team (turnovers, sloppy play down the stretch, etc). All of this was on display in Saturday’s 126-120 victory over the Beaumont Panthers.
It was back-to-back triple-doubles to close the regular season for Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) After notching his eighth on Friday night, he added his ninth and most impressive triple-double in his push for TBL Most Valuable Player. Munson tallied 30 points, a franchise record 20 rebounds, 13 assists, and five steals. Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) had a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) had 22 points including 5 of 7 from long range. Deon Lyle (Hastings, Neb. / UTSA) had 16 points. A trio of Fire players each had eight points: Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) who also tied for the team-high with 10 rebounds; Drelan Tripplett (Oklahoma City, Okla. / York College) and David Godbold (Oklahoma City, Okla. / Oklahoma).
“It was great to get the win against a tough team, but that was ugly,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “Way too many fouls – committed, called, whatever. It really killed any kind of momentum we had going. Deshawn (Munson) was tough tonight, like he always is. He’s always coming out and giving his all, contributing in many areas. I like where we are at as we head to the playoffs. We just need to be stronger at the end and close out games better. (I’m) really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but there’s a lot left to achieve.”
The game lasted over two and a half hours, due largely to the combined 97 free throws that the teams combined to shoot. The Fire went 34 of 46 (73.9%) while the Panthers were 32 of 51 (62.7%). Much like Friday and other previous games this season, the Fire controlled the majority of the game before allowing their opponent to get back into the game late. The Fire led by 13 points after one quarter and nine at the half. The margin grew to its largest in the third quarter at 82-67 but the quarter ended with the Fire on top at 95-84. Beaumont pushed back late and trimmed the final margin to six points. The Fire held Beaumont to 41.3% shooting from the field. The Panthers held a slight edge on the boards at 56-54 and both teams hit 12 three-pointers each.
Lyle Hexom led the Panthers with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Beaumont is still in the hunt for a playoff spot and visits Enid on Sunday to finish their season.
The Fire finish their first TBL regular season at 18-6, and based on the results from the weekend, the Fire will be the third seed in the Central Conference section of the TBL Playoff bracket. The top teams receive a first round bye. Sunday’s last day of action around the league will determine the playoff matchups. Check here and our social media platforms on Monday following the conclusion of the regular season for more information.
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.
(Note: An earlier version of this story had the Fire as the fourth seed. The Fire earned the third seed based on the league tiebreaker percentage of points for divided by points against: 109-104%.)
Story by Justin Wollard • Photo by Landon Kidney