SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire took care of business at home in game one of their TBL Central Conference Semifinal, by going perfect from the charity stripe down the stretch to hold off a fourth quarter rally from the second-seeded Shreveport Mavericks and win 113-100 in game one of the series.
“It’s always good to get a win in the first game of a series. I’m disappointed that we let them back in, but Shreveport is tough and nothing’s easy,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “I am happy how we responded once they got close, and especially how we shot free throws down the stretch to seal it (10/10 in the fourth quarter).” On the outlook for game two: “It will be a lot tougher in Shreveport. They’re going to adjust and we’ve got to make adjustments as well.”
Top MVP contender Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) just continues to excel. After nearly averaging a triple-double for the regular season while ranking in the TBL top ten in scoring average, top 25 in rebounds, and leading the entire TBL in both assists and steals per game, Munson tallied his third consecutive playoff triple-double and fifth straight overall. His numbers in his league-leading 12th triple-double of the season on Wednesday were 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Deon Lyle (Hastings, Neb. / UTSA) again led the Fire in scoring with 25 points, including 4 of 9 from long range, to go along with seven rebounds. Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) was next with 22 points and also 4 of 9 shooting from outside. Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) went for 20 points off the bench, including 2 of 3 from deep, and made all six attempts from the free throw line. Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) had 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) topped the team with 17 rebounds and also had eight points and four blocks.
A back-and-forth first quarter saw the Mavericks emerge with a 30-28 lead. The Fire came back strong in the second quarter, outscoring the visitors 28-19 to lead 56-49 at the break. The Fire blazed hotter in the third quarter, capped by Theo Johnson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to give them a 92-71 margin. The Mavs charged back in the opening minutes of the final frame, cutting the lead to 94-87 with seven minutes remaining. But the Fire responded by clamping down defensively and were perfect from the free throw line to come away with the W.
The Fire shot 48% from the floor while holding Shreveport to 35.6%. The Mavs made 13 treys while the Fire knocked down 10 triples. The Fire held a narrow edge in rebounding (61-55), led in points in the paint (48-38), and fast-break points (31-15). Shreveport topped in points from turnovers (16-9), second chance points (23-12) and bench points (24-23).
Paul Harrison led the Mavericks with 28 points and nine rebounds. The two teams will now travel to Louisiana for game two of the series on Friday evening and an if necessary contest on Saturday night. The games will be played at the Gold Dome on the campus of Centenary College in Shreveport. The Fire have now won all three meetings thus far with the Mavericks, including a 110-108 thriller in Shreveport on March 18.
ABOUT THE FIRE ORGANIZATION AND THE BASKETBALL LEAGUE
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 • Photo by Landon Kidney