SHREVEPORT, LA. — After trailing by double digits for most of the game, a late rally from the Potawatomi Fire fell short as the second-seeded Shreveport Mavericks evened the Central Conference semifinal series with a 120-107 home victory on Friday night. The Fire couldn’t match the outside shooting and scoring balance of the Mavericks and suffered their first playoff loss in their first playoff road game. The two teams will now decide their series on Saturday night in a third and final game.
“We expected it to be a tough one, but the good thing about it is that we have a chance to get it right tomorrow night. We’ll just try to get our guys rested up and get ready to go tomorrow,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “We didn’t shoot the ball well which happens sometimes and our defensive intensity wasn’t there, especially in the first part of the game. Give (Shreveport) credit — they played well tonight and they beat us. We’re going to have to make more shots and play better defense to win tomorrow night.”
Top MVP contender Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) just missed out on his sixth straight triple-double and finished with a team-high 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. Munson remains among the league leaders in per game averages in scoring (top 10 in TBL), rebounds (top 25), leads in assists, and is second in steals. He also leads the league by a large margin with 12 triple-doubles.
Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) hit 6 of 10 three-pointers, including several as the Fire tried to rally in the fourth, and scored 25 points off the bench. Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) had 17 points including 8 of 10 from the free throw line. Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) had 11 points and seven rebounds. Two of the Fire’s usual top scorers, Deon Lyle (Hastings, Neb. / UTSA) and Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) were held to under 10 points each. Lyle finished with eight points and six rebounds while Traore had six points and two rebounds.
The Fire jumped out early with a 16-7 lead before multiple threes from Shreveport pushed the Mavs ahead for good. The Mavs led 30-24 after one quarter, 63-52 at the break, and 94-77 after three. Munson, Foster, and Johnson led the rally for the Fire in the fourth quarter as they chipped away and were able to cut the deficit to nine points (112-103) with three minutes remaining. But Shreveport would hit their free throws late to close with a 13-point victory.
The same issues that have plagued the Fire in many of their losses this season again were trouble on Friday night. The Fire committed 20 turnovers to 14 for the Mavericks. The Fire also only managed 64% (25/39) from the free throw line while the home Mavs shot 79% (27/34). The two squads were near equals in most categories. The categories that made a difference for the Mavericks were three point shooting (Mavs: 11/27 – 40% to Fire: 8/26 – 30%); bench points (49-30) and points from turnovers (25-15).
Paul Parks and Bilal Richardson led Shreveport with 19 points each. The Mavs had seven players in double figures. The finale of the TBL Central Conference semifinal series will again be played at the Gold Dome on the campus of Centenary College in Shreveport, with tip-off at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday night.
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