SHAWNEE, OKLA — A third straight triple-double for one of the favorites to win league MVP led the Potawatomi Fire to their first-ever playoff win in their first playoff appearance. The third-seeded Fire took game one of their best-of-three Central Conference first round series, winning 111-96 over the sixth seed, the Rockwall 7ers.
After back-to-back triple-doubles to close the regular season last weekend, MVP candidate Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) tallied 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, and three steals. The numbers never lie as the saying goes and that’s certainly true for Munson who ended the regular season nearly averaging a triple-double and ranks in the TBL top ten in scoring average and leads the entire TBL in both assists and steals per game. Another impressive aspect of Munson’s game is his double-digit per game rebounding average (which ranks in the top 25) for a 6-4 point guard in addition to his league-leading 10 triple-doubles.
Deon Lyle (Hastings, Neb. / UTSA) had 21 points and four rebounds. Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) had another double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) went for 15 points including a perfect 9 of 9 from the foul line. Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) had 14 points including 4 of 7 from long range. Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) had eight points and nine rebounds.
“We didn’t close well again, but we were still impressive throughout most of the game until we took our foot off the gas,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “I know Rockwall will come back tough for the next game. We got contributions from a lot of guys which we will certainly need going forward.” On his potential MVP in Deshawn Munson: “Munson, of course, had another great night. His numbers are amazing compared to others. But he’s much more than just the numbers. He just needs to be better at his free throws,” added Rowland.
In contrast to the marathon that was their regular season finale last weekend, Thursday’s game moved much quicker despite 75 free throw attempts between the two squads. The Fire never trailed in their first postseason game and led by as much as 29 (82-53 in the third quarter). The Fire jumped out to an early first frame lead and then pushed a 56-43 halftime margin to the 29 points, before letting the 7ers get back into the contest. While Rockwall led in bench scoring 47-25, the starting five for the Fire again delivered the biggest punches, scoring 86 of the team’s 111 points. The Fire shot 46% from the field while holding the 7ers to 38%. The struggles from the foul line continued to haunt the Fire as they shot a meager 57% from the charity stripe, compared to 77% for the 7ers.
Deonta Terrell and Sean Gardner each had 25 points to lead Rockwall. Gardner also had 10 boards to top his club.
After taking game one of the series, the Fire will look to close it out on Saturday evening. The contest will tip off at 7 p.m. at FireLake Arena. Game three if needed would be Sunday night at FireLake Arena at 7 p.m. The winner of this series will battle second-seeded Shreveport next week.
ABOUT THE POTAWATOMI FIRE 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 • Photos by Landon Kidney