SHAWNEE, OKLA — The Potawatomi Fire picked the best time to play their best game of the season. The third-seeded Fire used an incredibly-balanced attack that saw all 11 active Fire players score and grab a rebound on their way to a series-clinching 125-83 rout of the sixth-seeded Rockwall 7ers. The win advances the Fire to the TBL Central Conference second round against the Shreveport Mavericks.
After nearly averaging a triple-double for the season and 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, top MVP contender Deshawn Munson (East St. Louis, Ill. / Harris-Stowe) continued to put up amazing numbers with his second consecutive playoff triple-double and fourth straight overall. Though his Saturday night numbers of 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists were down some from his normal averages, the 6-4 guard still put up his league-leading 11th triple-double in just over three quarters of action and a blowout win for his club.
Deon Lyle (Hastings, Neb. / UTSA) and Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif. / Liberty) tied for the team lead with 23 points, and each player made three three-pointers and collected five boards. Tevin Foster (Lawton, Okla. / Abilene Christian) went for 17 points off the bench. Mustapha Traore (Philadelphia, Pa. / Monmouth) had 16 points and seven rebounds. Deverell Biggs (Omaha, Neb. / Texas Southern) tallied 11 points, four boards, three assists, and three steals. Anthony Allen (Kingston, Jamaica / Oklahoma State) added six rebounds and five blocks.
“I’m pleased with the win. This was maybe the best game they played all season,” said Fire head coach Derrick Rowland. “It was good to get everybody involved and have everyone contribute.” On what was a ho-hum night for his point guard and top MVP contender, yet still another triple-double: “What else can I say — he should be the MVP.” On the upcoming matchup with Shreveport: “They will be tough. They will certainly be ready for us since we got them twice during the year.”
The numbers certainly indicate Coach Rowland’s conclusion that this was the Fire’s best game of the year. Two of the common problems for the Fire throughout the season (free throws and turnovers) weren’t issues at all on Saturday night. The Fire shot 77% (26/34) from the foul line and committed only 12 turnovers. The Fire led in points from turnovers (27-6), fast break points (37-19), and bench points (45-18). Potawatomi never trailed during the contest and saw their lead steadily grow from 10 points after one quarter to 16 at the half. They then turned on the gas and exploded their lead to 35 points after three frames. Their largest lead of 42 points came late in the fourth quarter and was also the final difference.
Darrice Whitley had 19 points to lead Rockwall. Jacoby Ross had eight rebounds to top the 7ers.
After sweeping the first round series, the Fire will now welcome the second-seeded Shreveport Mavericks for game one of the next round next Wednesday, June 8 at 7 p.m at FireLake Arena. The teams will then travel to Louisiana for both game two on Friday evening at the Gold Dome on the Centenary College campus and an if necessary third contest on Saturday night. The Fire took both meetings with the Mavs this past regular season.
ABOUT THE 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 • Photo by Landon Kidney