SHREVEPORT, LA. –The first half of game one of the best-of-three Central Conference Championship round of TBL Playoffs, between the Potawatomi Fire and the Shreveport Mavericks was exactly what you might expect. Up and down the floor with each team doing what they do best — the Fire moved the ball and got it inside and the Mavericks bombed away from outside. But things changed in the third quarter, as the Fire turned a five-point deficit into a 15-point lead behind a big scoring output along with a shutdown defensive effort. That third quarter propelled the Fire to a 121-108 win and the opportunity to close the series at home on Saturday night.
The home team Mavericks came out on fire in the first quarter making six three-pointers, but the Fire countered by crashing the boards and dominating inside led by T.J. Maston. The Mavs opened a small halftime lead of 61-56 after converting 12 Fire turnovers into 17 points during the first half. The Mavericks made 9 of 23 from outside in the first half. After being challenged at halftime, the Fire defense made sure things were different in the second half. The Fire held the Mavs to just 3 of 19 in the second half which, along with the huge third quarter scoring burst of 37-17, turned the game in the Fire’s favor. Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff said the players were frustrated with how well the Mavericks shot the deep ball and responded in the second half.
“Anytime you can get a win on the road, it’s big time, especially going back home and getting two at home,” said Dannhoff. “But I’m really proud of our guys. I know they were frustrated early. Shreveport shot the ball so well in the first half from the three-point line. A lot of them, we challenged very well, others but not so much. But, you know, we were hoping that they just couldn’t keep doing that the whole night and I thought our defense was outstanding in the third quarter.”
“We know they’re going to make shots,” Dannhoff continued. “We just have to make them get uncomfortable and continue to challenge shots. As long as they don’t have open shots just standing there looking at the hoop (because) they’re going to make those every time.”
Maston’s big night of 38 points was his best of this season and was also the season high for an individual Fire player. Maston also had six rebounds to pair with his 16 of 24 shooting from the field. Deshawn Munson had a huge double-double with 31 points and 14 rebounds to go along with seven assists and two steals. Chuck Guy continued his MVP campaign with 16 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and two steals. K.D. Moore also had a double-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Ricky Artis II had his best game so far in his short time with the Fire, scoring 10 points and grabbing four boards. Lyle Hexom just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. Moore and Hexom were often matched up on the Mavs’ top scorer Paul Parks. Parks was held to just eight points in the second half and made only one trey.
“I thought the entire team came in extremely focused tonight,” said Dannhoff. “We could just tell that there was something about T.J. that was different the last couple of days. He went out and did an outstanding job. K.D. Moore always brings high energy and good defense and the ability to pressure the rim every night. I thought Chuck did an outstanding job running the show and really leading this team coming out at halftime, in the huddles, and throughout the rest of the game. Deshawn Munson again does what he does. He gets a double-double and rebounds and scores at the rim every night. So all the guys did a great job stepping up. It was a good week of prep and the guys on the bench who didn’t get in did a great job preparing us. We feel really good about the win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The Fire dominated inside, with 80 points in the paint compared to 42 for the Mavs. That dominance was also reflected in the field goal percentage numbers– 47/80 for 58% while holding Shreveport to just 40% (39/96). The Fire made just one of eleven three-point attempts compared to the 12/42 from three for the Mavericks. Shreveport also made 18/22 (81%) from the foul line while the Fire were 26/36 for 72%. The Fire also committed 23 turnovers, which led to 23 Maverick points. The three-point shooting and turnover numbers will likely need to be improved for the Fire to claim another win this weekend.
The teams will now travel back to Shawnee for game two (and game three if necessary) at FireLake Arena on Saturday, June 10, and if necessary, Sunday, June 11. Both games will also tip off at 7 p.m. The winner of this series will play the winner of the West Conference finals between the Seattle Superhawks and the Long Beach Blue Waves, beginning on Thursday, June 15.
Fans can listen to the action on KGFF 100.9 FM /1450 AM / kgff.com, with Chris Cox on the play-by-play call. You can also watch the games on TBLTV.tv with a paid subscription. Cox’s radio call is the audio for the live stream for all Fire home games. All TBL live streams are provided by the home team in each game.
ABOUT THE FIRE AND THE BASKETBALL LEAGUE
The Potawatomi Fire just wrapped up their second TBL (The Basketball League) season in 2023. They were 21-3 in the regular season (a three-game win improvement from 2022) to earn the top seed in the Central Conference portion of the playoffs as well as homecourt advantage throughout the entire playoffs. The 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 TBL, a men’s professional basketball league, now with 49 teams in over 20 different states across the U.S. and Canada. The Fire organization was named the 2022 winner of the Jim Koch Award as TBL’s Best Ran Business, despite the Fire being a first-year franchise. The dance team of the Fire, the Fire Girls, were named Best Dance Team.
The TBL season begins in February and runs through June, concluding with a championship playoff tournament. The players that make up the rosters of the TBL teams are former NCAA (Division I, II or III) or NAIA athletes. Many have played in the NBA or NBA’s developmental G-League as well as professionally overseas for several years and are continuing their careers closer to home or seeking a larger contract in another professional league.
Story by Justin Wollard • Photo by Landon Kidney