SHAWNEE, OKLA — As game two of the Central Conference Finals progressed on a rollercoaster of momentum, and the opportunity to finish off the defending champion Shreveport Mavericks was going up and down, it was the top guys for the Potawatomi Fire who stepped up, just as they have all season long. Whether it was Deshawn Munson with dominating play near the basket or draining buzzer-beating three-pointers; Chuck Guy dishing the ball or denying shots; or the constant energy and hustle of K.D. Moore doing a lot of everything, the Fire’s best were there when it counted. The trio of TBL All-Central Conference honorees led the Fire to a thrilling series-clinching 122-117 victory on Saturday evening and into the next round — the TBL Regional Finals — and just one round away from reaching the TBL National Championship. And just four victories from achieving their ultimate goal of the TBL title.
Munson had 29 of his 41 points in the first half, mainly scoring near the basket as he used his strength and size to continually post up Mavericks’ players. Not known normally for his outside shot, Munson hit two huge threes. The 2022 TBL MVP punctuated the first half with a buzzer-beating three from half-court. He also knocked down a corner trey in the early fourth quarter as the shot clock was about to expire. The ’23 MVP candidate Guy again filled up the box score, even adding a new wrinkle to his stats line with four blocks. He was once again the Iron Man as for the eighth time this season, he played the entire game with 48 or more minutes. Moore’s end-game contribution, after a game full of energized play on both ends of the floor, was standing still to calmly knock down both free throws with just four seconds left. Free throws which sealed the game for the home team and moved them into their next playoff matchup.
Munson topped the Fire with a double-double of 41 points and 12 rebounds. He also had four assists with a steal and block. The 41 points bettered the team season high for points in a game, just set on Thursday night by T.J. Maston. Guy had 25 points and 9 assists. Moore also had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and four assists. Ricky Artis II added 13 points with 6 rebounds. Lyle Hexom again just missed a double-double with eight points with 10 rebounds. Hexom, the 2022 TBL Defensive Player of the Year, had another strong night defensively with eight defensive rebounds and three blocks. T.J. Maston added nine points and six rebounds.
Fire head coach Mark Dannhoff on the play of his stars: “Our main guys really stepped up but you know, Shreveport is such a powerful offensive team. They’re gonna make runs at you and if you miss some shots or turn the ball over, they can hit you quickly with all the threes they can make. But I thought our guys held their composure down the stretch and it worked out well for us.” Dannhoff continued, “Deshawn Munson was just unstoppable in the paint down there for us and then for him to be able to step out and make a half-court shot and a three-pointer late when we needed it, he just came up clutch. Chuck Guy just continues to do what he does and his leadership is just great. Anything we need is what he does for us. He’ll block a shot, get a rebound, get an assist, get a steal, get a bucket — he’s going to give you whatever you need all game long. K.D. — he’s got such a big heart and so much energy and just is a competitor. He wasn’t going to let anybody get a rebound or get to the hoop without him having a chance to defend it.”
The teams were relatively equal throughout most of the stat categories, with the exception of a few. The Fire shot 52% from the field while holding the Mavs to 43%. The Fire also led for over 47 minutes of game time, compared to 13 seconds for Shreveport. The Fire also had a 76-60 edge in points in the paint, while the Mavericks held the edge at the free throw line with 24/28 for 86% compared to the Fire’s 18/23 for 78%. The second quarter was the difference in the scoring, with the Fire outscoring their opponents 37-23. The Fire had the edge in the first quarter as well, while Shreveport outscored the Fire in both second half quarters.
P.J. Meyers led the Mavericks with 35 points. Jay Hedgeman had 27 while Tyronne Jordan had 23 points on 6 of 13 from outside. The Mavericks were without leading scorer and All-Central First Team member Bernard “Paul” Parks, who was expected to play but was a mysterious no-show.
With the win tonight, the Fire swept the series and advanced to the TBL Regional Final. All playoff rounds from here on out are best-of-three series, with the higher seed going on the road in the first game and then hosting in games two and three if necessary. The Fire would start on the road this week versus the winner of the West Conference Final between the Seattle Super Hawks and the Long Beach Blue Waves. Seattle leads 1-0 after winning Friday night in Long Beach. The Regional Final playoff game one would likely either be on Thursday night, June 15, or Friday night, June 16 on the west coast. The first Fire playoff home game in the next series would likely be game two on Saturday night, June 17, or Sunday night, June 18, with the if necessary game three the following night.
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.
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