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Firebirds Set TBL Record by Scoring 149 Points in 61-Point Blowout

The Raleigh Firebirds of The Basketball League have officially become the team to beat.

On March 11th, 2022, the Firebirds set a record for the most points scored in a TBL game with 149, breaking the previous record of 148.

No, this isn't a typo. The Firebirds really did score 149 points in a game. This came in a 61-point blowout against the Tampa Bay Titans, where the final score was 149-88. Everyone on the Firebirds played remarkably well in the win, and the team is now 2-1 (and if weren't for some questionable calls in their home opener, they would be 3-0).

The game didn't seem like it was in the bag at first. Going with a starting five of Daequon Antoine (the player of the night; his bio will be coming out shortly), Marques Sumner, Mykael Faulcon, Darius Leonard, and Desmond Jackson, the Firebirds struggled to defend inside the paint. The Titans scored the first points of the game to make it 3-0, but Jackson made it 3-2 with an easy hook shot. From there, we had lots of back and forth between the two teams. About five minutes in, Leonard hit a three-pointer, and having watched every Firebirds' home game live, I swear he does this at the beginning of every game.

Luckily, even if you can't see the beginning of every game live at the historic John Chavis Memorial Park, you can still tune in to watch the game via livestream, as Petey Dorris and his team do play-by-play commentary to give you an experience that makes you feel like you're at the gym live! To watch on livestream, just click on one of the Watch Live buttons above this article.

The Firebirds big man rotation of Leonard, Jackson, Matt McClain, and Andre Pierce was a solid one, but at first, it did nothing to stop the Titans from scoring. After the first timeout of the game, the Firebirds were clinging to only a three-point lead. However, towards the end of the first quarter, everyone on the team started taking euro steps and making easy layups. First it was Pierce, as his 6'10" frame glided through the lane effortlessly. Next was Antoine, and after his euro step, he hit a three to end the quarter. The Firebirds were up 31-26.

With star shooter Kenny Collins out due to a sprained foot, some guys got more minutes than they normally would, and this included James McKelvin, the rookie from Missouri Baptist University. McKelvin played 25 minutes and looked much more comfortable on the floor then in his first game with the Firebirds. "It was kind of unexpected," said McKelvin in regard to all the minutes he played. "But it was also kind of expected. We had guys go down, so I kind of knew I would get a chance. I just didn't know how much I would get, so I stood ready and was watching from the bench, seeing where I can attack in my way, play my game. I started playing well, so I played more, and the better you play, the more chances you get."

The second quarter was McKelvin's quarter. To open it up, McKelvin immediately hit a three. With a little over 10 minutes left, he hit a nice pull up shot, and continued to crash the boards. McKelvin got 2 offensive rebounds during the game (both of which led to buckets for the Firebirds), and five defensive rebounds, finishing with seven. "I always try to emphasize crashing the boards," he said. "And grabbing rebounds, just because more rebounds means more possessions. That means more shots, that means more points. The more we can get rebounds, the more we can get out and transition and the more offensive rebounds we can get, the more shots we can get."

McKelvin was quick, and with his slick ball handling, he was able to cross over and blow by any defenders that came in his path.

This play is a perfect example. McKelvin brings the ball up the floor, and once he's picked up by a defender, he dribbles twice between his legs and blows by him. From there, he's met with no resistance as he soars into the lane for an easy layup.

"Sometimes you just get into a zone. It just shows the work we put in, working out with Bob {MacKinnion, head coach} all week. So we're getting a lot of shots up so it's time to show out in the games. It's really just a testament to how much work we put in." -James McKelvin

After Leonard made a fadeaway jump shot and the Titans air-balled a three, Antoine made a three of his own, giving the Firebirds a ten point lead and forcing the Titans to call timeout. With 9:08 left in the second, the Firebirds had all the momentum they needed to win the game.

The timeout didn't derail the Firebirds amazing shooting, as Matt McClain took two dribbles, spun away from his defenders, and shot a fadeaway that made me think of Hakeem Olajuwon. McClain made multiple shots at the rim while tricking his defenders with a variety of pump fakes. "You have to study the game," said McClain when asked how he finished so accurately at the rim. "It comes down to timing, and knowing your teammates." McKelvin made another three after that, and grabbed some crucial offensive rebounds. While he still made some rookie mistakes, such as careless turnovers or leaving his man to try and double team the Titans' point guard, the good outweighs the bad, as his box plus/minus for the night was 36, the third highest on the team.

During that second quarter, the Titans stopped scoring in the paint so easily, and the Firebirds big men went to work. Check out the play above, for example. Leonard received the ball in the post, and he commanded so much attention that he was able to make an easy cross court pass, resulting in an uncontested three for Antoine. This play reminded me of NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, known for his incredible passing ability.

A player on the Titans named Xanthanus Pierro made a crucial mistake late in the second that Coach MacKinnion constantly tells his players not do: Pierro passed while still in the air. This led to a careless turnover, only adding fuel to the fire. One great thing about Coach MacKinnion is that he coaches and treats his players the same way whether they are up 30 or down 30. They still run the same plays, and MacKinnion never gives a foot of breathing space for the opponent. By halftime, it was 74-42.

In essence, the game was already over. The Firebirds were up 32, and as a team, shot 14 of 28 from three. Antoine had 15 points, Sumner had 12, Leonard had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, while McKelvin had 11 points on 50% shooting from three.

Luckily, there was more to the show then the players on the court. Friday was the Firebirds' Chamber of Commerce game, where they invited members of the Chamber of Commerce all throughout Wake County. Different Chamber members also sponsored kids from the Wake County Public School Systems (WCPSS) to come out and watch the game. A new basketball card game was also debuted on Friday, known as PickUp Basketball. PickUp puts you in the roles of player, coach, and general manager, interweaving chance and strategy. In the game, you position your players on the court and make trades to build a lineup that will score the most points. The first team to 40 wins. The contents of each game include 6 Rookie Cards, 4 Veteran Cards, 40 Player Cards, 6 Front Office Deal Cards, 2 Dice, and 1 Center Court Token.

PickUp, created by Chi Nwogu, will be available to buy at Firebirds' home games starting on April 30th. They will also be making a big appearance during the Firebirds' STEM game (May 6) and Youth Sports Night (May 15).

As soon as the third quarter started, Sumner stole the inbounds pass, and drained a three; a great start, symbolic of how the rest of the game would go. Unfortunately, with under 11 minutes left, Jackson looked as though he was in pain, and was quickly subbed out for McClain. When asked what happened, he said, "I got poked in the eye." Luckily, Jackson would be fine, and go back into the game later.

Midway through the third, Antoine stole the ball, and laid it in off the glass after a filthy euro step. As soon as the Titans inbounded the ball, Sumner stole it, and nailed another three. With 6:09 left in the third, the Firebirds had scored 100 points in three quarters; a feat the best professional teams rarely accomplish.

The only moment in the third when the Firebirds showed some vulnerability was when the Titans nailed three three-pointers in a row, making it a 30-point game instead of 40. The Firebirds called timeout, and soon after, they regained their previous lead. The third quarter finished with an inbounds play where Chris Chaney threw a lob to Jackson, to the delight of the crowd. It was 118-76.

In the fourth quarter, a player on the Titans stole the ball from the Firebirds and threw down a dunk on the other end, but there were no cheers from the crowd or even from his own team, which is rare. The message sent from the Titans by not cheering was clear; the Firebirds had crushed the Titans' spirit. McClain had another amazing finish at the rim, and the ball movement was spectacular. When Chaney had an uncontested shot at the rim, he made a simple layup, while everyone on the Firebirds' bench looked on in dismay; they wanted him to dunk it.

The highlight of the game game from a Desmond Jackson dunk in the fourth quarter:

"It was a low {lob} pass," said Jackson of his reverse jam. "And the only way I could catch it was if I caught it in reverse. I saw it coming, jumped up-I was going to go between the legs but, you know, I decided to keep it mild-and reversed it. It feels good, getting my legs back."

From there, the game ended, 149-88. Almost everyone on the team's roster contributed in a major way: Sumner and Antoine together combined for 54 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 steals. Leonard had his third double-double in three games, with 16 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 assists on 50% shooting from the field. McClain also had a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while McKelvin finished the night with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

"Another hard fought win," said Leonard postgame. "We went out there, stepped on their neck early, and didn't let up. They made adjustments so we have to make adjustments in the second half. We did what we were supposed to do.

"I just went out there and did whatever the team needed. My guys fed me the ball, asked me to crash {for rebounds}, I'm going to give them 110%. Whoever's coaching is going to give me a break; I'm going to go back out there and give it my all."

"We played great," said McClain. "We came together, everybody was ready to go out and play, so I loved it."

Some guys were in disbelief when they heard that they broke the TBL record for most points scored in a game by one team. "That's amazing," said McKelvin when I told him he was a part of TBL history. "You just gave me chills, I'm not going to lie."

"I would love it," said McClain when asked for his reaction if hypothetically, the team set the scoring record. When he was told it was true, his reaction was, "Oh! That's tough!"

"That was our plan," said Leonard, unfazed by the news. "We actually wanted to get 150, but we fell short of that goal. But a record is a record, so we're cool with it." Whether it's a 7 foot center, or news that he just made history, nothing can startle Leonard.

The Firebirds next game is their first road game of the year, a rematch against the Carolina Coyotes. This was the team that the Firebirds played against in their home opener, but lost to because of some questionable (very bad) calls by the refs.

"Win," said McKelvin when asked what his goal for Sunday was. "We owe them one. They came and stole one from us in our house, so we've got to go to their crib and take one from them."

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