Close win secures Eagles spot

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2005

Morgan and Fort Dale came into Friday's game with one thing on their mind. Winning the area championship. In the Alabama Independent School Association, the area victor's get the spoils.

The winner of the regular season area crown will get their ticket punched for the first round of the state playoffs held at Faulkner in mid-February.

The runners-up will find themselves playing through the bracket in the area tournament for a spot in the state tournament.

With all that said, the Fort Dale Boys have been able to push to the top spot in the area and were 3-0 until they were upset on their home court by the Monroe Senators, 52-51.

Fort Dale quickly reversed their fortune with a victory over Hooper Christian Academy 59-44 in what is out to be the Eagles final road game of the regular season.

Fort Dale returned to the Academy on Friday night to face the Senators and for the second week in a row, the Eagles were in a nail-biter. Except this time, they did what they weren't able to do against the Monroe Volunteers a week ago – defend their court.

The Eagles were able to post a 55-54 victory to claim the Area Championship and secure them a berth in the AISA state playoffs in Faulkner. The victory also guaranteed them the No. 1 seed in the Area Tournament to be held at Morgan Academy next weekend.

"It wasn't pretty, but we hung on for a win," said Reggie Mantooth, coach of the Fort Dale Eagles. "I thought we played really hard and we played better defense in the second half, and really executed our offense even thought we didn't take a lot of shots, we did run a lot of clock and were able to hang on and get the win."

Friday's game came down the wire as the Eagles watched their six-point lead, which they carried until late in the game be sliced in half to 56-53 with a three-pointer from Morgan's Jeremy Smith.

But, throughout the final minute of the fourth quarter the Eagles were able to keep the lead with trips to the free throw line where they were guaranteed two shots but were only sinking one of them.

Mason Bass is fouled intentionally and sinks one from the charity stripe as the clock ticks down to push ahead 54-50. He is sent to the line again and once again sinks one free throw to swell the lead to five points, 55-50.

But, the Eagles nearly got themselves in trouble when Brady Newton fouled a Morgan shooter behind the three point line. That sent him to the stripe for three. Luckily for the Eagles he sank one of three, but that cut the lead to a two-possession ballgame.

Morgan coach David Walker takes his final time out.

"We got our fannies whipped," said Walker. "They flat came after us and just whipped us. We didn't do the things it took to win the ballgame. We tried several things and we couldn't make things work, it was just one of those nights that they were better than us."

The Eagles inbound the ball and Chuck Barrett is fouled, the senior Eagle is sent to the charity stripe and misses both freebies, the second is rebounded by Morgan and pushed up the floor. Ben Callaway spots up at the top of the key and pulls the trigger. His three is good and cuts the lead to one point, 55-54.

But, in all the confusion of Morgan trying to set their defense up, the Eagles were able to inbound the ball and run the last second off the clock securing them the victory and the area crown.

To start the game the 14-4 Morgan Senators trailed 3-0 thanks to a basket by Bass and a free throw by Adam Moore. But, the Sens were quickly able to take the lead, 5-3.

The area co-leaders down the stretch traded baskets until the end of the first period where Morgan claimed a 17-15 lead. Fort Dale, however was able to pull away in a very physical second period and went ahead 32-28 at the intermission. By the end of the third period, the Eagles had pushed their lead to 45-36 before claiming the 55-54 victory.

"I think we can go and have a little more fun in the area tournament and know that we don't have to win the tournament to get in state," said Mantooth. "But it's a great accomplishment for this group of guys and girls to win the regular season Area Championship."

The Eagles were led offensively by Barrett, who finished the night with 12 points and seven rebounds. Bass and Moore finished the game with nine points each. David Moore and Newton tacked on seven points, with Moore having eight rebounds and Carson Moseley finished the night with six points from the point position.

Fort Dale will be back in action this afternoon when they play host to the Lee-Scott Warriors.

The Junior Varsity squads will have their hands full in this game as they are going to be taking the court with the AAA Jr. Varsity state champions.