One down, one to go
The Fort Dale Lady Eagles and the Morgan Lady Senators took the court Friday night in a battle of two of the AISA's top 10 teams. The Lady Sens were ranked No. 7 and Fort Dale was No.4. With that billing right there, fans would expect the game to be close. But, that's the reason the game is played on the court and not on paper. The Lady Eagles were crowned the regular season area champions after thoroughly impeaching the Lady Senators 58-40.
That victory secures Fort Dale a berth into the AISA state playoffs at Faulkner regardless of how they finish in the area tournament hosted by Morgan Academy next weekend.
"The girls played strong pretty much through the whole game and shot the ball well," said Reggie Mantooth coach of the Fort Dale Lady Eagles. "The second half we played better defense and was able to shut them down. It was a big victory for our girls. We beat them 25 the first time and then 20 or so this time but still they are a good team. We were just able to shoot the ball really well and build up a big lead."
The Lady Eagles opened the game by pushing ahead to 6-2 with baskets from Francis Watts and Maryanne Hancock. The Lady Eagles quickly squelched the blossoming Lady Senator rally and pushed further ahead 9-4 with baskets by Watts.
But, the Lady Sens cut the lead to three, after Elizabeth Elliott grabbed a rebound and put it back. The Lady Eagles 9-6 lead was pushed to 11 with a basket by Hancock and then to 14-6 with a three from Laura Skipper.
Throughout the period, the Lady Eagles were able to apply heavy amounts of pressure and force things to happen.
One of those things was Morgan coach Robert Gartman calling a timeout after the Lady Eagles had just scored eight unanswered points, giving them the 17-6 lead.
By the time the period ended, Fort Dale was securely up by 10, 19-9.
That lead doubled by the end of the second period to 33-13.
Wesley Atkins launched a three from the Fort Dale corner of the gymnasium with the fans at her back to put the Eagles up 26-10 and then Watts drained another trey pushing the lead up 29-10.
"We tried to do things on offense," said Gartman, "but we never could get settled down the biggest difference was that they do a better job at three-pointers than we do with lay-ups. But they are well coached and I'm sure they'll go far in the state tournament."
The third quarter told the same story as the first with the Fort Dale Lady Eagles nearly doubling the Morgan score, 50-28 and then in the final frame was able to hold on for the 58-40 victory.
Watts finished the night with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds. Skipper accounted for 17 points and three steals. Hancock finished with eight points and five offensive rebounds and Atkins tacked on seven points. Stephanie Hood finished her night with three points.
By picking up the victory and being named the regular season area champs, the Lady Eagles will now have an automatic bid into the state playoffs beginning Feb. 11-12 at Faulkner University. The Lady Eagles will also be guaranteed the No. 1 seeding in next weekend's area tournament where they will face Hooper Christian Academy in the first round.
The Lady Eagles will be back in action this afternoon as they play host to the Lee-Scott Academy Warriors. The game tips at 2 p.m.
Earlier in the week, the Lady Eagles were finishing up their road schedule with their final road game of the season against Hooper Christian Academy. The Lady Eagles were quickly able to shut the gate and corral the Lady Colts to the tune of 51-31, securing that Friday's game against Morgan would be for the area crown.
Fort Dale dismantled Hooper 51-31.
Two Lady Eagles posted double-doubles in the win. Watts finished the night with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Hancock finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds also.