Fort Dale returns to Faulkner for #039;Final 8#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2005

Going to play at Faulkner University is nothing new to the ladies in the red and white of Fort Dale. Today, they will make that trek up I-65, on the quest for their second AISA State Championship.

For the Lady Eagles, this year's road took them to Selma for the area tournament, with they won with relative ease.

"We played real well against Morgan and against Hooper," said Reggie Mantooth. "I really think that we are playing good at the right time of the season."

Fort Dale defeated Hooper in the first round and then blasted the home-standing Morgan Lady Senators in the final, 65-33, further making their mark on the area tournament by Frances Watts representing them by being named the Area tourney's MVP and placing Laura Skipper and Maryanne Hancock on the All-Tournament team.

"We went out there playing really hard," said Watts. "We knew that against Morgan it wasn't going to be that easy of a game. We had beaten both of them pretty bad before, but Coach Mantooth had talked to us in practice and told us that if we don't play our hardest, they are fighting to keep their season alive. We knew that we had to go up there and play with everything we had and we did. I was really proud of everybody because we showed them that we want to win state and we are out there working our hardest."

"I was expecting Hooper to be that lopsided but not Morgan," said Skipper. "I think they were a little tired from the night before against Morgan, but I wasn't expecting that at all."

The Lady Eagles didn't have to win the area tournament due to the fact that they had won the regular season area championship two weeks prior against the Lady Senators in Greenville, securing them a berth into the AISA's "Elite 8" tournament, the first step to the championship, but with that came a No. 2 seeding and more than likely a match-up with the Edgewood Lady Wildcats. But, Fort Dale won the tournament and in turn, secured them with a No. 1 seeding in the field of eight set to face off at Faulkner.

Saturday, the 21-4 Lady Eagles will take the floor against Macon-East Academy (18-10) with the winner gaining a bid into the "Final Four" tournament at Huntington.

The Lady Eagles and the Lady Knight's have not met on the court this season, but have seen each other play.

"Macon-East has got a good team," said Mantooth. "We saw them play at the Lee-Scott tournament. They are very well coached and play a lot like us. They have a very up-tempo style of play and it should be a good test for us."

The Lady Eagles will also have the experience of competing in the "Elite 8" tournament before.

"I hope the experience of being here last year helps keep them focused on what they need to do," said Mantooth.

For the players, however, this weekend will be the culmination of a season of hard work.

"Macon-East is a team that I've been playing with in summer camps," said Watts.

"So I know all the girls. It will be exciting to put their season to an end and I'm really looking forward to it. We've all been working really hard in practice."

"The only thing I know about Macon-East is that they lost to Edegewood by nine and we beat Edgewood by 20," said Skipper.

"But we are still going to have to go down there and play them hard if we want to be successful."

For Watts, though, her vision of Fort Dale's road to the title is already laid out.

"We hope to meet Edgewood again and we hope to end their season," said Watts.

"The girls had a rough time with them the first time we played them, with some trash-talking and put their season to an end. Then we want to meet Faith again and beat them again for the second year in a row. We had the game won, we thought here, but we lost in overtime. The second time we played them we lost pretty bad. Laura's knee was hurt and I had an ankle. But if we meet them again we want to show them that we can win.

Tipoff for Saturday's game is set for 3 p.m., and will be played on the campus of Faulkner University.