Final four bound

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Fort Dale Lady Eagles took the floor against an opponent they had never faced on Saturday and left with a 1-0 record.

The Lady Eagles and the Macon-East Academy Lady Knights took the floor in the "Final 8" Tournament.

The Lady Knights, put up a fight during the first of the game, but by the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles had locked in offensively and put the game out of reach, 55-43.

Fort Dale opened the game with an inside basket and two three-pointers by Laura Skipper but, with 2:33 left in the first period, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Knights were within two points, with Fort Dale leading 9-7.

Their lead, however was short-lived as the Lady Knights came back and posted an uncontested basket, tying the game at 9-9.

Macon-East pulled ahead 12-9 at the end of the first period. They remained on top of their opponents through the second period.

"The girls game was a struggle," said Reggie Mantooth, coach of the Fort Dale Eagles.

"We didn't shoot very well in the first half and didn't play very good defense in the first half either, but we were fortunate to come out in the second half and play well enough to win the game."

We are trying to find something out about them, they are 22-8 and anyone at this point will be a good team

Skipper sinks the top half of a pair of free throws to open the second period and to cut the lead to 2, 12-10.

The Lady Knights were able to tack on a free throw and push the lead back out to three but with 4:11 in the half, the Lady Eagles cut the lead to one with an underneath basket.

"I wasn't that afraid of not winning," said Maryanne Hancock.

"We had gotten up pretty big at the first of the game, but they got back. I wasn't really worried about it, but it was frustrating."

But as time ticked down in the second period, the Lady Knights were able to push their lead to four points and hung on as time ticked down in the half, 23-19.

The second half was a different story.

The Lady Knights kept trying to pull away from their opponents, but the Lady Eagles refused to lay down and with 5:40 in the third period, Fort Dale's Frances Watts drains a three to put Fort Dale down by three.

That three point deficit turned to five with another basket by the Lady Knights.

Skipper tacks on two baskets and then a pair of free throws cuts the lead to one point, 35-34 with :39 in the third period.

With time ticking down in the third frame of action, Skipper pulls up and drains a basket to overtake the Lady Knight lead and end the period with the momentum clearly going the way of the red and blue, 36-35.

"They were very scary," said Skipper.

"We didn't play very well against Macon-East, none of our shots would go in. I'm glad we picked it up in the fourth quarter and were able to come away with a win."

"I think they had a few seniors and they were playing with a lot heart. They played hard that game, I think better then they had played all year and I think that we played about the worst we had played all year."

"We usually don't play very well in the Final 8, we usually play better at Huntington in the Final 4 and in the Championship game."

With 8:00 of season remaining for either the Lady Eagles or the Lady Knights, the fourth period took on an intensity of its own.

After Macon turned the ball over twice on travel-calls, Fort Dale's Stephanie Hood buries a three-pointer to put the Lady Eagles up by four, their biggest lead of the game, 39-35.

Hood adds another three, 42-35 and the Lady Knights are forced to call a timeout to stop the momentum of their opponents.

After neither team are able to put the ball in the hoop, the Lady Knights tack on a basket in an attempt to stop some of the bleeding and then tacked on another before Wesley Atkins drained a three to put them back up by eight, 47-39.

Atkins was fouled on her next shot and drains both freebies.

The Lady Eagles continue their control of the game and by the time the final horn sounded, were able to secure the victory and advance to the Final Four Tournament on Friday.

The Lady Eagles will have the opportunity to meet the Glennwood Lady Gators this Friday at Huntington.

Tipoff is set for high noon. The winner will advance to Saturday's final and will face the winner of Faith and Morgan Academies.