Lady Gators routed
Fort Dale's bid to reach a second Alabama Independent School Association state title game was met with less resistance than anyone in red and blue could have expected.
The Lady Eagles took the court against the Lady Gators of Glennwood School.
The game was over with three minutes left to go in the first period.
Fort Dale's Frances Watts drained a jumper to put the Lady Eagles up 2-0. Glennwood then gave their opponents the ball when an errant pass resulted in the Lady Gators being called for a backcourt violation. Maryanne Hancock was fouled on, but sank a pair of free throws to push the lead to 4-0 and then tacked on a bucket courtesy of a long pass from the far end of the floor to put the Lady Eagles on a 6-0 run early in the game.
"I think we came out and were definitely a lot more confident," said Reggie Mantooth, coach of the Fort Dale Lady Eagles.
"Probably our experience of being here the last couple of years helped us out with that and we started the game early with some good baskets and some good turnovers and were able to build that lead throughout the game."
Glennwood's Sharonda Johnson ended the run with a basket.
That dent into the score didn't stop the Lady Eagles' momentum.
Hancock tacked a basket and a free throw to put them up by seven, 9-2. The Lady Eagles force a turnover in transition and Watts is able to record another basket, pushing the lead to nine, 11-2.
Johnson tacked the bottom half of a pair of free throws in a vain attempt to keep the blossoming blowout within reason.
Watts drained a three, followed by a basket from Laura Skipper.
Skipper then followed suit and buried a three pointer to push the lead to a comfortable 16 points.
With time running down in the first period, the Lady Eagles relax their man-to-man defense and the Lady Gators are able to work the clock. As time in the first period ticked away, the Lady Gators found their way to the basket. But at the end of the first period, the Lady Eagles were in firm control with a 19-5 lead.
The Lady Gators opened the second period with a pair of free throws from Johnson.
Johnson, Glennwood's most prolific ball-handler sank both to cut the lead to 12, 19-7, But the Lady ‘Eagles were able to quickly push the lead out to 12 points, then 14 points, 16 points and finally 18-points with scores from Skipper and Stephanie Hood.
The Lady Gators did contribute points during the Lady Eagles run through the second period, however the points from the orange clad opponents were merely superficial and never put them any closer to the Lady Eagle lead.
By the end of the period, the Lady Eagles were clearly in control of the ballgame and their 30-9 lead told the story of the game.
During the first half, the Lady Eagles were able to maintain constant defensive pressure and hold Glenwood to three baskets and three free throws.
The second half opened with the Lady Eagles posting a 19-2 run. Fort Dale drains back-to-back three's from Wesley Atkins and Watts. Hancock tacked on a pair of baskets. Watts and Skipper added one each. Atkins drained another three before Glenwood's Johnson comes up with a basket with 3:15 left in the period.
In the second half, Johnson shot most of the team's free throws. As time ticked down she was sent to the line four times and came away with six points and a basket to end the period. At the end of the third period, there was no debate about the way this game had gone. Fort Dale carried a 55-19 lead into the final frame.
The final period ended with Mantooth subbing his starters and letting the younger players get some experience. Johnson made multiple trips to the free throw line in an attempt to bring her team to a respectable finish, but when the final horn sounded, the Lady Eagles claimed the victory by nearly 30 points, 61-33.
"I expected it to be a closer game," said Mantooth. "I knew that they had a good team but I think that the way we started the game probably effected their confidence a little and we seemed to get better as the game went on and I think they got down as the game went on.
I hope this gives us some confidence for Saturday, I know that that game will be a lot tougher."
Skipper was the leading scorer for the Lady Eagles with 21 points and seven rebounds. Hancock tacked on 15 points and Watts finished the night with 14 points and six assists. For the Lady Gators, Johnson finished with 18 points.
The Lady Eagles will advance to the final game of the AISA state tournament today.
Fort Dale will face the winner of Morgan and Faith. It will be the Fort Dale squad's fourth time facing each team.
Tipoff for that game is set for 12 p.m., and will be played at Huntington.