Fort Dale to face top-ranked Faith in semifinal

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fort Dale Academy basketball coach Reggie Mantooth likes to be the underdog.

But the problem is that his girls basketball team rarely has been the underdog.

Until now.

The Lady Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the Class AAA Alabama Independent School Association playoffs by crushing Lee-Scott 42-26 Saturday night to earn another shot at Class AAA defending champion Faith Academy Friday afternoon.

&#8220We are excited that we get to play them again,” Mantooth said. &#8220It's not often that we are called the underdog. We've lost to them the last five straight times, so hopefully we will be underestimated.”

Indeed the Lady Rams have had Fort Dale's number for the last three straight meetings between the two schools. Faith crushed the Lady Eagles last season by almost 40 points to take the Class AAA title away from Fort Dale. Then Faith rolled to an easy win over Fort Dale in the Fort Dale Thanksgiving Classic. The Lady Rams completed the trifecta almost a month later by knocking off the Lady Eagles in the first round of the Faith Holiday Tournament.

Throughout the season, Faith has remained atop the AISA poll. In fact the Lady Rams only loss this season has been to a public high school in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. And then Faith avenged that loss and has won 20 straight games.

Fort Dale, on the other hand, has not tasted defeat since its first-round loss to the Lady Rams in mid-December it their holiday tournament.

And through the season, the Lady Eagles have crept up the AISA poll to the spot right behind Faith.

After Faith easily rolled to the semifinals with a near 50-point win over Edgewood on Saturday, the Lady Wildcats coach told one newspaper that he felt like his team was playing a junior college team instead of a high school team.

&#8220They are a good team, but I feel like we are, too,” said Mantooth, whose team handed Edgewood its first loss of the season after the Lady Wildcats jumped out to a 15-0 mark.

Fort Dale advanced to the semifinals the same way it has won the last 17 straight games by dominating the boards and playing solid defense.

The Lady Eagles crept to a 14-9 lead over Lee-Scott after the first period and took an eight-point advantage to the lockerroom at intermission before putting the game away.

Fort Dale outscored Lee-Scott 13-5 in the third to build a 16-point lead that eventually grew as large as 20 points before Lady Eagle forward Frances Watts got into foul trouble early in the fourth period.

Watts sat for much of the final stanza until the last three minutes of the game.

&#8220It didn't help that Frances had to sit that long in the fourth, but we didn't loose too much of the lead with her out,” Mantooth said. &#8220Jennifer (Pouncey) and Tyler (Manning) really came through handling the ball well for us with Frances on the bench.”

Even with Fort Dale's leading scorer out of the game, Lee-Scott could not take advantage.

&#8220They built such a big lead that we couldn't do too much,” said Lee-Scott coach Jason Allen, who coached Saturday's game for head coach Roddie Beck who's father passed away that morning. &#8220We tried to pick up the pressure, but (Pouncey) really stepped up and handled the ball well for them.”

Even though Watts sat out much of the fourth period, she led the Lady Eagles with a game-high 16 points. Maryanne Hancock and Morgan Pouncey each added eight points.

Melissa Moreman led Lee-Scott with nine points.