Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2007
In a double-overtime thriller for the ages, the Fort Dale Academy junior varsity boy's basketball team used a strong “bend but don't break” defense to down Faith Academy 40-36 Saturday to take the Class AAA State Championship at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn.
Fourth-year head coach William Johnson said the Eagles' road to the title this season was a difficult one made to look easy by such a great group of players.
“They are winners, everyone of them,” Johnson said. “They never think they're beat.”
After defeating Morgan Academy 40-25 in the first game and Tuscaloosa Academy 42-30 in the second game, the Eagles were paired up with Faith in the final game and prevailed off some clutch shooting.
With the scored tied 25-25 at the end of regulation, the Eagles pulled together and prevailed against one of the best teams in the state.
“They succeed because they are the hardest working group I have ever coached,” Johnson said.
Dustin Till, who averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game in the tournament, had an impressive game in the championship, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Eagles. Till also had three steals.
Stuart Matthews was next for the Eagles with 10 points and three assists, followed by Todd Burkett with six points, three rebounds and three steals and Shanks Simmons with six points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Four of Simmons' six points came on free throws in overtime.
Hunter Armstrong also had four points and six rebounds for the Eagles.
Burkett, who finished the tournament with 30 points, and Matthews, who finished the tournament with 31 points, were both named to the All-Tournament team for their outstanding efforts.
“Stuart had the best tournament he could have had,” Johnson said, “and Todd had a great tournament.”
Johnson said his team came together this season after their first loss. The Eagles have only lost two and now sit at 18-2.
“We built some depth that I've never had before and we got better and better as the year went on,” Johnson said.
Although the Eagles still have two games remaining on the schedule, Johnson knows the future is bright for this special group.
“The sky is the limit for them,” Johnson said.
And the reason is simple.
“You can't coach a winner,” he said. “It's a born personality.”
Fort Dale 42, Tuscaloosa Aca. 30
Stuart Matthews had a tournament-high 16 points in the second round game against Tuscaloosa Academy Saturday to lead the Eagles over Knights, 42-30.
During one stretch of the game, Matthews hit back-to-back three pointers to change the momentum of the game.
Todd Burkett was the next leading scorer for the Eagles with 12 points, three blocks and two assists while teammate Hunter Armstrong finished with five points.
Dustin Till had a team-high 10 rebounds against the Knights while also finishing with two points, three steals and two blocks.
Luke Hutcheson also had five rebounds in the win.
Fort Dale 40, Morgan Aca. 25
Todd Burkett had a team-high 12 points in the opening round of the junior varsity state tournament Saturday to lead the Eagles past the Morgan Senators, 40-25.
Hunter Armstrong was next for the Eagles with eight points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals and Stuart Matthews finished with five points and five steals. Burkett also had five steals in the win.
Shanks Simmons also had four points, two steals and two assists while teammate Dustin Till finished with three points, three steals and a team-high five rebounds.