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Lady Eagles underclassmen perimeter players

Upperclassmen are generally the leaders of athletic teams.

That's not the case for Fort Dale Academy's varsity girls basketball team.

Junior Guard Laura Skipper and Sophomore Point Guard Frances Watts will lead the Lady Eagles, who return four starters this season.

The two underclassmen helped lead Fort Dale to a 20n8 record last year and to the semifinals of the Alabama Independent School Association's Final Four. Ninthnyear Head Coach Reggie Mantooth believes his star guards will have another great season this year.

As a sophomore, Skipper, 5nfootn9, led the Lady Eagles with 14 points per game. Mantooth expects Skipper to lead in scoring once again this year.

"Laura is a scorer," Mantooth said. "She's got a good outside shot, is good off the dribble and is really somebody that when we need a basket we look to her to score. She's got a real high percentage and knows how to get the ball in the basket.&uot;

Skipper, 17, said she doesn't feel any pressure to score more points this season because of the teammates she has backing her up.

"I've got Frances and the rest of the team backing me up," Skipper said. "It's a team effort."

Mantooth said Skipper is the Lady Eagles' gonto player. He said she is reliable in the clutch.

"She's somebody that when we need a basket, we're going to run a play for her or get the ball in her hand to score," Mantooth said. "We run a lot of things for her. She's a good threenpoint shooter, but she's also good off the dribble. She's a big, important part of our team."

Skipper believes Fort Dale has another shot at advancing to the Final Four this season. She added the team will have to play the way they did last year, which included good defensive play, aggressiveness and playing as a team.

"We've a very talented team," Skipper said. "We have the potential to go all the way. It's just whether we take advantage of that or not."

Watts, 5nfootn10, stepped up last season and served as the Lady Eagles' point guard as a freshman. Mantooth said he has confidence in her playing ability and believes she has a bright future at Fort Dale.

"Frances was good enough to start last year as a freshman at point guard," Mantooth said. "Like most freshman she probably made a lot of mistakes, but also learned a lot. She's just a very solid player. She can handle the ball, pass and shoot. As a sophomore, she's already done a lot of really good things for our team already. She's going to continue to get better, and will probably one of the best girl players we've had at Fort Dale."

Even though Watts found success on the hardcourt last year, Mantooth said she still has room for improvement.

"Her free throw shooting and her outside shooting need to improve, and then her ability to control the game at the point guard position and set her teammates up," Mantooth said. "All those things she's good at and knows how to do them, but she can definitely improve on them, and I think with time she'll get better in all those aspects."

Watts, 15, said the team's goals this season are to improve defensively, win all tournaments, win the area title and claim the state championship. She believes hard work will be the key for the Lady Eagles to succeed.

"We're going to have to work hard in practice, listen to our coach and do what he says," Watts said. "We're going to have to play hard and to the best of our ability. We only lost one starter. We're a little bit bigger this year and quicker. We worked hard this summer, worked out and shot together. We also have a closer bond with each other."

Following the success of his underclassmen, Mantooth believes several teams will key on stopping the two guards in hopes of shutting the Lady Eagles' offense down. He said their ability to handle the pressure will be key in their success.

"It's kind of a challenge for them to be better than last year, but they need to find different ways to score or different ways to help the team, whether it be rebounding, playing defense or helping setup their teammates," Mantooth said. "They can definitely be successful."