Iron Eagles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2004

Fort Dale Academy's varsity boys basketball team has dominated most opponents this season.

The topnranked Eagles' ability to win under any circumstances, in any environment has helped them remain on top in the Alabama Independent School Association voted on by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

Tuesday night, the Eagles (17n1, 4n0) looked to be tarred and feathered as they headed into the fourth quarter against the secondnranked Edgewood Wildcats.

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Down 38n28 at the end of three quarters of play, FDA made some crucial baskets to tie the game up and send it into overtime. Fort Dale went on to squeak by Edgewood, 57n56.

"I think we showed a lot of character and a lot of heart to come back and win," FDA Head Coach Reggie Mantooth said. "We didn't play particularly well the first three quarters of the game, but we kept hanging with it and was able to get back into the game in the fourth quarter and win it in overtime."

Senior Point Guard Brett Paulk came up big for the Eagles in the fourth quarter and in overtime, scoring 15 of his gamenhigh 22 points.

"Brett really led us," Mantooth said. "We got some turnovers off our press and that kind of got us going, got us some momentum in the fourth quarter. We just shot the ball a lot better and finally started making some shots."

Paulk also finished the night with four steals and four assists.

Senior Forward Andrew Hollis led Fort Dale's defense with nine rebounds and three steals, and chipped in with 16 points and Senior Guard Daniel Wesley added 12 points.

"They played zone and really packed it in making us take shots from the outside," Mantooth said. "We struggled to shoot the ball early. We had a lot of open shots and good shot, we just didn't make many of them. They also did a good job offensively on kind of slowing the game down and taking their time to score."

Mantooth believes winning such a close game, against a ranked opponent so close to the playoffs is beneficial. He said it allows his players the opportunity to work together on the court under pressure.

"It was really a good win for us because we had to fight back and come back at the end," Mantooth said. "We didn't play very well to start the game and our guys knew that. Edgewood's got a good team and it was a really good win. We had to come back when we weren't playing our best."

"The biggest thing is showing that when you're down, you're never out of it, and as long as you keep fighting you can win it in the end," Mantooth added.

Fort Dale will travel to take on Morgan Academy at 7 p.m. Tuesday.