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FDA shuts down Sparta for 62-47 win

Fort Dale’s defense pitched a nearly perfect fourth quarter shutout and starting guard Stuart Matthews got hot from the field as the Eagles beat Sparta 62-47 on Saturday to win the FDA Invitational tournament championship.

The Warriors led by as many as seven points in the second half before Matthews outscored Sparta by himself 10-2 and gave the Eagles its first lead 47-45.

“He’s a great ball player and when he gets hot he’s about as good as it gets,” said head coach William Johnson of Matthews, who was named tournament MVP following his 22-point performance against Sparta.

Sparta, meanwhile, was held scoreless until a final tip-in basket with no time left on the clock at the end of the game.

The Eagles’ defensive effort surprised even Johnson.

“Really?” said Johnson when told of the Eagles’ near-shutout in the fourth quarter. “I knew they (Sparta) hadn’t scored in awhile, but didn’t realize they had gone that long. But we played better half court defense in the second half.”

Sparta’s guard combo of Nicholas Hardin and Devlin Crosby caused Fort Dale fits in the first half.

The Eagles jumped out to an 11-3 lead but Crosby’s three-point shot kept the Warriors within striking distance.

Sparta tied the game at 14-14 at the end of the first period.

Fort Dale opened with two quick baskets by Todd Burkett and Steven Till, but Sparta responded with scores from Nick Adams and Hardin.

A two-pointer by Hardin gave the Warriors its first lead, 25-23, with 2:42 left before halftime.

Sparta led 30-27 at the break.

But it wasn’t like the Eagles weren’t helping the Warriors’ cause either, said Johnson.

“We missed a lot of easy lay-ups, a lot of free throws and had a lot of quick shots (in the first half),” said Johnson. “I think what changed in the second half was that we become a little bit more patient on offense.”

Matthews had 11 points in the Eagles’ opening round 63-46 win over Morgan Academy on Friday night.

Dustin Till led the team with 13 points and Luke Hutcheson scored 12.

Till and Shanks Simmons was named to the all-tournament team for Fort Dale (7-1) alongside Matthews.