Lady Eagles claim area championship
The Fort Dale Academy Lady Eagles overcame Hooper Academy, Autauga Academy and Escambia Academy to claim the AISA Class 3A Region 2 championship Saturday.
FDA head girls basketball coach Reggie Mantooth said that the tournament is proof positive that his team is getting stronger as the year goes on.
“We’ve tried to make it a goal to play our best toward the end of the season, and I think we’ve had some younger players who’ve gotten better throughout the year,” Mantooth said.
“So hopefully we’ll continue to get better and play better this weekend.”
The Lady Eagles have seen a number of contributions from its younger members, including Anna Blake Langford and Lucy Bates, two first-year varsity players fresh from last year’s standout junior varsity squad.
“Both of them have done a good job of adjusting,” Mantooth added.
“There has been a lot of new things thrown at them, but they’ve gotten better throughout the year. And both of them have gotten more confident in what they’re trying to do as the year’s gone on.”
The Lady Eagles faced its toughest matchup yet in Escambia County in the championship round, though Mantooth said that a combination of the Lady Eagles’ signature defense and a strong bench performance propelled them to a hard-fought victory.
“It was close. We were in some foul trouble in the second half, and I thought some of our bench people really came in and played well,” Mantooth said.
“Tucker Whiddon came in and played well for us. And we just hit some big shots that helped us control the game a little bit more, and we really played good defense in the fourth, as well.”
The Lady Eagles also saw another typically strong performance from leading scorer Madison Ann Gaston, whose 16 points in the championship round helped seal the deal.
But Mantooth said that her talent as a two-way player is her greatest player.
“She’s also rebounded well for us here lately, so we expect her to do a lot on both offense and defense,” Mantooth said. “She really played well throughout the tournament.”
In stark contrast to the familiar opponents of last week’s regional tournament, Thursday is an adventure into the unknown as the Lady Eagles prepare to face the Lady Rebels of Coosa Valley Academy.
“We’ve not played them this year, and we really don’t know a whole lot about them,” Mantooth said.
Regardless of the challenges the Lady Eagles face, Mantooth insists that Fort Dale will stick to its guns. After all, it’s what’s gotten them this far.
“We’ll make a couple of adjustments based on who we’re playing, but we’re going to concentrate on what we’ve done all year.”
Fort Dale and Coosa Valley will square off Thursday at Cramton Bowl. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.