Rebounding from their worst performance of the season, the Signal Mountain Eagles made visiting Notre Dame play at their tempo for the first half of their District 6-AA meeting Friday night. Then, for good measure, they played the second half at Notre Dame's preferred tempo and blew their doors off in the process.
The 68-57 win comes on the heels of the Eagles' worst performance of the season, their first district loss in fact, coming at the hands of Bledsoe County.
With a rematch already looming a week away, Signal Mountain coach Steve Redman had in store two particularly miserable days of practice waiting for his team.
“We played with no effort Tuesday,” said Redman. “We went through our next two practices without even taking a shot because we were working on that effort. We played with that effort tonight.
It did not take long to rattle the Irish. Trying to bounce back from their own tough district loss at Sequatchie, they rushed through several early possession and fell behind midway through the first period. Normally a team that will punish you for leaving them open, the Irish were 0-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half and shot only 19 percent as a team.
But Signal Mountain's patient offense only built a six point lead at the half. When Notre Dame came out with their high-energy press, a 10-2 run in which Signal Mountain failed to convert a field goal found the game tied at 27 three minutes into the third quarter.
A Jack Teter 3-pointer stopped the bleeding, and foul trouble soon crippled the Notre Dame press. But the up-tempo pace the Irish generated did not shut down. In fact, the Eagles broke the game open with an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
“We don't mind playing up-tempo,” Redman said. “We sure don't want to play that way for four quarters, and we sure didn't want to play a full game that way against them tonight.”
B.J. Wilkerson had the ball in his hands much of the time for the Eagles (11-8 overall, 4-1 in the district) and hit 8-of-10 free throws as part of a 22-point night. But Wilkerson also had four assists, putting it in the hands of his center, Lannom Sowell. Leading all scorers, Sowell finished the night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high three blocked shots.
The Irish finally found the range from behind the arc, hitting 6-of-16 3s in the second half – four from playmaker Stedman Ford, who finished the night with 17 points. Tyler Byrd was also productive for the Irish, finishing up with 12 points and nine rebounds.
But the Eagles held back the late charge at the foul line, wrapping up a superlative showing by hitting 22 of 30 free throws. The Irish hung close much of the night for the same reason, hitting 10 of 11.
NOTRE DAME GIRLS 55 SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 37
The Notre Dame girls remained undefeated in district play Friday night by rallying for . a 55-37 win over Signal Mountain.
Trailing until will into the second quarter, the Lady Irish worked their way into the lead by making the extra pass in many of their possessions. The biggest beneficiary was Emma Higgins, who banged home a series of (mostly) uncontested layups for 15 points. Keona Beaman was right behind with 14 points
Aryn Sanders scored 16 points for Signal Mountain, which is still seeking its first district win.
Notre Dame 9 14 17 15 – 55
Signal Mountain 14 6 4 13 – 37
NOTRE DAME (55) – Cantrell 5, Ripper, Wittler, D. Lundquist 2, Molly Gadd 10, S. Lundquist 2, Emma Higgins 15, Bouchard, Hoffer, Gance 7, Keonna Beaman 14.for
SIGNAL MTN. (37) – Aryn Sanders 16, Whitmire 2, Althaus 2, Bledsoe 6, McGowan 6, Feldhoff.
3-point goals: ND 2 (Cantrell, Gance); SM 2 (Sanders, Althaus). Records: Notre Dame 13-4, 4-0; Signal Mtn. 6-14, 0-5.
Notre Dame 6 11 21 19 – 57
Signal Mountain 11 12 20 25 – 68
NOTRE DAME (57) – Stedman Ford 17, Flemister, Fink, Green 8, Davenport 6, Tyler Byrd 12, Darras 2, Kareem Orr 14.
SIGNAL MTN. (68) – Reese 2, Challener 6, Jack Teeter 12, B.J. Wilkerson 22, Lannom Sowell 24, Hensley, Hodge, McCoy 2.
3-point goals: ND 5 (Ford 4, Davenport); SM 2 (Teter). Records: Notre Dame 11-7, 1-3; Signal Mtn. 11-8, 4-1.