DUNLAP -- The Bledsoe County Warriors were on a mission here at Sequatchie County High School Tuesday night.
Seeded first in the District 7-AA basketball tournament, the Warriors were looking for their first district tournament title in 30 years. Consider that mission accomplished after the inspired Warriors beat Signal Mountain by a 73-64 victory.
The last time Bledsoe's boys won this tournament, current Warrior coach Mark Cagle was a strapping seven-year-old and his father Harold was the head coach.
The elder Cagle was present Tuesday night and both were smiling from ear to ear when the final buzzer sounded.
"I thought we played well starting out, but we just wanted to keep the pressure on them at the end," Mark said after his team had improved to 23-6 with their third victory over Signal Mountain this season.
"They made some big shots at the end, but we managed to hold it together. I think they felt a lot of pressure since it had been so long, but all things considered, I thought we played really well.
"We were fired up and ready to play from the start, but Signal Mountain battled back and they never quit. We really wanted to win this game tonight as we don't get chances like this very often.
"We wanted to limit Wilkerson's looks and we felt like we needed to stop their big man inside. The Wilkerson kid made some unbelievable shots at the end, but for the most part, we accomplished our goals," Cagle added quietly.
The Warriors were off and running from the opening tip as three straight layups were followed by a 3 from Jamal Worthington before Signal Mountain coach Steven Redman could call a timeout less than three minutes into the game.
Ironically, that nine-point run at the beginning turned out to be the difference in the game.
The difference was 19-9 when the first quarter ended and the lead had stretched to 24-11 before the Eagles scored 10 of the final 12 points of the half to trail by just five at intermission.
The Warriors had been clicking on all cylinders in the first half, but they really turned it up a notch in the third quarter as that five-point lead swelled to 52-33 when the quarter ended.
That's when the Eagles finally decided to start playing.
A 15-footer from the baseline by Cody Challener cut the Bledsoe lead to 58-53 with 2:47 to play, but the Warriors successfully broke the Signal Mountain fullcourt press and three straight layups extended the lead back to a dozen with 1:36 remaining.
The Eagles got to within seven points twice in the waning minutes, but they could never get any closer than that.
"It's painful," Signal Mountain's Redman said after exiting the Eagle dressing room.
"Bledsoe County deserved it. We were tight early and we weren't able to do what we needed to do to win. It's an unfortunate thing. We were right there in the fourth, but it seemed like they had an answer for everything we did.
"Our execution wasn't what we wanted, but the effort was there as we left everything on the floor. Our kids played their hearts out, but the Worthington kid is good and we just didn't have an answer for him.
"Even though we lost, we advanced to the Region and that's all that matters," Redman concluded.
Blake McCloud was the scoring leader for Bledsoe as he finished with 21 points. Worthington was next with 20 while Eric Hale and Zach Campbell were also in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Challener finished an outstanding game with 20 points and nine rebounds as the Eagles outrebounded the Warriors, 30-21.
Wilkerson was next with 15 points while Jack Teter finished with 10 and Lannom Sowell nine.
Worthington had nine rebounds for Bledsoe while Campbell snagged seven.
CLARK MARSHALL SCORED 18 points and teammate Wes Moore added 14 as Chattanooga Christian held off Grundy County by a 52-46 final in the consolation game. Josh Fickert was also in double figures for the winners with 13 points.
Levi Miller was tops for the Yellow Jackets with 24 points while Jacob Campbell finished with nine.
The Chargers improve to 10-20 with the win.
Signal Mountain 9 12 12 31 -- 64
Bledsoe County 19 7 26 21 -- 73
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (64) -- Reese 5, Challener 20, Teter 10, Wilkerson 15, Guiterrez 2, Sowell 9, Hensley 3.
BLEDSOE COUNTY (73) -- Worthington 20, Campbell 10, McCloud 21, Hale 11, Frechette 4, Cagle 4, Warden 3.
3-POINT GOALS: Signal Mountain 4 (Reese, Wilkerson 3); Bledsoe Co. 7 (Worthington, McCloud 2, Hale 2, Cagle, Warden).
Grundy County 7 8 11 20 -- 46
Chattanooga Christian 11 15 14 12 -- 52
GRUNDY CO. (46) -- Campbell 9, Miller 24, T. Hampton 2, Smartt 7, Rheal, Bramhall, D. Hampton 4.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN (52) -- Youngblood 7, Marshall 18, Jones, Aldridge, Moore 14, Card, Matthews, Fickert 13.
3-POINT GOALS: Grundy Co. 6 (Campbell 3, Miller 3); CCS 3 (Youngblood 2, Marshall).
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Jacob Campbell (Grundy Co.); Clark Marshall (Chattanooga Christian); B.J. Wilkerson, Cody Challener (Signal Mountain); Jamal Worthington, Blake McCloud (Bledsoe Co.).
ALL-DISTRICT 7-AA TEAM: Austyn Cooper (Grundy Co); Clark Marshall (Chattanooga Christian); Jason Chandler, Madison Tucker (Sequatchie Co.); Kywaun Davenport, Stedman Ford (Notre Dame); Cody Challener, Braxton Reese, B.J. Wilkerson, Lannom Sowell (Signal Mountain); Zack Campbell, Eric Hale, Blake McCloud, Jamal Worthington (Bledsoe Co.)
Coach of the Year: Mark Cagle (Bledsoe Co.)