The Signal Mountain Eagles are just trying to keep the Bledsoe County Warriors from running away with the District 7-AA basketball race.
The Warriors are unbeaten in league play, but the Eagles stayed within striking distance after the posted a 56-41 victory over Notre Dame at Phifer Gymnasium Tuesday night.
It was close for a while as the Eagles were comfortable with a 17-12 halftime lead, but things opened up a bit in the final two quarters as Signal Mountain improved to 13-6 overall and 4-1 in 7-AA.
"This is a good win for our team, but anytime you get a district win on the road, we're happy," said Signal Mountain coach Steven Redman after the game ended.
"We could have done a better job of finishing, but we just aren't used to playing with a big lead. I thought the third quarter was a key as we came out focused and ready to play in the second half. We always stress the first three minutes of the second half and those were critical for us tonight.
"We wanted to slow it down in the first half where we packed it in and controlled the boards. But we played hard and we have a team where nobody cares who scores as long as we're winning. It feels pretty good," Redman concluded with a smile.
Notre Dame never led, but the Fighting Irish were within striking distance the entire first half. The Eagles had a 10-6 edge after the first quarter while the difference was just five at the break.
The third quarter was critical for both teams.
Tyler Byrd scored on a putback at the 7:03 mark to get Notre Dame within five at 20-15, but the Eagles shifted into another gear and went on a 20-4 run to create a 21-point difference with eight minutes remaining.
Notre Dame then started playing in the fourth stanza, but Signal's lead was simply too big for the Irish to overcome.
The Eagles biggest lead came at 42-19 following a layup by Luis Gutierrez with 5:45 to play before Notre Dame started its comeback. Eight straight points trimmed the difference to 42-27 following a pair of free throws by Brandon Harris with 2:59 left
Harris sank the second of two charity tosses with 26.6 seconds remaining as Notre Dame got to within 50-41 before the Eagles sank six straight free throws at end for the 15-point final margin.
Notre Dame coach J.P. Nerbun is never happy following a loss, but he's just trying to stay focused on the big picture after his team lost for the 15th time in 18 games.
"I've been better," he began his post-game comments.
"It's time to quit talking and start playing up to our potential, which we haven't been doing lately. I'm just trying to build a solid program here at Notre Dame, so I don't always just our success by wins and losses.
"That third quarter was a disaster for us, but I'm proud that we played hard to the end. Signal Mountain did a good job of playing within themselves, but they're better than they were last year," Nerbun praised his opponent.
Big Lannom Sowell had a big second half where he scored 14 of his game-high 18 points and he also finished with nine rebounds as the Eagles enjoyed a 33-27 edge in rebounding.
Griffin Palmer and Gutierrez were also in double figures for the Eagles with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Jack Teter only scored six points for the winners, but he was a force on the boards with a dozen rebounds.
Kareem Orr and Kealey Green were the leading scorers for Notre Dame with 10 points each. Harris followed with nine while Tyler Byrd finished with eight points and the same number of rebounds.
NOTRE DAME GIRLS 45, SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 32: Taelor Hill scored 14 points and was one of three Notre Dame players in double figures as the Lady Irish had a scoring advantageover the Lady Eagles in every quarter.
Morgan Cantrell finished with 12 while teammate Annie Ripper added 10.
Aryn Sanders was the leading scorer for the Lady Eagles with 16 points.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 8 8 5 11 -- 32
NOTRE DAME 13 10 7 15 -- 45
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (32) -- Sanders 16, Althaus 3, B. Whitmire, Bledsoe 4, M. Whitmire 3, McGowan 2, Boals 4.
NOTRE DAME (45) -- Beaman 4, Cantrell 12, Ripper 10, Wittler, Hill 14, Bouchard, Hoffer 4, Champlin 1, Siler.
3-POINT GOALS: Signal Mountain 3 (Sanders 2, Althaus); Notre Dame 1 (Hill).
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 10 7 23 16 -- 56
NOTRE DAME 6 6 7 22 -- 41
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (56) -- Nolen 1, Teter 6, Heinichen, Gutierrez 11, McCaffrey, Palmer 12, Sowell 18, Hodge 6, Elwell 2.
NOTRE DAME (41) -- Green 10, Flemister 4, Davis, Ballard, Harris 9, Westhoff, Byrd 8, Orr 10.
3-POINT GOALS: Signal Mountain none; Notre Dame 1 (Green).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)