Signal Mountain, trying to regain the magic of an eight-game winning streak earlier in the season, pulled away with 21-3 run and went on to beat the Hixson Wildcats, 65-54, Thursday night in a non-district game at Hixson High.
The Eagles’ Griffin Palmer scored seven of his 11 points to trigger the decisive run that ended the second period and went 44 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Lannom Sowell, who picked up his third foul with 6:46 left in the second quarter, scored six straight points after Palmer’s offensive surge to push the Eagles’ lead to 45-32.
Austin Nolan capped the run with a fastbreak layup to start the fourth quarter and Signal Mountain had a commanding 50-32 advantage.
Signal Mountain (17-8) was able to finish off the Wildcats (5-17) – Hixson did cut its deficit to six points with 4:01 left – with a 15-7 run to finish the game.
“We’re not the best team at separating ourselves from the other team and closing it out,” Palmer said. “If we want to make it far in the tournament that’s something we’ve got to do.”
Since the eight-game winning streak ended in a 52-48 loss to Soddy-Daisy on Jan. 23, the Eagles have alternated wins and losses in their last four games. They’re looking for some consistency as the District 7-AA tournament approaches.
The Eagles finish the regular season with road games at Grundy County on Saturday and South Pittsburg on Monday.
“Both of those are make-up games from the snow,” Eagles coach Steve Redman said. “We were playing pretty well (in the streak) and we’re doing OK now. We have to have everybody on the same page at the same time because the tournament is what we’re playing for.”
Hixson coach Alex Disbrow is just looking for a few wins. The Wildcats have lost 13 of their last 14 games, with the lone win coming against Class A Lookout Valley.
“I’m happy my kids fought back, but we were still on the wrong side (of the score) again and nobody’s happy about that,” Disbrow said. “It’s getting old. It has been a frustrating season for everyone and we’re ready to grind out some wins.”
The game featured several “streak” segments.
Signal Mountain quickly got ahead 7-0.
Then Hixson scored 10 straight points.
The Eagles came back with nine in a row and ended the first period up 18-10.
Then the Palmer-fueled streak seemingly crushed the Wildcats, who rebounded with 12 straight points – eight by William Nelson, including two 3s – in a 3-minute stretch to slice Signal Mountain’s lead to 50-44 before the Eagles game back with six consecutive points.
Palmer made a layup and Jack Teter, who led the Eagles with a game-high 18 points, drilled his fourth 3-pointer – the only ones for Signal Mountain all night – with 7.7 seconds left in the first half to push the lead to 34-29.
Palmer converted a three-point play, Nelson, who led Hixson with 13 points, hit one of his three 3s and Palmer banked in a short runner to cap his spree and give the Eagles a 39-32 lead.
“I was just fighting to get the ball,” Palmer said. “Every time I get the ball I want to attack and score.”
Lannom Sowell – he had 12 points – hit a layup, one free throw and converted a three-point plays, Tadarius Hodge drilled a jump shot and Luis Guitierrez made a free throw and Signal Mountain’s lead was 48-32 after three quarters.
Hixson scored just three points on Nelson’s 3-pointer in the period.
Nolan’s bucket 44 seconds into the fourth quarter produced the Eagles’ 50-32 margin.
“We have to learn how to finish,” Redman said. “When we had them by 18 points, we should have pushed it more. Instead, we got lackadaisical and let them back in the game.”
Hixson’s Marshall Cooper scored on a layup, ending Hixson’s 6-minute, 53-second scoreless streak. Chandler Abbott made two free throws, Nelson hit a 3 from the left wing, swished a jumper from the right wing and made another 3, this one from the right wing 27 seconds later, and the Wildcats trailed by just six.
“That’s the kind of stuff you just can’t do come tournament time,” Redman said.
Palmer and Stephen Heinichen each made two free throws and Nolan followed with a fastbreak layup at the 2:05 mark to extend the lead to 58-46 with 2:05 remaining.
Signal Mountain made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 71 seconds and that was more than enough to offset two of Keyshun Bradley’s three 3s in the game down the stretch.
“Luckily we did enough to win,” Redman said. “Some guys play well one night and that will flip and other guys will play good the next. At some point we’re going to get everybody on the same page at the same time and it’s going to look good. Until then it’s kind of frustrating.”
Hixson’s Allen Diaz finished with 12 points.
In the girls’ game, Aryn Sanders scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Lady Eagles to a 32-28 victory.
T.T. Staten paced the Lady Wildcats with 15 points.
Neither team made a 3-point shot in the game.
Signal Mountain 18 16 14 17 – 65
Hixson 10 19 3 22 – 54
Signal Mountain (65) – Nolan 6, Greer, Van Dyken, Heinichen 6, Guitierrez 1, McCaffrey 2, Griffin Palmer 11, Elwell 5, Jack Teter 18, Hodge 4, Lannom Sowell 12.
Hixson (54) – Alameda 2, William Nelson 13, Battle, Beatty, Carver 3, Cooper 4, Glass, Allen Diaz 12, Key. Bradley 9, Abbott 9, Condra, Weaver, Harden, Ked. Bradley 2.
3-Point Goals – Signal Mountain 4 (Teter); Hixson 9 (Nelson 3, Key. Bradley 3, Diaz, Abbott).
Signal Mountain 8 11 2 11 – 32
Hixson 8 2 14 4 – 28
Signal Mountain (32) – Turner, Peterson, Aryn Sanders, M. Whitmire 5, B. Whitmire 2, Bledsoe, Bowman, Gravett, McGowan 2, Boals 2.
Hixson (28) – Johnson, Taylor 6, Stanfield, Yates, T.T. Staten 15, White 6, Rivers 1, Jett, Bowser.
3-Point Goals – Signal Mountain, none; Hixson, none.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)