SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. — Both teams were is need of a win in Friday evening’s District 7-AA showdown up on the mountain.
Signal Mountain (11-8, 4-1 District 7-AA) was in the midst of a five-game losing streak, while Notre Dame (11-8, 1-4) entered the contest with Tuesday's setback to Sequatchie County still fresh in its mind.
“We’ve been preaching to them about intensity,” Signal Mountain head coach Steven Redman said. “We came out Tuesday at Bledsoe and just played absolutely horrible; just with no effort. So the biggest thing wasn’t as much game planning or a whole bunch of stuff, it was playing hard.”
And while the Eagles jumped out to an early lead, they needed every bit of that toughness to take down the Fighting Irish, eventually pulling out the 68-57 victory.
Signal did its best to take Notre Dame out of its element. Instead of playing the Fighting Irish’s fast-paced style the Irish are accustomed to, the Eagles slowed it down, and it payed off against the undersized Irish.
It was an uphill battle from the beginning for the Fighting Irish, when they ran into the Signal Mountain defense, also known as Lamon Sowell. With constant pressure from Sowell underneath the basket, Notre Dame, which trailed 34-23 at the break, were forced to take their chances on the outside.
“We got the looks we wanted from the outside,” Notre Dame head coach J.P. Nerbun said. “Then we tried to get it inside and Sowell, he’s very difficult to get around. I felt like offensively we got the looks we wanted, we just couldn’t knock them down.”
Sowell’s production wasn’t limited to the defensive end, though. He also paced the Eagles with a game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds, while teammate B.J. Wilkerson added 22 points.
The Fighting Irish, which was led by Stedmond Ford’s 17 points, knotted things up at 30-30 on the team's first 3-pointer by Ford midway through the third quarter. The senior knocked down another trey moments later to give Notre Dame its only lead of the game.
The advantage wouldn’t last long, though.
A layup by Wilkerson just 18 seconds later put the Eagles back on top 34-33, and Signal Mountain knocked down 15 of its 20 fourth-quarter free-throw attempts to help preserve its lead.
“They make free throws,” Nerbun said. “If you keep fouling you can’t come back. If you foul them, that’s two points.”
Both teams return to action Tuesday with a pair of district games. The Irish travel to Grundy County, while the Eagles play host to Bledsoe County, which they suffered a 70-54 loss to on Tuesday.
“It’s time to make amends for that one,” Redman said.