Four Signal Mountain starters had at least eight points in Thursday's District 7-AA high school basketball boys' semifinal at Signal Mountain, and another Eagle had double figures off the bench. Four starters for Bledsoe County fouled out, and one of its reserves ended the game with four fouls.
That would seem to add up to a blowout. But because of the work the Warriors' Jamal Worthington did before being disqualified with 3:24 to play, it wasn't. The Eagles did manage a 63-55 victory that perhaps should've been less stressful.
"We're not used to being in the situation where we've got to take the air out of the ball," Signal Mountain coach Steve Redman said. "We usually have to fight for every single win. I really felt like we kept blowing opportunities. We tried to give them the game. We did everything we could. This time of year, though, a win is all that matters."
Signal Mountain (12-15) advances to Saturday's final against host Sequatchie County at 8:30 p.m. EST. Bledsoe County (12-16) will face Notre Dame in the consolation game at 5:30.
Part of the reason four Eagles starters were able to combine for 45 points were because they were on the floor. Only Jon Patton, who scored nine, fouled out, and that wasn't until 13.4 seconds remained.
Worthington offset some of Signal Mountain's spread-out scoring by totaling 32 points. Until he fouled out, the only time he spent on the bench was the last two minutes of the first half after he was called for his third foul.
"If he's not on the floor, we don't have any chance of winning," Bledsoe coach Mark Cagle said. "He picked up his fourth foul with about six minutes to go. With us being down three or four, he had to stay out there."
The Eagles led from the time Brian Faiell's 3-point shot from the right side made it 18-16 early in the second quarter, but never by double digits. He and substitute Lannom Sowell totaled 16 points each and B.J. Wilkerson chipped in with 12.
Beginning with Worthington's fifth foul, Signal Mountain's remaining points were on 8-of-16 free-throw shooting. Bledsoe tried to capitalize from behind the arc, but its only 3-point goal in the game was by Brian Deakins as the first points in the second quarter.
The Eagles ended up making 22 of 35 free throws. The Warriors made 8 of 17.
"We've got some size, but I don't think we use it enough," Redman said. "I tell them take it inside, get to the foul line and don't just settle for jump shots.
"It was a physical game. I don't think they were calling touch fouls. There were a lot of fouls called, but there were a lot of fouls committed. "
Cagle also had his view on the nature of the game.
"The past three or four games we've played have been called a lot more loose," he said. "At district-tournament time, you'd think they'd let us play a little bit. I understand we fouled a lot. Rebounding hurt us because they're so much bigger than us."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.