Signal Mountain didn't seem to mind trying to defend Bledsoe County's Jamal Worthington one-on-one throughout the second half of Tuesday's District 7-AA boys' high school basketball game at Signal Mountain. But in the end, the Eagles were unable to defend him one-on-five.
Worthington grabbed B.J. Wilkerson's shot out of the air about the time the clock ticked from 10 to nine seconds in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Then the senior drove the length of the court and scored with three seconds to play, lifting the Warriors past Signal Mountain 58-56.
Coming into the game, Bledsoe County (14-5, 6-1) and Signal Mountain (11-9, 4-2) were tied atop the district standings along with Sequatchie County, which lost at Chattanooga Christian.
"We knew this was a big ballgame for us," Bledsoe coach Mark Cagle said. "Notre Dame, I feel, is a sleeper team. Sequatchie County has been playing really good lately. Signal could very well win out in the district, too. We know this is a big win."
Worthington led Bledsoe with 24 points.
"I almost called a timeout," Cagle said. "But he's a senior that's started for four years. He knows what to do in that situation."
Signal Mountain looked to clog Worthington's driving lanes in the first half. But the Warriors made six 3-point field goals against the Eagles' defense and took a 36-26 lead at halftime.
"He's a fantastic ballplayer, and they've got some shooters on the wings," Signal Mountain coach Steven Redman said. "Everybody in the gym knows what they're going to do. The second half they pretty much went four low and let him go one-on-one and either kick it or shoot it."
The Warriors were ahead -- the largest lead being 15 points -- from the time Taylor Warden made a steal and layup to start the scoring in the second quarter until Wilkerson made a 3-point shot from the right wing with 1:37 remaining that made it 56-56. When his team got the ball back after two missed free throws at the 1:20 mark, Redman called a timeout with 1:05 to go.
"We wanted to run it down and take the last shot," Redman said. "I didn't want to make it obvious. We got B.J. one-on-one. We just got it a little too early."
Cagle had his team sitting back in a zone until he recognized the Eagles had no intention of attacking the basket. Eventually he ordered his team to come out of the zone and match up man-to-man to force the action around the 30-second mark, which ultimately led to Wilkerson's drive and miss.
Wilkerson led the Eagles with 22 points. He nearly made a fifth 3-point shot when his 70-footer at the buzzer hit the backboard right beside the rim.
Warden gave Worthington support with 12 points -- all in the first half. Blake McCloud's 11 points were all in the first three quarters.
Lannom Sewell worked the pivot for 10 points and 10 rebounds for Signal Mountain. Teammate Jack Teter also scored 10 points.
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.