The Signal Mountain boys' basketball team was embarrassed in a loss Tuesday evening to Bledsoe County. It became important for the Eagles to make a statement in their next game, which so happened to be a rivalry battle against Notre Dame.
The Eagles controlled the tempo and got huge performances from Lannon Sowell and B.J. Wilkerson to defeat the Irish 68-57 in a District 7-AA home game Friday. Sowell had 24 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks by patrolling the paint area, while Wilkerson scored 22 points from his lead guard position.
The win pushed Signal Mountain (11-8) to 4-1 in the district with Bledsoe coming up the mountain Tuesday.
The Eagles were jacked up from the start. They either led or were tied for all but 18 seconds of the game, and they pulled away with a 14-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
With the Eagles' 3-2 zone defense designed to match up with the Irish's outside shooters, the visitors failed to connect on a 3-pointer in the first half yet trailed only 23-17 at the break.
"We wanted to take our chances with them shooting outside," Signal coach Steve Redman said. "They didn't shoot the ball well. We knew they'd hit some shots, but I'd rather have them shooting outside rather than inside; the percentages are with you the further out they are."
Stedmon Ford's 3-pointer with 4:29 left in the third quarter was Notre Dame's first of the contest. It also tied the game at 30. His next 3 gave the Irish a 33-32 lead with 2:34 left in the period, but Wilkerson scored on a drive to put Signal back on top.
There would be two more ties, the final at 38 on a layup by Tyler Byrd, but the Eagles scored the final five points of the period and stretched the lead to double figures in the fourth.
"We try to run when we can," Redman said. "We have to be opportunistic and not just hold the ball. B.J. hit some big shots and we got some separation."
Ford finished with 17 points along with seven assists and six rebounds for the Irish (11-7, 1-3). Byrd and Kareem Orr added 12 points each.
"We couldn't buy a basket," Notre Dame coach J.P. Nermun said. "It's more of a confidence thing. Anybody that has seen us knows that's not the team we are. It's not fun to coach, it's not fun to play and probably not fun to watch. People love seeing our up-tempo team.
"Just give us a little time. We'll be back."
Jack Teter added 12 points for the Eagles.