Signal Mountain led nearly the entire way in its opening-round girls' game in the District 7-AA high school basketball game, but perhaps it took the Lady Eagles falling behind to get them really going.
Beginning with Brooke Whitmire's tying 3-point goal, Signal Mountain scored 18 points in less than five minutes to close out a 60-56 victory Friday over Notre Dame at Signal Mountain.
Signal Mountain (19-9) will visit top-seeded Bledsoe County today in a semifinal at 5 p.m. EST.
Signal Mountain scored the game's first points on a putback by Janie Boals and led the rest of the first half, although Notre Dame was within 20-18 at the break. The Lady Eagles had their eight-point lead early in the second quarter trimmed to 14-11, then built the advantage back to nine before the Lady Irish scored the last seven points of the half.
"We didn't have a great start," Notre Dame coach Wes Moore said. "The girls battled and battled and kept it close. I think they just really ran out of energy trying to come back.
"We'd get within two, then fall behind seven or eight. Then we'd get it back down to two, then fall back behind seven or eight. We just didn't shoot it well. It's unfortunate when you don't shoot it well when the girls play so hard and you don't get the result you want."
Notre Dame pulled within one when Emma Higgins made the second of two free throws to start the second-half scoring, but the Lady Irish never took a lead until Keonna Beaman completed a three-point play with 5:25 remaining.
Stephanie Bouchard added a Lady Irish layup that made it 45-42. Then came the closing barrage by the Lady Eagles, who didn't score more than 17 points in any of the first three eight-minute quarters.
"I think we knew coming in it was going to be a game like this -- a game of runs," Signal coach Jason Hill said. "I thought we had enough good leads to handle the runs Notre Dame was making. As soon as they took the lead in the fourth quarter, it looked like a couple of our girls were banged up. I was really proud of them for taking back the lead and being able to hold it."
Aryn Sanders, who picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter, sat for a while and then played the entire fourth quarter, led the Lady Eagles with 17 points. Whitmire made four 3s and added 15 points. Lydia Bledsoe contributed 13 points and Boals chipped in with 12.
Higgins led the Lady Irish with 16 points -- 14 in the second half. Beaman scored nine and their only senior, Stephanie Bouchard, had eight.
Notre Dame -- which lost its leader in scoring, assists and steals, sophomore Taelor Hill, to a knee injury on Jan. 17 -- ended up 12-14.
"We went through some big trials, in terms of having one injury after another," Moore said. "All the girls responded very well and stepped in and did a good job. We lose one senior and have 14 coming back, so the future looks pretty good."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.