If the regular-season champion Bledsoe County girls were going to win the District 7-AA high school basketball championship Monday at Signal Mountain, Chattanooga Christian was going to make them earn it. And they did.
The hard-fought game was tied as late as the final minute of the the third quarter, but Bledsoe's Lady Warriors gradually pulled away for a 59-48 victory.
Sequatchie County defeated Signal Mountain 52-48 in the consolation game.
Girls' region-tournament quarterfinals are set to begin Friday. In Region 4, Bledsoe County (21-4) will host Murfreesboro Central Magnet and CCS (18-11) will host Smith County. Sequatchie (19-10) will play at Livingston Academy and Signal Mountain (19-10) will play at District 8 champion Cannon County.
The Lady Warriors got off to a 7-0 start but didn't deter the Lady Chargers, who led by a point by the end of the first quarter.
Bledsoe led by as much as 27-19 late in the first half, but CCS battled back and made it 37-37 when Rachael Delashmitt made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. But Catherine Davis's 3 from out front 11 seconds later gave the Lady Warriors a lead they didn't relinquish.
An 18-foot jumper from the right wing by the Lady Chargers' Allison Hughes with 5:04 to go cut the deficit to 44-41, which proved to be the last time it was a one-possession game.
"We just ran out of gas," CCS coach Laura Cottrell said. "I think we really played so hard. We did a lot of good things. We did mess up on some defensive rotations and gave them a couple of layup opportunities. We were close and just didn't finish on the offensive end a few times, and against a good team like Bledsoe, you can't have a lot of mistakes happen at the same time. When we got down five, we couldn't catch back up."
Bledsoe made 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:44 after going 7-for-7 before that.
"We changed up defenses after the first three quarters and went to a 3-2 zone," Bledsoe coach Carlos Davis said. "That kept them from coming down the lane on us. We still gave up a few easy shots, but I thought the girls responded well to it. We were fortunate that Chattanooga Christian missed a few shots and we were able to capitalize. We hit our free throws in the clutch. That's something we work on in practice, and it showed tonight."
The Lady Warriors were led by tournament most valuable player Anna Peters' 17 points. Briley Stults added 14.
Joanna Smith topped CCS with 21 points. Hannah Henry totaled 11 despite not scoring in the first quarter.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.