Signal Mountain girls have bigger goals in already historic hoops season

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Soddy-Daisy's Hannah Patterson (35) shoots as Signal Mountain's Aubryn McKendrick defends and teammate Carlee Lowry (13) looks on during the TSSAA District 6-3A title game last Tuesday at East Ridge High School.

This story was corrected to state that Soddy Daisy High School is also a Hamilton County School in the girls region semifinals. 

Kendra Bell has built the Signal Mountain girls' basketball program into a perennial powerhouse for the Chattanooga area. Year in, year out, the Lady Eagles are as good as anyone locally.

Now comes the next hurdle in an attempt to take the next step.

"I've challenged this team," Bell said Sunday afternoon in a phone interview. "They know what is in front of them."

What is behind them is a wake of dispatched foes and a slew of program records. At 26-5, these Lady Eagles are already the most successful team in program history.

But with a win-or-pack-the-gear Region 3-3A semifinal against Lenoir City ahead Monday night at South Doyle High School, the achieved history pales in comparison to what this crew can do.

"Defense wins games and rebounding wins championships," Bell said Sunday with the directness of a Baptist preacher and the foundation of a Wooden disciple.

The truth is these Lady Eagles are flying and feeding in a multitude of ways.

Full-court pressure and an up-tempo game? Check. Half-court game and perimeter focus? Check. Slow it down and work the inside game? Check, and checkmate.

"We have had a lot of good teams and great players in my time here," said Bell, who is in her ninth season as Signal Mountain's coach. "But this team can do so many things well and can beat you in so many ways."

A total of 10 Chattanooga-area girls' basketball teams will attempt to advance past Monday's TSSAA region semifinals, where winning to clinch a spot in the region title games also assures those teams of remaining alive — win or lose — for the state sectional round.

In Class 4A, second-ranked Bradley Central goes for its 30th win of the season — against only one loss — when it faces high-scoring Warren County. Besides Signal Mountain, Hamilton County is represented by Soddy Daisy Sale Creek, which hosts the Region 3-1A tournament and will take on Whitwell in one semifinal while Copper Basin plays Van Buren in the other.

The boys' region semis will be played Tuesday, including Region 2-2A at Loudon, where Brainerd plays Arts & Sciences at 6, followed by Tyner versus Polk County.

A win by Signal Mountain on Monday would pit the Lady Eagles against the winner between Soddy-Daisy and Fulton on Wednesday.

The Lady Eagles have a talented tandem inside with Carlee Lowry and Aubryn McKendrick, who combined for 42 points in Friday's region quarterfinal blowout of Austin-East. They also have a collection of precise perimeter players who are more than capable as scorers and also more than willing to sign into Bell's "inside first, inside again" offensive mandate.

They even have a collective of reserves who would love more time on the floor but are willing to check their wants at the altar of possible history and the program's first trip to Murfreesboro for the state tournament next month.

So Bell juggles the embarrassment of riches of skills on her roster with the focus on the chance to make program history.

"We know there are a lot of great teams out there, and we have some work to do," Bell said. "But this team is well-rounded and defends better and rebounds better as a group than any I have had."

That sounds like a recipe for postseason success, no?

Contact Jay Greeson at