Regardless of how up and down the regular season may go, Signal Mountain's girls' basketball team is a rock-solid certainty once the district tournament begins. The Lady Eagles, who suffered a four-game losing streak early in the season then lost three straight before the new year began, cruised to their fifth consecutive district tournament championship with Tuesday night's 47-37 win over host Red Bank.
The Lady Eagles, who had split their regular-season meetings with the Lady Lions, were in control for much of the District 6-AA title game before a fourth-quarter rally by Red Bank. After leading by as much as 11 in the third quarter, Signal Mountain had its advantage cut to just two midway through the fourth before answering with a 6-0 run that put the game back out of reach.
"We played solid defense, and other than that one little spell where we did some crazy things to let the lead slip away, we took smart shots and played together as a team," Lady Eagles coach Kendra Bell said. "Sometimes when you've won the way we have, you can tend to coast. But this team has a new energy, and they love the challenge of keeping the streak going."
Signal Mountain (21-10) was led by tournament MVP Olivia Koontz, who finished with a game-high 17 points in her team's ninth straight win.
Tyner evened its season series with rival Brainerd with a 68-58 win for the 6-AA boys' championship, which followed the girls' game. After the lead changed hands five times in the first half, the Rams (20-6) extended their three-point halftime lead to double digits just two minutes into the third quarter.
Brainerd pulled within three early in the fourth, but each Panthers run was answered by Tyner, which closed things out by scoring 10 of the game's final 12 points, including 8 of 11 free throws.
"We wanted to come out and set the tone with great energy," said tournament MVP Amon Grace, who scored 22 points for the Rams.
Tyner's post tandem of Kobe Smith and Solomon Bridgeman combined for 32 points, and the Rams won for the second time in four meetings with the Panthers without making a 3-pointer.
"I think our guys were hungry after losing two straight to Brainerd," said Rams coach E'Jay Ward, whose team finished as district runner-up last season, before going on to claim the region title and reach the state tournament.
"Amon is our glue guy. He's the kid we don't want to take off the floor, because he does so many little things that help us win. We're getting a lot of different guys to pitch in right now and help us, and we're really starting to play at a different level than we have all year."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis