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Signal Mountain's bench celebrates as the Lady Eagles take the lead against Baylor near the end of the Best of Preps tournament title game Saturday night at Chattanooga State. / Staff photo by Erin O. Smith

From the right corner in front of her team's bench, Harmony McCarter passed the ball over the top to Olivia Koontz, who hit a putback basket the 6-foot-3 junior likely never will forget.

Koontz's 14th and 15th points provided the difference with 4.7 seconds left as Signal Mountain took down Baylor 44-42 in the Times Free Press Best of Preps girls' championship game Saturday night in front of a packed gym at Chattanooga State.

"Sometimes you miss a shot and it gets in your head," said Koontz, who was named the tournament's most valuable player after scoring 45 points in three games and helping her program beat the Lady Red Raiders for the first time in history. "But in these type of games you have to fight to get it back.

"I had to get it back quickly and make the shot. We kept our cool, and to win this tournament is such a great feeling."

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BOP tourney girls' final: Signal Mountain 44, Baylor 42

(Read more: Eli Sparkman, Nick Kurtz propel Baylor Red Raiders to repeat as Best of Preps basketball champions)

With the crucial find late, McCarter also helped key a memorable celebration as she scored a team-high 16 points and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range. She helped build a double-digit lead early in the game and also had a tough layup with three minutes left to give the Lady Eagles a 41-39 edge.

McCarter's clutch scoring helped them overcome losing to Meigs County in the Best of Preps championship game last season, and they defeated an opponent that had beat them by an average of 23 points in their four previous meetings.

"I knew I had to step up and hit some shots early," McCarter said. "I felt the momentum right off the bat. I had to be strong and confident and bounce back from not shooting well last night. This was great redemption for us and gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. We can win the big games."

The Lady Eagles (12-3) survived a late charge led by Raegyn Conley and overcame having all-tournament guards fouling out by the 3:35 mark.

Baylor (11-5) took a 42-41 lead when Emma Martin stole a pass at midcourt and hit a layup, crashing to the floor with 1:31 left. Conley finished with 20 points and hit a trio of 3-pointers along with Cadasia Collins.

Koontz tied the game at 42 with a free throw with 1:20 left, and the Signal Mountain defense held strong in the last minute, allowing no points despite two straight steals from Conley.

Jaylah Hardy was efficient at point guard for the Lady Eagles throughout the tournament and helped spark an 18-10 lead Saturday as she scored five first-quarter points. Hardy also had four assists and showed off with a behind-the-back dribble and dish to Lamaiah Walker, who scored to start the second half.

McCarter's third 3-pointer came from the top left off an assist from Nicole Hanson to give Signal Mountain a 34-27 lead to end the third quarter.

Koontz scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, and she also had 10 rebounds.

"Our players wanted to come back to the Best of Preps and win it this year," Signal Mountain coach Kendra Bell said. "It was one of their goals. This was a complete team win. It really is great to win the tournament and beat Baylor for the first time. It's great to see your kids' hard work pay off."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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