Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Boyd Buchanan head coach Tracey Walker instructs her team between quarters. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish faced the Boyd Buchanan Buccaneers in the girls consolation game of the Best Of Preps Basketball Tournament at East Hamilton High School on December 29, 2021.

For many prep basketball teams a third-place tournament finish after entering as the event's defending champions would seem like a letdown. That's far from the case for Signal Mountain and girls' coach Kendra Bell.

The Lady Eagles (7-8), the 2020 Times Free Press Best of Preps champions (the last time the tournament was held), claimed a third-place finish Wednesday afternoon at East Hamilton High School by holding off a strong rally from the hosts, 49-46.

"We're just so young. I was seriously as proud of them this week as I would've been if we had reached the finals because I found out we've got some kids who want to play basketball and compete," Bell said. "Today we played really good defense. East Hamilton has some nice one-on-one ball players so I thought our on-ball defense was solid. To see the growth this week was encouraging. We started a different lineup every night but we have about nine kids who we know can play."

Signal Mountain, after a slow start offensively by both teams, steadily built its lead up to 36-26 after three quarters, leaning on junior Cassidy Pawson and freshman Carlee Lowry, who finished with 15 and 12 points, respectively. The Lady Hurricanes, though, used aggressive defense and eight fourth-quarter points from McKenna Hayes to get within two points late.

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Wednesday's Best of Preps basketball tournament)

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Boyd Buchanan girls vs. Notre Dame on Dec. 29, 2021

The rally fell short when Hayes' potential tying 3-pointer hit off the back rim at the buzzer.

"They put tremendous pressure on us and we helped them with some turnovers that we shouldn't have had," Bell said. "That goes back to youth but that will be our battle all season as we get more games under our belt."

Anya Sutton led East Hamilton with 14 points, eight coming in the third quarter, with Hayes adding 12 and Morgan Bone 10.


Fifth-place game

Boyd-Buchanan 42, Notre Dame 41: Boyd-Buchanan rallied from an early 10-3 deficit to win when Jalisa Sanders scored with 10 seconds to play and the Lady Bucs stole an inbounds pass after a Notre Dame timeout. Sanders led the winners with 15 points, with Sarah Durham adding 11 and Eva Winston nine.

Kenzie Campbell and Deyonna Perryman led the Lady Irish with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Seventh-place game

Silverdale Baptist Academy 60, Rhea County 53: Kennedy Stinson led three Lady Seahawks — who built a quick double-digit lead and held on — in double figures with 13 points, followed by Tori Gibson with 12 and Lauren Kugler with 10. Ava Travis topped Rhea County with 12 points.

BOP All-Tournament team: Angel Simmons (MVP), Christen Collins, Christina Collins, Princess Simmons (Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe); Cayden Hennessee, Julia Howard, Lawson Talley (Meigs County); McKenna Hayes (East Hamilton); Cassidy Pawson (Signal Mountain); Jalisa Sanders (Boyd-Buchanan); Deyonna Perryman (Notre Dame).