Since stumbling badly in their trip to Pikeville two weeks ago, the Signal Mountain Eagles have been laying in the weeds, waiting for the Warriors to climb the mountain for the rematch.
Last night, the Eagles came within an eyelash of sealing the deal on what would likely have been the biggest comeback in the school's brief history. But after wiping out a 15-point deficit, they left too much time for Jamal Worthington to do his thing one more time.
Worthington, capping off a 24-point, seven-rebound night for the Warriors, laid in the tie-breaking field goal with some 2.5 seconds to play to give Bledsoe its fourth straight district victory, 58-56. His performance overshadowed that of Signal Mountain's B.J. Wilkerson, who capped his 22-point, eight-rebound night by hitting the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:38 to play.
After two missed Bledsoe free throws, Wilkerson tried to produce his own game-winner, but it came up short in heavy lane traffic, leaving the ball in hands of the Warriors' Worthington, who had no answer on the Signal Mountain defense all night long.
A juke, a fake, a reverse pivot and Worthington got the ball up and over the rim, and the downcast Eagles wasted a vital second-plus before getting a time out. The best 0.5 seconds could allow was a three-quarters heave by Wilkerson that did not get iron.
“We've actually been trying to get Jamal to take more shots,” admitted Bledsoe coach Mark Cagle, whose team now has four straight district wins since a loss to Sequatchie County in his team's post-holiday debut.
“He's a fantastic player,” agreed Signal Mountain coach Steve Redman. “Everyone in the gym knew what they were going to do. In fact, all they did the entire second half was go four-low and let him go one-and-one. But you know, if we hit our free throws, it doesn't matter.”
Less than a week after hitting 22 of 30 foul shots to claim victory over Notre Dame, the Eagles hit only 2 of 10 foul shots Tuesday. That included three in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were trailing by three. Even though they had their own two crucial misses, Bledsoe hit 6 of 9 from the line.
Another unexpected stat in the game was a 12-point performance by Bledsoe reserve guard Taylor Warden. A sophomore, he was called on early on late in the first quarter and promptly generated 12 of his team's next 18 points as Bledsoe built a seven-point lead. It would be 10 at the half, and 15 at its largest at 48-33 four minutes into the third period.
“Taylor had to battle some confidence issues as a freshman,” Cagle said. “But he's a shooter. He gets to the gym every day shooting.”
BLEDSOE GIRLS 58 SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 43 The Bledsoe County girls maintained their hold on the top spot on District 7-AA, winning their fifth straight game since the new year, 58-43.
Anna Peters led the Lady Warriors with 15 points, but Catherine Davis and Briley Stults added balance with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Signal Mountain, still winless in district play, hung close thanks to a terrific performance by Aryn Sanders, who finished with 18 points.
Bledsoe County 14 12 20 10 – 58
Signal Mountain 8 9 17 9 – 43
BLEDSOE CO. (58) – Leguire 9, D. Smith 6, Anna Peters 15, Cunningham, Briley Stults 10, Catherine Davis 13, Morris, Hannah, Frechette, Gilbert 5.
SIGNAL MTN. (43) – Peterson, Aryn Sanders 18, Allen, Whitmire 6, Anna Athaus 11, Bledsoe, Lean, McGowan 8, Feldhoff.
3-point goals: BC 4 (Stults 2, Davis, Gilbert); SM 2 (Sanders, Athaus). Records: Bledsoe 9-9, 5-1; Signal Mtn. 6-15, 0-6.
Bledsoe County 17 19 14 8 – 58
Signal Mountain 18 8 16 14 – 56
BLEDSOE CO. (58) – Jamal Worthington 24, Campbell 4, Blake McCloud 11, Hale 5, Frechette 2, Cagle, Taylor Warden 12.
SIGNAL MTN. (56) – Reese, Challener 8, Jack Teter 10, B.J. Wilkerson 22, Lannom Sowell 10, Hensley 2, Hodge 4, Moon.
3-point goals: BC 7 (Worthington 2, McCloud 2, Warden 2, Hale); SM 4 (Teter, Wilkerson). Records: Bledsoe 14-5, 6-1; Signal Mtn. 11-9, 4-2.