If Chattanooga Christian's Chargers would've known ahead of time they would hold Notre Dame's high-scoring guard Steadmon Ford to one field goal in Monday's District 7-AA high school basketball tournament game, they would have liked their odds of winning.
Ford was limited to one basket, but that was a 3-pointer with the final seconds ticking down that lifted the Fighting Irish past the Chargers 41-38.
Notre Dame (13-16) will play Sequatchie County on Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. The Indians won both regular-season meetings against the Irish -- by three points at Notre Dame and by one in overtime at Dunlap. Notre Dame coach Brad Harris said he thinks Monday's game was his team's 10th decided by three points or less.
After Drew Thomas made a tying 3-point shot from the right wing with nine seconds to go, Harris put the team's fate in the hands of its third-year starter at the point, despite any struggles he was having.
"I looked up and I think I saw five seconds on the clock," Ford said. "I looked over at Coach Harris and saw him say for me to push it."
Ford worked his way over to the right wing. His shot was challenged by a leaping Brandon Arnold, but Ford's quickness enabled him to step back and release what proved to be the game-winner with the Chargers out of timeouts.
"They're a good team," CCS coach Jim Arnold said. "They're quick and athletic, and they can get it going from outside. I don't think this is the type game you lose sleep over. The kids played hard."
The Chargers went with what Coach Arnold called a "3-2 drop zone" with post player Josh Fikkert patrolling the middle from underneath all the way to the top of the key, where Ford was often positioned.
"He works like a dog," Arnold said of Fikkert. "He's long, too, as long as he can keep his hands up."
Ford said he tried splitting defenders at times but mainly had to settle for getting his teammates shots. He did make six of six free throws.
"They're so long in that zone, their players take up so much space," Harris said. "They force you shoot 3s, which we struggled getting to fall in the first half."
The Irish did get it going from outside was in the third quarter when Clay Heltzel made two 3s, Sheldon Brogden added another and Kywaun Davenport was fouled shooting a 3. It was all during a 2:40 stretch when Notre Dame went from trailing by four to leading 29-21.
"We try to be a defensive-oriented team," Harris said. "The third quarter we came out and got some stops and got out in transition."
The Irish managed to pull CCS (14-14) out of its zone, but Coach Arnold said the effort in man-to-man -- the Irish's only other field goal besides Ford's in the last six minutes was Davenport's 3 at the 4:33 mark to make it 36-27 -- is what enabled his team to rally.
Davenport's 10 points led Notre Dame, and Heltzel and Brogden matched Ford with nine.
Clark Marshall topped CCS with 16 points.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.