Green Dragons become first team in school, county history to win WYMT Mountain Classic


Kim Henson

The Harlan Green Dragons won the first WYMT Mountain Classic title in school history with a 66-56 win Saturday over Perry Central in the tourney finals at the John C. Combs Arena.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

HAZARD — One popular theory about the Harlan Green Dragons in the offseason centered on the idea that their best days may be behind them.
It’s becoming clear the Green Dragons don’t subscribe to that idea.
Harlan completed an impressive run through the three 14th Region favorites with a 66-56 win Saturday over Perry Central in the finals of the WYMT Mountain Classic, becoming the first team in both school and county history to win the tournament, which started in 1988.
“We knew that coming in that our school hadn’t won this tournament,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “There have been a lot of great teams that haven’t won it, so we feel fortunate to be the first.”
Senior guard Kaleb McLendon earned tournament most valuable player honors with a 23-point night that included seven 3-pointers. He hit four straight, starting late in the third quarter as the Dragons rallied from a six-point halftime deficit.
“Kaleb hit some big shots. Those are shots he works on and shots he’s been making for three years,” Akal said. “He got good looks. He only had one challenge, I thought. I’m confident he will make those.”
Senior forwards Jaedyn Gist and Will Austin added 15 and 11 points, respectively. Junior guard Kyler McLendon scored 10.
Kizer Slone led the 4-2 Commodores with 15 points. Rydge Bevery added 12, one night after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer edged Harlan County in the semifinals. Trayton Woods and Tyler Day scored 10 each.
Harlan took an early lead, but Perry reeled 11 straight points with three straight baskets from Day. Kyler McLendon’s second 3-pointer of the period cut the deficit to 20-18.
Perry stayed hot in the second quarter, building a 29-22 lead midway through the period. Austin was on the bench with foul issues, making it less challenging for Perry to get shots off in the paint.
Two straight 3-pointers Kaleb McLendon pulled the Dragons within one before Slone closed the half with four straight points for a 38-32 halftime lead.
“They made some tough shots in the first half, some tough 2s. Sometimes you have to tip your hat when someone makes tough shots,” Akal said.
Those shots didn’t fell in the second half. They didn’t fall for either team early as they combined to miss their first seven attempts from the field. Perry hit only two of nine shots in the quarter as Harlan pulled ahead with an 9-0 run sparked by 3-pointers from Kaleb McLendon and Dylan Cox.
Kaleb McLendon hit three 3-pointers in an 11-2 run that pushed Harlan’s lead to 60-49 with 2:50 to play. The Commodores got as close as six with one minute left but didn’t score again as Austin and Kaleb McLendon hit two free throws to clinch the win.
Harlan will play at Pikeville on Monday, taking on the defending All A” Classic state champions.



Harlan forward Jaedyn Gist worked around Perry Central’s Dylan Knight on Saturday in the WYMT Mountain Classic finals. (Kim Henson)
Harlan senior guard Kaleb McLendon was named the WYMT Mountain Classic most valuable player after leading the Dragons to the first tournament title in school history. (Harlan Independent Schools)