Dragons survive upset bid at Clay as McLendon pours in 41 points


Darrin Spencer - 13th Region Media Network

Harlan guard Kyler McLendon sliced between two Clay County defenders in Thursday’s game at Manchester. McLendon poured in 41 points in leading Harlan to an 88-86 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

MANCHESTER — Two nights after throwing a scare into Harlan County, leading by 10 in the third quarter before eventually falling by 14, the Clay County Tigers were on upset watch again Thursday against the visiting Harlan Green Dragons.
Clay County stayed in the game all the way to the end this time and took its last lead with 38 seconds left on two free throws by Grayson Hooker. A four-point trip by the Green Dragons proved to be the difference as Kyler McLendon scored on a drive with 25 seconds left just before Will Austin drew a foul. Austin hit both shots as Harlan held on for an 88-86 victory.
“I told them we’re the hunted now,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal, noting his Green Dragons are ranked first in the 13th Region and in the mountains in various polls. “Clay saw the rankings and they don’t believe it and are going to go at you and they did. We need games like this on the road. They aren’t all going to be 30 or 40.”
McLendon carried the Harlan offense with 41 points. Will Austin scored 21 and Jaedyn Gist added 10 as the Dragons improved to 16-2.
“Kyler being special tonight helped us win the game,” Akal said, “Nobody else had it tonight, and sometimes that happens. We have the kind of team when others aren’t playing as well we have someone who can put the team on his back. I thought Kyler did that.”
Clay County fell to 7-7 despite a huge performance from junior forward Hayden Harris, who scored 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting before fouling out with 5:55 to play. Ethan Jackson and Landon Dezarn added 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Harlan was coming off three wins in four days to capture the 13th Region All “A” Classic on Tuesday.
“We scored in the 80s and that’s one of our highest scoring games,” Akal said. “We didn’t play as well defensively as I’d like. We played a little zone the first half because I was worried about our legs after having an emotional game Tuesday. We had one day off with a game at Clay. I thought Clay gave us everything they had and everything we wanted. When you stay close in a game like this, anyone can win at the end. I wasn’t surprised.”
Harlan will play host to Bell County on Friday. Clay County travels to Perry Central on Monday.
Noah Collett scored 21 points and Landon Howard added 16 as Clay County edged Harlan 57-54 in junior varsity action.
Nate Montanaro and Dylan Cox scored 16 points each and Connor Daniels added 15 for the 1-2 Green Dragons. Hunter Clem chipped in with five. Matthew Pennington scored two.
Harlan downed Knox Central 53-37 in previously unreported action. Cox scored 18 to lead the Dragons. Daniels, Montanaro and Brewer added nine each. Pennington scored four. Ethan Shuler added three. Jacob Clark chipped in with one.