Dragons turn up pressure on the way to rout of Leslie


Chris Jones

Leslie County guard Wyatt Hensley drew a foul from Harlan’s Kaleb McLendon on a collision under the basket in Thursday’s game at Harlan. McLendon had 18 points and nine rebounds in the Dragons’ 82-55 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


After three weeks of waiting for the chance to play again, the Harlan Green Dragons may have learned the hard way how to savor the moment.
The Green Dragons are looking like a team playing themselves back into shape with three wins over the last four nights after the long break due to coronavirus regulations. The Dragons showed much more energy than in their All “A” Classic championship game victory Monday by forcing visiting Leslie County into 26 turnovers Thursday on the way to an 82-55 victory.
“For us, it’s game by game,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “We know what it’s like to have it taken away from you, so we’re learning not to worry about next week and just enjoy the game and execute.”
Harlan (6-0) showed good teamwork and balanced in Thursday’s win as four Dragons reached double figures, led by junior guard Jordan Akal with 33 points. Kaleb McLendon contributed 18 points and nine rebounds. Jaeden Gist and Kyler McLendon added 12 points each.
Leslie County (4-6) was led by senior forward Jason Baker with 17 points and senior guard Koebe Bowling with 13. The Eagles played without senior guard Trenton Day, their leading scorer last season, due to a calf injury.
After a first quarter that featured numerous lead changes, including Leslie going on top 18-17 at the end of the period, Harlan took control in the second quarter with a halfcourt trap that forced eight turnovers and ignited the Harlan offense. Kaleb McLendon and Akal each hit 3-pointers off turnovers to start a 24-8 run that ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by Kaleb McLendon and Will Austin for a 41-26 halftime lead.
“We have the ability to pressure teams, but they were without one of their best guards,” Akal said. “That’s one of the reasons we thought we could pressure them and get some turnovers.”
Akal had three baskets in the third quarter, while Gist and Kaleb McLendon added two each, as the lead grew to 65-41 with the help of nine more Leslie turnovers.
Gist, Akal, Austin and Kyler McLendon each had baskets as Harlan started a running clock midway through the fourth quarter.
Harlan travels to Pike Central on Friday and will be at home against Bell County on Monday. Leslie County plays host to Breathitt County on Saturday.
Freshman guard Dylan Smith scored 10 points, while junior center Andrew Hacker and sophomore forward Bradee Davidson added eight each as Leslie County won 45-23 in junior varsity action.
Sophomore forward Matthew Pennington led the 0-2 Dragons with 13 points. Darius Akal scored five. Cameron Maples tossed in three. Nate Montanaro added two.