Dragons ride third-quarter run in victory over Bell County


Kim Henson

Harlan forward Jaeden Gist drove against Bell County’s Cameron Burnett in a district showdown Monday.


Down six points at halftime, the Harlan Green Dragons went on a 16-2 run Monday to take control on the way to a 76-66 win over visiting Bell County.

“I thought our intensity picked up after halftime,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “I still don’t think we have the energy like we need. We forced a few turnovers and they missed a few shots, but they played hard.”
Kyler McLendon nailed a pair of 3-pointers to start the run. William Austin scored five points as Harlan took a 47-39 lead following two free throws by Kaleb McLendon at the 4:26 mark.

A layup and one of two free throws by Jaedyn Gist pushed the lead to 50-40 with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter. Cameron Burnett scored five points as the Bobcats cut the deficit to four one minute later.

A pair of three-point plays Gist and a 3-pointer by Michael Pennington allowed Harlan to take a 59-48 advantage into the fourth quarter.With both teams in the double-bonus due to a closely-called game, free throws played a big part of the final period.

Bell County hit eight of 12 free throws in the quarter while the Dragons were 11 of 18 at the line.

“Both teams got into foul trouble,” said Akal. “When we got into foul trouble, we had a couple of guys step up and hit some shots.”

The Bobcats got as close as nine points, 65-56, with 3:30 left.

Daniel Thomas, Dalton Stepp and Cameron Burnett fouled out for Bell in the fourth quarter.

Harlan placed four players in double figures on the night. Gist led the Green Dragons with 20 points. Kyler McLendon followed with 19. Jordan Akal was held to 14 points. Austin finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Dawson Woolum led Bell County with 23 points. Burnett scored 22 and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. Stepp added nine points while Hayden Callebs tossed in eight points and had nine rebounds.

Harlan kept the lead most of the first quarter. Two baskets by Woolum and a jumper by Burnett gave Bell County a 15-12 lead.

Both teams struggled from the field in the opening period. Harlan missed 12 of 18 shots while thr Bobcats were six of 15.

“I thought we were sluggish early in the game, but Bell County played well,” said Akal. “I’ve got to give them credit. We still don’t have our energy back, but that’s why were playing to get that back.”

A pair of 3-pointers by Austin gave Harlan an 18-15 edge. Another trey by Kyler McLendon had the Dragons ahead 22-17 at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter.

Three treys by Stepp gave Bell a 32-26 lead with 2:37 remaining in the half.

The Green Dragons cut the deficit to 33-31 following a 3-pointer by Kaleb McLendon, but a pair of baskets by Callebs pushed the lead to six at the break.

Harlan (7-1) returns to action tonight at Lynn Camp. The Dragons will visit Barbourville on Thursday before returning home to battle Harlan County on Friday.

Bell County (5-8 overall, 1-3 district) plays host to Whitley County tonight and J. Frank White Academy (Tenn.) on Friday.

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Cole Hoskins fired in 18 points as Bell County downed the Dragons 40-26 in the junior varsity game.

Conner McGeorge added 12 points for the Bobcats.

Jared Moore paced Harlan with nine points. Nate Montanaro followed with six. Johann Gist scored four. Hunter Clem, Darius Akal and Matthew Pennington added two apiece. John Mark Bryson had one point.

Harlan guard Kaleb McLendon headed down the court in a district clash Monday against Bell County. (Kim Henson)