Green Dragons pull away late for win over Middlesboro


Chris Jones

Harlan guard Kyler McLendon, pictured in action earlier this season, had two clutch baskets in the fourth quarter as the Green Dragons held off Middlesboro 53-41.


Coming off an emotional win a night earlier at Barbourville, the Harlan Green Dragons looked like a team ripe for an upset for much of Friday’s game against visiting Middlesboro.
The Green Dragons led most of the way but struggled to put the game away as Middleboro clawed back to within five midway through the fourth quarter. Two straight baskets by sophomore guard Kyler McLendon and several missed shots by the Jackets ended the chances for an upset and sent Harlan to a 53-41 win.
“After last night’s game, I kind of expected it and early on I could tell we were flat,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “I was just glad we were able to get the win. They played hard, but we got some key rebounds and then Kyler hit a couple of buckets to keep us out front. They came to win.”
Middlesboro shot only 36 percent (18 of 44) from the field and 30 percent (three of 10) from the line.
“We missed shots, including free throws,” added Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris. “I thought we got a little tired and gave them some easy baskets at the end. What more could you ask for? When you play them, you hope they don’t make everything they shoot and sometimes they do. We struggled to score sometimes. We had good looks. We just didn’t shoot a good percentage in anything.”
Junior guard Jordan Akal scored 16 to lead the 10-2 Dragons. Jaedyn Gist aded 13 points and 10 rebounds. Kaleb McLendon contributed 12 points. Will Austin had eight points and 15 rebounds, playing a big role in the Dragons’ 39-20 advantage on the boards.
Freshman guard Cayden Grigsby paced the 5-10 Jackets with 12 points. Junior center Jay West added nine points and eight rebounds.
Middlesboro led 6-3 two minutes into the game on 3-pointers by Grigsby and Bryson Barnard but went scoreless the rest of the quarter as Harlan closed with a 12-0 run on three baskets by Gist and a couple of 3-pointers from Kaleb McLendon.
Five straight points by Akal pushed the Dragons’ advantage to 25-12 before Harlan went Cole. Tyler West converted a three-point play and Grigsby scored off at turnover as Middlesboro cut the deficit to 25-19 by halftime.
The Dragons hit only four of 12 shots in the third quarter but took a 34-27 lead into the final period as Middlesboro hit three of 11 shots.
A 3-pointer by Barnard cut the deficit to 39-34 with 4:12 left, but it was as close as the Jackets could get as Kyler McLendon scored on the next two possessions and then Akal went in for a layup and an 11-point lead.
Harlan returns to action Saturday at Clay County in a 4 p.m. game. Middlesboro plays host to Williamsburg on Monday.
Trey King scored nine points to lead Middlesboro to a 34-27 win in junior varsity action.
Brayden Barnard and Ashton Osborne each added seven points for the Jackets. Bryce Bowling scored six. Case Bayless chipped in with three points. Skyler Ayers added two.
Johann Gist led the 0-5 Dragons with 19 points. Matthew Pennington scored three. Derek Pruitt and John Bryson contributed two each. Darius Akal chipped in with one.
Harlan 72, Barbourville 55
Harlan pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 72-55 win Thursday at Barbouville in a rematch of the 13th Region All “A” Classic finals.
Jordan Akal scored 28 points and Kaleb McLendon added 20 to lead the Dragons.
Matthew Gray and Jordan Collins paced the Tigers with 17 and 13 points, respectively.
Harlan took a 21-14 lead after one quarter, but the Tigers outscored Harlan by nine in the second period and led 34-32 at halftime. The Dragons moved on top 50-45 after three quarters and outscored Barbourville 22-10 in the final quarter.
Tanner Smith scored 16 points and Ethan Smith added 11 as Barbourville won 44-36 in the junior varsity game.
Johann Gist paced the Dragons with 20 points. Tristan Burgan scored seven. Darius Akal added three. Derek Pruitt and Jared Moore contributed two each.