Makeshift lineup carries Green Dragons to rout of Red Bird


John Henson

Harlan guard Kyler McLendon worked around Red Bird’s Bryce Helton in Tuesday’s game. McLendon scored 16 points in the Green Dragons’ 63-26 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

BEVERLY — With their top three scorers (Jordan Akal, Jaeden Gist and Kaleb McLendon) watching from the bleachers in street clothes, the Harlan Green Dragons had a chance to experiment Tuesday in their regular-season finale at Red Bird. The Dragons spread around both the shots and points on the way to a 63-26 victory.
“All three have had some nagging injuries since we came off the quarantine – Jordan’s ankle, Kaleb’s hamstring and Jaeden’s groin,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “They played through it, but we had two games over the weekend and thought this would be an opportunity to heal those injuries heading into next week.”
Sophomore guard Kyler McLendon led the balanced Harlan attack with 16 points. Junior forward Will Austin added 14 points and 15 rebounds.
“I talked to Kyler about being a leader and getting us into the sets. I thought he did a good job of taking care of the basketball without Jordan and Kaleb out there,” Akal said. “It was the same thing with Will since he typically has Jaeden with him. I thought both of those guys did a good job tonight in those categories. Will and Jaeden have done a great job rebounding the last four or five games. He’s improved every game.”
Trey Barnes, the Dragons’ only senior, finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers. John Bryson chipped in with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Austin Osborne led the 0-19 Cardinals with eight points. Juan Bynum and Bryce Helton scored seven each.
McLendon scored three straight baskets midway through the opening quarter to ignite the Harlan offense after a slow start. Bryson, Barnes and McLendon each hit 3-pointers as the Dragons built a 28-11 lead after one period.
The lead grew to 43-17 at halftime as Jared Moore, Matthew Pennington and Johann Gist each hit 3-pointers.
Austin reeled off six straight points in the third quarter, then Barnes hit two more 3-pointers to start a running clock as Harlan led 59-20 going into the final period.
A couple of 3-pointers by Bryson helped Harlan extend its lead to 62-23. Helton and Harlan’s Cameron Maples closed the scoring by trading free throws.
Harlan (15-5) will play Middlesboro on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the first game of the 52nd District Tournament at Harlan. Red Bird will play host to Barbourville on Friday.