Dragons stay in chase for top seed by defeating Middlesboro


Jon Dickenson

Harlan guard Jordan Akal drove around Middlesboro’s Caleb Bogonko in action Saturday.

MIDDLESBORO — The Harlan Green Dragons outscored Middlesboro in three out of four quarters on Saturday as Harlan claimed a 63-47 win in district action.
Harlan improved to 3-2 in the district while Middlesboro fell to 0-5.
Senior guard Jordan Akal scored 22 points and has moved into second place, passing Jeff Miller, in the all-time scoring at Harlan High School with 2,451 points.
Kyler McLendon fired in 14 points while Jaedyn Gist tossed in 13 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Will Austin added eight points and had a game-high 12 rebounds. Kaleb McKendon scored six points.
“It’s a district win,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “I’m proud of my guys. Middlesboro has gotten better and of course coach (Lewis) Morris does an excellent job. To come in here and get a win on the road is big for us.”
Senior guard Jayden Schertz led the Yellow Jackets with 17 points. Senior center Jay Tyler West added 11 points.
Middlesboro has played the last three games without sophomore guard and leading scorer Cayden Grigsby. Grigsby has been sick and according to Morris will miss the rest of the year.
“I’m proud of the kids that’s stepping in there. They’ve done the best they’ve can,” said Morris. “They’re learning everyday. They’re having to grow up real quick.”
Schertz nailed a 3-pointer and added a basket as the Jackets took a 7-3 lead at the 5:37 mark. Harlan fought back and scored 12 unanswered points, led by Akal with six and Kyler McLendon with four, to take a 15-7 advantage.
A putback by Austin and a jumper from Akal gave the Dragons a 19-12 lead going into the second quarter.
Akal and Kaleb McLendon had 3s and Kaleb McLendon completed a three-point play as Harlan used a 13-4 spurt to to open the second period.
The Green Dragons took a 34-21 advantage into the break.
Middlesboro opened the second half with a 9-4 run. Schertz scored five points and West added four.
The Yellow Jackets got as close as eight points on two different occasions, including 45-37 at the end of the third quarter following a 3-pointer by West.
The fourth period featured a steal and dunk by Akal, a putback by Austin as well as seven of 10 free throws by the Dragons to pull away.
The Dragons outrebounded Middlesboro 35-20
“Harlan has a really good team. They’re experienced and basically five seniors,” said Morris. “They’re athletic and well-coached.
“But we did some good things tonight. We’ve just having trouble scoring the ball right now. Plus we’re having to play some kids that’s not played a whole lot.”
Harlan (17-8) returns to action at Knox Central on Monday before hosting Harlan County in a key-district showdown on Tuesday and Hazard on Wednesday.
“We’ve got Knox on Monday, HC on Tuesday and Hazard on Wednesday,” said Akal. “In all three games it’s going to take a huge effort, but we’ll come in and play hard.”
Middlesboro (8-16) travels to Pineville on Monday, Corbin on Tuesday and plays host to Harlan County on Friday.

Harlan’s Kaleb McLendon played defense against Middlesboro’s Jayden Schertz in Saturday’s game. (Jon Dickenson)