McLendons team for 11 first-half treys as Dragons rout Middlesboro


John Henson

Harlan guard Kyler McLendon drove around Middlesboro’s Braden Ellison in 52nd District Tournament action Tuesday. McLendon poured in 22 points to lead the Dragons to a 75-40 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

LOG MOUNTAIN — What began as a 52nd District Tournament matchup Tuesday between Harlan and Middlesboro quickly transformed into a McLendon brother game of H-O-R-S-E.
Kaleb McLendon and Kyler McLendon staged one of the most impressive shooting displays in tournament history in the first half as Kaleb hit six of seven 3-pointers and Kyler connected on five of eight. Harlan built a 40-point lead with two minutes left in the first half and coasted to a 75-40 victory.
While the shooting exhibition created a buzz throughout the big crowd in attendance for the tournament, Harlan coach Derrick Akal says it’a a common occurrence for anyone watching the Green Dragons practice this season.
“They did it last night, a 3-point competition between the twins. I won’t divulge who won,” said Akal with a laugh outside the Harlan locker room after the Dragons clinched their sixth straight trip to the district finals and the 13th Region Tournament. “I know most people don’t see it, but I do, and I’m usually surprised when we don’t make them. Kyler has been shooting really well lately. He just doesn’t take enough of them. Kaleb is one of the top 3-point shooters at around 40 percent.”
Kyler McLendon finished with 22 points and Kaleb McLendon added 18 as the Dragons improved to 22-9 on the season. Jordan Akal scored 17 points.
Freshman guard Brayden Barnard scored 11 points to lead the Yellow Jackets, who finished with a record of 8-22.
Harlan raced to a 28-10 lead after one quarter as each McLendon hit four 3-pointers and the Jackets turned the ball over seven times. Middlesboro had 10 more turnovers in the second quarter as the lead reached 53-13 before Middlesboro scored the final five points of the half.
“That was one of our better halves,” Akal said. “We were concerned that if they came out and make some shots early they may try to hold the ball a little longer. We didn’t want a 40-something to 30-something game, but we were able to force some turnovers and hit some 3s. I thought we played really well defensively in the first half.”
Harlan will play Bell County on Friday at 7 in the 52nd District championship game. It will be the first ever meeting between the two in the district finals.

Harlan guard Jordal Akal sailed to the hoop for two of his 17 points in the Dragons’ win over Middlesboro in 52nd District Tournament action Tuesday. (Danny Vaughn)