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Harlan holds on for win against Bell

It seemed like the perfect play call. Down by two with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game, Dawson Atkins lobbed the inbound pass beyond halfcourt. Tyler Partin caught the pass, drove to the basket and went for the dunk. The attempt was denied as a Harlan player got a hand on the ball without fouling.

For the second year in a row, the Green Dragons were able to upset Bell County holding on for a 58-56 victory on Tuesday. Harlan has secured a spot in the 13th Region tournament and will battle Harlan County for the 52nd District championship on Friday.

“I told the guys before the game started, there wasn’t supposed to be blowouts. There are supposed to be ebbs and flows and momentum changes in games. That’s what happened tonight,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “We stayed in the fight. We said before the game, let’s just stay in the fight no matter what happens — up eight, down eight, tied — we just got to stay in the fight. I think we did a good job.”

Early on in the game, it was Kilian Ledford who paced the Dragon offense scoring 11 of his 14 points in the first half. Cade Barnes provided the spark to close out the game down the stretch scoring all of his team-high 16 points in the second half.

Bell County coach Frankie Smith’s first year concluded with the Bobcats’ struggles at the free-throw line playing a part in the loss. Bell went 16-for-27 from the charity stripe.

“We didn’t play very good out of the gate, and that’s been one of our biggest problems. We don’t start off games very well. We always dig ourselves out of a hole, and we’ve been able to do it sometimes and sometimes we haven’t,” said Smith. “Harlan deserved to win and they got the win. The problem we have with our basketball program here is the culture. Our players don’t understand what it’s like to go hard every single day and be committed.

“We can’t use anything as an excuse but we didn’t make free throws and make plays. It’s our fault. It’s not the officials fault, it’s not anything else. It’s our fault, and we need to take ownership and responsibility for who we are as a team and as a program.”

Bell County was led by the efforts of Trey Brock and Sawyer Brock. Trey Brock ended the night shooting 47 percent from the field for 18 points. Sawyer Brock went 7-for-14 on his way to 18 points as well.

Tyler Partin registered a double-double scoring 12 points to go along with his 11 rebounds.

Harlan ended the first quarter with an and-1 from Carter Barnes to give them an 11-7 lead heading into the second quarter.

Back-to-back baskets from Austin Adams and Carter Barnes increased the Dragon lead to 15-7 early in the second. Bell had a chance to cut into the lead but went o-for-3 from the free-throw line over the next minute.

A stepback jumper by Jordan Akal found its mark and increased the Harlan lead to double digits, 17-7, with under six minutes to play in the half. A Bobcat basket temporarily cut the deficit to single digits before a Ledford 3-pointer increased the lead to 20-9.

Ryan Lambdin answered with a 3-pointer of his own to cut the margins to 20-12.

Harlan held a double-digit lead for most of the second frame until a pair of free throws by Partin narrowed the deficit to 27-19 with 1:17 to go in the half. Two more free throws from Sean Phipps narrowed the margins to six with 44 seconds remaining.

Ledford ended the half with a pair of free throws that gave the Dragons a 29-21 lead.

Bell County began cutting the deficit in the third quarter. The Bobcats narrowed the lead to five, 33-28, on a 3-pointer from Trey Brock early in the frame. The sophomore guard did it again moments later with a jumper that cut the lead to 35-30.

Bell County was able to get the lead to as little as two when Sawyer Brock hit a floater near the end of the quarter to narrow the deficit to 41-39. Jared Hawkins nailed the put-back moments before the buzzer sounded to give the Dragons a 43-39 lead heading into the fourth.

After trading baskets early in the period, a free throw from Trey Brock and a jumper by Partin cut the lead to 49-47 with just under five minutes to play. Akal converted the and-1 to increase the lead to 52-47 with 4:35 remaining.

With less than two minutes to play, the Bobcats tied the game at 54-54 when Sawyer Brock scored on a fast break layup.

The Bobcats had a chance to take the lead when Harlan threw the ball away on a pass, but they couldn’t capitalize and fouled Akal with 56.5 seconds remaining. The eighth-grader hit both free throws to give the Dragons a 56-54 lead.

Trey Brock missed a jumper on the next possession and Bell was forced to foul Cade Barnes with 23.3 seconds remaining. He hit one of his two attempts to increase the lead to three, 57-54.

Tyler Partin was able to cut the lead to one on a layup with 4.7 seconds remaining. A foul on Cade Barnes before the inbound put the junior on the line. He hit only one free throw leaving the door open for Bell County.

After a timeout, Partin caught the long inbound pass but his dunk was denied securing the Harlan victory.

Up Next

Harlan (6-18) will square off against Harlan County (19-8) for the 52nd District title at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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Harlan 58, Bell County 56

HARLAN (6-18)

Jordan Akal 3-12 1-2 7, Cade Barnes 4-9 8-10 16, Kilian Ledford 4-7 2-2 14, Jacob Wilson 0-3 0-0 0, Jon Eldridge 2-4 1-2 5, Carter Barnes 2-3 1-3 5, Austin Adams 1-3 0-0 2, Dakota Shepherd 2-4 3-3 7, Jared Hawkins 1-3 0-0 2, Tyler Carmical 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-48 16-22 58.

BELL COUNTY (17-11)

Trey Brock 7-15 3-6 18, Sawyer Brock 7-14 3-6 18, Ryan Lambdin 1-5 0-1 3, Dawson Atkins 0-3 2-2 2, Tyler Partin 4-11 4-7 12, Isaac Collett 0-1 0-0 0, Shawn Phipps 0-0 3-4 3. Totals: 19-49 16-27 56.

Harlan 11 18 14 15 — 58

Bell County 7 14 18 17 — 56

3-point goals: Harlan 4-12 (Ledford 4-7, Wilson 0-1, Akal 0-2, Cade Barnes 0-2), Bell County 2-17 (T. Brock 1-2, Lamdin 1-4, I. Collett 0-1, Atkins 0-1, S. Brock 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan 29 (Shepherd 7, Carter Barnes 5, Akal 4, Wilson 4, Cade Barnes 3, Ledford 2, Eldridge 2, Hawkins 2 ), Bell County 31 (Partin 11, T. Brock 5, Lambdin 5, S. Brock 4, Burnett 2, Collett 2, Phipps 2). Turnovers: Harlan 9, Bell County 5. Technical fouls: Harlan (Akal), Bell County (Burnett).