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Dragons knock off another All ‘A’ rival

With a one-point win at Middlesboro on Monday followed by a 68-61 victory Saturday over visiting Williamsburg, the Harlan Green Dragons have made a good case for themselves as the early favorite for this year’s 13th Region All “A” Classic championship.

The Dragons overcame a three-point halftime deficit by turning up the heat on the defensive end, limiting Williamsburg to 25 percent (four of 16) shooting in the third quarter to go up by four. Harlan hit eight of 11 shots in the fourth quarter to lead by as many as 16 points.

“We didn’t get the ball movement we needed the first half,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “I thought we played pretty good defense all night, but some of our turnovers in the first half led to baskets for them and they got back in the game and then got a lead.”

“We’re just not in basketball shape yet,” Williamsburg coach Nick Napier said. “We’re starting four football players, and we’re really struggling with that right now. We were in a good position at halftime and led most of the third quarter, then fatigue set in. I don’t want to take anything away from Harlan because they are an outstanding team, but I thought fatigue hurt us. We stopped executing and didn’t finish. We missed some easy shots that led to fast breaks for them.”

Harlan (3-1) placed four in double figures, led by freshman point guard Jordan Akal with 20 points. Senior guard Kilian Ledford added 19, followed by junior forward Jon Eldridge with 14 and senior guard Cade Barnes with 12. Eldridge also had a huge game on the boards with 20 rebounds.

“We aren’t that big of a team and we’ve talked about how important his rebounding is for us,” Akal said. “He’s one of the guys who just got in from football, so he’s still finding his timing. I think he will continue to get better.”

Junior guards Slaht Hunter and Caleb Rose carried the offense for Williamsburg (1-2) with 24 and 22 points, respectively.

After a couple of early ties, Williamsburg went up by five on five straight points by Hunter. Akal answered with five straight for Harlan to tie the game at 12-all before Rose scored inside to put the Jackets ahead 14-12 after one period.

Williamsburg missed its first eight shots in the second quarter as Harlan built a six-point lead with an 8-0 run to start the period capped by 3-pointers from Ledford and Akal. Harlan was still up by five late in the period when Hunter had three baskets in an 8-0 run to close the half that put the Jackets up 30-27 at the break.

Ledford had a three-point play and a 3-pointer during a 10-5 run to close the third quarter that put the Dragons ahead for good. Barnes and Akal each hit 3-pointers early in the final period to push Harlan’s lead to double digits.

Harlan returns to action Tuesday at home against Knox Central. Williamsburg travels to Barbourville on Monday.

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Harlan 68, Williamsburg 61

WILLIAMSBURG (1-2)

Dalton Ponder 3-6 0-0 7, Caleb Rose 9-24 3-6 22, Slaht Hunter 10-24 2-5 24, Devonte Powell 2-4 0-0 4, Hunter Brown 1-9 2-2 4, Larry Bray 0-3 0-0 0, Gavon Thomas 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 25-74 7-13 61.

HARLAN (3-1)

Jordan Akal 5-14 6-8 20, Cade Barnes 4-10 1-2 9, Jared Hawkins 1-5 0-0 3, Kilian Ledford 5-13 6-8 19, Jon Eldridge 6-11 1-4 14, Jaedyn Gist 0-1 0-0 0, Kaleb McLendon 0-1 0-0 0, Caleb Adkins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-56 14-20 68.

Williamsburg 14 16 11 20 — 61

Harlan 12 15 18 23 — 68

3-point goals: Williamsburg 4-14 (Hunter 2-6, Ponder 1-2, Rose 1-2, Thomas 0-3, Bray 0-1), Harlan 12-35 (Akal 4-8, Barnes 3-7, Ledford 3-9, Eldridge 1-4, Hawkins 1-5, Gist 0-1, McLendon 0-1). Rebounds: Williamsburg 41 (Rose 12, Hunter 7, Powell 7, Brown 7, Ponder 5, Bray 2, Thomas 1), Harlan 42 (Eldridge 20, Barnes 8, Ledford 8, Akal 2, McLendon 2, Hawkins 1, Gist 1). Turnovers: Williamsburg 6, Harlan 13. Fouled out: Williamsburg (Powell), Harlan (Gist).