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Dragons rally to earn spot in district finals

LOG MOUNTAIN — During a first half when they scored only 14 points, the Harlan Green Dragons looked like a team headed for elimination as they faced a 13-point deficit at the break.

Senior guard Cade Barnes brought the Harlan offense back to life by hitting three straight 3-pointers to start a 17-0 run in the third quarter, igniting a comeback that sent the Dragons to a 42-38 win Tuesday over Bell County in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament.

“The first half we couldn’t score and we fouled too much,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “The second half we did a better job of limiting them to one shot. Plus, Cade hit some big shots to shift the momentum.”

Barnes scored 16 points to lead the 20-11 Dragons, who will be making their third straight trip to the district finals when they face Middlesboro on Friday at 7 p.m. Jordan Akal added 10 points.

Bell County (18-12) was led by senior guard Drake Thomas, who came off the bench to score 14 points. Senior center Tyler Partin added 10 points.

Both offenses struggled early, combining to miss their first nine shots before Harlan’s Jared Hawkins broke the drought with a 3-pointer at the 4:10 mark. Thomas provided a spark late in the quarter with five straight points as Bell built an 11-8 lead.

Thomas hit two more 3-pointers in the second quarter as the lead grew to 27-14 by halftime. Harlan hit only five of 22 shots in the first half (23 percent).

Barnes heated up in the third quarter and Bell went ice cold, missing eight of nine shots. Harlan scored the first 17 points of the period before Partin accounted for the Bobcats’ only basket of the period with 1:15 to play, but Hawkins answered for the Dragons and Harlan led 33-29.

As bad as the Harlan offense was in the first half, Bell was even worse in the second. The Bobcats shot 21 percent (four of 19) from the field in the second half.

Bell was able to pull even at 36 when Isaac Collett hit a 3-pointer and Cameron Burnett scored off a turnover. Akal’s three-point play put Harlan ahead to stay with 1:21 left after both teams were scoreless for over three minutes.

Kilian Ledford hit one of two at the line with 31 seconds to play. Bell’s London Stephney missed a chance to tie, but the Bobcats got another chance when Jon Eldridge missed two at the line.

Bell called timeout with 6.4 seconds left and found Partin on the baseline on a long pass over several Harlan defenders. Partin made a move toward the basket but was called for a walk, then Bell coach Frankie Smith was assessed a technical. Ledford missed both shots, but the Dragons got the ball back on the technical and found Eldridge for a layup just before time expired.

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Harlan 42, Bell County 38

HARLAN (20-11)

Jordan Akal 3-7 2-3 10, Cade Barnes 5-7 3-4 16, Jared Hawkins 2-8 0-0 5, Kilian Ledford 2-9 2-6 7, Jon Eldridge 1-3 0-2 2, Jaeden Gist 0-1 0-0 0, Kaleb McLendon 1-1 0-0 2, Carter Barnes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-38 7-15 42.

BELL COUNTY (18-12)

London Stephney 0-5 2-4 2, Isaac Collett 2-10 0-0 6, Sean Phipps 1-4 0-0 2, Cameron Burnett 2-6 0-0 4, Tyler Partin 3-8 4-5 10, Drake Thomas 4-6 3-3 14. Totals: 12-39 9-12 38.

Harlan 8 6 19 9 — 42

Bell County 11 16 2 9 — 38

3-point goals: Harlan 7-19 (Cade Barnes 3-4, Akal 2-4, Hawkins 1-4, Ledford 1-7), Bell County 5-17 (Thomas 3-5, Collett 2-9, Stephney 0-1, Burnett 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan 20 (Eldridge 9, Cade Barnes 4, Akal 2, Ledford 2, Hawkins 1, Gist 1, McLendon 1), Bell County 27 (Partin 13, Stephney 4, Burnett 4, Thomas 3, Collett 2, Phipps 1). Turnovers: Harlan 5, Bell County 12. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Bell County (Bench).