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Dragons rally to earn spot in district finals

Bell County fell to the visiting Harlan Green Dragons 42-38 in the opening round of the 52nd District Tournament on Tuesday night.

Leading 27-14 at halftime, Bell County was held to just two points in the third quarter, allowing the Green Dragons to take the lead and inevitably the victory, advancing to the championhsip game on Friday against Middlesboro.

Both offenses started slowly as neither teamscored in the first three minutes. Harlan struck first with a 3-pointer with just under four minutes remaining in the first period. Bell County’s first points came by way of a fast break on a steal to bring the score to 3-2.

Harlan quickly jumped out to an 8-2 lead after Kilian Leford hit a deep three. Harlan’s run was slowed by a pair of Tyler Partin free throws, making the score to 8-4 with 1:30 remaining in the first. Drake Thomas hit a 3-pointer to bring the score to 8-7 in favor of the Green Dragons. With under a minute left, Thomas connected on two free throws, giving Bell County the lead at 9-8. Bell County later scooped up a loose ball and scored on a Cameron Burnett jump shot as time expired in the first quarter, giving the Bobcats an 11-8 lead.

Harlan answered Bell County’s momentum with a Ledford 3-pointer to start the second period, tieing the score at 11. Each team went on a scoring drought until two 3-pointers for Bell County gave the Bobcats an 17-11 lead. The Bobcat defense capitalized on a Partin steal and lay-up, increasing the lead to 19-11 before Harlan was forced to take a timeout with three minutes remaining in the half.

Bell County continued to shoot the ball well, with another 3-pointer from Thomas, extending the lead to 22-11. After stepping to the line and connecting on two free throws, London Stephney increased the Bobcat lead to 24-11. Jordan Akal answered the 13-0 Bell County run with a 3-point shot, bringing the score to 24-14 with under 40 seconds remaining in the half. Thomas then connected on a lay-up and a free throw to close out the half, with a 27-14 lead for Bell County.

Behind 3-pointers from Cade Barnes, Harlan closed the score to 27-24 in the third. Ledford then connected on a jumper to knot the score at 27-27. With just under two minutes remaining in the third, Jared Hawkins connected on a baseline jumper, giving the Green Dragons the 29-27 lead. After the Green Dragons went on a 16-0 run, Bell County’s first points of the third period came on a Partin layup, bringing the score to 31-29 in favor of Harlan. Kaleb McLendon connected on a layup to extend the Harlan lead to 33-29.

The teams traded buckets to open the fourth quarter, with Harlan outscoring Bell County 3-2 to take a 36-31 lead. With five minutes remaining in the game, Collett hit a deep three for the Bobcats, bringing the score to 36-34. Bell County capitalized on a steal from Stephney for a fast break layup, tying the game at 36 with just over four minutes remaining.

Each team went on a two-and-a-half minute scoring drought until Akal gave Harlan the lead on a layup and a free throw with just over one minute remaining.

Bell County answered with a layup from Partin to pull within 39-38 with 1:07 left. After hitting a free throw, Harlan missed their next two attempts, leaving the score at 40-38 with under 10 seconds remaining in the game. Bell County’s

Partin was called for a travel on Bell County’s final possession. Coach Frankie Smith was called for a technical foul, though Harlan missed both free throws. Harlan’s Jon Eldridge connected on a layup as 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).