Tigers knock off cold-shooting Dragons

BARBOURVILLE — It may be the worst kept secret tn the 13th Region this season – when Jordan Akal isn’t shooting well, the Harlan Green Dragons will have a hard time winning.

Akal, Harlan’s standout sophomore guard, hit only seven of 26 shots from the field and the Dragons connected on 18 of 60 (30 percent) from the field as a team in a 66-59 loss at Barbourville on Monday in the season opener for both teams.

“We got the shots we wanted. We will make those shots typically, especially Jordan, but we didn’t tonight. Some times they don’t go in,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said.

Akal led the Dragons with 22 points. Kaleb McLendon added 20 points in his first varsity start.

Junior guard Matthew Gray scored 23 to lead the Tigers, who were perhaps the region’s most pleasant surprise last year with 21 wins.

“We struggled to get into an offense at times. We are a young team and made a lot of mental mistakes,” Barbourville coach Cody Messer said. “I thought Harlan outplayed us overall, but the hustle points were there for us. We do get after it. We have to clean some things up if we are going to make a run. We have some older kids, but they are inexperienced. I thought Dylan Bingham gave us a lift off the bench tonight.”

Gray had at least two baskets in each quarter, including two in a 7-2 run in the second quarter that pushed the Tigers’ lead to 10. Akal and McLendon scored to cut the deficit to 34-30 at halftime.

“Matthew has really worked hard on his game,” Messer said. “He was more of a spot-up shooter last year, but he’s worked hard on that and is becoming more of a complete player.”

Harlan went over five minutes without a point in the third quarter and hit only one of 15 shots from the field as Barbourville built a 47-34 going into the final period.

“When you are on the road you can’t have those kind of droughts,” Akal said. “We still have to learn to play together, but at the end of the day it was about making shots. We missed shots we typically make, but I was proud of how hard they played.”

Barbourville led by 16 with 3:30 left when Akal and McLendon sparked a comeback that cut the deficit to 56-50 with 1:52 remaining. Gray and Jacob Vaughn scored the next six points as the Tigers held on for the win.

Harlan (0-1) returns to action Tuesday at Lee, Va.

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Harlan fell behind by 14 after one quarter in junior varsity action but battled back and had three shots to tie in the final minute before falling 46-43.

Matthew Swafford scored 13 and David Collett added 10 to lead the Tigers.

Harlan was led by Kyler McLendon with 18 points and Jayden Ward with 12. Trey Barnes scored seven. John Mark Bryson and Matthew Pennington chipped in with three each.

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Barbourville 66, Harlan 59

HARLAN (0-1)

Jordan Akal 7-26 4-8 22, Kaleb McLendon 6-12 5-5 20, Jaeden Gist 2-10 4-7 8, Johann Gist 1-2 0-0 2, Jon Eldridge 1-5 1-2 3, Charles David Morton 1-3 0-0 3, Kyler McLendon 0-0 0-0 0, Jayden Ward 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 18-60 15-24 59.

BARBOURVILLE (1-0)

Jordan Collins 1-6 0-0 2, Jonathan Mills 0-2 0-0 0, Matthew Gray 9-16 4-5 23, Shawn Vaughn 3-7 3-4 9, Colby Martin 4-9 0-0 9, Dylan Moore 3-4 0-0 6, Dylan Bingham 4-7 0-0 9, David Collett 3-4 0-0 8. Totals: 27-54 7-9 66.

Harlan 13 17 4 25 — 59

Barbourville 19 15 13 19 — 66

3-point goals: Harlan 8-33 (Akal 4-19, McLendon 3-6, Morton 1-3, Jaedyn Gist 0-1, Johann Gist 0-1, Ward 0-1, Eldridge 0-2), Barbourville 5-15 (Collett 2-2, Martin 1-1, Bingham 1-3, Gray 1-4, Mills 0-1, Vaughn 0-1, Moore 0-1, Collins 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan 30 (Jaedyn Gist 16, McLendon 5, Eldridge 5, Akal 4), Barbourville 33 (Martin 10, Vaughn 5, Collins 4, Moore 4, Collett 4, Gray 3, Mills 2, Bingham 1). Turnovers: Harlan 11, Barbourville 15. Fouled out: Barbourville (Martin). Technical fouls: Barbourville (Martin).