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Martin County knocks off Dragons in WYMT tourney

HINDMAN — While Trey James, a 6-foot-10 junior center with a scholarship offer from Wake Forest, draws much of the attention when Martin County is discussed as a 15th Region contender, the Cardinals demonstrated Wednesday in the first round of the WYMT Mountain Classic at Knott Central that they have more than one option.

Martin County moved on to the semifinals with a 65-51 win over a short-handed Harlan squad that played its fourth straight game without star guard Jordan Akal, who is expected back by next week from an ankle injury.

“We played hard and competed, and that’s what I ask them to do,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “We didn’t shoot the ball well early and dug a hole, but I’m proud of their effort.”

Senior point guard Brady Dingess scored 20 points to lead the 3-1 Cardinals. James contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds and senior forward Braxton Maynard added 11.

Kaleb McLendon scored 20 points and Charles David Morton added 15 for the 1-4 Dragons, hitting five 3-pointers each. The Dragons connected on 12 of 31 3-pointers but only hit six of 24 shots inside the 3-point line.

Morton, who hit seven 3-pointers in a win over Middlesboro last week, put the Dragons on top with a 3 in the opening minute, but Martin reeled off the next 11 points to build a lead it never relinquished. Dingess had three baskets in the opening quarter and James added two as the Cardinals grabbed a 17-10 advantage after one period.

A Dingess 3 was sandwiched around baskets from Brayden Walker and James as Martin’s lead grew to 16 before Morton hit another 3. A Grant Blackburn trey helped the Cards extend their advantage to 36-21 by halftime.

Both teams struggled on offense in the third quarter as Harlan hit four of 14 shots and Martin hit four of 16. Two 3-pointers by Morton and one by Kaleb McLendon helped the Dragons cut the deficit to 44-32 going into the final period.

Kaleb McLendon hit three 3-pointers and Johann Gist added one in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter as Harlan pulled within seven with 4:40 left. Martin responded with a 10-2 run to put the game out of reach as the Cardinals took over on the boards down the stretch after Harlan had held its own through three quarters.

Harlan will play Phelps on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the consolation round of the WYMT Mountain Classic. Martin County will meet Hazard in the semifinals on Friday.

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Martin County 65, Harlan 51

HARLAN (1-4)

Kaleb McLendon 7-12 1-2 20, Charles David Morton 5-12 0-0 15, Jaedyn Gist 2-12 2-3 6, Johann Gist 1-4 0-0 3, Jon Eldridge 2-9 0-0 4, Kyler McLendon 1-4 0-0 3, Jayden Ward 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 18-55 3-5 51.

MARTIN COUNTY (3-1)

Brady Dingess 9-15 0-0 20, Ethan Mills 3-8 0-0 6, Braxton Maynard 4-8 0-0 11, Brayden Walker 3-4 0-0 7, Trey James 7-16 0-0 14, Grant Blackburn 1-2 0-0 4, Luke Hale 0-1 2-2 2, Jordan Dalton 0-1 0-0 0, Parker Davis 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 28-58 2-2 65.

Harlan 10 11 11 19 — 51

Martin County 17 19 8 21 — 65

3-point goals: Harlan 12-31 (Kaleb McLendon 5-9, Morton 5-12, Johann Gist 1-3, Kyler McLendon 1-4, Ward 0-1, Jaedyn Gist 0-2), Martin County 7-16 (Maynard 3-5, Dingess 2-4, Walker 1-1, Blackburn 1-1, James 0-2, Mills 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan 25 (Kaleb McLendon 6, Johann Gist 6, Eldridge 6, Jaedyn Gist 4, Morton 1, Kyler McLendon 1, Ward 1), Martin County 35 (James 13, Mills 5, Dingess 4, Walker 3, Davis 3, Maynard 2, Blackburn 2, Hale 2, Dalton 1). Turnovers: Harlan 16, Martin County 14. Fouled out: None.