Dragons stay alive for top seed with victory over Bell

Published 9:50 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

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LOG MOUNTAIN — Never a fan of basketball’s unwritten rule book, Harlan coach Derrick Akal could only smile and offer a slight shake of the head when his son, Harlan sophomore guard Jordan Akal, launched a 3-pointer only a couple of feet away from him with the Dragons holding a five-point lead with only 90 seconds left. The 3 hit nothing but net, delivering the dagger in the Dragons’ 64-55 win Friday at Bell County.

“They gave him some room and he was feeling good,” said the Harlan coach, minutes after the Dragons avenged an earlier loss and kept their chances alive for the 52nd District’s top seed. “Ninety percent of the time that might not be a good shot, but all of our guys have the green light and it went in, so it’s OK.”

Akal finished with 29 points, but he might not have been the star of the night for the 9-10 Dragons as senior center Jon Eldridge scored 22 points on seven-of-eight shooting and was a monster on the boards with 14 rebounds.

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“Jon has been highly engaged the last seven-eight games as he works his way back from football,” Akal said. “He is shooting the ball real well and is active on the boards.”

Up by only one entering the fourth quarter, the Dragons took control with a 6-0 run by holding a 9-1 lead on the boards over the first four minutes of the period. Four straight points by Bell senior guard London Stephney pulled Bell within two with 2:36 left, but a three-point play by Eldridge started an 11-2 run, featuring two 3s from Akal, to put the game out of reach.

“We talked about the importance of not giving teams second and third shots on the road,” Akal said. “We did a good job on the boards, especially Jon and Jaedyn (Gist).”

Sophomore forward Cameron Burnett led the 7-13 Bobcats with 26 points and eight rebounds. Andrew Caldwell added 16 points.

Harlan returns to action Monday at home against Leslie County before closing its district with a game at Middlesboro on Tuesday and at home against Harlan County on Friday. The Dragons can tie Harlan County and force a coin flip for the top seed with two wins. Bell County travels to Barbourville on Tuesday.


Harlan 64, Bell County 55

HARLAN (9-10)

Jordan Akal 9-25 7-7 29, Kaleb McLendon 2-6 0-0 6, Jaedyn Gist 2-4 0-0 4, Johann Gist 1-2 0-0 3, Jon Eldridge 7-8 4-4 22, Kyler McLendon 0-1 0-0 0, Jayden Ward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-46 11-11 64.


London Stephney 3-16 2-2 8, Dalton Stepp 1-11 0-0 3, Andrew Caldwell 6-11 2-4 16, Cameron Burnett 11-17 3-4 26, Jon Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, Brandon Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Carter McCune 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 22-58 7-10 55.

Harlan 15 18 11 20 — 64

Bell County 13 14 16 12 — 55

3-point goals: Harlan 11-27 (Eldridge 4-5, Akal 4-15, Kaleb McLendon 2-5, Johann Gist 1-1, Kyler McLendon 0-1), Bell County 4-22 (Caldwell 2-6, Burnett 1-3, Stepp 1-10, Stephney 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan 32 (Eldridge 14, Jaedyn Gist 10), Bell County 24 (Burnett 8). Turnovers: Harlan 13, Bell County 3. Fouled out: None.