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Dragons overcome ugly first half to down Leslie

Harlan coach Derrick Akal felt the need to invent a word when trying to describe how bad his Harlan Green Dragons were Monday in the first half against visiting Leslie County. The Dragons trailed 18-15 at halftime after shooting 16 percent (three of 22) from the field, including zero for 11 in the second period.

“I told them were terrible in the first quarter and awful in the second. We were terrawful,” Akal said after the Dragons stormed back in the second half for a 66-50 victory. “I told them we just had to play our game in the second half, and we finally started doing that.”

Sophomore forward Jaedyn Gist hit five straight shots in the third quarter after being held without a basket in the first half. Sophomore guard Jordan Akal also heated up, hitting five straight shots on the way to a 36-point effort. Gist ended up with 14 points, all but one in the second half.

The Dragons hit 12 of 18 shots in the third quarter to outscore Leslie 29-17 in building a nine-point lead that grew to as many as 18 points in the final two minutes.

“They made us play at a faster pace than we wanted in the second half,” Leslie County coach Tim Rice said. “Gist killed us in the third quarter in the high post.”

“They were keying on Jordan so much that it opened up the middle,” Akal said. “I told Jaedyn he had to start attacking more to put pressure on the defense.”

Junior guard Trent Day scored 14 and junior center Trenton Abner added 12 to lead the 9-14 Eagles.

Day had three baskets in the opening quarter as Leslie took a 12-11 lead by the end of the period after falling behind 5-0 in the opening minute. Akal and Kaleb McLendon each hit 3-pointers to lead the Dragons in the period.

Harlan went ice cold in the second period as Leslie slowly build its lead to five points as both teams struggled to score. Four Akal free throws, two with 1.1 seconds left, were the only points in the quarter for the Harlan.

Harlan (10-10) plays at Middlesboro on Tuesday in a girls/boys district doubleheader.

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Andrew Hacker scored 16 points and Dylan Baker added 11 as Leslie County won 49-47 in junior varsity action.

Kyler McLendon tossed in 15 and John Mark Bryson added 13 for the Dragons. Jayden Ward scored nine. Trey Barnes and Matthew Pennington chipped in with five each.

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Harlan 66, Leslie County 50

LESLIE COUNTY (9-14)

Trent Day 5-14 4-5 14, Wyatt Hensley 2-11 2-2 7, Trent Asher 2-4 0-0 4, Jason Baker 2-5 0-0 4, Trey Abner 6-11 0-0 12, Colton Hensley 3-5 0-0 7, Derek Baker 1-1 0-0 2, Christian Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Hacker 0-1 0-0 0, John Hoskins 0-1 0-0 0, Trent Rice 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-53 6-8 50.

HARLAN (10-10)

Jordan Akal 10-20 10-11 36, Kaleb McLendon 2-9 2-2 7, Jaedyn Gist 6-6 2-6 14, Johann Gist 1-5 0-0 3, Jon Eldridge 3-8 0-0 6, Charles David Morton 0-3 0-0 0, Jayden Ward 0-0 0-0 0, Kyler McLendon 0-1 0-0 0, Trey Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, John Mark Bryson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-52 14-19 66.

Leslie County 12 6 17 15 — 50

Harlan 11 4 29 22 — 66

3-point goals: Leslie County 2-14 (C. Hensley 1-3, W. Hensley 1-6, Hoskins 0-1, Day 0-2, Abner 0-2), Harlan 8-28 (Akal 6-12, Kaleb McLendon 1-5, Johann Gist 1-5, Eldridge 0-3, Morton 0-3). Rebounds: Leslie County 32 (Day 11, J. Baker 6, Asher 5, Abner 5, W. Hensley 3, D. Baker 2), Harlan 31 (Eldridge 11, Jaedyn Gist 7, Akal 4, Kaleb McLendon 4, Ward 2, Bryson 2, Morton 1). Turnovers: Leslie County 14, Harlan 6. Fouled out: None.