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Dragons close regular season with loss at North

LONDON — A potential showdown Mondday between one of the state’s top sophomores in Harlan’s Jordan Akal and one of the top freshmen in North Laurel’s Reed Sheppard didn’t materialize with Akal on the bench in street clothes to rest his sore ankle, which meant Harlan was unable to keep up with one of the 13th Region’s top teams in falling 83-67 in the Dragons’ regular season finale.

Senior guard Isiah Alexander hit five 3-pointers in a 23-point effort to lead the 20-8 Jaguars. Freshman forward Ryan Davidson and senior guard Cole Kelley added 17 and 16 points, respectively. Sheppard ran the North offense very well with a 15-point, 15-assist night.

“They are at home and shot it well on Senior Night, like we did last weekend,” Harlan coach Akal said, referring to the Dragons’ 25 3-pointers in a win over Lynn Camp on Saturday. “I’m proud of my guys. They played hard and competed for 32 minutes, regardless of what the score was against one of the top teams in the region. To come on their floor and compete the way we did, I’m proud of them.”

Jaedyn Gist, a sophomore guard, led the 12-15 Dragons with 20 points. Jon Eldridge added 15 points and 15 rebounds. Kaleb McLendon contributed 13 points.

Akal, who missed a game last week before returning to play three games from Thursday to Saturday, sat out again against North Laurel.

“He tweaked it again Saturday (against Leslie County), so we thought we would give him some time off,” Akal said.

Kelley and Alexander each had three baskets in the first quarter and Sheppard added two as North hit eight of 16 shots in the opening period to build a 20-9 lead.

Alexander added two more 3s in the second quarter, but the Harlan offense started to click as the Dragons hit eight of 13 attempts, led by three baskets from Eldridge, and trailed 38-27 at halftime.

Harlan hit seven of 13 shots in the third quarter and got as close as nine by the end of the period, at 56-47, as Matthew Pennington and Kyler McLendon each hit 3-pointers.

North put the game away by hitting seven of eight shots to open the fourth quarter, most coming on assists from Sheppard, as the Jaguars’ lead grew to 20 with two minutes left.

Harlan will play Middlesboro on Feb. 25 in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament at Harlan County High School. Harlan County will play Bell County in the other opening-round game.

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North Laurel raced to a 29-12 lead after one quarter on the way to a 71-49 win in junior varsity action.

Clay Sizemore and Chase Dotson led the 7-4 Jaguars with 18 points each as Sizemore hit six 3-pointers in the first half.

Kyler McLendon and Johann Gist paced the 3-6 Dragons with 18 points each. Matthew Pennington chipped in with seven. John Mark Bryson added four. Cameron Maples scored two.

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North Laurel 83, Harlan 67

HARLAN (12-15)

Kaleb McLendon 4-15 2-4 13, Charles David Morton 1-4 0-0 3, Johann Gist 0-3 0-0 0, Jaedyn Gist 9-14 1-3 20, Jon Eldridge 7-12 1-1 15, Kyler McLendon 4-6 0-0 9, Jayden Ward 1-1 0-0 2, Matthew Pennington 1-2 0-0 3, Trey Barnes 1-2 0-0 2, John Mark Bryson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-59 4-8 67.

NORTH LAUREL (20-8)

Reed Sheppard 4-11 5-7 15, Cole Kelley 6-14 0-0 16, Isaiah Alexander 9-12 0-0 23, Ryan Davidson 7-14 3-3 17, Caden Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Nate Bruner 0-0 0-0 0, Isaiah Elmore 3-5 0-0 8, Clay Sizemore 0-2 0-0 0, Noah Black 1-2 0-0 2, Brody Brock 0-1 0-0 0, Chase Dotson 1-1 0-0 2 Gavin Hurst 0-1 0-0 0, Jimmy Storm 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-63 8-10 83.

Harlan 9 18 20 20 — 67

North Laurel 20 18 18 27 — 83

3-point goals: Harlan 7-25 (Kaleb McLendon 3-11, Jaedyn Gist 1-2, Kyler McLendon 1-2, Pennington 1-2, Morton 1-4, Eldridge 0-1, Barnes 0-1, Johann Gist 1-2), North Laurel 13-29 (Alexander 5-8, Kelley 4-7, Elmore 2-3, Sheppard 2-5, Black 0-1, Bruner 0-1, Brock 0-1, Hurst 0-1, Sizemore 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan 34 (Eldridge 15, Jaedyn Gist 9, Ward 4, Kyler McLendon 3, Kaleb McLendon 2, Johann Gist 1), North Laurel 30 (Davidson 7, Sheppard 6, Kelley 5, Harris 4, Elmore 3, Alexander 2, Brock 2, Black 1). Turnovers: Harlan 18, North Laurel 8. Fouled out: None.