Dragons take home All ‘A’ title

By Paul Lunsford

A basket by Kyler McLendon with 13.4 seconds remaining on Monday sent the Harlan Green Dragons to back-to-back 13th Region All “A” Classic champions and a trip to Eastern Kentucky University for the state tournament.

Visiting Barbourville led most of the game and had a chance for the win, but Travis Scott missed a shot as time expired to give Harlan a 59-58 victory.

Junior guard Jordan Akal led the Green Dragons with 24 points. Jaedyn Gist scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“It was a total team effort,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “These guys fought and deserved this victory.”

The Green Dragons outrebounded Barbourville 29-24. Will Austin led Harlan with 11 rebounds.

Senior guard Matthew Gray paced Barbourville with a game-high 34 points.

“We played hard. We have to learn to close out games,” said Barbourville coach Cody Messer.

A basket by Akal and a 3-pointer from Kaleb McLendon gave Harlan an early 5-0 advantage. A three-point play by Gist made it 8-4, before the Tigers caught fire.

Matthew Warren scored five points and Gray added four as Barbourville reeled off 11 unanswered points took an 18-12 lead after one quarter.

Gray had two baskets and Ethan Smith knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead to 27-15. Barbourville went into the break, leading 29-20 at halftime.

Both teams exchanged baskets most of the third quarter. Gist had five points and Akal added a 3-pointer as Harlan pulled within 39-37 late in the period.

Gray scored five points as the Tigers went into the final quarter ahead 46-41.

Akal opened the fourth period with a three-point play. Barbourville scored seven straight points to make it 54-46.

Seven points by Akal and a putback from Austin pulled the Dragons within 56-55.

“It was a great team effort by everyone,” said Jordan Akal.

Harlan improved to 4-0 on the season while the Tigers fell to 6-4.

Harlan (59)

Jordan Akal 24, Jaedyn Gist 23, Kaleb McLendon 8, Kyler McLendon 2, Will Austin 2, Matthew Pennington 0, John Mark Bryson 0.

Barbourville (58)

Matthew Gray 34, Jordan Collins 8, Matthew Warren 7, Travis Scott 4, Ethan Smith 3, Dylan Moore 2, David Collett 0.

Barbourville 18 11 17 12 – 58

Harlan 12 08 21 18 – 59

3-Point goals: Barbourville 5 (Gray 3, Smith 1, Warren 1), Harlan 5 (Akal 3, Kaleb McLendon 2). Rebounds: Barbourville 24 (Collins, 6, Gray 6), Harlan 29 (Austin 11). Turnovers: Barbourville 14, Harlan 11.