Second half outburst sends Bobcats past Harlan in All “A” semifinals

Published 7:12 pm Monday, January 31, 2022

The turnaround in the third quarter, allowed Breathitt County to tie Harlan at 45 entering the final period.
Bobcats freshman guard Austin Sperry hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 2:07 left to even the score at 59. Jordan Akal cut the deficit to one with a layup with seven seconds remaining but was unable to get off a shot as Breathitt escaped with a 63-61 win in the semifinals of the All “A” Classic State Tournament in Richmond.
Sperry powered Breathitt County with 26 points and six assists. Christian Collins, a junior center, scored 14. Luke Bellamy followed with nine points while Bryce Hopkins added eight.
Jaylen Turner scored six points, dished out six assist and pulled down five rebounds for the Bobcats.
Akal, a senior guard, paced the Green Dragons with 29 points. Junior guard Kaleb McLendon tossed in 12 points, including four 4-pointers.
Will Austin collected eight points and 10 rebounds for Harlan. Kyler McLendon had seven points. Jaedyn Gist added five points and eight boards.
Harlan jumped out to a 17-11 advantage after one quarter as Akal nailed three 3-pointers and poured in 13 points.
Kaleb McLendon had two 3’s  and Akal scored seven points as the Dragons went into the locker room with a 36-27 advantage.
Sperry hit a 3-pointer at the 4:41 mark of the third quarter to pull the Bobcats within 41-39. Following a layup by Akal, Sperry had a layup and Collins scored in the paint as the game was tied at 43.
Sperry and Gist traded baskets to close the third period.
The Bobcats shot 51 percent (25 of 49) from the field while Harlan hit 22 of 47 for 47 percent.
Breathitt held a 28-27 rebounding edge. The Dragons committed five turnovers while the Bobcats made just three.
The Bobcats had 13 fast-break points. The score was tied seven times with three lead changes.
One surprising statistic was the Green Dragons led the game for nearly 24 minutes. 
It was Harlan’s third straight trip to the state tourney but the first team to reach the semifinals since 2000. The Dragons have appeared in 12 All “A” State Tournaments, posting a record of 17-10.
Akal and Kaleb McLendon made the All-Tournament Team for the Dragons.
Breathitt County, who was making their first ever appearance in the state tournament, fell to Pikeville 53-44 on Sunday. 
Harlan (15-8) played host to Bell County on Tuesday. The Green Dragons are scheduled to visit Middlesboro for a girls/boys doubleheader on
Saturday and will travel Knox Central on Monday. Harlan returns home to face Harlan County on Tuesday in a girls/boys doubleheader.
Breathitt County (17-5) traveled to Lee County on Monday and plays host to Harlan County on Thursday.
Fourth quarter lifts Dragons 
The Harlan Green Dragons needed a fourth-quarter miracle on Thursday in the first round of the All “A” Classic State Tournament against Campbellsville.
Senior guard Jordan Akal scored 13 of his 15 points in the final period to lift the Dragons past Eagles 47-41.
Harlan outscored Campbellsville 25-10 in the fourth quarter.
Kaleb McLendon, a junior guard, also scored 15 points, including five 3-pointers. Jaedyn Gist finished with eight points and 15 rebounds. Will Austin scored six. Kyler McLendon added three points.
Campbellsville, the winner of the 5th Region, was led in scoring by senior forward Jay Milburn with 15 points. He also had 16 rebounds. 
During the first three quarters, the Green Dragons were held to single-digit scoring. Campbellsville took a 15-6 lead after the opening period.
The Eagles were ahead 20-16 at halftime and 31-22 entering the final quarter. Milburn closed the third period with a dunk.
Harlan hit six of nine from the field in the fourth quarter. 
A layup by Jaedyn Gist at the 4:49 mark of the fourth period, tied the game at 31-all. Akal’s 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining gave Harlan the lead for good.
McLendon’s fifth trey of the game and a basket by Gist, helped the Green Dragons close a 17-0 spurt. Akal hit eight straight free throws in the game’s final 50 seconds.
The Eagles outrebounded Harlan 38-33. Campbellsville had 13 turnovers while the Dragons committed just five.
For the game, Harlan shot 25 percent on 14 of 57. The Dragons made 12 of 13 free throws.
HHS needs overtime on Friday
The Green Dragons needed overtime on Friday in the All “A” Classic State Tournament against Bracken County.
Harlan lost Jordan Akal to fouls in the extra frame, but the Dragons managed to pulled away with free throws from Will Austin and Jaedyn Gist.
Akal scored 28 to lead the Dragons. Gist and Austin contributed 16 and 10 points, respectively. Kaleb McLendon tossed in five points and Kyler McLendon chipped in four.
Sophomore guard Blake Reed led Bracken County (15-6) with 31 points and seven rebounds. Cayden Reeda, a freshman guard, scored 16. Garrett Reynolds added six points.
Austin and Jaedyn Gist each scored four points in the overtime for Harlan. Kaleb McLendon nailed a 3-pointer in OT.
The Polar Bears shot 41 percent (23 of 56) from the field. Harlan won the battle of the boards 38-23. Austin had a game-high 13 rebounds. Gist grabbed eight and Akal added six.
Harlan hit 21 of 40 from the field for 53 percent.
One statistic not pleasing to Harlan coach Derrick Akal was the 25 turnovers. Bracken County committed 11.
The Dragons took a 16-14 lead after eight minutes and were ahead 29-26 at the break. Akal scored 13 points in the first half while Gist added eight.
The lead grew to 46-41 after three quarters, but Bracken County outscored Harlan 11-6 in the final period.
The game was even at 52-52 at the end of regulation.
Harlan won the battle of the boards, 38-23. Austin grabbed 13 boards, while Gist had eight.
The game was tied six times with nine lead changes.
The Dragons shot 53 percent from the field (21 of 40) and were 14 of 23 from the free throw line.
Sports contributor Paul Lunsford wrote this story for the Harlan Enterprise.