Bell Takes District Title with Double OT Win Over Harlan

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, March 2, 2022

LOG MOUNTAIN — The Harlan Green Dragons got into foul trouble early on Friday in the 52nd District Tournament against Bell County.

The Dragons lost Will Austin, Johann Gist, Jaedyn Gist and Kyler McLendon to fouls and were outscored 17-7 in the second overtime as the Bobcats claimed its first district championship in eight years, defeating Harlan 88-78.Bell County needed overtime on Tuesday to eliminate Harlan County 55-54.

“I just think it’s this group of kids’ season,” Sizemore said. “We’ve been through a lot the last three years. They’ve had a great attitude and we just found a way against a great team in Harlan. We could have lost several times, but this is what these kids wanted and what we’ve been working for. I’m just happy for them, the community and this school. It’s been since 2014 in winning a district championship and we’ll go into the region as a winner, which is big going into the region. We had several guys step up and make big plays.”

“They made some tough shots and we turned the ball over and missed some shots,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Junior guard Chase Woolum earned tournament most valuable player honors as he followed a 22-point performance against Harlan County by pouring in 38 against the Green Dragons. Woolum beat the Dragons off the dribble several times while hitting 11 of 12 at the free-throw line.

“He kind of got a late start coming out of football,” Sizemore said. “He did this last year, but once he got to February he started playing really well. I expected him to come on late, and he’s just put us on his back the last two games. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of all of them…It’s this entire group of seniors. We didn’t play perfect, but we just find a way.”

Woolum wasn’t the only star for the 24-5 Bobcats, who got 25 points from senior guard Dalton Stepp, including a 10-of-10 performance in the second overtime.

“He’s done that all season in big games,” Sizemore said. “He wants the ball and is not afraid to go up there and shoot it.”
We kept putting him at the free-throw line and we shouldn’t have because he made so many. I expected him to make them, and he did when they needed him to,” Akal said.

Senior forward Cameron Burnett added 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Bobcats.

Senior guard Jordan Akal led the Green Dragons with 34 points. Junior forward Jaedyn Gist added 24 points before becoming one of four Harlan players to foul out.

Bell County hit 27 of 39 attempts from the line, compared to six of nine by the Dragons. Harlan hit only five of 30 attempts from the 3-point line.

Both offenses struggled early as Harlan hit four of 16 shots in the opening quarter and Bell hit four of 11, including two by Woolum as the Bobcats led 11-8 after one period.

The Bobcats maintained a three-point lead at halftime. Woolum had two more baskets in the period as Bell led 24-21. Gist hit three of five shots in the quarter to lead Harlan.

Bell hit seven of its first eight shots in the third quarter, led by four straight from Woolum, to build an eight-point lead midway through the period. Harlan fought back behind Akal and Gist to cut the deficit to 47-44 by the end of the quarter.

A 3-pointer by Akal followed by a three-point play from Gist gave Harlan a 55-51 lead with five minutes left and the Dragons appeared to have the momentum.

Harlan led by five after a basket by Will Austin with three minutes left, but Stepp took over at that point with a 3-pointer and two free throws in a 6-0 run that put Bell up by one.

Akal had two baskets sandwiched around a basket by Woolum in a wild 15-second flurry that left Harlan up by one.

Woolum drew a foul with 5.5 seconds to play and hit one of two to force the first overtime.

Gist had two baskets in overtime sandwiched around a four-point play from Woolum. Gist scored with 36 seconds left and Hayden Callebs answered to force the second overtime.

Bell took a four-point lead early in the second overtime, but Harlan was within two with 1:35 left after two free throws from Akal. Stepp hit six free throws and Woolum hit two in an 8-2 run that put the game away.

Harlan (22-10) takes on South Laurel (22-7) tonight in the opening round of the 13th Region Tournament to be held at the Corbin Arena at 6 p.m. Knox Central (24-7) will play Jackson County (21-9) at 7:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the Bobcats will face Corbin (22-8)at 6, followed by North Laurel (25-5) meeting Lynn Camp (21-11) around 7:30 p.m.

The semifinals are scheduled Saturday at 1 and 2:30 p.m. The championship is slated Monday at 7 p.m.

HARLAN (22-10)
Jordan Akal 14-28 3-5 34, Kyler McLendon 2-9 0-0 5, Kaleb McLendon 2-6 2-2 7, Jaedyn Gist 11-21 1-1 24, Will Austin 4-8 0-1 8, John Mark Bryson 0-4 0-0 0, Johann Gist 0-1 0-0 0, Nate Montanaro 0-2 0-0 0, Matthew Pennington 0-0 0-0 0, Derek Pruitt 0-0 0-0 0, Darius Akal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 33-79 6-9 78.
BELL COUNTY (24-5)
Hayden Callebs 3-3 3-4 7, Dalton Stepp 5-9 12-12 25, Dawson Woolum 12-23 11-12 38, Carter McCune 0-0 0-0 0, Cameron Burnett 6-17 3-11 15, Chanse Belcher 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Hoskins 1-3 1-1 3, Cooper Miracle 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Goodin 0-0 0-0 0, Blake Burnett 0-0 0-0 0, Elijah Hampton 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals: 18-47 27-39 67.
HHS     8 13 23 21 6 7 — 78
BCHS 11 13 23 18 6 17 — 88
3-point goals: Harlan 6-30 (Akal 3-8, Kyler McLendon 1-4, Kaleb McLendon 1-5, Jaedyn Gist 1-5, Johann Gist 0-1, Montanaro 0-1, Austin 0-2, Bryson 0-4), Bell County 6-14 (Stepp 3-5, Woolum 3-7, Burnett 0-1, Hoskins 0-1).

Rebounds: Harlan 42 (Kyler McLendon 10, Akal 9, Austin 7, Kaleb McLendon 6, Jaedyn Gist 6, Johann Gist 2, Bryson 1, Montanaro 1), Bell County 30 (Burnett 15, Woolum 8, Callebs 3, Stepp 2, McCune 2).

Turnovers: Harlan 8, Bell County 8.

52nd District Champions
2022 — Bell County
2021 — Harlan
2020 — Harlan County
2019 — Middlesboro
2018 — Harlan County
2017 — Harlan County
2016 — Harlan County
2015 — Harlan County
2014 — Bell County
2013 — Harlan County
2012 — Middlesboro
2011 — Bell County
2010 — Harlan County
2009 — Middlesboro
2008 — Bell County
2007 — Bell County
2006 — Bell County
2005 — Cawood
2004 — Cawood
2003 — Cumberland
2002 — Cawood
2001 — Cawood
2000 — Harlan
1999 — Harlan
1998 — Cawood
1997 — Harlan
1996 — Harlan
1995 — Harlan
1994 — Harlan
1993 — Cumberland
1992 — Cawood
1991 — Cawood
1990 — Harlan

Sports contributor Paul Lunsford wrote this story for the Harlan Enterprise.