South Laurel Downs Green Dragons 74-58

Published 5:06 am Sunday, March 6, 2022

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CORBIN — The Harlan Green Dragons had an early exit in the 13th Region Tournament last week, suffering a 74-58 loss to South Laurel.
It marked the sixth consecutive season Harlan lost in the first round.

South Laurel shot 57 percent from the field on 26-of-46 shooting and placed five players in double figures on the night.
Sophomore guard Ashton Garland powered South Laurel with 15 points. Eli Gover and Jordan Mabe each scored 11 points while Rhys England and Parker Payne added 10 each for 23-7 Cardinals.

Jordan Akal led the Dragons with 22 points. Jaedyn Gist and Will Austin, both junior forwards, added 18 and 10 points, respectively.
Harlan, which shot 38 percent (24 of 64) from the field, hit just two of 17 3-pointers while the Cardinals nailed seven treys.

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“We didn’t shoot it well, and at the end of the day it boils down to made and missed shots. We didn’t make that many and they did,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “They took care of the basketball and they are a real physical team and aggressive. We rebounded the ball with them but missed some point-blank shots, some shots we have to make to win a game like this.”

South scored the game’s first seven points on baskets by Brayden Reed, Payne and Gover. Two baskets by eighth-grade forward Jordan Mabe helped the Cards take a 14-9 lead into the second period.

Harlan got as close as one point (16-15), but the Cardinals iused a 15-2 run with several open jumpers, led by a 3 and a jumper by England. Harlan scored the final four points of the half to cut the deficit to 31-21 at the break.

After trading baskets with Harlan for much of the first five minutes of the second half, South reeled off eight unanswered points sparked by 3s from England Garland to build an 18-point advantage in the final minute of the third quarter. Baskets by Gist and Austin pulled Harlan within 14, at 50-36, going into the fourth quarter.

Harlan lost Akal and Kaleb McLendon to fouls in the fourth quarter

The fourth quarter featured lots of scoring as South Laurel outscored the Green Dragons 24-22 in the period.

Akal, who was named the 13th Region KABC Player of the Year, closed his career with 2,629 points, which is second all-time behind 1995 Mr. Basketball Charles Thomas on the school’s scoring list.

Derrick Akal, the Harlan coach and Jordan’s father, said the loss was especially tough for him.

“Yes, because he’s worked so hard to get in this position, and I’m super proud of him,” he said. “He’s taken our program, him and some other kids, to new heights. I’d like to see him go out with a win tonight, but he has another career ahead of him and, hopefully, he can get an opportunity to win a championship at that level.”

— — — — —
South Laurel fell to Knox Central on Saturday, 68-38. The Panthers will play North Laurel, a 69-40 winner of 52nd District Champions Bell County, in Monday’s championship. The Jaguars improved to 27-5.

HARLAN (22-11)
Jordan Akal 8-17 5-5 22, Kyler McLendon 1-7 0-1 2, Kaleb McLendon 2-7 1-3 5, Jaedyn Gist 9-23 0-2 18, Will Austin 4-10 2-2 10, Johann Gist 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-64 8-13 58.
Parker Payne 4-13 0-2 10, Ashton Garland 5-7 3-4 15, Eli Gover 5-10 0-0 11, Brayden Reed 2-2 2-2 6, Caden Jones 2-3 3-5 6, Rhys England 4-5 0-0 10, Jordan Mabe 3-5 5-6 11, Ayden Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Jeremy Steele 0-0 2-4 2, Jacob Steele 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-46 15-23 74.

HHS 9 12 15 22 — 58
SLHS 14 17 19 24 — 74
3-point goals: Harlan 2-17 (Akal 1-5, Kaleb McLendon 1-5, Kyler McLendon 0-1, Austin 0-1, Jaedyn Gist 0-5), South Laurel 7-15 (Garland 2-3, England 2-3, Payne 2-4, Gover 1-5).
Rebounds: Harlan 33 (Jaedyn Gist 12, Austin 7, Kaleb McLendon 6, Akal 5, Kyler McLendon 3), South Laurel 22 (Payne 5, Mabe 5, Reed 4, Jones 3, Jeremy Steele 2, Garland 1, Smith 1, England 1).
Assists: Harlan 11 (Akal 5, Kyler McLendon 4, Kaleb McLendon 1, Jaedyn Gist 1), South Laurel 20 (Jones 6, Garland 4, Payne 3, England 2, Jeremy Steele 2, Smith 1, Mabe 1, Reed 1).

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