Dragons capture WYMT Mountain Classic crown

Published 5:13 pm Monday, December 12, 2022

By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

It took a second-half effort by the Harlan Green Dragons on Saturday to capture the school’s first-ever WYMT Mountain Classic.

With the Dragons trailed 38-32 at halftime to Perry Central, Harlan used a 9-0 spurt to close the third quarter and take a 45-43 lead into the final period. A lead they would never lose again.

Dylan Cox and Kaleb McLendon each nailed 3-pointers during the 9-0 run.

Harlan got a putback by Will Austin and a layup by Kyler McLendon to push the lead to six, but the Commodores fought back to within two following a basket by Trayten Woods with 5:28 remaining in the game.

Kaleb McLendon would hit three treys during an 11-2 spurt to put the game away at 60-49 with 2:52 left.

Kaleb McLendon and Austin would nail a pair of free throws, and Jaedyn Gist added a jumper to the final two minutes.

To win the 36th Annual WYMT, Harlan had to defeat three 14th Region opponents (Hazard, Breathitt County, and Perry Central).

“Coming in, we knew it was a tough field, but we played our behinds off. These guys worked really hard to get here and have an opportunity to win this,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal.

The Dragons nailed 10 3-pointers for the game, including a tournament record-tying seven by Kaleb McLendon.

“We take a lot of 3’s,” said Akal. “We shot the 3’s better than we did (Friday), and I was confident that we were going to start making those, and Kaleb stepped up, and he was Kaleb. He had some good looks.”

Kaleb McLendon was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“It was a great tournament with a lot of great teams,” said McLendon. “Our whole team played great, and we came out with the first WYMT Championship.

“Coach Akal did a great job setting up our offense, and it so happened to have the ball into my hands with open shots, and I was just hitting. I’m humble to be awarded MVP.”

McLendon, a senior guard, powered the Dragons with 23 points. Senior guard Jaedyn Gist followed with 15 points. Will Austin, a senior forward, scored 11, and Kyler McLendon, a junior guard, added 10.

Dylan Cox came off the bench and had three points. Trenton Cole and Matthew Pennington each scored two.

Perry Central placed four players in double digits as junior forward/guard Kizer Slone led the team with 14 points. Rydge Beverly, Tyler Day, and Trayton Woods each scored 11. Dylan Knight added eight.

It also marked the first time ever a school from the county won the WYMT Mountain Classic, sponsored by Food City, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance and Appalachian Regional Hospital.

Harlan (5-0) traveled to Pikeville on Monday. The Green Dragons will visit Middlesboro on Friday in a girls/boys 52nd District doubleheader beginning at 6.

Dragons down Breathitt

It was Harlan’s 3-pointers on Friday night as the Green Dragons rolled to a 75-56 win over Breathitt County in the semifinals.

Gist scored 24 points, including four treys, and junior guard Kyler McLendon added 23, with four more 3’s for the Green Dragons. Austin was the beast inside, with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Kaleb McLendon had 11 points, including three treys.

Christian Collins, a 6-8 senior forward, scored 21 points to lead the Bobcats. Sophomore guard Austin Sperry added 17 points.

Three-pointers by Gist, Kaleb McLendon, and Kyler McLendon helped Harlan to take a 20-9 advantage after one quarter.

Gist added two more 3-pointers as the lead swelled to 45-20 at the break.

The Dragons outscored Breathitt 21-16 in the third quarter and led 66-36.

The Bobcats cut into the deficit in the final period, outscoring Harlan 20-9.

Breathitt County (2-2) travels to Wolfe County on Friday and plays McCreary Central in the Big Lou Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Perry Central.

Gist hits late free throw

With 0.3 seconds left in the game, Gist missed the first of two free throws but made ther second as Harlan escaped with a 49-48 win over Hazard in the WYMT Mountain Classic opener.

The Bulldogs struggled at the free throw line on the night, hitting just six of 15.

Kyler McLendon led the Green Dragons with 17 points. Gist added 14, and Kaleb McLendon finished with 12.

Jamel Hazell and Seth Caudill each scored 15 to lead Hazard.

Both teams battled in the first quarter as Harlan held a 13-11 edge after eight minutes.

The Green Dragons stretch led the 28-22 at halftime and led 42-32 entering the final period.

Hazard outscored the Dragons 16-7 in the fourth quarter.

The 3-2 Bulldogs were slated to host Owsley County on Tuesday. Hazard will host cross-town rival Perry Central on Thursday and face Pike Central in the Big Lou Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday at PCC.

All-Tournament honors

Kyler McLendon, Will Austin, and Jaedyn Gist were named to the All-Tournament Team from Harlan. Harlan County’s Trent Noah and Maddox Huff were also named.

Collins and Spurry from Breathitt County and Slone, Day and Beverly were selected from Perry Central.

Harlan’s Dylan Cox was named the Sixth-Man for the classic.

Harlan County High School was selected as the top cheerleaders for the boys’ tournament. Perry Central was named second place.

Hazard’s Max Johnson was named the Leadership Award winner.