Green Dragons overpower Middlesboro with ‘3’ ball, win on the road

Published 5:43 pm Monday, December 19, 2022

By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

The Harlan Green Dragons opened 52nd District play at Middlesboro on Friday and nailed 11 3-pointers on the way to an 81-44 victory.

Harlan hit 11 of 34 from the arc for the games.

Junior guard Kyler McLendon hit four treys and finished the night with 23 points. Will Austin, a senior forward, poured in 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Eighth-grade guard Trenton Cole scored 12 points, while senior guard Jaedyn Gist added 10 points and pulled down 11 boards.

Kaleb McLendon knocked down a trip of 3’s for nine points. Dylan Cox had a rare occurrence when he nailed a 3-pointers and was fouled on the attempt. He finished with the four-point play.

Connor Daniels hit a trey for his three points, and Matthew Pennington added two points and five rebounds.

“They are well coached and plays together as a team,” said Middlesboro coach John Wheat. “Their five on the floor is pretty superb. They’re an excellent team.”

Sophomore guard Jerimah Beck led the Yellow Jackets with 15 points. He was the only Middlesboro player in double figures.

Trey King added eight points, while Brayden Barnard tallied seven. Trey Kyle chipped in with five, and Cayden Grigsby scored three. Richie Logan, Chandler Cox, and Tyler Sturgill each had two points.

Both teams started a bit slow as the Dragons took a 16-13 edge after one quarter.

“I think the first three or four minutes, it took us a little time to find our rhythm,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “ Think at the beginning of the second quarter we found our rhythm we’re capable of playing at.”

Kaleb McLendon had two treys in the period for Harlan.

The Green Dragons kicked it up a gear in the second period by outscoring Middlesboro 27-8.

An offensive putback, a dunk by Gist, and Cox’s four-point play gave Harlan a 28-14 advantage at the 4:08 mark.

Nine points by Kyler McLendon and a three-point play from Gist allowed the Dragons to go into the break leading 43-21.

“We started taking care of the basketball in the second quarter,” said Akal. “We got into transition and got some easy ones.

“That’s what we got to do to be successful, get into transition, and take care of the ball.”

Austin scored four points, and Cole hit a trey as Harlan continued where they left off.

The Dragons slowly pulled away late in the third quarter and led 72-36.

Beck scored 11 of the Jackets’ 15 points in the period.

The final quarter featured a running clock as Harlan won a 9-8 advantage. Austin managed four free throws in the period, and Daniels hit a 3.

“This was a district win, and that’s the most important thing. We won on the road,” added Akal.

“It really doesn’t matter by how many or how we play; we got that ‘W,’ and I’m happy about that.”

For the game, Middlesboro was 16 of 52 from the field, and eight of 13 at the free throw line. The Jackets were outrebounded 46-25, and the team committed 19 turnovers compared to Harlan’s 14.

“We’ll just continue to work hard and do the fundamentals, and little by little, we’ll get on level.

“We may need to shoot the three than from the two-point range,” added Wheat.

The 7-9 Green Dragons will participate in the Pikeville Invitational Tuesday and Wednesday.

Middlesboro, now 2-5, following a 78-13 thrashing of Cordia on Saturday, takes on Shelby Valley in the Railsplitter Classic at Lincoln Memorial University on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets will play in the Lee Holiday Classic from Dec. 22-23.