Dragons capture All A crown

Published 5:52 pm Monday, January 16, 2023

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Contributing Writer

For the first time since the 1993-1996 season, the Harlan Green Dragons have claimed a four-year reign in the 13th Region All A Classic.

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Harlan overpowered Jackson County in the finals to win 78-46 at Barbourville High School last Tuesday.

The tournament’s most valuable player, junior guard Kyler McLendon led Harlan with 23 points. Eighth-grade guard Trenton Cole finished with 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Seniors Kaleb McLendon and Jaedyn Gist each added 10 points for the Dragons.

Will Austin tossed in eight points. Nate Montanaro and Cameron Maples each scored three, while Hunter Clem and Jacob Clark each added two for Harlan.

“Defensively, I thought out intensity, and our energy was at a high pace,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “Our guys picked up the pressure a little bit more after (Carter Cunigan) picked up his third foul.”

The 12-6 Generals were led by guards Tydus Summers and Jude Lakes, with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Keagan Ward added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Jackson missed 12 of 15 shots in the first quarter. Kyler McLendon hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Cole added one as the Dragons led 9-2.

Will Austin and Jaedyn Gist each made two baskets as Harlan pushed the lead to 18-9.

The Green Dragons continued their strong shooting in the second period, hitting eight of 16 shots, and went into the locker room ahead 45-20. Austin and Kyler McLendon each had two baskets in the quarter.

Cole nailed four of eight in the third quarter for the Dragons. Treys by Cole and Kaleb McLendon made it 68-33 after the third period.

“I thought tonight, the defense was the difference in the game,” added Akal.”

The General held a 13-10 advantage in the final quarter.

“Tonight, we ran into a better coach and a more athletic team than we are,” said Jackson County coach Greg Parrott. “They outplayed us in every aspect of the game. They outran us up and down the floor, outrebounded us. They just took it to us. I take my hat off to them.”

Dragons down Barbourville in semifinals

Harlan hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and nine for the game last Monday to defeat Barbourville 70-60 in the 13th Region All-A Classic semifinals.

The Tigers held a pair of leads early in the game on three treys by Matthew Warren.

Kyler and Kaleb McLendon hit two each, and Trenton Cole ended the opening quarter with another as Harlan led 21-18 after eight minutes and never trailed again.

Junior guard Kyler McLendon poured in 29 points to lead the Green Dragons. McLendon, a senior guard, scored all 18 of his points in the first half. Senior forward Jaedyn Gist finished with 16 points.

Warren, a senior guard, paced the 9-6 Tigers with 21 points. Travis Scott, also a senior guard, added 11 points.

Kaleb McLendon hit three treys in the second quarter as Harlan built a 41-33 advantage at the break.

Both teams traded baskets for most of the third quarter. Kyler McLendon nailed a 3-pointer, and Gist closed the period with two straight baskets as the Green Dragons went into the final quarter ahead 58-47.

Gist opened the fourth period with a basket, but Warren scored six unanswered points to pull the Tigers within 60-53 with 3:12 to play.

Kyler McLendon had three baskets for the rest of the game for Harlan.

Dragons rout Bell Co.

The Green Dragons made an impressive return with a 90-59 district rout of the Bobcats on Friday.

“I was kind of worried early before the game about the energy. We had played four games in six days,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “The energy at home, the opponent, a big district game, and the crowd used the silent night to put fire in our guys. The energy right there is what carried us through.”

The Green Dragons scored 26 points in the opening period and had 32 in the second quarter and cruised to the victory.

Junior guard Kyler McLendon and senior forward Jaedyn Gist each scored 26 points for the Dragons. Senior forward Will Austin followed with 19 points. Kaleb McLendon added nine. Trenton Cole chipped in with six. Nate Montanaro and Cameron Maples each had two.

Senior guard Dawson Woolum led the Bobcats with 13 points. Cameron Hall, a sophomore guard, scored 11. Cayden Huff and Ethan Buell each tossed in nine. Jacob Jones added six. Blake Burnett and Cooper Miracle each had four. Jaxon Thomas scored three.

“It was one of the worst games we’ve played to this point,” said Bell County coach Brad Sizemore. “You’ve got to give the other team credit. Harlan had a lot to do with that. They shot the ball well.

“We’re playing a lot of younger guys. We’re not trying to make an excuse. It’s the first time they’ve been in that environment, and this is a tough place to play. We’ve got to learn from it.”

Harlan shot 62 percent from the floor on 34 of 55 shooting. Bell County hit 25 of 59 from the field for 42 percent.

The Dragons nailed 12 3-pointers while Bell High had six.

Austin scored eight points while Gist nailed a 3, had a dunk, and scored seven in the opening quarter as Harlan took a 26-9 advantage.

The Dragons opened the second quarter with a 9-3 run as Gist scored six to make it 35-12 at the 5:38 mark.

Kaleb McLendon hit two 3-pointers, and Kyler McLendon and Gist each had one as Harlan went into the locker room, leading 58-27.

Treys by Kaleb and Kyler McLendon, along with Austin and Cole, allowed the lead to grow to 77-49 after the third quarter.

“The pace and the pressure was what we were looking for in the second half,” said Akal. “I thought our pace was really good. The pressure forced them to play at our pace.”

The fourth quarter featured a running clock as Harlan outscored the Bobcats 13-10.

Austin scored five points in the period, including a dunk. The Dragons hit five of six free throws in the quarter.

Harlan improved to 2-0 in district play and 16-2 overall.

“A big district win. That makes us 2-0, but we’re still got to go to Bell,” said Akal. “This just wasn’t their night. It was our night!”

Kyler McLendon nets 41

The Dragons played at Clay County on Thursday. Junior guard Kyler McLendon fired in a career-high 41 points as Harlan escaped Manchester with an 88-86 win.

Senior forward Will Austin poured in 21 points, and Jayden Gist contributed 10. Trenton Cole followed with nine. Kaleb McLendon tossed in five points, and Matthew Pennington scored two.

Junior forward Hayden Harris powered the Tigers with 31 points before fouling out with 5:55 to play. Ethan Jackson scored 16 points, while Landon Dezarn had 14.

Harlan trailed 22-15 after one quarter but tied the game at 39-all at halftime.

The Dragons took a 62-57 advantage into the final period.

Both teams turned up the offense in the fourth quarter as the Tigers outscored Harlan 29-26 in the final eight minutes.

The Green Dragons were 12 of 30 from behind the arc. Kyler McLendon hit a team-high five, while Cole nailed three. Harris made six of nine for Clay County.

The Tigers held a 30-27 rebounding edge. Jackson led Clay County with nine, Harris and Bundy each added seven. Gost pulled down a game-high 11 for the Dragons, and Austin added eight.