Harlan tops Pikeville

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

A battle of two teams in the WYMT/Alice Lloyd Top 10 met at Harlan on Monday.

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The visiting Pikeville Panthers, ranked seventh, faced top-ranked Harlan, with the Green Dragons pulling out an exciting 76-72 win.

Rylee Samons’ basket at the 2:26 mark of the fourth quarter pulled the Panthers with two, but a jumper by Ian Onkst tied the game at 72-all with 1:22 remaining.

Harlan’s Jaedyn Gist hit one of two free throws with 58.5 seconds left in the game.

A missed 3-pointer by Onkst, allowed Kyler McLendon to be fouled. The junior guard, who poured in 35 points on the night, hit one of two free throws to make it 64-72 with 36.2 seconds to play.

The Panthers turned to Samons, but the senior forward committed a charging foul, which was his fifth of the game.

Harlan got the ball, but McLendon was fouled with 21.9 remaining.

He nailed both free throws as the Dragons escaped while claiming their 19th win of the season.

“I thought we picked our defensive game. We got some stops that we really needed, and Kaleb’s charge was huge,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal.

Senior forward Will Austin poured in 22 points and had ten rebounds for Harlan. Gist scored 10 points, and Kaleb McLendon finished with nine.

Samons, a senior forward, led Pikeville with 26 points. Junior forward Charlie Fitzer fired in 18 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. Eli Johnson, a junior guard, scored 12, while Josh Hughes added eight points.

Samons has inked to play for Tennessee Tech next season.

The Panthers took control of the game early and, following a jumper by Fitzer at the 2:48 mark of the opening quarter, allowed Pikeville to take a 16-10 advantage.

A 3-pointer and a dunk by Austin, followed by a putback by Kaleb McLendon and a basket by Gist, pulled Harlan within 22-19 after one period.

Baskets by Samons and Johnson had the Panthers ahead 28-21 with 5:40 left in the first half.

Kyler McLendon took over with a pair of 3’s and a layup, plus a Gist trey, allowing Harlan to go into the break even at 35-all.

“I thought we played well in the first half,” said Akal. “It was 35-35 at halftime. I thought both teams played well.”

The game went back and forth in the third quarter. Pikeville took a four-point lead midway through the period.

Kyler McLendon scored 12 of Harlan’s 20 points in the quarter, but the Panthers held a 56-55 edge entering the fourth period.

“Kyler has been of the top point guards in the region,” said Akal. “ He doesn’t get much recognition for it. He stepped up tonight and carried us.”

The Dragons opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run. Kaleb McLendon nailed four free throws while Gist and Austin each had a basket, giving Harlan its biggest lead of the night, 63-56, with 6:21 to play.

Samons scored 12 points during the next four minutes to keep Pikeville close until the end.

“Will had 22 tonight, but some of the other guys didn’t have it going, but Will is very capable of doing that every night,” added Akal.

The Dragons begin play in the All A Classic on Wednesday against Martin County.

Harlan hits 22 3-pointers to defeat Yellow Jackets

The Harlan Green Dragons were hitting 3’s most of the night in a 100-51 district win over visiting Middlesboro on Friday.

The Dragons have scored over 80 points in a game 20 times this season.

Senior guards Kaleb McLendon and Jaedyn Gist powered Harlan with 29 and 25 points, respectively. Junior guard Kyler McLendon followed with 16 points, while senior forward Will Austin scored 14.

Harlan came out on fire and took a 31-17 advantage after one quarter. Gist had 11 first-period points. Kaleb McLendon scored eight.

Kaleb McLendon scored 11, and Gist added 10 in the quarter as the Dragons went into the locker room leading 62-28.

The second half featured a running clock.