Black Bears and Dragons to clash for third time in district finals
Published 4:30 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023
By Paul Lunsford
Harlan County (26-5) rolled past Middlesboro in the boys’ opener of the 52nd District Tournament at Middlesboro (9-22) on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Harlan Green Dragons (24-6) had to hold off Bell County (15-16) in the nightcap.
Harlan and Harlan County will play for the district title on Friday at 7 p.m.
Kyler McLendon nets 29
The Harlan Green Dragons faced a 35-32 halftime deficit to Bell County.
Harlan outscored the Bobcats 13-6 in the third period and 21-17 in the final quarter as the Dragons advanced in postseason play.
Junior point guard Kyler McLendon poured in 29 points for the victorious Dragons. Senior forward Will Austin scored 15 and grabbed 22 rebounds. Kalen McLendon nailed three 3-pointers and finished with nine points. Trenton Cole added seven points. Jaedyn Gist was held to four points, all in the fourth period. Nate Montanaro had two points.
Bell County ended the season with a 15-16 record.
The Bobcats were led in scoring by senior guard and the school’s all-time leading scorer, Dawson Woolum with 22 points.
Sophomore forward Cameron Hall tossed in 12 points, while Ethan Buell, an eighth-grader, scored 11. Freshman guard Blake Burnett added 10. Jacob Jones, a senior, closed the scoring with three points.
The Bobcats shot 40 percent from the floor on 19- of 47. Bell was also outrebounded 43-20. The Bobcats had 12 turnovers.
Kyler McLendon scored 11 first-quarter points as Harlan jumped out to a 22-16 advantage. Woolum scored six points and Buell added five in the opening quarter.
Bell County fought back in the second period, led by 11 points from Woolum and four by Hall.
Harlan missed 11 of 14 shots in the quarter.
The Bobcats took a 35-32 lead at intermission.
Kalen McLendon nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, and Kyler McLendon scored five points as Harlan took a 45-41 advantage after the third period.
The Green Dragons slowly put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Kyler McLendon scored nine points in the period. Austin tossed in six, and with Gist’s four points, Harlan claimed the win and the right to take on cross-county rival Harlan County in the finals.
Harlan hit 24 of 65 from the field for 37 percent. The 43-20 rebounding advantage helped the Dragons win.
Dylan Cox, Hunter Clem and Matthew Pennington all played but failed to score for the Dragons.
It will be Harlan’s seventh straight appearance in the 13th Region Tournament.
The Green Dragons and Black Bears’ fifth district (championship) matchup will be in the last seven seasons.
Bell County will miss the 13th Region Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Bobcats reached the semifinals in 2022.
Guard play carried Bears
Harlan County jumped out to a 25-12 lead after one quarter, led 42-24 at halftime and overpowered the host Yellow Jackets 34-7 in the third period to claim an 80-37 victory over Middlesboro.
Junior guard Trent Noah led Harlan County with 21 points, including 10 of 12 from the field. Senior guard Daniel Carmical hit seven of nine shots, including four 3-pointers, to finish with 19 points. Sophomore guard Maddox Huff scored 13 and junior guard Jonah Swanner scored 10.
Freshman guard Reggie Cottrell came off the bench and contributed six points with a pair of 3-pointers for the 26-5 Black Bears. Caleb Johnson followed with five points. Ethan Simpson scored three while Jaycee Carter added two and Jeremiah Clem had one point.
Carmical became the ninth member of the Harlan County 1,000-point club during the game. Noah is the only member of the 2,000-point club at HCHS.
Harlan County shot 65 percent from the floor on 33 of 51 shooting.
The Black Bears missed the 13th Region Tournament for the first time in school history last season.
The Yellow Jackets committed 22 turnovers and were outrebounded 23-17.
Middlesboro hit 16 of 36 from the field for 44 percent.
Sophomore guard Jerimah Beck led Middlesboro (9-22) with 11 points. Trey King scored six. Ashton Osborne and Joseph Killion each added five. Trey Kyle and Jack Smith tossed in four apiece. Chandler Cox and Aiden Larew each scored two.
It will make the ninth consecutive season the Yellow Jackets have missed the 13th Region Tournament.
Middlesboro will graduate five players this May, including Kyle, Osborne, Bryson Hatfield, Richie Logan and Tyler Sturgill.
It was coach John Wheat’s first season at MHS.