North Laurel nip Dragons at the buzzer
Published 3:00 pm Monday, March 6, 2023
By Paul Lunsford
With the game tied at 52-52 in the closing seconds, North Laurel came down court against Harlan when Reed Sheppard found Ryan Davidson for a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds giving the Jaguars a 55-52 win in the 13th Region Tournament opener last Wednesday.
Davidson struggled offensively on the night, missing ten of 11 from the floor before the game-winner.
Sheppard powered the 24-10 Jaguars with 18 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Junior center Gavin Chadwell followed with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Brody Brock finished with 10 points, while Davidson added nine points and six boards.
“I’m really proud of our team tonight,” North Laurel coach Nate Valentine said. “We didn’t play particularly well, and Harlan had a lot to do with that, but we just kept fighting. Some nights the ball doesn’t go in the basket and you have to find other ways to win.”
Senior forward Will Austin led the Green Dragons with 17 points, including four 3-points. Austin tied the game at 52-all with 12 seconds remaining.
Junior guard Kyler McLendon finished with 14 points, ten rebounds and six assists, while brother Kaleb McLendon, a senior, poured in 13 points before fouling out late. Senior guard Jae’dyn Gist added six points, ten rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Green Dragons had North Laurel struggling offensively most of the game.
The Jaguars held a 16-14 edge after eight minutes of play. Harlan used an 18-8 spurt in the second quarter as the Dragons led 32-25 at halftime.
On the night, North Laurel shot 35 percent from the floor on 19 of 54 shooting. Harlan hit 21 of 58 for 36 percent, but the Dragons connected on eight of 30 from behind the arc.
The Jaguars held a 39-36 advantage on the boards.
“I thought, for the most part, both teams played well defensively,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “It was a grind-it-out game. I thought we had some opportunities to make shots when they made a run, but other than that, it was a tough, physical defensive game.”
The Dragons took a 38-35 lead into the final quarter. North Laurel outscored Harlan 20-14 in the last eight minutes.
“Brody and Colton (Rawlings) gave us an outstanding effort defensively in the second half and I felt like that was the difference in the game,” added Valentine. “Gavin was a warrior tonight and kept us in it. I was happy Ryan had the opportunity to make that last shot. He didn’t play his best but Reed still had faith in him to make the biggest one of the night.”
Harlan finished the season with a 24-8 record. The Dragons will graduate four this May as Austin, Gist, Kaleb McLendon and Cameron Maples played their final game.
Harlan opened the season, winning nine games and claiming the 13th Region All “A” Classic for four consecutive years.
It was the Dragons’ seventh straight appearance in the 13th Region Tournament. Harlan has dropped nine consecutive games in tournament action since 2000. The Dragons have posted a 48-32 mark in the regional tourney.