Boys basketball notebook: Bears, Dragons net weekend wins

Published 5:47 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

Bears pass another test with overtime win over Desales

The Harlan County Black Bears’ road show made a stop in northern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon to face another top 20 team, this time taking on Louisville Desales in the Griffin Elite Classic.

Harlan County outscored Desales 14-5 in overtime to run its record to 7-0 with a 92-83 victory.
Senior guard Trent Noah scored 32 points, and junior guard Maddox Huff added 26 to lead the Bears.

Sophomore guard Reggie Cottrell had his best game as a Bear with a. 17-point effort.

Senior guard Damone King ranked as the ninth-best player in the state by the Louisville Courier-Journal, scored 36 to lead the Colts, one of the favorites in the always-tough 6th Region. Brady Cummins and Logan Tharp, also senior guards, added 12 points each.

Cottrell helped the Bears get off to a good start as he had five baskets in the opening quarter to help the

Bears outscore the Colts 18-12. Noah scored 10 points in the second quarter as the lead grew to 42-33 at halftime.

Noah added 10 points in the third quarter, and Huff added seven, but King and Tharpe scored nine each for Desales as the Colts cut the deficit to 63-58 after three periods. King had nine points in the fourth quarter as the Colts pulled even at 78-all to force the extra period.

Huff took over in overtime with four straight baskets as the Bears pulled away. Noah hit four straight free throws to clinch the victory.

Harlan County will play Bowling Green on Wednesday in the first round of the King of the Bluegrass tournament in Louisville.

McLendon pours in 43 as Dragons shake off 0-3 start to defeat Middlesboro

For a team ranked among the state’s elite this time a year ago, the Harlan Green Dragons’ 0-3 start this season was more than a little unsettling.

Playing in front of their home crowd for the first time proved to be just what the Dragons needed as they took control early and stayed there in posting a 76-63 victory Friday over Middlesboro in the district opener for both squads.

Senior guard Kyler McLendon carried the Harlan offense, just like he did so many times in last year’s 24-win campaign, scoring 43 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. McLendon hit five 3-pointers and also beat the Jackets time and time again off the dribble.

“We needed to come out with more energy and intensity, and I thought we did that tonight,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “It didn’t carry over that well to the second half, but it’s hard to maintain that. I’ve said before that Kyler is one of the more talented players in the region and one of the most underrated players in the state, in my opinion. He can score the ball from anywhere on the court.”

“It wasn’t pretty on our end,” Middlesboro coach John Wheat said. “He’s a nice ballplayer, but I’ll take the blame for him getting 43 points. I guess I’ve not done a good job of teaching defense to these guys, so I’ll take the blame. They also probably had 35-40 rebounds on us. We’re going to work, I can guarantee you that. We’re going to work and we’re going to get better. Play time’s over. It’s that simple.”

The Dragons also got a lift from junior forward Jared Moore, who was playing in his first game after joining the team earlier in the week, along with junior guards Nate Montanaro and Darius Akal. Moore hit three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter as part of a 13-point performance.

“He set the tone right off the bat by hitting those 3s,” Wheat said. “We were slow adjusting. He also made some plays right around the bucket, so you have to give him credit.”

“He has confidence in himself, and we think he can make it, but he’s only been out a week, so once he gets in some work, I think he will be even better,” Akal said.

Guards Jerimah Beck and Cayden Grigsby led the 3-2 Jackets with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Harlan hit only six of 19 shots in the first quarter, but Moore’s three 3-pointers helped Harlan grab a 19-10 lead. McLendon also had three baskets, including one trey.

Junior center Hunter Clem hit three of four shots in the second quarter as the Dragons built their lead to 42-26 by halftime. McLendon added two baskets.

The Dragons didn’t have a turnover in the first half and took 39 shots, compared to 24 for the Jackets.
McLendon took over in the third quarter, hitting five of 10 shots, as the lead grew to 61-47. The rest of the Dragons combined to hit only one of 10 shots, but Middlesboro struggled to find consistency and couldn’t make a run. The Jackets also had a hard time on the line, missing 14 of 32 attempts.

Two straight baskets by McLendon pushed the lead to 67-49 with six minutes left before Middlesboro reeled off eight straight points. The Jackets got as close as eight with just under two minutes left but continued to struggle at the line.

Middlesboro will play Thomas Walker, Va., on Saturday at 12:30 as part of the Railsplitter Classic at Lincoln Memorial University. Harlan plays at Pikeville on Saturday.