Dragons begin quest for 5th straight All ‘A’ title with rout of Red Bird

Published 5:51 pm Monday, January 8, 2024

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Staff Report

In a 2-9 start to the 2024 season, the Harlan Green Dragons have often lacked balance as they depend on senior guard Kyler McLendon for most of their scoring.

McLendon got some help Saturday as the Green Dragons opened defense of their 13th Region All “A” Classic title with an 82-26 rout of tournament host Red Bird.

Freshman guard Trent Cole scored 21 points and McLendon added 20 as the Green Dragons advanced to the semifinals. Dylan Cox chipped in with 10 points.

Josue Ilunga and Felix Omatoko led the 0-7 Cardinals with seven and six points, respectively.

Cole had five baskets in the opening quarter as the Dragons took control by building.a 28-7 lead. McLendon added three baskets.

Four more baskets by Cole and three from McLendon helped Harlan outscore Red Bird 26-7 in the second quarter for a 54-14 halftime lead.

Cox hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Dragons’ advantage grew to 67-16.

Harlan coach Derrick Akal turned the game over to his reserves in the fourth quarter as sophomore Will Shepherd led the Dragons with five points. Cruz Galloway, Matthew Pennington, Eric Evans and Dylan Collins added one basket each.

Harlan advances to play Pineville on Monday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.

Cardinals get off to blazing start on the way to win at Harlan

By John Henson 

Contributing Sports Writer

Lauded for their excellent defense during Jeff Davis’ tenure as coach, the South Laurel Cardinals showed last Tuesday at Harlan than they can also shoot the basketball.

The Cardinals, ranked fourth statewide in the RPI system used by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, got off to a blazing start as they shot 73 percent (eight of 11) from beyond the 3-point line and 64 percent (16 of 25) overall in building a 44-27 halftime lead. South cooled off a little in the second half but stayed in command on the way to a 75-60 victory that improved their record to 10-2.

“It seemed like they didn’t miss a shot in the first half. A lot of those 3s were wide-open, uncontested 3s,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “We left some guys open we probably shouldn’t have. Coach Davis has an excellent team, and if you’re not prepared and give them open shots they will knock them down.”

South featured a balanced attack as Colton Rawlings hit five of six shots in the first half, Josh Steele connected on five of seven and Jordan Mabe hit four of seven. Mabe finished with 19 points while Rawlings and Steele added 17 each. Landon Howard came off the bench to add 12 points.

“When they have that many guys, they can space you out, and Mabe is in there putting in missed shots,” Akal said. “I thought we did a better job the second half of challenging 3s. We made some adjustments the second half.”

Senior guard Kyler McLendon again led the Harlan offense with 34 points. Trenton Cole added 13.

Steele had three baskets in the first quarter while Rawlings added two as the Cardinals built a 22-13 lead. Rawlings and Mabe each had three baskets in the second quarter as the Cardinals’ lead grew to 17 points. In addition to their shooting, South also dominated the glass with a 13-1 advantage.

South pushed its lead to 24 points, at 57-33, midway through the third quarter. Cole and Dylan Cox each hit 3s in the third quarter while McLendon added three baskets as Harlan cut the deficit to 61-42 heading into the final period.

McLendon owned the fourth quarter as he hit five of six shots to help Harlan outscore South 18-14 in the period.