Yellow Jackets rally past Harlan

Almost three years and 16 games had passed since the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets last won a district contest, so there was reason to celebrate when Kilian Ledford’s shot at the buzzer Tuesday bounced off the rim and sent the Jackets to a 56-55 win at Harlan.

Middlesboro (1-2 overall, 1-0 district) trailed by as many as nine points in the second quarter before battling in the second half to set up a wild finish that featured several lead changes, the last coming with 40.8 seconds left when Steven Poore completed a three-point off an offensive rebound.

Harlan point guard Jordan Akal missed on a 3-pointer, then Middlesboro’s Christian Hubbard missed two free throws with 8.9 seconds to play. Ledford went the length of the court and got up a good shot just before the buzzer and it bounced around the rim before falling off.

“It was a good play, and I thought had that ball on the rebound, then Kilian got a good look at the end. It just didn’t fall,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said of Poore’s three-point play and Ledford’s shot. “That’s how possessions go in games like this. We have to back in the gym and work hard and get ready for Bell on Friday.”

The game featured a clash in styles as Harlan hit 10 of 36 from beyond the 3-point line, while Middlesboro hit four of 10. The Jackets connected on 12 of 22 free throws, while Harlan hit five of eight.

Hubbard scored 13 points to lead a balanced Middlesboro attack that also included 11 points from T.J. Patterson and 10 from Poore.

Harlan (0-3 overall, 0-1 district) was led by junior guard Jared Hawkins with 10 points, all coming in the fourth quarter, to keep the Dragons within striking distance. Cade Barnes also played a key role down the stretch with five of his 10 rebounds in the final period.

“Cade got some huge offensive rebounds and Jared made some big shots to keep us in the game. They both played well,” Akal said.

Middlesboro hit seven of 13 shots in the fourth quarter, scoring several times on offensive rebounds or strong drives to the basket.

“We had some bad communication on the defensive end and gave up some layups,” Akal said. “They shot the ball well down the stretch and we didn’t execute offensively. A lot of things went wrong, but you have to take your hat off to Middlesboro. They played well.”

Harlan closed the first quarter with a 7-2 run on baskets by Cade Barnes and Jon Eldridge and a 3-pointer by Akal to go up 14-6.

A basket and a 3-pointer by senior guard Tyler Carmical gave Harlan its biggest lead at 22-13 midway through the second quarter.

Middlesboro battled back to within six by the break on a strange play that turned out to be significant in a one-point game. A pass by the Jackets inside in the closing secons of the half bounced off Harlan’s Carter Barnes and into the basket. Middlesboro was originally given two points, credited to Steven Poore since he was closest to the basket, but officials called it a 3-pointer since the ball came from beyond the 3-point line.

Harlan plays host to Bell County and Middlesboro travels to Harlan County in district action Friday.

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MIDDLESBORO (1-2)

Jabari Kyle 3-9 0-2 7, Christian Hubbard 5-8 2-5 13, Drake Thomas 3-8 2-5 9, T.J. Patterson 4-10 5-6 11, Mykel Griffin 3-7 0-1 6, Steven Poore 3-4 3-3 10, Andrew Padgett 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor McClelland 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-45 12-22 56.

HARLAN (0-3)

Jordan Akal 2-11 1-2 6, Cade Barnes 2-2 0-1 5, Kilian Ledford 3-9 0-1 9, Jacob Wilson 2-10 0-0 6, Jon Eldridge 2-7 0-0 5, Carter Barnes 1-2 0-0 2, Jared Hawkins 4-9 0-0 10, Tyler Carmical 2-3 4-4 10, Caleb Adkins 1-1 0-0 2, Austin Adams 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 20-57 5-8 55

Middlesboro 6 14 19 17 — 56

Harlan 14 12 10 19 — 55

3-point goals: Middlesboro 4-10 (Hubbard 1-1, Poore 1-1, Kyle 1-3, Thomas 1-4, Griffin 0-1), Harlan 10-33 (Ledford 3-6, Hawkins 2-5, Wilson 2-6, Carmical 1-2, Eldridge 1-6, Akal 1-8). Rebounds: Middlesboro 26 (Thomas 10, Patterson 5, Hubbard 5, Griffin 4, Poore 2), Harlan 34 (Cade Barnes 10, Wilson 6, Hawkins 5, Ledford 4, Eldridge 3, Akal 2, Carter Barnes 2, Carmical 1, Adams 1), Turnovers: Middlesboro 11, Harlan 13. Fouled out: None.