Dragons battle back for overtime win

After trailing for 31 minutes of Saturday’s district clash against visiting Middlesboro, the Harlan Green Dragons found a way to get to overtime and then outscored the Jackets 6-0 in the extra period for a 66-60 victory.

The win gave Harlan the second seed in the 52nd District Tournament later this month, the highest finish for the Dragons since the current district alignment started 11 years ago. A Middlesboro win would have forced a three-way tie for second between the Jackets, the Dragons and Bell County.

Freshman guard Jordan Akal scored 22 points to lead the 17-10 Dragons. Senior guard Cade Barnes also had a huge game with 19 points, carrying the Harlan offense in the second half with both Akal and senior Kilian Ledford struggling to score.

“Cade is capable,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “When Jordan started to come on this year, then Cade’s shots went down, but he is capable of having big games. He attacked the boards and got his energy and confidence up.”

The Dragons also got.a lift off the bench from freshmen Jaeden Gist and Kaleb McLendon, who were both in the game in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“I thought the energy and enthusiasm that Jaeden and Kaleb bring to the floor makes up for them being freshmen sometimes,” Akal said. “They made some mistakes, but they came out and wanted to guard and accepted that challenge. Those freshmen did their job.”

“We missed some easy shots late,” Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris said. “This is our fourth game this week, so maybe their legs went out on them a little, but they played hard. Harlan shoots those 3s and can make up ground fast. I thought they outhustled on some loose ball rebounds and they pressured us more the second half. Our guys did a good job though.”

Middlesboro was led by junior guard Jabari Kyle with 18 points. Mykel Griffin and Christian Hubbard added 12 and 10 points, respectively, as the Jackets fell to 14-12 overall. The Jackets lost to Harlan at home by one point and have suffered two overtime losses this season against Harlan County, who they will play in the first round of the district tournament for the sixth straight years.

The Jackets scored the game’s first eight points, sparked by 3-pointers from Kyle and Trey Brock, and took a 15-8 advantage after one period by hitting six of 10 shots.

Middlesboro hit seven of 12 shots in the second quarter, led by three baskets from Kyle, and built a 10-point lead before Harlan closed with four straight points on two free throws by McLendon and a steal and layup by Ledford to cut the deficit to 32-26 at the break.

Middlesboro’s lead grew to nine in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Christian Hubbard, but Barnes, Jared Hawkins and McLendon sparked an 11-6 run that cut the deficit to 47-41 going into the fourth period.

Harlan pulled even on a 3-pointer by Barnes with 3:42 left in regulation, then took its first lead on two free throws by Gist with 58.3 seconds to play. Akal pushed the lead to four with two free throws. Middlesboro’s Scott Overbay hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. After AKal hit one of two at the line, Kyle hit two at the line with 5.8 seconds left to force an overtime after Jon Eldridge missed a shot at the buzzer.

Eldridge and Akal each hit free throws in overtime and McLendon had a layup off a long rebound by Barnes for all the scoring in the overtime as the Harlan defense held Middlesboro to zero-of-five shooting in the extra period. The Jackets shot 33 percent (seven of 21) from the field after halftime. They shot 59 percent (13 of 22) in the first half.

“We decided before the game we would go man, and I thought we did a good job the second half,” Akal said.

Harlan will play host to North Laurel on Monday. Middlesboro will be at home against Red Bird on Tuesday.

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Harlan 66, Middlesboro 60 (OT)

MIDDLESBORO (14-12)

Jabari Kyle 6-13 4-4 18, Christian Hubbard 3-6 3-4 10, Trey Brock 4-7 0-1 9, Scott Overbay 2-5 2-2 8, Mykel Griffin 5-10 2-3 12, Josh Overbay 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Padgett 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Davis 1-2 0-0 3, T.J. Patterson 0-0 0-0 0, Steven Poore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-43 11-14 60.

HARLAN (17-10)

Jordan Akal 5-13 8-11 22, Cade Barnes 7-12 3-3 19, Jared Hawkins 2-7 0-0 6, Kilian Ledford 1-7 0-2 2, Jon Eldridge 2-9 3-6 9, Jaeden Gist 0-0 2-2 2, Tate Bryson 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb McLendon 1-1 4-4 6. Totals: 18-49 20-24 66.

Middlesboro 15 17 15 13 0 — 60

Harlan 8 18 15 19 6 — 66

3-point goals: Middlesboro 7-18 (Kyle 2-5, S. Overbay 2-5, Hubbard 1-2, Davis 1-2, Brock 1-3, Griffin 0-1), Harlan 10-23 (Akal 4-8, Barnes 2-4, Hawkins 2-5, Eldridge 2-6). Rebounds: Middlesboro 26 (Hubbard 7, Brock 7, Griffin 7, Kyle 4, S. Overbay 1), Harlan 26 (Barnes 5, Ledford 5, Eldridge 5, Akal 4, Gist 4, Hawkins 2, Gist 1, McLendon 1). Turnovers: Middlesboro 11, Harlan 7. Fouled out: Middlesboro (Hubbard), Harlan (Ledford).