PIKEVILLE, KY — Some say rebounding is the most important stat in basketball. The Harlan Green Dragons outrebounded the under-sized Polar Bears; by a lot.
Harlan had 52 total rebounds, with 19 of them being offensive. This led to Harlan scoring 17 second-chance points. Bracken had just 26 rebounds for the game.
This top-25 matchup was a rematch of last year’s All “A” State Tournament quarterfinal game, where Harlan beat Bracken County 63-58 in overtime at EKU.
Harlan started off the game by outscoring Bracken County 16-6 in the first quarter. Bracken County outscored Harlan 20-15 in the second quarter to make the score 31-26 Green Dragons at the half.
The Polar Bears cooled off like the impending weather and shot 1/9 (11.1%) from three in and 10/28 (35.7) from the field in the first half. Compare that to 42% from three and 53% from the field they were shooting coming into the game.
Credit the change to the defense and physicality of a Harlan team that has not received much statewide recognition. The 9-0 Green Dragons have taken down the defending 14th (Perry Central), 15th (Pikeville), and 16th (Ashland) Region Champions.
Devante Jefferson got hot in the 3rd quarter for the Polar Bears. Jefferson scored 12 of his 16 points coming out of the half.
With 2:26 in the 3rd, a Cayden Reed steal and layup made it a 1-point game at 49-48. Harlan would pull away and end the quarter, still leading 59-53.
Bracken County would start off the 4th on a 9-2 run and took a 62-61 lead with 4:29 left in the game. It would be their first lead at 3:31 in the 1st quarter.
The lead would be short-lived. Harlan hit back-to-back threes to make it 67-62 with 3:03 left.
Harlan retook the lead and put the brakes on Bracken County’s run by scoring 7 straight points and leading 74-64 with a minute and a half left.
While the Polar Bears got a little warmer shooting, going 5/13 from three in the 2nd half, Bracken could not get over the hump.
Harlan had their largest lead of the game at 16 and defeated Bracken County 83-67.
The McLendon brothers of Harlan (Kyler and Kaleb) outscored the Reed brothers of Bracken County (Blake and Cayden) 41-35.
Blake Reed scored 25 points and is 53 away from 3,000 career points.
Three players for Harlan had double-digit rebounds (Austin 16, Gist 12, Kaleb McLendon 10).
Harlan will face Pikeville at 7:00pm in the PIT championship. Bracken County moved to 8-2 and will face Perry County Central at 5:30pm for third place.
Green Dragons (83) — Kyler McLendon 27, Jae dyn Gist 19, Kaleb McLendon 14, Trenton Cole 13, Will Austin 8, Matthew Pennington 2.
Polar Bears (67) — Blake Reed 25, Devante Jefferson 16, Cayden Reed 10, Chase Archibald 10, Austin Norton 6.
Field Goal: Harlan 25/62 (40.3%), Bracken 24/57 (42.1%)
3-Point: Harlan 10/30 (33.3%), Bracken 6/22 (27.3%)
Free Throw: Harlan 23/29 (79.3%), Bracken 13/18 (72.2)
Rebounds: Harlan 52, Bracken 26
Assists: Harlan 13, Bracken 10
Turnovers: Harlan 10, Bracken 4
Steals: Harlan 2, Bracken 5
Fast Break: Harlan 11, Bracken 9
Paint: Harlan 26, Bracken 26
Second Chance: Harlan 17, Bracken 4
Bench: Harlan 2, Bracken 0