Jackets win instant classic in All ‘A’ finals

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

PINEVILLE — Lewis Morris was taking no credit as a genius for the final play in Middlesboro’s 54-53 win Tuesday over Harlan in the 13th Region All “A” Classic finals.

With only 5.8 seconds and the length of the court to cover, Morris says there wasn’t a lot of time for strategy if Harlan’s Jon Eldridge missed a free throw with the Dragons clinging to a one-point lead.

When Eldridge missed the first shot in a bonus situation, Middlesboro’s Trey Brock grabbed the rebound, then found point guard Jabari Kyle who found Christian Hubbard behind the defense for the winning layup with eight-tenths of a second left. Hubbard drew a foul on the play and missed, giving Kilian Ledford just enough time to grab the rebound and sling up a shot that fell short.

“We told them we thought we could get something on the other end by just going with it,” said Morris, who is in his second season as the Jackets’ coach. “There isn’t a whole lot to it but just grab it and go. Sometimes things will just open, but Christian was able to get behind the defense and Jabari made a nice pass.”

The game was close throughout, but Harlan led most of the way, including a three-point lead at halftime and a one-point advantage going into the final period.

“We were down eight once and I told them to stay on course because there would be ups and downs,” Morris said. “You just have to stay focused. “(Harlan coach) Derrick’s (Akal) teams do a great job. I think every game we’ve played in 10 years has been just like it.”

Kyle, a junior guard, led the 11-6 Jackets with 22 points. Senior center Mykel Griffin added 18.

The 13-7 Dragons were led by Jordan Akal with 16 points and Jared Hawkins with 14. Eldridge tossed in 11. Ledford scored 10.

Harlan’s lead in the third quarter reached a high of eight on a 3-pointer by Hawkins and baskets by Akal and Eldridge. Kyle hit two straight shots to bring the Jackets back. A trey by Griffin to close the quarter cut the deficit to 43-42.

A three-point play by Griffin put the Jackets on top, one of several lead changes in the fourth quarter. Harlan went up by three on consecutive jumpers by Ledford and Akal. Kyle cut the deficit to one, then had a chance to take the lead as Middlesboro held the ball from the 1:40 mark until his miss with 5.8 seconds left. Eldridge grabbed the rebound and drew the foul.

There were four ties during the opening quarter, including 14-14 at the end of the period. Hawkins led the Dragons with four baskets while Griffin and Josh Overbay had two each for the Jackets.

Harlan heated up from the 3-point line in the second quarter as Ledford and Akal each hit two and Hawkins added one as the Dragons led by as many as eight. Scott Overbay had two 3s for the Jackets, while Kyle added two baskets, including one off a steal late in the half as Middlesboro cut the deficit to 32-29 at the break.

Morris inherited a team that finished 5-23 in 2017 before improving to 15-15 last year.

“If anybody was there, they’d know they’ve come a million miles. They really have,” Morris said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games from not being in that situation. I hope tonight will help, because we finally finished.”

Middlesboro will play 14th Region champ Knott Central in the first round of the All “A” Classic state tournament on Jan. 24 at Eastern Kentucky University.

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Middlesboro 54, Harlan 53

HARLAN (13-7)

Jordan Akal 5-11 4-6 16, Cade Barnes 1-4 0-1 2, Jared Hawkins 6-8 0-0 14, Kilian Ledford 3-7 2-2 10, Jon Eldridge 4-7 2-3 11, Carter Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, Jaedyn Gist 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb McLendon 0-0 0-0 0. Total: 19-37 8-12 53.

MIDDLESBORO (11-6)

Jabari Kyle 7-15 5-5 22, Christian Hubbard 2-2 0-0 4, Trey Brock 0-3 0-0 0, Scott Overbay 2-6 0-0 6, Mykel Griffin 8-12 1-2 18, Josh Overbay 2-2 0-0 4, T.J. Patterson 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Padgett 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Steven Poore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-40 6-8 54.

Harlan 14 18 11 10 — 53

Middlesboro 14 15 13 12 — 54

3-point goals: Harlan 7-18 (Hawkins 2-4, Ledford 2-4, Akal 2-7, Eldridge 1-2, Cade Barnes 0-1), Middlesboro 6-13 (Kyle 3-6, S. Overbay 2-6, Griffin 1-1). Rebounds: Harlan 19 (Eldridge 8, Cade Barnes 5, Akal 2, Ledford 2, Hawkins 1, Gist 1), Middlesboro 12 (Griffin 3, Kyle 2, Brock 2, J. Overbay 2, Hubbard 1, J. Overbay 1, Patterson 1). Turnovers: Harlan 9, Middlesboro 7. Fouled out: Harlan (Hawkins).