Jackets hold off Harlan for 52nd District title

Published 10:35 pm Friday, February 22, 2019

LOG MOUNTAIN — It was a long, and often painful, journey for the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets since they won their last 52nd District Tournament championship in 2012.

Middlesboro reached its low point in 2016, falling to 1-29 when the current seniors were freshmen. After five wins the next year and 15 last season, the Jackets made it back to the top this year. The Jackets knocked off four-time defending champ Harlan County on Tuesday and capped their run Friday with a hard-fought 58-55 victory over Harlan at Bell County High School.

“These guys were hungry to win. They went through a lot of seasons of winning three or four games,” said Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris, a former Cumberland star who led Bell County to three district titles in a nine-year run from 2008 to 2016.

Junior point Jabari Kyle earned tournament most valuable player honors with a 20-point performance after battling foul problems through much of the first half.

“He got ate up the first half but came back strong,” Morris said. “Jabari did a great job for us.”

Scott Overbay scored 12 points and Christian Hubbard added 10 as the Jackets improved to 17-13.

“We played two good games here, but what was odd was we probably played our worst game to close the regular season (a loss to Lynn Camp),” Morris said. “We played quite a few games during a stretch late in the year, so we needed a couple of days off. We came back strong this week, and I think we can compete in the regional. We’ve played a tough schedule.”

Harlan (20-12) had only one field goal in the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Jordan Akal that tied the game at 51 with 2:14 to play.

Two free throws by Trey Brock and one by Scott Overbay put the Jackets up by three. Jon Eldridge had a chance to tie it again with a three-point play with 48.9 seconds left, but he missed the free throw. Kyle scored, then Akal hit two free throws with 14.2 seconds to play. Two free throws by Kyle pushed the lead to three with 12.6 seconds left. Akal got up a 3-pointer near the Harlan bench just before time expired, but it was off the mark and the Dragons fell in the district finals for the third straight year.

“My hat is off to Middlesboro,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “You want to win them all, but they made plays at the end and we didn’t. This one hurts, but we can build on this. We’re still going to the regional tournament and we can learn from experiences like this.”

Akal scored 24 points to lead the Dragons. Cade Barnes added 13 points.

Both teams advance to the 13th Region Tournament, which opens Monday at The Arena in Corbin.

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Middlesboro 58, Harlan 55

HARLAN (20-12)

Jordan Akal 7-17 6-6 24, Cade Barnes 3-6 5-6 13, Jared Hawkins 2-5 0-0 6, Kilian Ledford 0-8 0-0 0, Jon Eldridge 3-8 1-3 8, Kaleb McLendon 0-1 2-2 2, Jaeden Gist 0-0 0-0 0, Carter Barnes 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 16-47 14-17 55.

MIDDLESBORO (17-13)

Jabari Kyle 8-12 4-4 20, Christian Hubbard 2-6 5-7 10, Trey Brock 3-9 2-3 8, Scott Overbay 4-6 1-2 12, Mykel Griffin 2-4 4-6 8, Josh Overbay 0-4 0-0 0, T.J. Patterson 0-0 0-0 0,, Andrew Padgett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-41 16-22 58.

Harlan 16 13 13 13 — 55

Middlesboro 13 17 12 16 — 58

3-point goals: Harlan 9-29 (Akal 4-12, Cade Barnes 2-4, Hawkins 2-4, Eldridge 1-6, McLendon 0-1, Ledford 0-2), Middlesboro 4-12 (S. Overbay 3-5, Hubbard 1-3, Brock 0-2, J. Overbay 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan 25 (Eldridge 8, Ledford 6, Cade Barnes 4, Carter Barnes 3, Akal 2, Hawkins 2), Middlesboro 24 (Griffin 11, Brock 8, Kyle 2, Hubbard 1, J. Overbay 1, Patterson 1). Turnovers: Harlan 7, Middlesboro 7. Fouled out: Middlesboro (Hubbard).