Their inability to hit free throws and keep Jackson County off the offensive boards proved costly for the Dragons in a 68-65 loss.
"If we hit our free throws and block out the ballgame is over," Harlan coach Casey Lester said. "Those are two things we can help. It comes down to wanting to do it and showing a little bit of self-pride. We had numerous chances to get a rebound and if Robbie (Curtis) or Ryan (Clem) didn't get it, nobody else did."
Jackson (8-8) owned a 45-36 advantage on the boards, the 16th time in 16 games that the Generals have outrebounded their opponent.
"Offensive boards helped us a lot," Jackson County coach Keith Hays said. "At this point, it is a strength for us."
Sophomore point guard Nathan Adkins, making his first start in place of the injured Jordan Whitehead, led the balanced Generals' attack with 14 points.
"He hit some big 3s for us, and he played well," Hays said. "He was kind of nervous."
Troy Truett, a senior guard, added 13 for the Generals, who won only four games last year. Sophomore center Nick Brumback and sophomore forward Derek Cunagin each scored 10 points and combined for 24 rebounds. Senior guard Matt Eversole also scored 10.
Harlan (7-4), playing its first game since losing star guard John Smith to a torn left Achilles tendon, was led by senior guards Ryan Clem and Casey Huff with 21 and 13 points, respectively. Huff and Clem shared ball-handling duties.
The Dragons handled the ball well with Smith out but often appeared rushed on offense and took a few hurried 3-pointers.
"That comes from a lack of experience not having our ball-handler there," Lester said. "We had one day to practice and prepare (without Smith)."
Jackson led at the end of the first three quarters, but was held scoreless in the opening four minutes of the fourth period. Baskets by Clem and Curtis put Harlan on top 41-40. After a couple of lead changes, Eversole tied the game at 47-47 by hitting one of two free throws with 44 seconds remaining.
Harlan held the ball for the final shot, and after three timeouts, Clem missed a jumper from the free throw line.
Adkins and Clem traded 3-pointers for the only points of the first overtime. Huff had a chance at the line with 3.3 seconds left but missed the front end of a bonus situation.
Harlan had a two-point lead in the closing seconds of the second overtime after Jon Graham hit one of two at the line for the Dragons. The Generals got three shots before Doc Fox connected on a fall-away jumper from the baseline to force a third overtime.
Jackson built a six-point lead by pounding the offensive boards, outrebounding Harlan 10-3 in the third extra session. Huff had a couple of baskets to bring the Dragons back but missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that would have tied the game again.
Harlan returns to action Tuesday in an 8:15 p.m. game against Paintsville in the WYMT Mountain Classic at Hindman.
Freshman Cody Hamblin scored 11 points and sophomore Ryan Lanigan added eight as Jackson (7-1) won 42-23 in the junior varsity game.
Allen Hensley and Anthony Rhodes each scored six points to lead Harlan (0-9). Arliss Wilson added three. Derek Sheffield, Tyler Lemaster, Ronnie Curtis and Andrew Link each tossed in two.
Casey Huff 5-20 0-2 13, Ryan Clem 8-20 2-6 21, Jon Graham 3-8 1-2 8, Stephen Brown 2-6 5-5 9, Robbie Curtis 5-7 0-5 10, Zach Goins 2-5 0-0 4, Mark O'Neill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-67 8-20 65.
JACKSON COUNTY (8-8)
Nathan Adkins 5-7 1-2 14, Matt Eversole 3-18 2-4 10, Troy Truett 5-10 2-2 13, Derek Cunagin 5-11 0-5 10, Nick Brumback 3-9 4-4 10, Jonathan Tillery 1-3 2-2 4, Doc Fox 2-6 0-0 4, Matt Creech 1-1 0-0 2, Trevor Lakes 0-2 1-2 1. Totals: 25-67 12-21 68.
Harlan 7 15 15 10 3 7 8 65
Jackson Co. 12 13 15 7 3 7 11 68
3-point goals: Harlan 7-26 (Huff 3-9, Clem 3-11, Graham 1-5, Brown 0-1), Jackson County 6-22 (Adkins 3-4, Eversole 2-10, Truett 1-4, Tillery 0-1, Lakes 0-1, Fox 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan 36 (Curtis 13), Jackson County 45 (Cunagin 16). Turnovers: Harlan 13, Jackson County 14. Fouled out: Harlan (Brown).