Panthers roll past Harlan into semis

CORBIN — Following a season-long trend of outstanding pressure defense and an explosive offensive, the Knox Central Panthers coasted into the semifinals of the 13th Region Tournament with an 86-54 win over Harlan in the opening first-round game Wednesday at The Corbin Arena.

Knox Central (27-5) set the tone for the game with an aggressive defense that led to 25 Harlan turnovers, turning into multiple transition buckets for the quick and athletic backcourt of the Panthers.

“We wanted to pressure them and we did well with it,” Knox Central coach Tony Patterson said. “We missed a lot of easy shots early, so we have to fix that and get ready for Saturday. It’s very uncharacteristic of us to miss 5-footers.”

Senior point guard Markelle Turner was one of four Panthers in double figures with 23 points. Junior guard Jaylen Adams hit nine of 12 shots in a 20-point effort. Jermel Carton came off the bench to score 17, and Dane Imel added 10.

“They share the ball really well,” Patterson said. “We had over 10 assists tonight and we’ve had as many as 25 with seven in double figures. They are playing for one another now and having fun with it. It’s a good time to be doing that.”

“It was a learning experience for our guys playing one of the top teams, not only in the region, but in the state, with a Division I point guard, in my opinion,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “My hat is off to Knox Central. That is a really good basketball team over there. They are just longer and taller and better. Some times you have to give the other team credit.”

Sophomore guard Jacob Wilson scored 18 points to lead the Dragons, hitting five 3-pointers, including one midway through the opening quarter that helped Harlan pull within one, at 8-7. Adams, Imel and Turner had consecutive baskets, before another trey by Wilson, as Knox built a 15-10 lead after one quarter.

Kevionte Turner and Carton had baskets in the second quarter as the KC lead reached double digits and grew to 40-26 by the half. Harlan turned the ball over 16 times in the first half.

Wilson supplied most of the offense for the Dragons in the third quarter, including two more 3-pointers, but Harlan was unable to keep up with the pace set by the Knox guards. Carton and Imel each had baskets in a late run that pushed the Panthers’ advantage to 64-38 going into the final period.

Akal said playing in the 13th Region Tournament for two years, the first time Harlan has qualified for the tournament in successive years since 1999 and 2000, is a great learning experience for the Dragons. Harlan (6-20) played much better the second half of the season after starting the year 0-10.

“I told the guys you don’t get what you want and desire, you get what you earn and deserve,” he said. “Those guys have earned the right to be where they are. We have worked our butts off to get to this point, but we have to work hard in the off-season and prepare so we won’t have this feeling again.”

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Knox Central 86, Harlan 54

HARLAN (6-20)

Jordan Akal 1-4 0-1 2, Cade Barnes 2-4 0-0 4, Kilian Ledford 3-14 2-2 9, Jacob Wilson 6-9 1-2 18, Jon Eldridge 2-5 0-0 4, Dakota Shepherd 2-5 1-2 5, Carter Barnes 2-3 0-0 4, Austin Adams 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Carmical 2-2 0-0 6, Jared Hawkins 1-2 0-0 2, Tate Bryson 0-1 0-0 0, Cade Adkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-49 4-7 54.

KNOX CENTRAL (27-5)

Markelle Turner 7-17 8-10 23, Dane Imel 5-12 0-1 10, Jaylen Adams 9-12 1-5 20, Kevionte Turner 1-8 4-5 6, Nick Martin 2-5 1-2 5, Jermel Carton 5-6 7-7 17, Zach Patterson 1-2 0-0 2, Dalton Elliott 0-4 1-2 1, Jacob Barnard 1-1 0-0 2, Colby Elliott 0-0 0-0 0, Logan McDonald 0-0 0-0 0, T.J. Terrell 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson Tomblin 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Lindsay 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 31-69 22-32 86.

Harlan 10 16 12 16 — 54

Knox Central 15 25 24 22 — 86

3-point goals: Harlan 8-20 (Wilson 5-7, Carmical 2-2, Ledford 1-7, Akal 0-2, Cade Barnes 0-2), Knox Central 2-8 (Adams 1-2, Turner 1-4, Imel 0-1, Patterson 0-1). Rebounds: Harlan 23 (Eldridge 7, Ledford 5, Shepherd 5, Wilson 2, Cade Barnes 1, Carter Barnes 1, Hawkins 1, team 1), Knox Central 37 (K. Turner 7, Martin 7, Markelle Turner 6, team 5, Adams 3, Carton 2, Imel 2, Elliott 2, Tomblin 2, Patterson 1). Turnovers: Harlan 25, Knox Central 8. Fouled out: None.