With five players in double figures, the Harlan Green Dragons were able to shake off a dreadful first half to roll past visiting Red Bird 79-34 on Saturday.
Senior guard Drew Parks caught fire after a slow first half, hitting five of seven shots to lead the second-half resurgence for the Dragons with 18 points. Noah Busroe, Trent McKenzie, Caleb Hogue and Cade Barnes added 10 points each as the Dragons improved to 11-7.
“The effort was a lot better the second half,” Harlan coach David Parks said. “Our kids aren’t selfish and are willing to give the ball up to whoever. I didn’t know if we’d have anybody in double figures after the first half.”
Harlan missed its first seven shots and didn’t take the lead for good until late in the first quarter. The Dragons shot a frigid 24 percent (eight of 34) from the field in the first half and led by only 14 at halftime against the 3-11 Cardinals, who are ranked at the bottom of the 13th Region.
“It was horrible,” Parks said. “I don’t know if it was where we hadn’t played in a week or that our kids thought they had the game won before it started. Who knows what goes through their heads. I tried to make sure they knew we had to play, but we didn’t play a lick the first half and couldn’t make a shot. The second half we played better. I don’t know why.”
Busroe, a junior point guard, had perhaps his best all-around game in his three years as a starter with a triple-double that included 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
“Noah was tremendous tonight,” Parks said. “I didn’t realize he was that close to a triple double until he got the last assist.”
Red Bird was led by junior guard Jonathan Kabongo with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“We played hard, but we got in foul trouble with a few questionable calls,” said Red Bird coach Charles Collett. “I was proud of the effort. We had a lot of easy shots that rimmed out. We both struggled the first half, then they started hitting theirs the second half and that was the difference, that and the foul trouble.”
Kabongo is one of three Red Bird starters who came to the school from Africa last year.
“Most of our kids have never played until this year,” Collett said. “I’m proud of them. It’s a night and day difference from this time last year. My kids are playing hard and want to learn. They will take a few bumps and bruises but will get better with every game.”
Harlan led by only one when Kilian Ledford had two straight baskets and Busroe hit two free throws to extend the Dragons’ advantage to 18-11 at the end of the first period.
The lead was six midway through the second quarter when Busroe, Ethan Morton and Hogue had baskets in a 9-1 run that gave Harlan a 31-17 cushion at the break.
Parks and McKenzie teamed for six field goals in a 30-point third quarter as the Dragons hit 12 of 20 shots and capitalized on nine Red Bird turnovers to build a 61-30 lead.
Two straight 3-pointers by Parks gave Harlan a 36-point lead with six minutes left, starting a running clock. Morton hit a 3-pointer and Cade Barnes reeled off five straight points as Harlan closed the game with a 10-0 run.
Hogue saw his first action at home this season after recently returning to the team only five months after having surgery for a torn ACL. Hogue was hurt during the Governor’s Scholars program in late July and was cleared in late December to return, making his debut in a win at Middlesboro on Jan. 5.
“Caleb coming back makes a big difference for us,” Parks said. “I never thought we’d get him back, but he’s worked really hard to get back. He has put in the time and done the physical therapy. We’re trying to playing him just a few minutes at a time, but I know what he’s capable of doing. He’s the alpha dog. He does the things other kids don’t want to do.”
Harlan returns to action Tuesday against WIlliamsburg in the 13th Region All “A” Classic at Lynn Camp.
Cade Barnes scored 13 points and Tate Bryson added 10 as Harlan (9-0) won 48-20 in junior varsity action. Cameron Hoskins added eight for the Dragons, followed by Carter Barnes and Logan Taylor with six each, Caleb Adkins and Jarrett McKenzie with two each and Kendall Brock with one.
Junior Kitoko led Red Bird with 12 points. Avery Gibson scored three. Bryce Helton and Maombie Tshingu scored two each. Max Kitoko contributed one.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134