No hand injury in the history of Harlan County fifth- and sixth-grade basketball was more analyzed than the one suffered last month by Cumberland star guard Jordan Akal.
When Akal was healthy, the Redskins were all but unbeatable. During the time he was hurt, Cumberland lost twice and surrendered the top seed in the county tournament to Wallins.
Akal returned just in time to play in the tournament opener Saturday, and he was the difference in the championship game Tuesday at James A. Cawood as he scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to help the Redskins rally for a 51-44 win over Wallins.
“He’s probably a couple of steps above the other kids at this age I coached in the past,” Cumberland coach Jerry Edwards said. “He gives it 100 percent in practice and does all the drills right. He’s an exceptional kid. He’s playing at the park in Lynch every time you go up there.”
Jonah Swanner added 11 points for the Redskins.
Josh Sergent scored 17 points and Tanner Griffen added 13 to lead Wallins.
Cumberland came out ice cold as the Devils built a 7-0 lead after one quarter on baskets by Griffen, Sergent and Daniel Carmical.
“We came out flat, and Wallins was more aggressive,” Edwards said. “They came out determined to win and went at it harder than we did. We were too relaxed. It took a half for us to come together.”
Wallins’ lead grew to 24-16 by halftime as Griffin scored seven points in the second quarter and Sergent added six.
Sergent hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter while Carl Pacholewski and Griffen added two baskets each as Wallins extended its lead to 38-28 going into the final period.
“Wallins had us on the ropes the big part of the game,” Edwards said. “They had us down by 15 at one point.”
Cumberland stormed back in the fourth quarter behind Akal. Kris Cornett also provided a boost for the Skins with two baskets and two free throws.
“A couple of kids gave us a spark off the bench,” said Edwards, who began his coaching career at Benham in 1982 and won his last county championship with the Cumberland seventh- and eighth-grade team in 1999. “We’re blessed to win it. The kids worked hard and did what they were supposed to every day in practice and games. There was no selfishness.”
Triston Cochran and Austin Tindell each scored 12 points as Black Mountain claimed third pace with a 32-15 win over Rosspoint.
Isaac Kelly led Rosspoint with seven points.
Cumberland (51) — Jaeden Gist 6, Jonah Swanner 11, Brayden Blakley 2, Jordan Akal 24, Kris Cornett 6, Johann Gist 2.
Wallins (44) — Carter Howard 1, Carl Pacholewski 6, Tanner Griffen 13, Josh Sergent 17, Luke Cottrell 2, Daniel Carmical 5.
Black Mountain (32) — Triston Cochran 12, Jayden Ward 6, Austin Tindell 12, Brayden Hayes 2.
Rosspoint (15) — Thomas Jordan 2, Cooper McHargue 3, Isaac Kelly 7, Braden Hensley 3.