Taller Harvest Christian and 6-7 center John Vislisel had no problem seizing control early against shorter Islamic Foundation in Wednesday’s semifinal of the Class 1A Harvest Christian Regional.
Maintaining that control proved the problem, but behind 31 points and 16 rebounds from Vislisel, and a strong second half by guard Noah Fox, the Lions won 75-44 to earn a shot at rival Westminster Christian in Friday’s championship game.
“We knew they were shorter so it was like we had three guys over 6-foot so we could definitely power inside,” Vislisel said. “We were able to attack from the beginning.”
Vislisel scored 18 first-quarter points and Harvest Christian assumed a 28-8 lead. However, the lead started vanishing in a hurry when Hassan Shuaipaj began hitting from outside. The Islamic Foundation junior guard scored a team-high 17 points and in the second and third quarters when Harvest Christian hit just 11-of-37 shots (27 percent), Islamic Foundation pulled back within 41-33 and forced a Harvest Christian timeout.
But Fox and Austin White came out moving and scoring. Fox hit two middle-range jumpers, White converted a three-point play, Fox drained another 15-footer and Vislisel moved inside for a layup in an 11-0 run to seal the verdict.
“Noah stepped up big,” Harvest Christian coach Jeff Boldog said. “When we had nothing going he knocked down a couple of shots that kind of got guys going and got them lifted a little bit.
“Those were huge buckets because John wasn’t finishing and we had a lot of looks we just couldn’t put in the basket. Noah played an excellent game tonight. He did great defense. He finished. He did a great job.”
Fox had 12 of his 16 in the second half and White 11 of his 15 in the second half.
Harvest Christian (16-13) may have gotten tired after a torrid start, with starter Brett Cramer leaving due to an ankle injury for an already injury-depleted team.
“They got tired, they got gassed,” Boldog said. “That’s why I tried to use all my timeouts, to give them some rest.”
Islamic Foundation’s persistence played a big role in its comeback.
“We got it within eight, but we could never get over the hump,” said Islamic Foundation coach Osman Qureshi, whose team finished 14-3. “And the first quarter was just devastating. I think we’ve never given up more than 23 points the whole season in the first quarter and to give up 28, and they were fast break-type buckets and we couldn’t redeem ourselves after that.”
The 17 points by Shuaipaj was a good defensive job by Harvest.
“Every team that we play they target him,” Qureshi said. “Honestly this was the first time all year that somebody was successful.”