The seminal moment for Harvest Christian Academy's boys basketball team took place on Dec. 7, when the young Lions built a 15-point lead against Luther North only to cough it up and lose by a basket, dropping their record at the time to 1-3.
One might conclude a lesson was learned that day based on how the Lions have roared since.
Harvest Christian won its seventh straight game Friday under the watchful eye of first-year coach Jeff Boldog, a convincing 56-35 victory over Alden-Hebron in a Northeast Athletic Conference contest in Elgin.
Boldog, who previously worked as an assistant coach at Prairie Ridge, said it's all beginning to click for a fledgling program competing in its second season as an IHSA member.
"I'm the fourth coach here in four years, so when I came in they had to learn my system, the way I do things," Boldog said. "They're starting to get the offense and they're really understanding the way you have to play defense. I'm happy with the way they're progressing. They're playing as a team and they're learning how to close teams out.
"It's coming together and it's fun to watch."
Harvest Christian (9-5, 1-2) seized the momentum from the start and built an 18-4 lead after a quarter. Guard Stuart Wolff, one of only two seniors on the 14-man roster and the team's only senior starter, ignited the offense by scoring 10 of his game-high 25 points in the opening period via 5-of-6 shooting.
The Lions led 31-15 at halftime, but Alden-Hebron (5-9, 1-1) opened the second half on a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 10 points, prompting Boldog to call timeout to reinforce strategy.
With the stinging memory of the Luther North failure still in mind, Harvest Christian answered with an 18-1 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Wolff contributed 4 buckets to the decisive push, while junior Dan Turpin swatted 4 blocks and junior John Vislisel blocked 2 more.
"Usually, we have one quarter where we kind of fall apart sometimes, but we're really starting to eliminate that quarter," said Wolff, who finished a point shy of his career high. "We're starting to finish games, like this game. We fight back, we finish and we're coming together as a team, not as individuals thinking we can do this by ourselves."
The team-first attitude is yielding results. Harvest's ninth win of the season matches last year's win total, when the Lions finished 9-18.
"Obviously, we've seen improvement, so (Boldog) is taking us there," said Vislisel, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. "I think we're pulling together and feeling it out. He's teaching us some new things, and learning to trust that what he's saying is going to get us there. I'm having fun. It's good to win."
Harvest Christian's defense was impressive. They held the Giants to 4, 9 and 8 points, respectively, in the first three quarters and limited their opponent to 22-percent shooting from the field (11 of 49). Alden-Hebron senior guard Hunter Ogle, who scored 22 points against the Lions in Hebron in a Dec. 27 holiday tournament game, was held to 6 points in the rematch.
Harvest Christian's cut-and-pass offense was just as effective. The Lions shot 24 of 53 (45 percent) and gained multiple second-chance looks due to a 40-30 rebounding edge.
"We've been learning different ways the offense works, different ways we can score points off it," said Turpin, who finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks. "It really is working."