Sometimes a win can be motivated not by skill or game plan, but by intangibles.
Monday night in a Class 1A Westminster Christian regional play-in game in Elgin, Harvest Christian had a host of them to choose from.
Behind door No. 1 was the flu bug. Behind door No. 2 was the fact that Harvest learned of a back injury to 6-foot 7 Jon Vislisel and his 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game that will keep him out the rest of the postseason.
Couple that with door No. 3, its worst loss of the season to Faith Lutheran last Friday, and it was evident the deck was stacked against the Lions.
The Lions instead (17-10) used those subplots to fuel their first regional playoff win in school history, which they did behind an inspired cast of characters led by senior Stuart Wolff, whose 17 points and 14 rebounds helped No. 4 seed Harvest Christian snag a 52-41 win over No. 5 Alden-Hebron.
The Lions move on to a regional semifinal against top-seeded Hinckley-Big Rock Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Matt Borst and Kyle Fritz chipped in 12 points each in the absence of Vislisel, as Harvest sank 13 of its 17 fourth-quarter points from the free throw line.
"We battled through a lot of adversity, it's good for them; builds confidence, so it's a great for them," said Lions coach Jeff Boldog, whose team was 16 of 29 at the stripe. "I told the guys there's going to be a game where it's going to be determined at the free throw line.
"And to their credit they really work hard. Alden-Hebron is a tough team, they just battled, they're great on the boards, they don't ever give up."
Harvest staved off a pesky Giants (9-16) team, whom they beat twice this season, with a great defensive stretch in the second quarter keyed by 4 steals. The Giants grabbed a 4-point lead with 6:30 remaining on a drive by Bryce Lalor, who led Alden-Hebron with 17 points. That sequence prompted Boldog to talk it over a minute later, calling for his defense to step up.
"I just challenged them. 'We're going to play pressure defense, push the ball,' and they did that," said Boldog. "We got a couple turnovers, pushed the ball, got some easy layups and I think that kind of got them back in the groove again."
Harvest rattled off a 10-0 run in that 3:06 span, capped by Wolff's offensive rebound putback to make it 21-15 Lions with 1:58 left in the half. It was 1 of 4 of Wolff's offensive rebounds that helped reclaim the lead and the Lions held A-H to 4 second-quarter points. The Giants committed 21 turnovers and in the third and fourth and were held to 7 of 31 shooting. Maybe the loss to Faith Lutheran was actually perfect timing?
"That was our motivation to take it to these guys hard, all of our anger about losing that game," Wolff said. "We were like, 'we're taking it out on Alden-Hebron,' and I feel like that's what we did this game, we really took it to them. It was motivation for us."
Also in double figures for Alden-Hebron was Ian Johnson with 12 points.