With nine players over 6-feet tall compared to No. 3 seed Islamic Foundation’s tallest player, 6-1 Mustafa Farooqi, No. 2 seed Harvest Christian had a major advantage coming into Wednesday’s Class 1A regional semifinal and the key objective was to feed 6-7 center John Vislisel early and often.
Harvest did just that as Vislisel almost scored his average of 21.8 points per game in the game’s first 8 minutes. He scored 18 of his game-high 31 points in the first quarter of the Lions’ 75-44 win over the Chargers (14-4), which advanced them to Friday’s 7 p.m. regional final against their Randall Road neighbor, top-seeded Westminster Christian.
Vislisel also posted 16 rebounds, while Noah Fox added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals and Dan Turpin hauled in 10 rebounds to go with 5 points for Harvest.
But after racing out to a 19-point lead in the first half, Islamic Foundation pulled within 8 with 3:58 remaining in the third on a series of 3-pointers by Hassan Shauipaj, as his back-to-back 3s made Harvest coach Jeff Boldog a little nervous.
“No lead is safe with those guys,” Boldog said. “They’re so good at knocking down 3s, that was our focus, we knew they were going to get their shots.”
But Fox came in and saved the day. Fox hit two-straight jumpers, Austin White and Vislisel buried baskets and Fox drained another as part of an 11-0 run that staved off the Charger rally.
“Noah stepped up big when we had nothing going, he knocked down a couple shots that kind of got the guys lifted and got them going again,” Boldog said. “John wasn’t finishing and we had a lot of looks we couldn’t put in the basket but Noah really played an excellent game, had good defense, finished, he was definitely the leader tonight.” Fox finished with 15 points, 6 coming in that run. The Lions (14-13) needed his lift since Vislisel and company were visibly winded after a hard first quarter where they jumped out to a 20-point lead attacking the basket.
“We knew that they were shorter, we have three guys over six foot (active), so we can definitely power it inside and we knew we wanted to attack from the beginning, push their morale down so we can win the game easier,” Vislisel said. “I probably went a lot harder than I should have in the first (quarter), so I was a little tired coming into the second (quarter).”
Shuaipaj finished with 17 points.
“(They) just hit four straight shots, that took it from eight to 16,” said Chargers coach Osman Qureshi. “The first quarter was just devastating. we never gave up 23 points in the first quarter all season but to give up 28, all 28 on fastbreak buckets, it was hard to redeem ourselves after that.”
As for Westminster, a team that has won seven-straight against Harvest, Vislisel is looking forward to it.
“I think we are ready,” said Vislisel. “We’ve lost in the past but we know this is going to be a whole new ballgame, it’s on our home court, and we’re just going to bring it to them.”