WEST CHESTER – Western Hills senior guard Aaron Fluellen lead the way with 16 points to pace the Mustangs in a 56-52 win over Harrison in a Division I sectional tournament game at Lakota West High School.
Junior guard Andre Thomas pitched in 14 points along with a pair of made free throws in the final minutes to help the Mustangs move on to play Princeton next Wednesday at the Cintas Center.
Harrison senior forward Josh Volkerding lead all scorers with 22 points, while senior Josh Schulte had 12 points in a losing effort.
Western Hills (7-11, 4-7 Metro Athletic Conference) benefited the most from forcing turnovers and out rebounding the Wildcats, especially off of the offensive glass. This offset the consistent scoring from Volkerding, making the other Harrison players beat the Mustangs.
Both teams struggled to get in an offensive rhythm in the first half with the 21-20 early edge going to Western Hills at halftime.
Harrison (9-12, 4-6 Fort Ancient Valley Conference) had an off and on shooting performance, giving up an 8-0 run to Western Hills which made it 21-13 with 5:45 left in the second quarter before closing the gap before halftime.
The Wildcats had the lead 24-23, before Mustang senior center David Rogers was fouled on a layup. The ensuing free throw and a later Fluellen three-point basket made it a 31-28 advantage for Western Hills.
Harrison tied the game before the start of the fourth quarter, but would not be close to the lead for long. A Thomas three-point basket followed by a stretch where Fluellen and Volkerding traded baskets made the score 43-40 with 4:27 left in the game.
Wildcat guard Sam Hotopp’s four points in the fourth quarter would help to cut the Mustang lead to 46-45 after teammate Drew Huber’s three-pointer.
Western Hills would hold off Harrison until Schulte made two free throws tying the game again at 49-49.
After the teams traded possessions West High guard Aramis Britten got an offensive rebound and put up an off-balance, wrap-around the basket layup while being fouled. His free throw gave West High a 52-49 advantage.
Britten’s final two free throws would help seal the win after a Harrison possession ended with a missed shot by Volkerding.
Fluellen backed up his coach’s comments last month about him being the best combo-guard in the city. At least he looked that way in this game. Fluellen used ball control and great passing to get his teammates involved to lead his team to the win.
Fluellen is averaging 15.6 points and four assists per game for the season.
Western Hills looks to keep their season going against Princeton (15-4, 12-2 Greater Miami Conference) and take down one favorite in the tournament.
Princeton is lead by Orlando Williams (13.1 ppg), Jordan Sibert (11.5 ppg), and Jaymon Ballew (3.3 apg).
Western Hills will most likely match-up forward Robert Caldwell on Williams, and try to contain Sibert with their next best defender.
Princeton is carrying on after head coach Bill Brewer passed away last fall. Their season thus far has been a befitting tribute to a great coach who passed much on to his players.