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Paulius Zabalevicius helps De La Salle lock down Hinsdale South

11/26/2013, 10:58pm CST
By Michael O’Brien | mobrien@suntimes.com | @michaelsobrien

De La Salle senior Paulius Zabalevicius scored 12 points on just five shots and helped bottle up Hinsdale South sophomore star Barret Benson in a 54-43 victory Tuesday at Hinsdale Central.

Hinsdale South sophomore Barret Benson’s game drips with potential. He’s 6-9, smart and aggressive with good footwork and nice hands, especially for an underclassman big.

The colleges have already come calling. Everything is in place for a monster season. Everything but one seemingly small, but ultimately major detail: getting him the ball.

“Feeding the post is a lost skill,” Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore said. “We have to work on it a lot more. I’ve told them to just throw it up in the air. He’s 6-9 and will go get it. Whatever you do just don’t bounce pass.”

Benson took seven shots and scored six points, not nearly enough for the Hornets, who ran into a De La Salle squad determined to make up for Monday’s upset loss to Sandburg. Hinsdale South made a few runs in the game, but the Meteors led comfortably most of the way en route to a 54-43 victory.

Even when Benson was able to get his hands on the ball in the post Tuesday at Hinsdale Central, he was faced with another challenge, De La Salle’s Paulius Zabalevicius.

Zabalevicius moved from Lithuania to Chicago a year and a half ago. He spent last season sitting out, waiting to be eligible.

“I wanted on the court so badly last year,” Zabalevicius said.

He will rarely come off the court this season. The 6-7 senior displayed a mature all-around game Tuesday. He scored 12 points on just five shots, missing only once.

“He’s not the quickest player but he’s a really smart player and very skilled,” De La Salle coach Tom White said.

Zabalevicius’ defensive effort on Benson, especially in the first half, kept the Hornets from developing any rhythm on offense.

“I didn’t do anything special against him,” Zabalevicius said. “I just tried to play my normal game. I think I have a pretty high basketball IQ, so that helps a lot defensively.”

De La Salle junior Brandon Hutton is in his first season as the Meteors’ star and go-to scorer. That means absorbing most of the focus from opposing teams. It’s a major change from last year’s role as Alvin Ellis’ wingman.

“It’s been kind of rough two games in,” Hutton said. “I’m also trying to get used to the new way the refs are calling the game. It’s definitely a new style this year.”

Hutton picked up two fouls early and then sat for the majority of the first half. He still managed to score seven points and grab six rebounds.

With Hutton on the bench for so long, De La Salle (1-1) looked to its junior back court for points. Martez Cameron (12 points) and Karl Harris (13 points) responded. The pair accounted for three consecutive three-pointers late in the first half, part of an 11-2 run that seemed to take the steam out of Hinsdale South (1-1).

“We played as a family tonight,” Hutton said. “That was the difference. When guys were out other guys really stepped up.”

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