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Blust Makes DuPage County All Area Team

BLUST MAKES DUPAGE COUNTY ALL AREA TEAM

by Kevin Schmit and Dave Oberhelman Daily Hearld

Copyright Daily Herald

Denis Alibegovic, Downers Grove South

The 6-foot-3 junior guard rounded out his game after being primarily a perimeter player as a sophomore starter. Alibegovic averaged 14 points with devastating outside shooting ability -- he hit 66 3-pointers -- and improved strength and quickness driving to the basket. "He's really matured from his sophomore to junior year," coach Kris Olson said. "He keeps getting better."

Luke Anthony, Wheaton North

On varsity since the end of his freshman year, Anthony continued to show why he's among the area's top athletes. The 6-foot-3 junior guard, a two-year starting quarterback, used his strength to play post defense and take on ballhandling duties. Anthony averaged 15.9 points and 3.3 assists. "Nothing he does is gaudy, but he consistently fills up the stat sheet," coach Dave Brackmann said

Billy Bair, Glenbard South

The three-year starter brought height, strength and athleticism befitting an Illinois State-bound wide receiver. Scoring from the post to the arc, Bair averaged team highs of 14.1 points and 2.6 assists, and added 5.3 rebounds a game. A repeat all-Metro Suburban Conference West Division pick, the 6-5 senior forward earned District 87 all-tourney honors as well as at Romeoville. "He's certainly one of those kids that can take over a game," said coach Wade Hardtke.

Barret Benson, Hinsdale South

The Hornets' all-time leader in points and rebounds will play his college ball at Northwestern. The 6-foot-10 senior center, a four-year starter, proved unstoppable in the post. Benson, who finishes with more than 1,700 points and 1,000 rebounds, averaged 20.1 points, 11 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. "He changes the game on offense and defense," coach Brett Moore said.

Tai Bibbs, West Chicago

This 6-foot-1 junior guard with seven scholarship offers paced Wildcats boys basketball's first conference title in the school's 113 years. Bibbs earned MVP honors at West Chicago's Thanksgiving Tournament, all-tourney at DeKalb and all-conference in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division. The two-year starter averaged 16.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals and scored 34 points against West Aurora. "That's what happens when teams don't try to focus on him," coach Bill Recchia said.

Devin Blake, Downers Grove North

The 6-foot-5 senior forward provided the Trojans with the best of both worlds. Not only was Blake their top scorer, he also drew the toughest defensive assignments. Blake, a three-year starter, led his team to their biggest wins of the season while averaging 16 points and 4.9 rebounds. "We don't even think about taking him out of games," coach Jim Thomas said. "He just goes out and does his thing."

Peter Blust, Hinsdale Central

When injuries struck the Red Devils' post game a season ago, Blust stepped up to fill the void. As a starter this senior year, the 6-foot-7 forward emerged as one of the West Suburban Silver's top players. Causing matchup problems for every team he faced, Blust averaged 13.7 points and 8.4 rebounds. "He's just a great player to have in your program," coach Nick Latorre said.

Matt Dacy-Seijo, WW South

No shot was out of Dacy-Seijo's range. With a lightning release the 5-foot-8 senior guard shot 46 percent from beyond the arc while hitting 82 3-pointers and averaging 11.8 points. A tremendous passer, Dacy-Seijo compiled a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio with nearly 4 assists a game. "He's done a great job working his way into a college-caliber player," coach Mike Healy said

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James Dockery, Benet

One of the area's most versatile players shined in all phases. The 6-foot-2 senior guard and forward notched 20-plus points in four games while averaging better than 11 points on the season. Dockery also averaged 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He thrived as the Redwings' top perimeter defender. "James definitely adds an element of toughness to our team," coach Gene Heidkamp said.

Mike Finley, Glenbard East

A three-year starter, the 6-foot-3 junior's consistency bolstered Glenbard East's share of the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division title. The all-conference forward can blow past bigger defenders and post up guards. Finley averaged 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and shot 53 percent inside the arc. He scored 25 points at East Aurora to clinch that Valley share. "He's a fantastic kid, super-easy to coach and all he wants to do is win," coach Scott Miller said.

Chris Johnson, Naperville North

Johnson made a seamless transition to varsity while joining a veteran squad. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward developed beyond his years as one of the area's premier post players. Johnson's fluidity around the basket helped him to a team-high 11.5 points a game. He averaged 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. "He gets his points but his defense is huge for us," coach Jeff Powers said.

Gabe Johnson, St. Francis

A wrestler and football player until eighth grade, Johnson's toughness showed when 11 days after spraining an ankle so badly he was told he'd miss weeks, the 6-foot-3 senior forward scored 33 points at Marmion. All-tournament at Batavia and Glenbard West, all-conference in the Chicago Catholic League North Division, this smooth operator averaged 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds with 55 3-point baskets. "He really grasped the idea of stepping up his leadership," coach Erin Dwyer said.

Mitch Lewis, Naperville North

Overcoming injury upon injury, Lewis earned most valuable player honors in the DuPage Valley Conference. At 6-foot-6, the junior forward was a difficult matchup for defenses. While Lewis was always dangerous driving to the basket, his shooting steadily improved. He averaged 11.3 points, 5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. "His toughness has been off the charts," coach Jeff Powers said.

Jason Malonga, Benet

Malonga was a crucial element of the Redwings' seventh straight 20-win season. The 6-foot-4 senior forward could defend bigs in the posts or guards on the perimeter. Malonga's ability to slash to the basket made him a master of the three-point play. He averaged 11 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. "He impacts the game in multiple ways for us," coach Gene Heidkamp said.

Rowan McGowen, Wheaton North

No area player had a shot smoother than McGowen's. The 6-foot-5 junior wing, a two-year varsity member, added to his offensive arsenal while remaining an elite perimeter player. McGowen knocked down 77 3-pointers while averaging 17.5 points a game. "We knew he was going to have a great year, but he's surpassed our expectations," coach Dave Brackmann said.

Mark McGrath, Lisle

This 6-foot-1 junior forward had no business averaging 9.9 rebounds. His drive allowed nothing less. Averaging 18 points on 60 percent shooting inside the arc, McGrath recorded 19 double-doubles and also led Lisle in steals and blocks. A repeat all-Interstate Eight Conference pick, all-tourney at Lisle and at Plano -- where McGrath led all players in total points, assists, rebounds, steals. "He doesn't care how big you are or where you come from," coach Mark LaScala said.

Matthew Meier, Naperville Central

Despite playing the bulk of the season out of position as the primary ballhandler, Meier still put up stellar numbers in his second All-Area campaign. The 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 17 points with 3-pointers, drives to the basket and 81 percent free-throw shooting. He averaged 3.4 assists. "He sacrificed for the team but still found a way to be effective every game," coach Pete Kramer said.

Alex Passi, Glenbard West

A three-year starter, Passi added strength and skill to his game this senior season. The 6-foot-2 point guard brought a steady presence to the Hilltoppers' lineup, and also provided timely scoring punches. Passi averaged 12.9 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds. "It's easy to take him for granted because he's constantly making difference-making plays look easy," coach Tim Hoder said.

Justin Pierce, Glenbard West

The Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Boys Basketball Captain dominated a historic season for the Hilltoppers, who won their first conference title in 43 years. The 6-foot-6 senior forward, the program's all-time scoring leader after three varsity seasons, averaged 24.8 points and 11 rebounds. "I don't know that there was a more versatile player this year," coach Tim Hoder said.

Dan Sobolewski, Benet

In three varsity seasons Sobolewski helped the Redwings to more than 70 victories. Twice All-Area and all-ESCC, the 6-foot-3 senior forward excelled at defending the post no matter how outsized he was. His ability to make an impact inside and outside allowed him to average 11 points and 6.3 rebounds. "We rely on Danny in every facet of the game," coach Gene Heidkamp said.

Honorable mention

Charlie Bair (Glenbard South, jr., C), Mikey Bibbs (West Chicago, sr., G), Eric Cannon (Waubonsie Valley, fr., G), T.J. Clifford (Downers Grove South, jr., F), Jacob Cushing (Neuqua Valley, sr., F), Kyle Domin (Westmont, sr., C), Winston Elston (Naperville North, jr., G), Eric Grygo (Addison Trail, sr., F), Malik Hall (Metea Valley, so., F), Harrison Hallstrom (Naperville Central, sr., F), Bryan Jakobsze (Downers Grove North, jr., G), Brian Kern (Hinsdale South, sr., G), Terrence Lakes (Glenbard East, sr., G), Nick LaVere (Glenbard North, sr., G), Will Lyles (IC Catholic Prep, sr., C), Jack Morrissey (York, sr., G), Anthony Polinski (Wheaton Academy, sr., G), Ethan Schuemer (Willowbrook, so., C), Bailey Vance (Lake Park, sr., F), Jayston Williams (Montini, so., G-F).

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