Every opponent on Hinsdale South's schedule tries some sort of scheme to limit Iowa State-bound senior forward Zion Griffin.
Now take Robert Barnes out of the lineup -- the only other Hornets player with significant varsity experience heading into the season.
Put the two together and it creates a bunch of opportunities for others on the team. That's where Ramon Norman entered the picture on Wednesday.
Norman scored 10 of his 17 points in the first half to help the Hornets build an early double-digit lead and advance to the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic quarterfinals with a 54-38 victory over Metea Valley in Elmhurst.
"Teams focus so much on Zion, it opens up the floor for the other guys on the team," Norman said. "Everyone surrounded him and it opened up the floor for me. We tried not to go back and forth with them, and we were able to hold them off."
Griffin, who scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, and Norman each scored 5 points to start the game. Hinsdale South (10-2) carried the 10-0 lead throughout the remainder of the game. The Mustangs (4-6) were within 10 points several times in the second half but came no closer despite chances to slice into the deficit.
"There were six or seven possessions where we had it within 10 and we got a stop, but we either turned the ball over or missed a good look," said Metea Valley coach Matt Walpole. "Our defense held them in the 50s and that usually plays to our benefit, but tonight we struggled to put the ball in the basket."
Barnes missed his second straight game with an ankle injury, and coach Brett Moore wasn't sure when the senior guard might return. The Hornets survived the rugged Tosh field thus far, but they're not willing to risk the long-term health of their second-leading scorer this early in the season.
So the offensive effort was far from pretty but effective enough. Especially with 6-foot-7 sophomore Aaron Tims chipping in 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Metea Valley fell behind 23-8 midway through the second quarter before Veonte Ballard brought tremendous energy off the bench. He outscored the Hornets 8-3 the rest of the half to bring the Mustangs within 26-16 at the break.
Ballard finished with 12 points while Ethan Helwig added 9 points. The Mustangs face St. Ignatius at 3 p.m. Thursday in the consolation bracket.
Hinsdale South plays Wheaton North, a 54-51 winner on Wednesday, in the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
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