Girls Basketball: Samantha Trimberger’s 20-point double-double powers Benet into sectional final

Benet's Samantha Trimberger (25) pulls down a rebound  during Tuesday’s IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal girls basketball game against Neuqua Valley in Aurora.

AURORA – Samantha Trimberger seems to be the barometer for how smoothly Benet’s offense runs.

When the 6-foot senior post gets paint touches and the Redwings look inside first, they are a better team. On nights when Trimberger doesn’t see the ball, such as during Benet’s tough stretch around Christmas, it can be a grind.

“We keep telling the girls we’re better when Sam touches the ball. We say it all the time,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “She showed that today that that is absolutely true.”

She couldn’t have picked a better time.

Trimberger just missed a career-high with 20 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds. The Redwings held Neuqua Valley scoreless for more than a six-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to pull away for a 60-43 win in a Class 4A West Aurora Sectional semifinal.

Trimberger isn’t playing in college, so she’s more concerned with extending her team’s run – and her own basketball career – than raising her individual profile. Benet (22-7), which advanced to play Waubonsie Valley in Thursday’s sectional final, is well-served when Trimberger is playing as confidently as she did Tuesday.

“I wanted to come in confident in myself. The more confident you are in yourself, the more chance you have of getting it in,” said Trimberger, who made eight of her nine shots from the field. “It definitely helps that my shots went in today. It’s also nice when there is more space in the middle when they’re more focused on Lenee [Beamont].”

Benet's Bridget Rifenburg (22) congratulates teammates after defeating Neuqua Valley in Tuesday’s IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal girls basketball game in Aurora.

Indeed, Neuqua Valley (21-11) made it a priority to make life difficult for Beaumont, an Indiana recruit. The Wildcats frequently doubled Beaumont on the dribble and matched up elsewhere.

It left Trimberger room to roam in the middle and she excelled in making herself available and making an assertive move once she touched the ball. Trimberger scored nine of her 20 points in the first quarter. Her basket off a Beaumont offensive rebound and assist ignited a 21-2 second-half run that opened up a close game.

“Sam was great. Quite honestly, early on, we seemed a little rattled, unsettled and I felt Sam was our calming influence that got us going,” Kilbride said. “We knew when they doubled Beaumont and were matching up and switching that Sam would be available.”

Trimberger made her first five shots and scored nine points during Benet’s 15-3 run to start the game, which surprisingly came with Beaumont taking just one shot before making a short turnaround jumper.

“We knew going into the game that they [Neuqua] were going to have some tricky defense,” Beaumont said. “As long as we get Sam the ball, more times than not things are going to work out. So as soon as I saw the double, I’m looking for her right away.”

Beaumont picked up her second foul with 4:06 left in the second quarter, and with her out, Neuqua scored six quick points, cutting it to 19-17 on a score by Zoe Navarro off a Benet turnover.

It was 24-17 at the half. Benet led only 26-24 two minutes out of the break until the Redwings finally gained separation.

Beaumont scored or assisted on nine straight points, and her 3-pointer with 4:08 left in the third quarter opened up a 33-24 lead.

“I struggled with foul trouble early on so I knew I just had to keep myself in the game,” said Beaumont, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. “Whether it’s scoring, assisting when I was doubled, I told myself I’m going to stay in this game [and] we gotta get this lead back.”

Neuqua Valley's Kylee Norkus (20) looks for room to operate around Benet's Samantha Trimmberger (25) and Bridget Rifenburg during Tuesday’s IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal girls basketball game in Aurora.

Caitlin Washington scored 13 points and Navarro had 10 for Neuqua, which was playing in its first sectional game since 2016.

The Wildcats were effective at times scoring in the open court off Benet turnovers. Making shots in the half court against a Benet zone, though, was a struggle.

Washington’s two free throws cut it to 33-26 with 3:53 left in the third quarter, but Neuqua didn’t score again until Tia Poulakidis split two free throws with 5:31 remaining in the game.

“Benet was playing well as a team together in the second half. They were hitting shots and we were not making a lot of shots,” said Neuqua junior Kylee Norkus, who scored just two points. “I felt like we were all just off.”

Neuqua shot just 9 for 31 over the first three quarters and managed only a combined 15 points over the middle two quarters.

“I wasn’t planning to play zone, but it seemed like they called the game tight and I wanted to protect our kids a little bit,” Kilbride said. “They struggled with it, so we stuck with it.”

The Wildcats in defeat had much to build on. Neuqua won the DuPage Valley Conference and won its first regional title since 2016. And Poulakidas, who scored eight points, is the only starter graduating.

“We have to look at the positives. We can’t put our heads down,” Norkus said. “We were 9-1 in conference, the only team that could say that. We also won regionals. That hasn’t happened since [2016]. We wanted to get that sectional title. That didn’t happen. We have to look at our strengths and weaknesses and see how we can build from that to next year.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.