Girls basketball: Undersized Benet crashes boards for home win over Lyons

21-9 edge in offensive rebounds leads Redwings to victory

Benet sophomore Bridget Rifenburg

LISLE – Benet sophomore guard Bridget Rifenburg is making a quick adjustment to a bigger role this season.

After the graduation of superstar point guard Lenee Beaumont, the Redwings have been a team in transition the first month of the season.

Besides losing the do-it-all Beaumont, the Redwings don’t possess their traditional quality size in the post. The 2023-24 version is full of guards, but lacks a true front-court threat, which forces every player to pick up the slack by crashing the boards.

Enter the 5-foot-11 Rifenburg.

“I definitely play more of a guard position (in AAU), but because I’m one of the taller players on this team, it’s nice to play other positions like a combo guard,” Rifenburg said. “I’m pretty long, but it’s definitely weird to be one of the bigger players on this team. We’re a shorter team, but we get out and run fast, so having a bunch of guards on the floor helps us push the tempo a lot.”

The Redwings illustrated their team approach in Thursday’s 54-45 victory over Lyons in nonconference action in Lisle. Benet (4-2) outrebounded the taller Lyons 21-9 on the offensive glass, leading to several extended possessions and second-chance points.

The Redwings had a 180-degree turn from their season-opening blowout home loss to Batavia, jumping all over the Lions (5-1) in the second quarter on the way to building a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been working hard (on rebounding),” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “We don’t have much size, so we’re trying to really get after it. (Lyons) has great size. I thought we did an excellent job on both ends. The offensive boards I thought were really great.”

Lyons coach Meghan Hutchens pinpointed rebounding as the key to her team’s road loss. Lyons junior center Nora Ezike, who has multiple Power Five scholarship offers, sat out nearly all of the fourth quarter due to a minor injury. She was held to 10 points and three rebounds. Emma O’Brien had nine points for the Lions.

“Rebounds got us,” Hutchens said. “We were outrebounded. It was more rebounds and defending the 3-pointer tonight. We didn’t look like a good defensive team tonight.

“We can learn a lot from this (game). We have to defend the 3 and each player on the floor. We have to defend all five players, but we got destroyed on the boards, and every loose ball seemed to go in their hands. We fought, but just not hard enough.”

Rifenburg was a sparkplug for the Redwings, mainly due to her energy and rebounding. She finished with 11 points, while Lindsay Harzich and Emilia Sularski both had 10 points.

Rifenburg helped put the game out of reach by scoring on a drive to the basket and draining a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the final quarter.

“Bridget’s intensity and activity level is so high that she impacts a game without touching the ball, from her cutting, movement and blocking out and rebounding,” Kilbride said. “She’s continuing to get better. …She got good looks today and got to the rim and in the second half made that one 3. She’s getting shots.”

Kilbride said his team played a complete game against the Lions.

“I thought our effort and intensity level and pressure was really good today,” Kilbride said. “We did a great job on the glass … We’ve just been talking about stacking days. We’ve improved a lot since our opener. I like the trajectory of this group. We’re going to keep working and getting better as we go along.

“I’m pleased with this group and our progress.

Last season, Rifenburg averaged 2.7 points for the Class 4A runner-up Redwings, but she’s excited about her expanded role.

“It’s nice to take a step up being a sophomore this year,” Rifenburg said. “We came out and played a really good team today. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re improving every day. We had a good motor. They have a lot of tall girls, but we did a good job of attacking the boards today.”

Bob Narang

Bob Narang is a contributing sports reporter to Shaw Local News Network