LISLE – Samantha Trimberger is the perfect fit on Benet.
The 6-foot junior provides length defensively, and can be a playmaker. She has the ability to finish near the rim, yet doesn’t need to score to have an impact. Above all else, Trimberger is an exceptional rebounder.
She showcased that particular skill in a big way Thursday.
Trimberger grabbed seven rebounds, all at the offensive end, in the first half, part of the Redwings’ dominant effort on the offensive glass. Top-seeded Benet hit nine 3-pointers, scored the game’s first 13 points, led by 29 at half and went on to a 65-32 win over ninth-seeded Plainfield East in the Class 4A Benet Regional final.
It’s Benet’s eighth straight regional title, 12th in the last 13 postseasons and 22nd since 1997. That consistency requires stars, and it also takes girls like the unassuming Trimberger who does the dirty work on the boards.
“Rebounding is something I always try to fall back on,” Trimberger said. “Today my shots obviously weren’t falling for me, but if I can get my own rebound and pass it off to someone else or go up again that’s helping the whole team. That’s something I control.”
Indeed, it wasn’t Trimberger’s best night finishing, as she shot 2 for 8. But she showed determination, pulling down several of her own misses. On one possession, Trimberger alone had three offensive rebounds. On another, she passed up a contested shot in the paint to kick the ball out for a Margaret Temple corner 3.
Chasing offensive rebounds is a different mindset, one Trimberger has clearly embraced.
“When you’re offensive rebounding it’s not necessarily your goal to be boxing someone out, so you can go full force at the rim to try to get it,” said Trimberger, who also had five steals. “When you can put in the effort and go, it helps.”
Trimberger won a starting spot last summer, but missed some time with sickness in December. She returned the day after Christmas, a big lift to a Benet team built on defense and rebounding. Benet coach Joe Kilbride compared Trimberger’s fit to that of Elise Stout, a starter on his 2015 and 2016 state title teams.
“Sam is one of those really important kids from the standpoint that she fits perfectly with our group,” Kilbride said. “I think it was [former Boston Celtics coach] Red Auerbach that said you don’t play the best five, you play the five that fit best together. She is a perfect fit for what we need.”
Morgan Demos had 14 points and eight rebounds, Lenee Beaumont 13 points, five rebounds and three steals and Temple and Emilia Sularski nine points each for Benet (27-3), which moves on to face the Plainfield North/Waubonsie Valley winner in Tuesday’s sectional semifinal at East Aurora.
Taylor French scored 11 points and Jocelyn Trotter eight for Plainfield East (14-14). The Bengals beat Neuqua Valley, 60-46, in a regional semifinal, reversing a double-digit regular season loss to the Wildcats.
But the Bengals were overwhelmed by the combination of Benet’s second-chance points and 3-point shooting. The Redwings hit 4 for 9 3-pointers in the first quarter and grabbed nine offensive rebounds to lead 22-8 after a quarter. It was 42-13 by halftime.
“We’ve rebounded well since the middle of December and for us to get pushed around, that was the only disappointing part,” Plainfield East coach Tony Waznonis said. “That’s where it got us in the hole. We knew they were going to hit shots, but one of the things we said is we had to finish possessions.”
Beaumont hit three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter after missing her first shot, the second 3 giving Benet a 13-0 lead less than three minutes in. On each Beaumont shot, Kilbride yelled “bang” before it even left her hand.
“Coach is always saying to keep shooting, even when I’m not,” Beaumont said. “It makes me smile inside when I hear him say that.”
Benet’s rebounding, in particular, made Kilbride smile. The Redwings had 28 rebounds in the first half alone, 14 at the offensive end.
“I thought our rebounding was elite today,” Kilbride said. “I thought we were good today.”
Plainfield East is graduating a good one, as French is headed to Illinois Wesleyan to play volleyball. But the Bengals will return four of five starters. This season, which matched Plainfield East’s win total from the last three seasons combined, provided much to build on.
“We were all year relatively young. It’s a good learning experience and I hope they take from it,” Waznonis said. “The seniors set a nice foundation for us to build on. They really got us back to learning what it is to battle again.”