Beaumont, Benet race past Yorkville to ninth straight regional title
Lenee Beaumont knows well the heightened sense of urgency this time of year.
The Benet senior guard and Indiana recruit last season led the Redwings to fourth place in Class 4A, and winning was all that was on her mind. Beaumont, though, has extra motivation for another memorable playoff run these days, and it is not hard to understand why.
"Being a senior, coming into the playoffs, everything is on the line," Beaumont said. "It's just a different feeling knowing this can be your last game. I'm just going out there and not holding back."
She indeed played Thursday like a girl not ready to move on to the Big Ten just yet.
Beaumont scored 16 of her 27 points in the first half, and also had 10 rebounds and four steals. Top-seeded Benet raced out to a 20-point halftime lead on 10th-seeded Yorkville and went on to a 57-34 win in the Class 4A Yorkville Regional final.
Benet (21-7), which won its ninth straight regional title and 13th since 2009, advances to face fourth-seeded Neuqua Valley in Tuesday's sectional semifinal at West Aurora.
Led by Beaumont, Benet made a living in the lane against a Yorkville team lacking in size and interior defense.
The 6-foot guard made a turnaround jumper in the lane for her first basket, giving Benet the lead for good at 9-7 just over two minutes in. She followed her own miss less than a minute later, scored on an inbounds play off an assist from Maggie Sularski and later made a spinning shot in the lane.
Beaumont's hard driving layup to start the second quarter and coast-to-coast floater in the lane capped an 11-0 run for a commanding 24-10 lead. Beaumont, who shot 12 for 23 from the floor, only attempted three shots from beyond the 3-point line, and it was no coincidence why she was on the attack.
"Coach said there was going to be some mismatches; they're not the biggest team or the tallest," Beaumont said. "We just used it to our advantage."
Indeed, Benet led 36-16 by halftime, an offensive performance much to the delight of Benet coach Joe Kilbride.
Samantha Trimberger had six points and 15 rebounds for Benet, which had seven different players score in the first half and committed just one turnover.
"I thought out first half offensively was as good as we've played in a long time," Kilbride said. "We were moving the ball, sharing the ball, getting to the rim, playing inside-out, paint touches almost every possession. I was very pleased. Playoffs, you have to take advantage of whatever the matchups looks like. We thought tonight she had an opportunity to be pretty dominant inside. They don't have a lot of length."
Both teams came out hot offensively, Alex Stewart's 3-pointer for Yorkville two minutes in tying it 7-7 and it was 15-10 after a quarter.
But Benet made a key switch to a zone midway through the quarter, and it seemed to muddy up a Yorkville team that prefers to play at a fast pace. The Foxes shot just 3 for 16 in the second quarter in which they scored six points, two nights after scoring 66 in a win over Plainfield North.
"[Benet] went zone and we just didn't get the ball moving quick enough," Yorkville coach Kim Wensits said. "We made some adjustments at halftime and the kids did much better, got the ball moving. Alex was very aggressive in the zone and that opened things up for everybody else."
Stewart scored eight of her team-high 13 points in the third quarter. Brooke Spychalski, one of four sophomores who played for Yorkville (19-13) this season, added seven points.
All and all, it was a season that the Foxes returned to the winning basketball the program played for much of the latter half of last decade.
Yorkville's 19 wins were its most since the 2017-2018 season, and the Foxes reached their first regional final since 2019.
"That's what we told them in the locker room, that you brought us back to what the expectation for Yorkville basketball is," Wensits said. "It had been three seasons since we had a winning record, three seasons since we had been in a regional championship -- these are the games we want to be in. It's a good learning experience for our younger kids."