Basketball fans flocked to Augustana College’s Carver Center in droves Saturday night. Brea Beal gave them quite a show.
In front of a standing room only crowd and multiple Division I coaches, Beal proved why she’s one of the nation’s most heralded girls basketball recruits in the 2019 class.
The Rock Island 6-foot-1 sophomore was too big, too strong and too good for Davenport North. Beal scored 20 of her game-high 32 points in the first half as the Rocks rolled past the Wildcats 65-54 in the signature game of the IHMVCU Shootout.
“It was a lot more different than a normal conference game,” Beal said. “You had people hyping this one up, saying they’re better than us or we’re better than them.
“It was fun to play in front of a crowd like that.”
Beal was dominant.
Closing in on 1,000 career points, Beal did most of her damage inside against a North squad saddled with early foul trouble. Beal made 11 consecutive field goals in one stretch and finished 13 of 15 from the floor to go along with nine rebounds.
“She’s growing every day, which is amazing because she was awfully good last year and awfully good at the beginning of this season,” Rock Island coach Thad Hoover said. “She’s growing mentally and what she needs to do. She doesn’t get too high or too low during a game.
“She’s a great talent that just keeps getting better.”
Rock Island, ranked third in Illinois Class 4A, has recorded some eye-popping wins this season. It knocked off nationally-ranked Lisle Benet and topped two-time Class 3A state champion Morton.
You can add Iowa Class 5A fourth-ranked North to the list.
“We just want to keep playing well and improving each time we play,” Hoover said. “We know how good North was, but we’ve played a lot of good teams this year. The focus is on us and what we do. As long as we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
After the teams combined for 41 points in the opening quarter, Rock Island (17-1) seized control in the second quarter.
Beal triggered a 15-4 quarter for the Rocks to help them build a 10-point halftime cushion.
“I was comfortable and not rushing anything,” Beal said. “I just took my time and went up when I needed to. It was just easy buckets.”
And the fouls mounted for North. Coral Dillie, Jinaya Houston and Paige Bradford all had multiple fouls in the opening half.
“Once we got into foul trouble, we couldn’t defend as hard as we like to defend,” North coach Ron O’Brien said.
It carried over to the offensive end. North scored 21 points in the opening eight minutes but mustered only two field goals in the second period.
“That second quarter was the difference in the game,” O’Brien said. “We lost track of what we were doing and we got away from our game. We didn’t get good shots. It hurt us.”
The margin swelled to 17 points in the third quarter. North (7-2) trimmed the deficit to nine on several occasions but wouldn’t draw any closer.
“I think everybody looked at the score and being down so much, we forced some things that didn’t need to be shot,” Houston said. “And we missed some easy shots. The focus wasn’t really there the whole time.”
Davenport West transfer Chrislyn Carr joined Beal in double figures with 18 points for the Rocks, who made eight 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from the field.
Houston, an Iowa signee, finished with a team-high 21 points and five steals for the Wildcats. Jacionna Stowers and Paige Bradford each had a dozen points for North, which was held almost 17 points below its season average.
“This was definitely a learning experience,” Houston said. “It was a fun game. We don’t get these kind of games like this in the MAC with a great crowd and environment.”
North just hopes the experience can pay dividends in about six weeks.
“The best thing out of this game was we played one of the best teams in the Midwest in front of a huge crowd,” O’Brien said. “Sure, we’d love to win, but I'd rather play this game and lose than a 40-point win in a quiet gym somewhere.”