PEKIN — When Brea Beal sees an advantage, she takes it.
Against a triangle-and-two defense, Beal saw her advantage early in Friday's championship game at the Class 4A Pekin Regional and used it all night en route to 27 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks and two assists in a 60-35 Rocks win over Normal West at Hawkins Gym.
"That is Brea being Brea," RI coach Thad Hoover said. "She does such a nice job of taking what a team gives her and not pushing the play. She has learned that she doesn't need the ball right away, she lets the play come to her, and when the opportunity comes, she jumps on it."
The opportunity on this night was the ability to dominate in the paint. Beal spent much of the game posting up in the lane and then going at the smaller Wildcats.
"Definitely, if I can see an advantage early in the game, I am going to take it and keep going at it," Beal said. "There are nights when teams are taking away the inside and I'll go to my jump shot. This was a game where I knew early in the game that I could go inside and keep going inside."
And that keeps the Rocks moving on in the tournament. They now play Bradley-Bourbonnais on Monday in the Champaign Centennial Sectional. The IHSA site still has that game listed at site TBA.
Even with Beal going wild, the Wildcats (19-10) stayed close to the Rocks (23-7) through the first quarter or so. Then, Chrislyn Carr, who struggled with her shot most of the night, made three straight 3-pointers to give RI a 32-17 halftime lead.
"For sure, my shot was off and it wasn't a great game for me shooting the ball," said Carr, who finished with 18 points and five assists. "That is the time when I know I just have to get my teammates involved. Luckily, some shots fell in the second quarter and at the end of the game."
Beal took over the game in the third, scoring 15 of the team's 16 points and pushed the Rocks to a 48-25 lead.
Beal and Carr were not alone in the heroics. Lauren Hall hit two 3s in the first half and finished with six points and 10 rebounds; Alysse Parker scored five early points when the RI offense was struggling to get untracked; and Anne Awour had a putback basket, two blocks and grabbed nine rebounds.
"We saw another junk defense, and we were patient enough to get the ball to the other girls, and they made some shots," Hoover said. "That made Normal West cover the entire court and opened it up for Brea and Chrislyn."
Beal and Carr were happy to see Awour have such a big game.
"When Anne is involved it is amazing for the whole team because it opens up so much," Carr said.
Added Beal, "We are always on Anne about being more aggressive. You saw what she can do when she does that. She was rebounding great, and her defensive presence is so huge for us."
Ayanna Gibbs led the Wildcats with 13 points. NW was just 3-for-21 from 3-point range and missed all 12 attempts in the second half, nine of those being airballs.
"I thought our defense was very good," Hoover said. "We played very well on offense again. I wasn't happy with the rebounding. We did out-rebound them (46-26), but we gave up several second-chance baskets, and our guards were not active enough."