Claire Keefe's thumbs provided a thumbs-up medical update.
"She's been texting me today. So she's OK," Libertyville girls basketball coach Greg Pedersen said Monday after his Wildcats, minus Keefe, beat Streamwood 59-44 in the teams' opening game of Libertyville's inaugural tournament. "She wants to know how we did."
The Wildcats did quite well considering they were missing their four-year varsity starter. The 6-foot Keefe was ill enough to be hospitalized. She had been sick for a few days and missed a couple of practices before Christmas.
"She thought it was strep, but it turns out that it's something else," Pedersen said.
With Keefe out, 5-10 sophomore Maddie Spaulding received her first varsity start and responded by scoring 6 of her 10 points in the opening quarter to help stake Libertyville to a lead that it never relinquished. Caroline Frea led Libertyville (6-7) with 19 points and 9 rebounds, while Riley Weis added 15 points, including four 3-pointers.
Spaulding, a first-year varsity player, acknowledged she was both nervous and excited for the opportunity.
"I was excited for the challenge," Spaulding said with a smile.
Jenejha Williams, Streamwood's 6-foot-3 senior, posted game highs of 23 points, including a 3-pointer, and 15 rebounds. But only four other Sabres, including freshman guard Mandy Mien (11 points), scored.
"We can't win if I have 23 (points) and then everyone else has 4 or 2," Williams said. "We're almost there."
Streamwood (5-6) was also short-handed. While the Sabres welcomed back guard Monica Brown from a concussion, fellow junior starter Andrea Bracy was out after suffering a concussion in practice recently.
Brown started and grabbed a couple of rebounds but didn't score.
"She was getting her feet back," Streamwood coach George Rosner said. "She practiced only once in the last couple of weeks."
Rosner, whose team plays Cary-Grove at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, added he thinks Bracy will be back before the tournament is over.
"I'm really excited for that," Williams said of her teammate's return. "I just want everyone to be healthy so that we can play with our full team."
Streamwood scored two quick baskets to start the game, but Libertyville freshman Lydia Crow drained a 3-pointer to kick-start the Wildcats' offense, and Spaulding followed with back-to-back layups. Frea's jumper in the closing seconds of the opening quarter had Libertyville up 20-8.
"We let them run, and they ran," Rosner said. "They found open people and hit good shots. And then we're chasing the rest of the way."
All five of Libertyville's starters -- Frea, Weis, Spaulding, Crow and Morgan Manski -- sank a shot from the floor in the first quarter.
"Our first unit did really well," Pedersen said. "When you go out without your team leader and your best player, I think it motivates the rest of the team to make up for her absence. Kids come out with an edge that they have to make Claire proud, wherever she is."
Streamwood never cut its deficit to single digits after the first quarter. A pair of free throws by Mien midway through the fourth made it 49-39, but Manski (8 points) scored off an inbounds play to keep the Sabres at bay.
"They had five people on the court that could all score," Rosner said. "That's a nice team to have."
It will be nicer for Libertyville if it can get Keefe back for the tournament.
"(She brings) energy and a lot of competitiveness," said Spaulding, who also had 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
The Wildcats face Hoffman Estates at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The tournament concludes Thursday.