By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Shea O'Brien woke up with a terrible pain in her stomach Dec. 28, but she ignored it. There was a game to play.
The Pittsfield girls basketball team faced Lewistown in the Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic that night, and O'Brien scored 18 points as the Lady Saukees won 41-33.
Then she gave in to the pain.
Once home, O'Brien was taken to the emergency room at Illini Community Hospital and diagnosed with appendicitis. She was prepped for and underwent surgery that night.
Less than 24 hours later, after being discharged, she was back in Beardstown to watch the Lady Saukees knock off Unity 40-36.
"I went to the game that day because it was a big game," O'Brien said. "After I went to that game, I slept for about two days."
Her teammates were worried -- and in some cases fascinated -- by the sudden ailment.
"I want to be a nurse," senior Alyssa Heavner said. "I kind of like gross things. She had her surgery late that night and the next day she came to our game. As soon as she came to the gym, I ran up to her and said, ‘Let me see your stomach. I want to see your scars.' Even (Tuesday) night, when we were changing before the game, I asked her to see it again. I just want to make sure it's healing right."
O'Brien, who is Pittsfield's leading scorer at nearly 20 points per game, hated the idea of having to sit for two weeks. She prefers to be active and doesn't like to sit around.
Instead of taking time off, O'Brien spent her Christmas break with the team.
"I went to all the practices," O'Brien said. "I would dribble and shoot, even though I really wasn't suppose to."
During her four-game absence, Pittsfield had three different girls lead the team in scoring. Heavner, sophomore Brittany Miller and junior Jaylee Clements all stepped in to lead the offense.
"It was definitely tough seeing that one of our key players was going to be out for two weeks," Heavner said. "Like I told our teammates, even though we can't play with her, we need to play for her. If that's not enough motivation for us, we're not a team. When someone is down and out, you have to pick it up and play for her and show her that we can do it without her. Even though she wasn't playing with us, she was coaching us through it."
In her return Jan. 15, O'Brien scored 14 points as the Lady Saukees beat Western 46-33 and has followed it up with 19- and 21-point efforts.
Coincidentally, Pittsfield (13-10) has won all three games.
Yet, O'Brien knows her game can be better. The time off gave her the opportunity to assess her play, and she would like to be more consistent.
"I didn't like it, but those two weeks made me realize it was time to get my head in the game," O'Brien said. "I have some games where I really show up and some games where I don't. As a senior, that can't happen and I need to show up every game."
Part of her improvement will have to come from the mental aspect of her game. If things don't go her way early, she tends to get frustrated.
"If I miss quite a few shots, it usually messes with my head and my defense," O'Brien said. "That's something I've done better this year, when my offensive game goes bad, I can still play on the defensive end. That's helped me stay in the game and not lose my head."
O'Brien can count on her teammates to help her improve.
"It's mostly the girls, they know when I'm down and they try not to let me get down," O'Brien said. "They're always picking me up and telling me to keep shooting and let it come to me. Having girls like that is nice on the court. Instead of putting me down, they bring me up."