Stillman Valley opened the girls basketball season on Monday, honoring Emily Fleming prior to a 39-34 victory against Sterling.
Fleming died in a car accident in Ogle County two months ago, and the Cardinals athletic department has paid tribute to her since, with decals on the football team's helmets, and other means of honoring the late cheerleader and basketball player. Stillman wore warmups with her #23, and started the game with four players, saving the fifth for Fleming.
"Emily was a really important part of our team. She still is and we just want to make her have the senior year she deserves," said teammate Taylor Hilliard.
Emily's family was in the stands for the game, humbled by another tribute to her. "It means a whole lot to us. I'm lost at words. To honor Emily in such a special way has meant a lot. In some ways it's comforting, and hard at the same time," said Emily's mom, Danna Flynn.