MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–Losing basketball games is never easy. Losing a teammate is borderline unbearable. That happened to the Harlem girls’ basketball team last summer when Abbi MacGregor passed away.

“She was the craziest, funniest person I’ve ever met,” said Harlem senior Broroklynn Brien. “Every day at practice we’d talk the entire time. It was the best friendship I’ve ever had.”

“She was a lot of fun. She always had funny stories to tell,” said Harlem junior Paige Stovall. “She was very nice. Very caring and she made everyone laugh.”

Abbi MacGregor would have been a senior this season. She passed away last July 6th shortly after a tumor was discovered in her brain. It all happened very suddenly. She passed not from cancer, but from complications following surgery to remove the tumor.

Harlem head coach Beth Meyer says there wasn’t any indication late last season that there was anything seriously wrong with MacGregor. “She had headaches leading up to what eventually did happen, but you wouldn’t have known, because she was always happy and smiley and ready to get after it in practice.”

Six months have passed since Abbi died, but she’s still very much a part of the team.
Before every home game one Harlem player wears Abbi’s number 30 jersey to honor her. Paige Stovall wore it the first game. It was, as you can imagine, an emotional moment.

“It (playing tribute to Abbi) helps a lot,” said Stovall. “It’s hard, but it does help to know that we’re not forgetting about her, because that was my fear was that we were going to like, ignore it, but I’m really glad we’re honoring her.”

“I have seen another program do it, so that was part of it,” said Meyer. “In addition to that, we didn’t know what to do with the jersey. We had the jersey. We had ordered it for her specifically and, you know, what do you do with it? We didn’t want to necessarily retire it. It’s a brand new jersey, so we were like, lets honor her in this way.”

Senior Brooklynn Brien, one of Abbi’s closest friends, wore number 30 for Harlem’s second home game.

“It was so special to me because I transferred to Harlem my freshman year, so she was the first friend I made here, and like, the first person that talked to me, so wearing her number was very surreal.”

Did you feel her presence at all that night when you were wearing it?

“I did yea, and I was praying to her like help me through the game, not to cry and stuff.”

The Harlem girls also wear ‘AbbiStrong’ shirts during warmups before every game, home and away. Keeping Abbi close to them with these tributes has helped the girls through the grieving process.

“Abbi was a big part of our program,” said Meyer. “She wasn’t our leading scorer. She wasn’t our captain or anything like that, but in her own way she did inspire and lead and do wonderful things that helped others be great. She gave everything she had every single day.”

Brien summed up what she has learned from the past six months. “I’ve just learned never take anything for granted, and to really cherish the people that are in your lives when they’re in your lives, because you never know when the last day is that they’re going to be in your lives.”