SPENCER — Millwood's cheerleaders and fan wore purple ribbons Friday night. The Lady Falcons basketball team wore purple bows in their hair.
“Purple was Karisma's favorite color,” said Nikki Cramer, mother of Millwood starting freshman point guard Nykiah Hinds.
The Lady Falcons won another basketball game Friday night, defeating Star Spencer, 68-49, to run their record to 17-4. But there was no joyous celebration afterward.
Earlier in the day, Karisma Taylor, a member of the Lady Falcons freshman basketball squad, died at Children's Hospital.
Taylor, who had severe asthma attacks in the past, had been hospitalized since Monday after experiencing difficulty breathing during the warm-ups of Millwood's freshman game.
A moment of silence for Taylor was held before Millwood's girls and boys' basketball games at Star Spencer on Friday night.
Lady Falcons' basketball coach Arnelia Spears called Friday the most difficult day in her 43-year coaching career.
“It's hard to lose a Falcon, especially a kid in basketball,” Spears said. “When you lose a kid at Millwood, it's like losing family.”
Cramer, who made and distributed the purple ribbons to fans at the Star Spencer contests, said Millwood players, coaches and fans were devastated by news of Taylor's death.
“Today, there have been a lot of tears and hugs,” Cramer said Friday night. “We are going to be there for each other to help us get through this. It's been really hard for (Nykiah). She broke down pretty bad before the game.”
Spears said several of her players were crying before tipoff Friday night. The news of Taylor's death was announced at the school earlier in the day, she said.
Cramer asked her daughter before the game if she wanted to still play Friday night. Hinds assured her mother that she wanted to play for Karisma.
After the game, Hinds was fighting back tears while talking about her classmate.
“She was just really fun to be around. She would always laugh when you talked to her,” Hinds said. “She was just real quiet and always down to earth.”
Hinds said it was hard not to think about her friend during the game. It was Taylor's first year to play basketball, she said.
“It was difficult to come out here and play, but I am glad I did,” she said. “It was just really emotional for all of us.”
Spears said the Lady Falcons will wear purple bows in their hair for the rest of the season in memory of Taylor.
The color gray often is used to promote asthma awareness, so the team also will wear gray socks for the remainder of the season, Spears said.
“Our prayers go out to the family,” she said.