Lacey Holsworth, the little girl who was a big fan of Michigan State basketball and star player Adreian Payne, has passed away. The Holsworth family shared the news of her death via Instagram early Wednesday, April 9. She was 8 years old.
"Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels," her family wrote alongside a picture of the bubbly blonde blowing a kiss. "The world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night... Mommy and Daddy, Will, Mitchell and Luke #LoveLikeLacey."
Holsworth was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects the nerve tissue, in 2011. The tumors found on her spine and kidney were so severe that she was unable to freely move. Holsworth's friendship with Payne, a senior forward at MSU, traces back to more than two years ago, when his team visited her at the hospital.
The two pals were pictured frequently together, with Payne oftentimes carrying the 8-year-old -- most memorably up a ladder to cut down the nets after the Spartans had won the Big Ten tournament. She cheered on Payne in Texas last week when he was part of a slam dunk contest.
MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo told USA Today that he spoke to a distraught Payne early Wednesday morning. "Even though he knew this was inevitable," Izzo said of Payne, "it's hard."
"But he took it with the class and dignity that she taught him," Izzo added. "I told him, 'Not everybody gets to touch somebody's life like you have. And sometimes other people impact your life, too.'"
Like many others, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was heartbroken by Holsworth's death. Vitale called Lacey's father, Matt Holsworth, and told him he was going to donate $250,000 in her name, USA Today reported. "I can't believe it," Vitale told the paper before sobbing for a few seconds. "This rips my heart out, man."