EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil on the campus of Michigan State University following the death of an 8-year-old girl with cancer who befriended Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne and was a source of inspiration.
Payne was among several players at the vigil on Wednesday night for Lacey Holsworth. Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo addressed crowd, describing Lacey's strength in her final days.
"This little tiny girl, she wasn't that big," Izzo said. "She wasn't that strong. But she sure was powerful, wasn't she?"
Some at the vigil painted The Rock, an unofficial campus message board near the Red Cedar River, as a tribute to Lacey. Izzo said he was proud of the students for their show of support for the girl.
"I'm not sure I'd be that tough," he said. "I'm not sure my players would, and I'm not sure you would."
Lacey died late Tuesday at her St. Johns home, her father said. The little girl affectionately known as "Princess Lacey," had neuroblastoma, a nerve-cell cancer. She wore a blond wig because chemotherapy took her hair.
On Wednesday night, students sang the university's alma mater "MSU Shadows." By the time the vigil ended, The Rock was adorned with hundreds of messages, including "RIP Princess Lacey," ''Stay Beautiful" and "Spartans Forever."
"Learn from her that you don't have to be the biggest, the strongest to be tough. You just have to have a mentality," Izzo said.
"This year we beat a number one team. We beat a number one seeded team. We won a conference tournament. At the end of the year this team will be remembered for our togetherness with Lacey."
The vigil came together after junior Danielle Bott decided to paint The Rock and posted the idea on Facebook.
"She's an angel now," Bott told the Lansing State Journal. "We're excited to do this for her."
Lacey met Payne during one of her hospital stays, and their friendship quickly blossomed. The little girl became known to legions of basketball fans, cheering on Payne and the Spartans on Twitter.
"As students we wanted to reach out and show that we cared," senior Nick Cervantes to WLNS-TV. "Seeing her fighting, I remember thinking that's tough to see adults do, it was incredible to see how strong she was and how positive she was."
Lacey is survived by her parents, Matt and Heather Holsworth, and three brothers: Will, Mitchell and Luke. A memorial service is planned for April 17 at Breslin Center, Michigan State's arena in East Lansing.