Adreian Payne got an assist from Lacey Holsworth after the Big Ten tournament a week ago. (Michael Conroy / AP)

The NCAA tournament is always filled with heart-warming stories, but there’s an especially sweet one that involves Michigan State’s Adreian Payne and an 8-year-old girl known as “Princess Lacey.”

Payne and Lacey Holsworth bonded two years ago when he was touring a hospital in which she was undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerves that often strikes infants and children. She walked onto the court with him during senior night, he attended a fundraising party for her and, after Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament, she helped Payne cut down the net.

Now,  the Spartans have advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 and Princess Lacey is a big part of the team’s journey.

“She’s a special friend,” Payne told the Big Ten Network, “and she’s like a sister to me.”

Michigan State plays Virginia in a 9:57 p.m. EDT game Friday night in Madison Square Garden and you’re going to be hearing more about Payne, who had a career-best 41 points in the Spartans’ first-round win, and Princess Lacey.