WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Playing with purpose. Kansas State University (K-State) pulled out an overtime win in the Sweet 16 on Thursday against Michigan State, and the team was playing for more than just themselves.
“Crazy faith.” That’s what K-State men’s head basketball coach Jerome Tang lives by.
Two weeks ago, K-State freshman Lillyan “Lilly” Koehn of Wichita died in a car crash. Minutes before Thursday night’s game, Coach Tang took time to dedicate that game to her.
A lover of God and K-State basketball. These are just two ways to describe 19-year-old Lilly.
“She drove down to Oklahoma State cheering for our game there, and she just she was just a big fan, and they told me that she was more big fan of me than necessarily the basketball team,” said Coach Tang.
Thursday night, in New York City, he had the freshman on his mind.
“Sitting, you know, 40 minutes before the game instead of just me thinking about what could go wrong and everything like that, I said, ‘Man, I can use this time to bless somebody’s life,'” said Coach Tang.
That’s when he picked up the phone and called Lilly’s parents.
“My mom told me that the worst pain someone could ever experience is burying the child,” said Coach Tang.
Coach Tang told Lilly’s parents that he was praying for them and that the team was going to play the game in her honor.
The Koehn family was touched by the call.
“Reaching out to hurting people like us … mere minutes before he took his team onto the floor for that Sweet 16 game, with all the pressures of a first-year head coach … just speaks to the power of the body of Christ,” said the Koehn family.
“I was really shocked. I instantly got chills, and I’m not going to lie, I started tearing up,” said Lilly’s friend Meredith Frahm.
The Wildcats won in an overtime thriller, punching their ticket to the Elite Eight.
“I really think that made such a big impact in the in the players and the coaches and that they honored the game to Lilly,” said Frahm.
Lilly’s parents say that no matter the wins and losses, they will forever be fans of Coach Tang, adding his prayers and others are keeping them going.
Our beautiful, joyful and loving daughter was a friend to so many in every community she was a part of. She had a confidence which came from her Creator, and she lived her life in a way that showed that faith to everyone. She loved every minute at KSU and dove headfirst into all activities and the K-State community. She became an instant Coach Tang fan, mostly because of his loving personality and the way he also dove right in to the K-State community.
They shared a faith in God which drove them to love people and engage with people- even those who believed differently. To know that Coach Tang was thinking of loving others and reaching out to hurting people like us- mere minutes before he took his team onto the floor for that Sweet 16 game, with all the pressures of a first-year head coach- just speaks to the power of the body of Christ. He touched us not because he is a great coach and a public figure, but because he has his priorities straight. His prayers for us along with so many others in our wonderful community are sustaining us.
As he said at the end of the game last night, it’s all about love. That love doesn’t come from human hearts, it is supernatural and a gift from Christ living within us. We are forever Coach Tang fans no matter wins or losses.The Koehn family
Lilly cheers on the Cats from above.