Playing for Lilly: North honors late friend in heroic fashion


EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – When North’s Kaylee Martin hit a miraculous game-winning shot against Vincennes Thursday night, it wasn’t just an ordinary game.

“When the shot went up and went in, there was nothing else that went through my mind besides that it was for her, and that she was there and the whole game was for her,” Martin said.

The game was in honor of Lillian Gardner — who passed away in October. The team wore warm up shirts that said Playing for Lilly during Thursday’s game.

“I think a way to just remember her and to know that she’s still here is to have a game, and it made me really happy to know that everyone else supported me,” Martin continued. “Me and my teammates wanted to have one for her.”

While Gardner wasn’t on the team, she often came to games. Gardner’s family said they believe Lilly was there that night — cheering on Martin and the Huskies.

“We were down a lot, 12 or 13, and the last shot that I made — the winning shot — I think that showed me that she’s still here, and she’s never left,” said Martin. “It really touched me, and a lot of other people.”

The North community has adopted the phrase, “I Live for Lilly.” Martin’s shoes say, “I Play for Lilly” to memorialize her late friend.

“She was at my sectional last year, and so instead of saying, ‘Living for Lilly,’ I wanted to make it more personal and touching for me. And so, I wanted to dedicate this season to playing for her.”

The North community is also finding new ways to carry on Gardner’s legacy.

A bench will soon be installed on North’s campus and a scholarship will be in her name.

“I think the Husky nation has really embraced what has happened, and made the school a little bit tighter, and to never forget Lilly because she was such a sweet, smiling, fun girl,” said Martin’s mother, Shelly Martin.

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(This story was originally published on January 17, 2021)

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