Mount St. Joseph freshman forward Lauren Hill bravely defied a terminal brain tumor to live her basketball dream by scoring the first and last baskets in her team’s season-opening win.
Hill triumphed before a sold out crowd of 10,250 as well as a full media contingent and TV coverage starting the game out by making an uncontested left-handed lay-up for the first basket of the game. She also made the final basket with 26.5 seconds remaining in the game.
Hill, 19-years-old, suffers from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma and has been given only two months to live.
Only seconds after tip-off, Mount Joseph players passed Hill the ball and she sunk a quick left-hand lay-up to start the game off. Later, as the game wound down, coach Emily Hays put the stricken girl back in and she soon made a left-hand attempt for a second basket that failed.
But fellow player Tara Davis gobbled up the rebound and immediately passed it back to Hill who was able to sink one right-handed giving her team a 66-55 victory over Hiram College at Cintas Center.
“The first basket was awesome. I was happy I made it on the first try,” Hill recalled later. “The second basket was even more awesome because I did it with my right hand, which is my hand I’ve been having difficulties with. And I was strong enough to get it up there. My second shot was just as sweet.”
“Today has been the best day I’ve ever had,” the brave player said at the end of the game.
“It was a dream come true to play as a college player,” Hill said nearly in tears. “It was great to be able to put my foot down and just feel the roar of the crowd and the vibration of the floor… I just love it so much.”
A group of children from a local Cincinnati hospital, some with brain tumors and others with cancer, attended the game to watch Hill’s inspiring performance in a game billed as Hill’s last.
11-year-old Cynthia Towne, who is fighting cancer, wore a headband that said “believe” on it. The girl’s mother said that she is happy Hill has lived long enough to see her basketball dream come true.
“But there’s also sadness knowing that how much awareness she brings right now, she won’t get to reap the benefits personally. That’s what’s amazing; she did this, knowing that,” she said.
As to Lauren Hill, she has announced that she hopes this isn’t her last game as her team has several more to go before she thinks she will be too incapacitated to lend a hand.
“I don’t want it to be my last game and I don’t plan on it being my last game,” Hill said in a press conference. “If I can’t play, if I’m in wheelchair by then or anything that happens, I’m still going to try to be there with my team to support them because they’ve always been there to support me.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com