Hoop dreams come true for Lauren Hill as she fights brain tumor

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It was the first college basketball game of the year, at a little-known Division III school called Mount St. Joseph's. But by the end of the night, the entire sports world had heard about "The Mount" and a brave freshman basketball player named Lauren Hill.

A 19-year-old whose dream was to one day take the college hard court, Hill didn't know if the opportunity would ever come.

She played high school ball in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Last year she was the senior who decided to attend the Mount, a small school in Cincinnati. Oh, and she also was diagnosed with cancer months before graduating.

A Dream

More specifically, an inoperable brain cancer.

Hill is well aware of the tragedy of her situation and the morbid curiosity others might take in it. The signs and banners made in her honor, which carry no healing power but simply add to the enormity of her situation. The newspapers and television appearances, that have only increased in recent months.

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Her story had already been well documented when she arrived on campus this fall. Then, in September, it took another turn: her doctors told her that she would only have a few months left to live -- and that she might miss the opening game of the season, which was set for mid-November.

But Hill didn't settle for that. She worked with her coach and the coach of Hiram College to fight for an earlier date. And after reaching out to the NCAA, the move was approved.

Setting the stage for Sunday night. Nov. 2. Game day.

First touch

There wasn't even a promise that Hill would be healthy enough for her big day.

But the 5-foot-11 freshman was able to suit up despite headaches and nausea stemming from her tumor. The matchup between tiny teams that would typically draw no more than 100 fans, according to ESPN, saw 10,000 in its stands at Xavier University. They were there to see her. 

With cheers and shouts, sign and adoration, they greeted Hill.

The game was all about her.

With the opening possession of the game, Hill received the ball on an inside pass and finished with the layup, for the first score of the college basketball season. Her team stormed the court after the ball went through.

This is a really good day - Lauren Hill

At halftime, she was surprised with the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, given to her by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

And then for the last points of the game, Hill took another drive to the rim, finishing with four points and wrapping up a memorable night.

"I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd," Hill said after the 66-55 win over Hiram. "This game has been amazing and everything that happened today was amazing."

"This is a really good day."

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