For Lauren Hill, the Indiana teen with an inoperable brain tumor, two baskets during her college team’s season opener on Sunday afternoon was more than a dream come true. Hill’s one wish after being diagnosed with the rare, fatal cancer that would kill her soon was to have a chance to play a game with Mount St. Joseph University’s team. By the end of game, she’d managed two layups to standing ovations — and helped her team win.
“This game was amazing,” Hill told the Associated Press. “It was awesome in every way. It’s a dream come true. To play on a college court, to put my foot down on the floor and hear the roar of the crowd – I just love it so much. I love basketball.
“Everything that happened today was amazing. I’m truly happy," she said, according to the Associated Press.
The 19-year-old was diagnosed just last winter. More recently, doctors told Hill she had only months, perhaps just weeks, to live. That meant she might miss out on a chance to play in her university’s first game of the season.
To help Hill have a chance to play, the NCAA granted a waiver so her school’s season could start two weeks early with a game on Nov. 2. Support for the young woman was so great that the game had to be moved off the campus to a larger venue at Xavier University. Even so, the tickets — all 10,250 of them —sold out within minutes after being put on sale.
The Mount St. Joseph's 66-55 win against Hiram College not only fulfilled Hill's dream, all proceeds from the event go to "The Cure Starts Now," a group working for a cure for pediatric brain cancer.
Hill had been a talented basketball player in high school, good enough to be recruited in her junior year, Zane Grey, the head girls’ basketball coach at Lawrenceburg High School, told TODAY. “She had been looked at to play before she even set foot on the court her senior year. She had done great things for us.”
Before the game, Hill talked about her anticipation.
“Hearing the crowd and feeling the floor vibrate and the rumble in your chest when the roar comes— I’m excited for it, beyond excited,” Hill told NBC’s John Yang.
The university’s head coach worried whether Hill would feel well enough to play.
“This could possibly be the last time she takes the floor,” the basketball team's head coach Dan Benjamin told Yang. “We want her to be able to succeed. She might only see a minute or two. We just don’t know how she is going to feel that day.”
Teammate Tara Dennis knew the moment Hill stepped on the court would be emotional. “There’s going to be a lot of tears, that’s for sure. But they’re going to be happy tears because that’s what she always wanted.”
During most of the game on Sunday, Hill sat on the bench wearing sunglasses and headphones. But she stepped onto the court at the beginning and end of the game, scoring four points for her team.
Her determination echoed the fighting spirit White saw on the high school basketball court.
“The same kind of focus she’s showing at living is the kind of effort she gave playing basketball,” he said. “She’s never lost any of her positivity or tenaciousness.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Linda Carroll is a regular contributor to NBCNews.com and TODAY.com. She is co-author of "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” and the recently published “Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry”