CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Overwhelming and exciting may be the best ways to describe Lauren Hill's long-awaited debut on the college basketball court with her Mount St. Joseph teammates.
"Today has been the best day I've ever had. Thank you guys so much," said Hill on the court to the crowd on Sunday.
Hill and her teammates took home a 66-55 win against Hiram College in front of more than 10,000 people at the Cintas Center.
"It's a dream come true to play on the college court," Hill said after the game.
Just seconds into the game, her dream came true on a play designed for only her known as "Lauren's Layup." She nailed a layup with her non-dominant hand, because the tumor has affected her right hand, her dominant hand.
"It was so thrilling to get there and be able to put my foot down and just feel the roar of the crowd, and the vibration of the floorboards. I love it so much," she said.
Last year, as a high school senior in Lawrenceburg she committed to play basketball at Mount St. Joseph. Her coach says just 49 days after that, she brought them the news that she was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer known as DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma). It's a condition so rare, only about 150 cases are identified in children in North America each year. Because of the tumor, bright lights and loud noises become too much to take, forcing her to wear sunglasses and earmuffs while on the bench.
"When I was diagnosed, I remember feeling lonely because nobody understood. Nobody truly understood," Hill said.
But now, coast to coast, more people do understand.
"She kept asking, 'Can we just spread the awareness?' I asked her as we started walking out, 'Hey, Lauren, what'd you think about all this awareness?' She said, 'coach, I never thought it would get this big,'" explained Dan Benjamin, women's basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph.
An awareness that's grown so big, the game was moved off campus to a bigger venue. A hashtag, #Layup4Lauren, is spreading like wildfire to raise money for research of this devastating disease to help keep that awareness going. On Sunday alone, Lauren's story helped raise $40,000 for that research.
"I'm probably not going to be around to see it, but it's going to help a lot of people. It's going to help everybody. That's why we need to keep staying with it," Hill said after the game.
While Lauren's disease is likely to cut her time short, what's been called "one last game" is just the beginning for Lauren Hill.
"I don't plan on it being my last game. Even if I can't play, if I'm in a wheelchair by then or anything that happens, I'm still going to try to be there with my team and be there to support them because they've always been here to support me," Hill said.
During a halftime presentation, Hill was presented the "Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award" from the award's namesake, legendary women's basketball coach, Pat Summitt.
Hill re-entered the game in the final seconds, getting another shot at another layup. She finished the day shooting 2-of-3 with four points in her college debut.