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A final look at the Lauren Hill game

Basketball means a lot to a lot of people, but Saturday it meant an awful lot more.

Andy Lyons

As I prepare to compile a few tweets and vines from the Lauren Hill game, my six year old daughter is leaning up against me asking what I'm watching. It's a difficult thing to explain to a six year old, or a 32 year old, why a seemingly healthy 19 year old has to have a special game held in her honor. It's even more difficult to do that when you are holding your own beautiful little girl in your lap.

Lauren Hill's story has impacted a lot of people in a lot of different ways, but ultimately there is only one way it will end. After all the games, the news stories, and the media attention fade away, the Hill family will be left with a hole in their lives that no amount of layups can fix. As you read the stories and favorite the tweets, spare a thought and a prayer for them.

Like Lauren, my goal in life was to play college basketball. Unlike Lauren, I have the opportunity to progress past that. Someday I hope to watch my children play the game that I love, or sit with my brother as his boys do. Lauren won't get those chances, every layup she makes threatens to be her very last. With that in mind, Xavier made sure that her first was one no one would forget.

Rob Dauster has a nice write up and a longer video. Worth noting in the video is how well everyone responds to the first score. While it's understandable that everybody wants to part of a special moment, it's the restraint of most people involved that keep things moving smoothly.

Just in case you haven't seen it, here's what Coach Mack had to say.

A few days ago, I was waiting to meet Lauren Hill during a photo shoot inside the Cintas Center, home to Xavier basketball.

By now, you probably know her story. All of Cincinnati does. All of America needs to.

In October 2013, Lauren was a healthy senior at Lawrenceburg High School (Ind.), a stone's throw over the Ohio River. Fast forward a year later, and Lauren is dying. She has brain cancer. Inoperable. 0% survival rate. DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) is Lauren's cancer, generally reserved for 5- to 10-year-olds.

I stood throughout the photo shoot, ready to introduce myself, while gathering my thoughts.

What do you say to a 19-year-old dying of brain cancer? It's no easy task. I wanted her to know that when I first watched her story on the local news I sat with my wife and cried my eyes out. I wanted her to know that she's inspired so many with her courage. I wanted her to know that coaches around the country preach toughness every day to their players, yet it pales in comparison to hers.

When I finally met Lauren during a break, it was hard to find words. I spoke from the heart. It wasn't easy.

Twelve months ago, when doctors gave Lauren no more than two years to live, her parents became sick with fear. But not Lauren. She wanted to know if she could still play basketball. Doctors said only if she could do it through treatments that would produce painful side effects. So Lauren played. When she finished her senior year of high school, Lauren joined her new teammates at Mount St. Joseph University on Cincinnati's west side. Her next mission? Play college basketball. What else?

On Sunday, Lauren Hill played her first and only college basketball game despite her rapidly declining health. She did it in front of 10,250 watery-eyed locals, with a few celebrities to boot. She scored a layup on the first possession of the game, and scored another basket just before the final buzzer. The game was held at Xavier's Cintas Center, and MSJ beat Hiram 66-55. It very well could have been held at Paul Brown Stadium if not for the Jaguars/Bengals game - the only difference would have been that there would have been more tears.

On the way to the game Sunday, I watched my 8- and 9-year-old daughters in the back seat of the car, innocently tapping away on an IPad, fussing over whose turn it was to play. Ten years ago, that was Lauren. Lauren probably sat in her parents Brent and Lisa Hill's backseat, no doubt fighting with her younger siblings, Nate and Erin, on the way to who knows where.

Now, at age 19, Lauren's fight is much different, and much more serious.

Lauren has issued a challenge. It's called #LayUp4Lauren. The challenge needs to be answered, to help raise money for The Cure Starts Now Foundation, a foundation desperately trying to end pediatric brain cancer so 5-to-10-year olds can have those backseat fights and not battles with cancer. Seeing No. 22 walk out during Sunday's player introductions was inspiring. To see her make the game's first basket was a moment that will live with me forever.

Thank you Lauren! We will continue your fight!