With the opening of the college basketball season, Xavier and Mount St. Joseph women’s basketball started with a special game, The Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic, on Nov. 14. The afternoon began with the Xavier women’s basketball team winning 65-57 over the Aces of Evansville.
At halftime of the Xavier game, Head Coach of MSJ women’s team Dan Benjamin, emotionally thanked Xavier and everyone who had helped out with the event. Then, in a touching moment, he offered Xavier and the Cintas Center an autographed Lauren Hill jersey to display within the venue.
After halftime, Xavier started to pull away. In the last couple minutes of the game, the Aces started to make a run but in the end it ended up not being enough to pull out a win. The Mount St. Joseph Lions and the Hiram Terriers were the next to take the floor.
As Hiram started to take the floor, the team hugged Lauren’s Hill family, Brent and Lisa Hill, along with her brother and sister.
The moment was social and surreal. Both teams were definitely playing for Lauren and had a lot on their minds.
Then the Lions took the court and they hugged the Hills as well, who were now by the home team’s bench. Erica Walsh and Meredith Hartfiel held up a #22 jersey while the team took the court. This image was one that no one on the court or in the stands will ever forget. After they hugged the Hills and Coach Benjamin, they hugged Emily Hays, the Terrier’s head coach.
With heavy hearts and great energy in the building, the tip off was won by the Lions, just as it had been the year before. The Lions then set up Lauren Hill’s play from her very first college game last year. Taylor Brown passed it to a cutting Hartfiel, who then gracefully set the ball on the right block, where Hill had made her first college basket. Both teams gathered around the ball and put up an “L” with their right hands and stood for a moment of silence. The crowd and benches of both teams also put an “L” up for the moment. The large venue of the Cintas Center was silent for that moment, as chills filled the stands.
After the moment of silence for the reigning Female Athlete of the Year, the teams went head to head. A good matchup that inevitably led to a great game.
At the half, Lauren Hill’s family took the court to thank everyone and gave a brief statement about how donations to The Cure Starts Now Foundation have been going. Lisa Hill, emotionally and gracefully, said that Lauren and others have helped raised over $1.8 million fight pediatric brain cancer. She discussed how Lauren had achieved her goal to play college basketball, gave hope for the future cancer patients and gave the world a memory that they will never forget. She also thanked all the volunteers and teams for being apart of the Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic. “From our family to all of yours, thank you for an amazing day.”
Big checks were given from the first ever sponsor of The Cure Starts Now Foundation, Graeter’s Ice Cream, who had raised over $95,000. The Cure Starts Now gave Children’s Hospital $100,000 to continue their research and work for the fight against brain cancer.
Through the constant sound of applause, the crowd showed their support for the touching ceremony that was taking place.
Lisa Hill introduced the teams once again for the second half by saying, “The girls are playing really good basketball and giving us such a great game to watch.”
After half, Hiram got out to a sizeable lead and did not look back until the Mount got it going with about three minutes left in the game. Three pointers and steals started coming in plenty, and gave the crowd a hope in a form that only Lauren could have taught us all. You could almost feel something in the gym that was pushing the Mount forward.
Unfortunately the Lions fell just short this year with a final score of 63-70, in Hiram’s favor.
It was a great first game for all four teams commemorating a much bigger cause. Lauren’s legacy will forever live on and the Tipoff Classic is a reason to let us celebrate such an amazing women. Being a part of such a special event that will continue through the years,and continue to touch the lives and hearts of others is something that the crowd that day and the entire Mount community will never forget.