By: Josh Bozzick ~Staff Writer~
In honor of the late Lauren Hill, Xavier hosted the first annual “Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic” on Sunday at Cintas Center.
The Xavier women’s basketball team played Evansville in the first game, and the second game included Lauren Hill’s former team Mount St. Joseph who played Hiram College in a repeat D-III matchup from last year.
Xavier ousted Evansville by eight points, 65-57. Redshirt junior guard Raeshaun Gaffney scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, both team highs. Senior guard Aliyah Zantt and junior forward Leah Schaefer contributed nine and eight points, respectively, for the win.
The Musketeers will look to continue their winning ways when they play at Michigan Thursday night. In the second game Hiram defeated Mount St. Joseph 70- 63. Mount St. Joseph and Hiram College took a moment to salute Lauren Hill during Sunday’s matchup.
The same play that got Hill her first collegiate points a year ago was run again. This time the player who caught the ball in Hill’s position of Hill, placed the ball on the ground. Both teams proceeded to huddle around the ball and each player held up an “L” sign.
Lauren Hill was a freshmen at Mount St. Joseph last season. She played for the Lions despite battling an inoperable brain tumor, the result of pediatric brain cancer.
The home opener for Mount St. Joseph was played at the Cintas Center last year to accommodate the crowd of supporters wanting to watch her play. Hill scored four points in the game and was recognized by legendary women’s college basketball coach Pat Summit and the USBWA (United States Basketball Writers Association) with the Pat Summit Most Courageous Award. This was the first time the award was given to a D-III women’s player and the first time it was given to a player at the beginning of the season.
She was awarded the “Best Moment” award posthumously at the 2015 ESPY Awards. Hill opened that game with a layup from the left block. This moment was commemorated through a bobblehead giveaway at the game on Sunday.
Through the Layup-4-Lauren Campaign, Hill and her family were able to raise money for The Cure Starts Now Foundation, a brain cancer foundation based in Cincinnati whose goal is to find a cure for brain cancer.
Over $2 million has been raised for the foundation since last year, and the ultimate goal of $2.2 million is in respect for the #22 jersey number Hill wore. Donations to help Lauren’s mission to find a cure for brain cancer can be made online at http://www.TheCureStartsNow.org.