By Steve Bittenbender
(Reuters) - Lauren Hill, the Indiana native who scored the first basket of the Mount St. Joseph University women's basketball season in November while suffering from a rare inoperable brain cancer, died on Friday at age 19, officials said.
"We are forever grateful to have had Lauren grace our campus with her smile and determined spirit," university President Tony Aretz said in a statement. "She has left a powerful legacy. She taught us that every day is a blessing; every moment a gift."
Hill had an advanced stage Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, but remained determined to play basketball for the small Cincinnati, Ohio, university, which received permission to move its first game up two weeks to ensure she could play.
Demand was so strong for tickets that the team's Nov. 2 game against Hiram College was moved to Xavier University's arena, where more than 10,000 saw Hill score the game's first basket. Mount St. Joseph won 66-55.
After the game, Hill became an advocate for her condition, which according to Weill Cornell Medical College is diagnosed in about 300 people each year. Many of those diagnosed are children under the age of 10.
Hill helped raise $1.4 million for DIPG research, said The Cure Starts Now Foundation, which called her "a tireless advocate" and spokesperson for its efforts to find a cure.
"Her compassion for others touched lives in Greater Cincinnati and around the world," Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said in a statement. "Lauren's grace, dignity and humor are examples for us all."
Mount St. Joseph will hold a vigil for Lauren Friday afternoon on campus.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville; Editing by Lisa Lambert)