UMass-Lowell freshman and Lynn English grad Dorothy Ezemba died Saturday night. (Katie Morrison)

Lynn English basketball player dies of cancer

LYNN — Lynn English High graduate and former Bulldogs girls basketball player Dorothy Ezemba died Saturday night after a long battle with a rare muscle cancer. Ezemba, 18, graduated this past spring and was in her freshman year at UMass-Lowell. She was diagnosed with cancer at the end of her junior basketball season in 2017. Doctors found the cancer after a month of tests and scans. Ezemba underwent chemotherapy and radiation during the summer of 2017.

"She was a pretty good athlete," English Vice Principal Gary Molea said. "She got diagnosed at the end of her junior year and you'd never think anything was going wrong. One day she came down the corridor wearing a hat backwards. I talked to her guidance counselor and I wouldn't believe it. She was a force on the court. She reminded me a lot of Deirdre Jackson. She was very tough to stop. She was a great competitor and a really good kid."

English Athletic Director Dick Newton watched Ezemba firsthand as a student-athlete. What impressed him the most, he said, were her leadership qualities. Ezemba led by example on the court and in the classroom, and her teammates followed suit.

"She was a very nice girl," Newton said. "She was very soft-spoken. Very quiet, very respectful. She was great to have around, a great leader. She was the kind of girl that you wanted the younger girls to follow her lead. She was a smart, respectful, lovely person.

"This is a tough one for our girls basketball team," Newton continued. "A lot of girls looked up to her. They knew what kind of person she was. She led by example."
During her junior season, Ezemba established herself as a tough, gritty competitor on the court. Her illness forced her to miss her senior season, but she remained close with the team by attending games and practices.

"She never missed a game," Molea said. "She was always there for the girls. I got a few texts and emails from graduates (Monday). It's tough to take, someone that young. I saw her play that junior year and if you told me she had cancer I'd say 'no way.' She was quite a competitor, right until the end."

This past April, Ezemba was honored by the Board 130 of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) with the James Young Courage Award.
"She was a great player," Newton said. "She was really looking forward to her senior season. She looked forward to basketball and having a great senior year. She always had a smile, came over and said hi to us. She didn't want anybody's pity. She wanted to beat it and she did the best she could. Dorothy was a genuine, nice girl. She was nothing but the best.

"It's tough to see anybody go but we the teachers and administrators at English have considered our kids our own. This is another tough one for us. She was the type of person that we want other kids to emulate."
Ezemba went into remission for a time, but the cancer returned during the summer. Earlier this month, Ezemba entered hospice on the same day she was scheduled to attend a Boston Celtics game.

Molea said the staff at English will provide support to students in need.

"We'll be there for the kids, anyone that needs us. I know some of the girls on the team now played with her. She was one of the best players on the court, on either team."


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