Through 20 games this season, Dominick Firnekas never stepped foot on the court during a varsity game.
It’s not a surprise, in fact; Dom had zero plans of seeing any game action. Neither did I.
It was a nice story; young man with autism defying the odds and playing a sport that requires athleticism and critical thinking at all times.
His memory has failed him in the past, but there’s little doubt that he will remember last Friday night for the rest of his life. And if he happens to forget, the thousands in attendance and listening on the radio will be sure to remind him.
It was arguably the biggest individual moment in Bearcat basketball history. That might be a little on the bias side, but I know some folks who might just agree with me.
Those same people who teared and cheered Friday night when Dom sank a mid-range shot off the glass, netting the first points of his four-year high school career.
“It was exciting,” Dom said in the postgame. For a kid who rarely shows emotion, even Dom himself couldn’t hide his million dollar smile that night.
It was a special moment, and he knew it. He has always been a part of the team and the guys all respect him and make him feel like he is part of it, but after the final buzzer that ended a decisive 73-50 win over Rawlins, all eyes were on the Bearcats’ lone senior.
Fans chanted his name when he entered the game and that only increased after Dom pulled down a rebound in his first defensive possession.
When he banked in the last-second shot, the capacity crowd’s reaction was one of championship pedigree. The rec center sounded more like the Boston Garden than a meaningless non-conference regular season game.
The boisterous student section rushed the court to surround Dom. At 6-foot, 3-inches, he stood a head taller than the surrounding fans. That night, he was 100-feet tall. And I can’t think of anyone more deserving.
When I wrote a feature about Dom in December, my mindset was telling the story of why a guy would continue to practice and make long bus trips only to ride the pine?
Turns out, it was so much more than that. Dom is a kid who is trying to fit in and attempting to put himself out there. His mother, Amanda Hill, stressed how badly she wants Dom to make friends and be more outgoing. He made lots of friends Friday and his smile told his tale. It was a perfect moment and what the game is all about.
And I’ll put money on this — I’ll bet that’s not the last smile we see on Dom’s face.