When Phoenix Pinnacle senior Brandon Wechsler wheeled out onto the basketball court as a starter, the crowd erupted, and that was it for Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.
Pinnacle (17-6) flew out of the gates with two quarters of 20 points or more in the 72-44 victory in the Division I game.
Junior Dorian Pickens had the Sandra Day O’Connor (13-9) defense guessing the entire time, but after his performance he turned the attention on his teammate.
“It was Brandon’s night, and he inspired all of us to go out there, play our hearts out and play for him,” Pickens said.
Wechsler, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, sat in Coach Charlie Wilde’s office, holding his brand-new Nike shoes etched with signatures from the players, talking about how happy it made him to be “the first kid in a wheelchair to start a basketball game.”
“That’s just crazy,” Weschler said. “I never thought this would be possible. It meant a lot that people care about me. … I just can’t believe all the people who have supported me through this. It is amazing.”
Chants of “We want Brandon” echoed throughout the Pinnacle gym almost as often as cheers.
“These kids buy into it,” Wilde said. “We’re proud of them. These guys were playing for Brandon tonight, so they were doing everything they could.”
Coach said before the game Wechsler talked to the team about playing the “Pinnacle way,” which meant playing hard, being aggressive defensively and sharing the ball.
Pinnacle did all of it en route to an easy win.
Ultimately everything the team did was for Wechsler, who was passed the ball after the team won the tip before being subbed out with a big smile across his face.
“That infectious smile means everything to everybody he deals with, and especially our players. They were here for him tonight,” Wilde said.