The scoreboard on Friday night showed a decisive 72-44 win for the Pinnacle boys basketball team over Sandra Day O’Connor, but really, it was Brandon Wechsler 1, Duchenne muscular dystrophy 0.
The degenerative disease has already robbed the 18-year-old Pinnacle student of the ability to walk and raise his arms. It progressively weakens muscles as it works up the body, shortening the average life expectancy for those afflicted to 25 years.
But while the muscular degeneration is slowly crippling him, it couldn’t stop Wechsler on this night.
The team’s fourth-year manager fulfilled a dream by playing in a varsity basketball game with the Pioneers, riding his wheelchair onto the court and setting an imaginary screen for teammate Drew Bender after Sandra Day purposely let Pinnacle win the opening tip.
The entire episode took mere moments, but it’s a memory which will last forever.
“I've been waiting for this for my whole life,” said Wechsler, who smiled broadly the entire evening. "It was so surreal."
It’s been a whirlwind eight days for the always-upbeat Pinnacle senior.
He chatted with Tim Tebow last Thursday when the New York Jets quarterback was in town for offseason workouts, then met Los Angeles Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin last night following their game against the Suns.
But even those moments paled in comparison to his time on the court.
“I liked meeting those players, they were cool,” Wechsler said, “but this was the highlight.”
Wechsler wheeled out with the team for warm-ups and posed as numerous photographers took his picture. He then went to the captains’ meeting at mid-court and was the last player announced in Pinnacle’s starting lineup.
The crowd gave him a thunderous ovation, which only grew when Dorian Pickens controlled the tip-off and handed Wechsler the ball.
His dad, Lenny, and mom, Eydie Mandell, sat at center court during the action.
Lenny Wechsler was still holding back tears when talking about his son 45 minutes later.
“He’s a wonderful boy, and not just because he’s my kid,” he said. “Everybody feels it. That’s why we’re all here, to pay tribute to a kid like that.”
After his time on the court, Brandon wheeled over to his customary spot by the Pioneers’ bench to root on the team the rest of the game.
His role was back to normal, and in a few days his life will be as well. But Friday was special.
“Tonight was heaven,” Lenny Wechsler said.