Newport, N.Y. - The West Canada Valley boys basketball team clinched the Center State Conference Division II title with a win against Dolgeville, Tuesday, but what made the feat even more impressive was what took place at the beginning of the game.
The Indians were celebrating senior night, acknowledging and honoring four upperclassmen on the team. One of those seniors is Michael Senkiv, a 5'6" student-athlete with Down Syndrome.
To the delight of all in attendance, Senkiv took the opening tip-off, winning it back to Tyler Franklin to get the game underway. 15 seconds later, the crowd erupted in cheers again as Senkiv put in a close-range shot to register the contest's first two points.
He'd finish the night with those two that got the momentum going as the Indians never looked back, winning 76-58.
Senkiv is in his first year on the varsity basketball team; he's previously run indoor track and played varsity soccer for the Indians.
The senior has put in 22 total points this season, averaging two per game.
It was a great moment in the spotlight for Senkiv, a player that his coach says is an integral part of the team's success.
"He's really been the heartbeat, we don't treat him differently than any of the guys," said Indians head coach, David Smith. "He's in every drill, he's just like any kid, he gets a little disappointed if he doesn't get playing time."
While Tuesday may have been his first start, it certainly wasn't the only time he's left his mark on the court.
"We played Holland Patent earlier in the year, we were down like 15, we were getting beat pretty good, we put him in the game and he scored four points," added Smith. "It erased all that memory of how bad we played. He just really puts the basketball game in perspective for us that it's not always about winning and losing, sometimes people are less fortunate and he just brings a smile to our entire team."
Senkiv's commitment to the team both on and off the court, and the attitude he brings to every practice and game has inspired his teammates and coaching staff. Smith said that it has made it easy to root for him, and getting him in to see some game action.
"It's been great that we've been able to get him in as much as we have because he does mean so much," he said. "He is at every practice so we always want to make sure that he feels part of the team."
The Indians are 15-3 overall this year, 9-0 in league play. Despite clinching the league title on Tuesday, the start on senior night is really what the team will remember from the game.
"It just puts things in perspective when you see a kid do that and just see a smile on his face ear-to-ear, running up and down the court," Smith said. "He just means so much to us, he's just a great kid."
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