Dominguez savors run with Mavericks
MANKATO, Minn. — Jim Heaps said all along that Michael Dominguez was not your typical one-year transfer.
The senior’s swollen, red eyes reinforced that Sunday night after Mesa State’s 95-84 loss to Augustana (S.D.) College in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Central Region tournament.
Dominguez scored a career-high 41 points in the loss, but the self-described “stat rat” didn’t care about his points, only that the Mavericks fell short of their ultimate goal.
His good friend, fellow senior Jase Herl, sat glumly in the post-game press conference and agreed that their season ended too soon.
“Everybody wants to make the regional championship game and go to the Elite Eight,” Herl said. “We did some good things and we had a good year, but we’re not satisfied with how this ended up at all.”
Despite the loss, Dominguez is a shoo-in to make the all-tournament team — he had games of 19 and 41 points — to add to his RMAC and Central Region player of the year honors.
When the Vikings chose to play straight-up man defense on him in the first half Sunday, Dominguez went to work. He was curling off screens and hitting 3-pointers, pulling up off the dribble, slashing to the basket, dishing off to open teammates and putting on a show similar to the one he had at Brownson Arena against Fort Lewis.
It helped that the officials called a couple of early holding and blocking fouls as he was making his cuts, forcing the Vikings to back off ever so slightly.
That was all the room he needed.
No shot was too deep. No defender too close to shoot over.
He had 22 points by halftime, and even when the Vikings played tighter defense in the second half, his teammates set solid screens to give him room and got him the ball.
Dominguez was able create some shots, but he couldn’t create the one thing he wanted so desperately, the thing that prompted him to leave a Division I school, Florida International, that didn’t win a title.
He wanted to play for championships. He got one, the RMAC regular-season title, but came up short of the RMAC Shootout and the Central Region championship goal.
And the one-year guy who fit in like he’d been in Grand Junction for five years couldn’t hold back the tears when it was over.
“A lot had to do with the team,” he said, his voice quivering as he talked about the smooth transition. “They made it a lot easier, the coaches and the community. I wish I had four years here, but it was a good one year.
“I’m glad I was part of it and they accepted me.”
He took a deep breath, and, his voice cracking and the tears welling up as he wiped his eyes with a towel, added, “I was able to make friends I’m probably going to have forever.”