Top of the Morning, Jan. 14, 2018

Top of the Morning, Jan. 14, 2018

Dom Ward says he's retired from basketball. But his Champaign Jefferson Middle School teammates aren't ready to see him go just yet.

"We're hoping to get to state, get him a medal and get his name on the trophy," eighth-grade coach Josh Sterling said.

Ward, an honorary member of the team, is coming off a career night. A 13-year-old with Down syndrome, he was introduced as a starter against St. Joseph on Tuesday. On the opening possession — and after a few attempts — the eighth-grader banked home a basket as everyone in the gym erupted.

"The joy on his face after he scored was amazing," said his dad, Jason. "The fist-bumps and high-fives from students I didn't even know was very touching and heartwarming. Their reaction was what was most exciting."

The idea of Dom taking the court in his No. 24 jersey was pitched by eighth-grade teammate Jalen Coleman, a friend of his since kindergarten at Kenwood Elementary.

Dom made the team after asking Sterling if he could try out this fall, attending practices and home games throughout the season. "He's got a nice shot," Sterling said, "and he practices it a lot."

All that work paid off Tuesday. After scoring, Dom returned to the bench hand-in-hand with Sterling. Later, he hold his dad his career was over, that "he had completed all of his goals," Jason said.

Perfect.

"At the beginning of the season, he told (Jalen) all he wanted to do was to wear a Jefferson uniform and sit on the bench with his boys," said Jalen's mom and the team's parent rep, Stevie Coleman. "But I think this was the best night in his life."

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