Favorite memory competing in sports: State playoff ride my senior year
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When we didn’t know what to say to get hyped up in the player huddle, Jon Post said, “Let’s kill it” (which didn’t get us hyped at all, we just laughed at him).
Music on mobile device: Rap/Alternative
Future plans: Penn State Main Campus as a Mechanical Engineer
Words to live by: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
One goal before turning 30: Invent something of my own
One thing people don’t know about me: My sophomore basketball season I broke my arm in practice and during my junior basketball season, I got an appendectomy.
By Mary Jane Souder
Who will be the next John Dominic?
That’s a question Pennridge basketball coach Dean Behrens posed to his junior varsity after this year’s magical run to the PIAA 6A state title game.
“I think John epitomizes what high school basketball is,” Behrens said. “I’m already using him as an example for a lot of our jayvee guys for next year.
“I had a lot of 11th graders playing jayvee, and we were 16-4. I’m like, ‘Who’s the next John Dominic? Who’s going to work hard between now and November?’ We have six seniors gone and two starters back. You’re looking at maybe three starting positions and three bench positions for minutes. Who’s going to step up because it can be done?
“John Dominic played jayvee last year. He wasn’t a varsity player last year. So now the kid turns into a guy that we can’t get off the floor. How does it happen?”
Behrens and Dominic acknowledge it took the kind of gigantic leap that would have seemed unlikely to both. After all, Dominic averaged less than five points a game playing jayvee as a junior. Not exactly the kind of numbers that would suggest he would put up 37 points in a game against North Penn a year later and play a major role for a state finalist Pennridge squad.
“As a junior, I knew I was not going to play varsity,” he said. “It was only end of game situations if we were destroying a team or getting blown out – that’s when I was tossed in.
“Going into my senior season and thinking about it, I’m like, ‘I want to be part of this team. I want to do something for this team.’ That’s probably what got me to work as hard as I did during the offseason. It was definitely tough being a player that got no varsity time. It was kind of tough to dig out of that.”
But dig his way out of it he did.
“I knew I wanted to work hard in the offseason,” he said. “My dad mentioned going to AAU, and I’m like – ‘Awesome, I would love to do that.’
“That would keep me going with the game and keep a ball in my hands and just get me flowing through the spring and summer into the actual season.”
After several years away from the AAU circuit, Dominic joined the Perkasie Knights.
“One of my goals was to be the sixth man, to be that first one coming off the bench bringing the energy into the game,” Dominic said.
Behrens initially didn’t have Dominic penciled in quite that high.
“The fact is to start the season – I was like, ‘John will probably be our seventh or eighth man,’” the Rams’ coach said. “Then with the scrimmages, he was now our sixth man because he earned it. John earned everything. We didn’t give it to him. He went out and he earned the position by his play. Then it just continued. His confidence was good, he’s coachable.”
An ankle injury to Nick Dunn in the Central Bucks West game on Dec. 21 changed everything. Dominic went from sixth man to starter.
“Once I got the opportunity and coach put me in – I did not want to lose that spot,” Dominic said. “I wanted to prove to myself and to the team that I deserved this spot. That’s what kept me working.”
And prove himself he did.
“John didn’t want to see Nick get hurt – they’re buddies,” Behrens said. “All the kids got along well, and that can be hard – you’re competing against your buddies for a position, but it worked out great. Jack (Gillespie) really bought into his role as the sixth man when John went to starter, and he flourished in that.
“The kids were good about it. The chemistry was off the charts. As coaches, we didn’t have issues with personalities or kids that didn’t like each other, so that was a benefit for us. It’s a great high school story.”
Basketball has always been a family affair for John Dominic. With three older sisters who played basketball, it was natural for John to follow in their footsteps. His twin brother, Jason, also played. Soccer and baseball were also part of his life.
“We’re just a basketball family pretty much,” Dominic said. “That was easily my favorite sport my whole entire life pretty much.
“I have a hoop in my driveway, and I was always outside. I live in a neighborhood and everyone just loved to play basketball and all types of sports.”
Dominic went the typical route, playing club for Deep Run and then eventually AAU with the Perkasie Knights. He also played baseball but gave that up in favor of basketball. He also discontinued AAU after eighth grade.
As a ninth grader who measured in at all of 5-4, he was part of the freshman team.
“Freshmen are interesting,” Behrens said. “I always say if you can get a kid who’s a freshman player – maybe not your star, maybe not in your top five or six - and make them a varsity player, your program is going to be helped.
“John was probably in our top six as a freshman, but you’re not sure a kid like that – because of his build – is ever going to be a varsity player.”
Dominic saw limited playing time for the jayvee as a sophomore.
“He had some good games but, again, wasn’t the strongest kid on the floor,” Behrens said. “He was obviously more of a three-point specialist, and he was either hot or cold. He wasn’t consistent.”
Dominic found himself relegated to jayvee again as a junior where he again languished in relative anonymity. That was followed by an offseason that saw the senior guard committed to elevating his game. He worked tirelessly on his three-point shot.
“It involves muscle memory, getting the right form and getting everything right,” he said. “It was a confidence thing. I needed to tell myself – I can make those shots, I know I can – and just put that on the court in games.”
Dominic became a consistent contributor with his production growing as the season progressed.
“John Dominic had 18 points against Souderton, and I was like, ‘Whoa, 18 points,’” Behrens said of the Rams’ 60-56 win over the Indians. “We were thinking we’d get five or six a game from him, and we’d be good to go.”
One week later, Dominic turned in what Behrens described as “one of the greatest performances in Pennridge history” in the Rams’ 77-51 win over North Penn. The senior guard torched the Knights for 37 points in a dazzling performance that included eight 3-pointers.
“That was crazy,” Dominic said. “Everything just fell for me with help from my teammates. I don’t know. It was definitely surprising that I could hit the three like that. I never thought back in junior year that I would be in the position I was.”
Dominic became the team’s third scorer behind only U.S. Naval Academy-bound Sean Yoder and center Jon Post.
“Obviously, you’re not going to score 37 again, but he was still consistent,” Behrens said. “He didn’t average double figures for the year because the first six, seven, eight games he wasn’t playing quite as much – he was coming off the bench.
“But when we turned the corner in 2019, he averaged 12 points a game for us and was our third scorer. Holy cow, we never expected that. Realistically, we thought John would get 8-10 minutes a night.
“By the end, we were like, ‘Let’s make sure John gets a blow in the first half and then we’ll see what it’s like in the second half. If he doesn’t need a blow, let’s play him all 16 minutes.’ So he was averaging 28 minutes a game.”
Not to be ignored were Dominic’s contributions on the defensive end.
“The one thing that really helped us – he had some tough, tough matchups defensively,” Behrens said. “He was a good on-the-ball defender. My assistants aren’t getting enough credit for what they did. As a group, we really talked about how are we going to match up, and we’d always say, ‘Okay, who’s the best guard? Sean can guard him. Let’s get John on the second best guard,’ and a lot of those guards are pretty darn good. I thought we got better on defense as the year went on, and John was the reason for that.”
The Rams’ storybook season – their journey from SOL Continental Conference champions to SOL runner-up to fourth place team in District One 6A to their magical run to the PIAA 6A state title game – has been well documented.
A string of three straight losses to Abington – first in the regular season and then the SOL title game and finally the district semifinal game – came to an end with a 55-51 win over the Ghosts in the second round of the state tournament. The Rams were onto something special.
They followed that with wins over Methacton in the quarterfinals (50-47) and La Salle in the state semifinals (52-47), earning a coveted trip to Hershey and the state title game against a heavily favored Kennedy Catholic squad with three D1 commits and a decided size advantage.
Most didn’t give the Rams a prayer against a squad that had beaten three of its four state opponents by an average of 21 points with only a six-point win over district runner-up Coatesville in the semifinals the lone competitive game.
The Rams didn’t just give Kennedy Catholic a run for its money, they came oh-so-close to winning before falling 64-62 in double overtime in a game for the ages in front of a large and partisan crowd that had the Giant Center rocking from beginning to end.
“Getting to the state playoffs was one of our main goals this year and to get to the state championship was not even in our minds,” Dominic said. “The atmosphere was awesome. There’s nothing like it I will ever experience in my life.
“The energy – we brought the whole community with us. There was a whole section of teachers and students, which definitely helped with our energy on the court. We were going up against a team that ‘recruits’ from all over the place, and we only pull from Perkasie, Sellersville, Dublin. Going up against a team like that – I wouldn’t say it was scary, but it was different because we haven’t faced anything like that.
“We wanted to play our game, which we did. What got us to the state championship was our defense. We just went into that game and we played how we have all season. It just came down to the wire with that double overtime. Everyone left everything on the floor because we knew that was the end of our season.”
Dominic – as well as teammate Jack Gillespie (concussion symptoms) - watched the final minutes from the sidelines after going down hard on a foul.
“He landed on my knee, but it was just a cramp and it was so easily avoidable – it just happened at the wrong time,” Dominic said. “It was so tough, just knowing that’s the last chance you’ll be on an organized basketball court with a Pennridge team playing with my teammates. “Everything was running through my head. I’m like, ‘I want to get on that court, no matter what.’ I tried to tell the coach – I want to go back in. He gave me the chance, but he’s like, ‘You’re wobbling.’ It hit me – I have to stop being selfish and thinking of myself, put my focus onto the game and keep the energy up for my teammates.”
For Dominic, the state title game represented his final organized basketball game. An excellent student, he will be attending Penn State University main campus where he will major in mechanical engineering. It’s a safe bet he’ll find himself a sought after player in pick-up games and summer leagues, but as endings go, they don’t get any better than this one.
Dominic takes with him more memories than he can count.
“Even thinking about it now – it’s how much I miss being with those guys, being in that atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone loved coming to the games in the state playoffs and wanted to see us play, which is just crazy to think about.
“What I can pull from it is just how ridiculous it was. It’s so storylike – it’s just awesome.”
And that storybook season doesn’t happen if it hadn’t been for the contributions of every player on the roster. Not the least of which were the efforts of a senior guard that was penciled in to play a minor role but came on to be a major contributor.
“John Dominic was a huge part of our success and why we got to the state championship,” the Rams’ coach said. “I think what John did – he always played within himself. He didn’t try to do too much. He was a team guy.
“John never complained. If he was on the bench or if he was in the game, he was all in. He was a perfect example of what high school basketball is all about.”
For Behrens, the search has begun to find the next John Dominic. It won’t be easy.