It was a meticulously planned caper by Mr. Romantic.
“Operation Lovebirds” began as a romance movie, spilled over into the spy category and concluded with the obligatory happy ending.
Luc Lombardy, 21, a 6-foot-6 sophomore forward for the Northwest College men, traveled 4,985 miles from Villeurbanne, France, to play basketball in Powell, Wyoming. He is blondish with a thin layer of wrap-around beard.
Domenica Gomes, 21, a 5-4 sophomore point guard for the Northwest College women, traveled 6,123 miles from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to play basketball in Powell, Wyoming. She has black hair and a golden smile.
Can you imagine journeying so far to fall in love?
“It worked for me,” Lombardy said.
College basketball has been rife with scandal, the FBI busting assistant coaches, bribes, recruiting sleaze. It’s a mess. This is one off-court story that isn’t indigestion-provoking. It is practically the antidote to cynicism.
Lombardy’s first language is French, but he is also conversant in Spanish, German and English. Gomes’ first language is Portuguese, but she speaks French, Spanish and English.
They met in freshman English class.
“He tells me about himself and I tell him about myself,” Gomes said in her charming inflection. “He asks to help him speak better English. I help him. We begin a friendship.”
In mid-season, Lombardy’s father died and he flew to France for the funeral. They texted constantly. Lombardy’s feelings grew and he wanted to take Gomes out.
“He was my best friend,” Gomes said. “I said no dating. I don’t want to destroy our friendship.”
Lombardy thought the way to Gomes’ heart might be her chocolate weakness, so he supplied her better than Halloween trick-or-treating. He also began taking Portuguese lessons.
They talked basketball. Lombardy, a three-point gunner, provided shooting advice. Gomes provided defensive advice, him admitting he could improve there. The Trapper men finished 18-13 and the Trapper women finished 15-17 and school finished for the year.
About to split for the summer Luc told Domenica he loved her and kissed her for the first time. Very sweet.
They spent the next three months texting. Courtship, 2017 style.
They returned to Powell on Aug. 14, running together for hugs. Dating began at The Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill downtown.
Domenica wanted to keep the relationship secret. That lasted about one 30-second shot-clock cycle.
“I thought, ‘OK, everybody’s our friend,’” Gomes said. “Everybody accepted it.”
Luc suggested for fun renting a car in Cody to shop in the big city of Billings, Mont., 100 miles away.
By this time Lombardy had bonded with Domenica’s mother Olani on FaceTime and she provided critical ring size intel.
At a mall, Luc ducked into a jewelry store, but was told they needed two hours to adjust the diamond ring he chose. As an excuse for separating, Lombardy faked calling his mother when he picked it up.
“I was on a mission,” he said.
Next stop Olive Garden. They ordered an Alfredo dish and before the food arrived he proposed.
“I’m nervous,” Luc said. “I don’t want to make a mistake.”
He thanked Domenica for boosting his spirits when his dad died and said, “I want to stay with you all my life. Will you marry me?” Out came the ring.
Gomes’ squeal of acceptance produced congrats from nearby tables.
They took out a marriage license at the Park County Courthouse in mid-November, though the wedding is scheduled for June 15, 2019, at a famed Sao Paulo church, where Gomes’ mother made reservations.
Till then Gomes may suffer repetitive strain injury raising her left hand showing off the ring.
“Oh, it’s cute,” said Northwest teammate Dallas Petties, who says she’ll be in Brazil for the nuptials.
Meanwhile, basketball is underway again. Gomes has been sidelined with an ankle sprain since the 7-4 women’s first game. Lombardy has been scoring well for the 6-5 men, 17 against Rocky Mountain last Saturday.
Accidental matchmakers men’s coach Brian Erickson and women’s coach Janis Beal are focused on the Xs and Os of their playbooks, not the Gomes-Lombardy Xs and Os.
After graduating in May the couple will visit France and Brazil and then next fall see if love and basketball can conquer all with European teams.
It already has in Wyoming.