EL PASO, Texas - Tuesday night's rivalry game between the Coronado and Franklin boy's basketball teams ended up being a highlight of one special student's life.
Special needs student Mitchell Marcus has been Coronado's basketball manager the past four years. So with the T-birds up double digits on the rival Cougars Tuesday night with a minute and a half left in a game that would give Coronado an undefeated district run of 14-0, Coronado coach Peter Morales put Marcus in the game.
And what happened next was a lesson in sportsmanship and persistence.
"I was so mad!" Coronado's Mitchell Marcus said after missing his first shot attempt.
But thanks to his teammates, he got another. But after fumbling the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds left, his dream of scoring in a game appeared to be over. That is until rival Franklin's Jon Montanez called Marcus over and tossed him the ball from out of bounds.
"I just saw them trying to give him the ball so I was like, might as well give him the shot," Montanez said. "Give him his recognition."
With the help of teammate David Velasco and Franklin players who backed off, a determined Marcus missed four consecutive shots, before finally hitting one with four seconds left.
"That's probably the greatest act of sportsmanship I've ever seen in my 11 years of playing basketball," Velasco said of Montanez' decision to pass the ball to Marcus. "I've never seen anything like that."
Marcus' shot off a wild celebration that had both sides of the gym chanting his name.
"Incredible!" Marcus said of the moment, agreeing it was the best moment of his life.
"Special moment in his life and in our lives as well," said Coach Morales, who said he planned all season to reward his dedicated team manager by suiting him up and giving him his shot ... or five or six.
"It was just amazing because they're jumping up and down saying his name, 'Mitchell, Mitchell!" Morales added. "And it's well deserved."
Franklin coach Todd Bostic said although his team lost 55-40, there were no losers on this night.
"We wanted to give him his moment to shine," Bostic said. "I could not be more proud personally and for the team the very way they handled everything. If there was one guy we would think would do that, would give the ball to Mitchell at that time, it would be Jon Montanez."
Marcus' mother, Amy,, was in tears after the game. But she sought out Montanez for his kindness to her son.
"I talked to him after the game and thanked him and that was just so so generous," Amy Marcus said. "A great sportsman. "Both teams did everything they could to help him get that moment in his life. I can't say enough about the Franklin team and the Franklin fans and our fans that all season long have been chanting his name."