High school basketball players to be rewarded at Sweet 16 for act of kindness



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Posted on March 29, 2013 at 6:38 PM

ARLINGTON -- Two high school basketball teams from El Paso are enjoying a weekend in Dallas and tickets to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship because of one extraordinary gesture on the court. Their story made national news as an example of good sportsmanship.

When El Paso Coronado takes on arch rival Franklin, it's always a battle to the end, says Franklin forward Jonathon Montanez.

"We just go at it," he grins.

Franklin stayed close in the final regular season game between the two 5A District 1 high schools.

But no matter how close it got, Coronado coach Peter Morales had already decided how it would end: with senior Mitchell Marcus making his first shot.

"I wanted to surprise Mitchell with the last game of the season," Morales said.

Mitchell Marcus has developmental disabilities. He's the trainer, not a player.

But no one is more devoted.

"Mitchell Marcus will text me before every game and tell me, 'Coach, we've got to do this today. Coach, this is the key to victory,'" Morales said. "Just an amazing guy who deserves a chance at life."

So for senior night, he suited up. And with a minute-and-a-half left, he went in.

Coronado was up by 15, but Franklin played hard. Over and over, Mitchell's teammates got him the ball.

Over and over, Mitchell missed. With seconds ticking away, Franklin got the ball.

"And I'm like, '10 seconds to go and this kid is not going to get his moment -- not going to get to score,'" coach Morales said.

That's when Franklin's Jonathon Montanez surprised everyone by in-bounding the ball to Mitchell, instead of his own team.

With fans on both sides screaming his name, Mitchell scored.

"It was amazing," Mitchell told us. "I wanted to play my last game. That was my dream come true and it did."

Fans filled the floor, and carried Mitchell on their shoulders.

Montanez said he was taught to treat others the way he would want to be treated.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do at the right moment to give him the ball," he said.

Mitchell's mom watched in tears.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the place," Amy Marcus said. "So much love in that gym. So thankful to Jonathon."

Because of that sportsmanship, Marriott International and the NCAA are treating both teams to a weekend in Dallas, and seats for the Sweet 16 in Arlington. The teams will be recognized at halftime Friday night.

Mitchell Marcus just might hear the crowd chanting his name one more time.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com