Legendary football coach, writer and ESPN analyst, Lou Holtz, could have been talking about high school basketball athlete Jonathan Montanez when he said, “How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”
Tales of fallen sports heroes may top the news more often than we’d like. Thanks in part though, to social media and the grassroots efforts of local fans and reporters in communities like El Paso (TX), inspirational stories like the one about Jonathan Montanez and Mitchell Marcus are pushed from the local spotlight and into the hearts of fans everywhere, testimony that good sportsmanship and how the game is played still matters.
In the final moments of the February 12 game, his team down 10 points against rival Coronado, Franklin H.S. senior, Jonathan Montanez, had possession of the ball. His response to the challenge at hand will forever define him as a winner. Anyone who sees the now viral video footage of the game’s emotional final moments would be hard-pressed not to cheer as Montanez deliberately passes the the ball to another player. From the other team.
Coronado Thunderbirds coach, Peter Morales, later told CBS that he had planned to play team manger and senior year Coronado student, Mitchell Marcus, at the end of the game regardless of the score. Even if it meant losing the game, Morales, and his entire team, wanted Marcus, who has special needs, to have his moment in time.
Before he passed the ball to rival Coronado High School senior, Mitchell Marcus, Martinez called out to him.
“I just told him, ‘Shoot it, it’s your time,’ ” Montanez told the El Paso Times, adding, “I was just proud for him, that he actually got to play and get his first varsity basket.”
In a battle to beat the clock, Marcus, assisted by his teammates, made multiple attempts to score, but to no avail. When the ball went out of bounds, ending up in the hands of Jonathan Montanez as a result of the turnover, it seemed that Mitchell Marcus’ opportunity to score had been lost. Then, to the delight of the crowd, Montanez passed the ball to Marcus who, moments later, scored with his first-ever game basket, helping his team end the game with a 55-40 point win, moving the team’s record to 31-1 on the year. The crowd poured onto the court to congratulate Marcus, with many fans also stopping to thank Montanez as the young man made his way off the court.
The story and associated videos have since spread to local and national news outlets and continue to make the rounds on social media, drawing responses from all over.
Long Island (NY) area Superintendent, David J. Flatley, took time from his busy Monday afternoon to post the following message on Franklin High School’s website,
“My daughter just posted the story about Jonathon [Montanez] and the selfless play he made. You should all be proud of him – in fact of your entire basket ball program. As a school superintendent, I can only pray that our student-athletes will be as wonderful. Great job!”-Dave Flatley (posted February 25, 2013)
“I was raised to treat others how you want to be treated,” Montanez later told CBS. “I just thought Mitchell [Marcus] deserved his chance, deserved his opportunity.”