Samohi senior Matt Tapia made a bit of school history when he tossed in a “buzzer beater” basket in the final second’s of the Vikings' 76-45 first round playoff win against Montebello. In the
last five minutes of the game, a roar came up from the stands as the student body loudly chanted: “We Want Matt,
We Want Matt.”
is a special needs student who, according to his father, Santa Monica resident
Rudy Tapia, was not expected to live long after birth.
“Because of a congenital heart condition, Matt was given a five percent
chance of living when he was born. He had open-heart surgery at the age of nine
months,” said the elder Tapia, who attends all of the games and drives a carpool, delivering
some of Matt’s teammates to the games. “Matt’s a fighter.
Defying the odds is the theme of his life.”
Matt’s determination is Santa Monica boy’s varsity team captain Ray Mancini,
who was never more than a few feet behind, as Matt made two attempts before
sinking the final scoring basket of the evening. These two young men clearly
have a mutual respect and admiration for the other’s unique talents.
“Matt’s taught me that I can
overcome anything," Mancini said. "I can be whatever I want, and strive for my dreams.”
Samohi put the game away early by outscoring Montebello 20-5 in the first quarter. The Vikings then scored 15 more points in the second period to take a 35-16 lead into halftime. That was more than enough for the Vikings to cruise to the victory. The wide-open margin allowed Tapia to get into the game.
Samohi coach James Hecht, the 2010’s Ocean league “Coach of The Year,” has supported Matt’s desire
to participate in games. After watching
the play, Hecht said, “He made that basket it in the last second of the
game. It was a buzzer beater."
This is the kind of moment that creates memories
of a lifetime Matt played in last year’s football game, and has been given the
green light to attend Vikings baseball practice this spring. Matt plans to attend UCLA on a special
scholarship, where he plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.
Samohi entertain Rancho Cucamonga at home on Tuesday. The second round playoff game is scheduled to start at 7 pm.
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