Samohi Boys Basketball Team Cruises To First Round Playoff Win

Vikings get assist from Matt Tapia's special play

Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 5:55:00 AM

Arlene Karno

Samohi's Chris Johnson (12) skies for the rebound against Montebello in a CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA first round playoff game. Samohi defeated Montebello 76-45.
Photo by Arlene Karno
Samohi's Chris Johnson (12) skies for the rebound against Montebello in a CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA first round playoff game. Samohi defeated Montebello 76-45.

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.” 

Tapia

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.”

Appreciating

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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