After four years of helping others shine in the spotlight, Lucas Cortez finally got his shot. And he nailed it.
For a kid who has been so good at avoiding the spotlight, Lucas Cortez sure knew what to do once he was in it.
With less than two minutes to go in last Friday's boys basketball game against Berkeley High School, Lou Richie, coach of Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, looked down his bench at Lucas, his team's long-time student manager, and told him to get dressed and to get into the game.
"I was unsure what was going to happen," Lucas recalls.
What did happen is the 17-year-old senior promptly drained a three-point shot that brought the house down.
"One thousand people were chanting his name," his coach says. "I've never seen a gym like it."
Sports fans, it seems, always root for the underdog, and Lucas is about as underdog as you can get. He was born with a heart defect in which his left ventricle didn't develop properly. Not only did the condition stunt Lucas' growth, but his doctors warned him to avoid high-intensity athletics.
That was one reason the job of manager was perfect for sports-loving Lucas. The other reason is that Lucas was perfect for it.
"He's become a member of the coaching staff," Coach Lou says. "He's probably the most efficient member of the staff."
Lucas' responsibilities are many. He keeps track of the team's equipment and uniforms. He keeps players hydrated during practices and games. He'll even give players a lift home should they need one.
"He's always trying to help someone," says senior forward Parker Hagmaier. "You can always count on him. He's never thinking of himself."
Which is why, after watching Lucas help others shine in the spotlight for the past four years, Lou thought Lucas deserved a turn.
So, on Friday night he looked at Lucas, who was wearing his traditional shirt and tie, and asked, "How long will it take you to get ready?"
A few minutes was the answer. Lucas returned to the bench wearing a uniform with the number 14 on it. "It was the smallest one we had," Lucas says.
With O'Dowd up by more than 20 points, Lucas went into the game.
"It was special," Lucas says. "Playing in a game was pretty cool."
"As I walked down the bench, I looked up," Coach Lou remembers, "and I see everyone in the stands with their cell phones out. It was an amazing sight."
It went without saying among Lucas' four teammates on the floor that Lucas would be doing all the shooting from then on out. Every time one of them touched the ball, they passed it to Lucas. Players on the opposing team, having been told Lucas' story, gave him plenty of room to shoot.
He fired off two shots that missed. The third shot was the charm, though.
Lucas swished a three pointer from the right side of the arc.
"When he shot it there was complete silence," teammate Parker says. "As soon as it went in, the place went crazy."
Cell phone video of the moment shows a gymnasium in pandemonium.
When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard showed that O'Dowd had won the game. Everyone in attendance, though, knew who the real winner was.
"It's a memory I will have forever," Lucas says.