“True spirit of Teamwork” (Blaze)

Article from the Orange County Register (Jeff Miller) Feb 12, 2016: CYPRESS – For all the encouraging steps he has taken in sports, for all the full strides he has made in school, he never had shown anything quite like this, launching himself forward with a genuine leap.

Yeah, it was impressive Thursday when Blaze Vigil made a shot so dramatic that it resulted in an entire gym standing to cheer, standing to cheer the kid born without feet.

“When Blaze was young, we didn’tknow what to expect,” his father, Paul, says. “Now, with where we’re at, I never thought we’d be at this point. This is about the best scenario I could have envisioned.”

Video of Blaze’s shots

Only the most enchanted of imaginations could have come up with a better scenario than the one that unfolded during this junior varsity basketball game, a matchup unifying two schools – Cypress and Kennedy – that otherwise are rivals.

In the closing minute, Vigil, the team manager for Cypress, a sophomore with autism and two prosthetic feet, entered the game wearing someone else’s uniform and, seconds before the final buzzer of the season and after missing two layups, stepped back and hit a 3-pointer.

Both sides of the Kennedy High gym exploded in celebration in less time than it takes for a goose bump to appear. Players from both teams pumped their fists and clapped their hands.

In a game that ended in a score of 67-41, it was like the two schools had become one, rallying around a 16-year-old with enough heart for both teams.

“As much as we all want to win, I’ve always felt that my job is to teach these kids to be great men first,” Kennedy coach Jonathan Enkhorn says. “A moment like that showed character on both sides. Those are the things that you never forget.”

So special was the video of a moment starring a Cypress player that, by Friday morning, someone had posted it on Kennedy’s Facebook page.

Before tipoff, Cypress’ Paul Kim asked Enkhorn about playing Vigil late if the game had been decided. The coaches agreed to allow the events to play out and see where things stood near the end.

Vigil already had appeared twice this season, making layups in the closing seconds against Pacifica and Valencia.

This time, with the Centurions leading comfortably, the parents and fans began chanting “We want Blaze!” as the clock wound down.

Minutes earlier, Vigil and Carlos Lopez, one of the team’s captains, had rushed back to the locker room so that Vigil could switch into Lopez’s uniform.

After a timeout, Kim inserted Vigil into the game, Enkhorn waving off the referees when they informed him the jersey change should result in two technical foul shots for Kennedy.

“Obviously, that wasn’t the point,” Enkhorn says. “I told my kids, ‘Do the right thing. Have high character. Give him his moment to shine.’”

And that’s what Vigil did, making a layup on Cypress’ ensuing possession before hitting the 3-pointer that was such moving theater Enkhorn admits he walked toward the end of the Kennedy bench for a better view.

Soon enough, there were multiple videos of the shot being texted and emailed. Vigil continued to star later at the team’s season-ending party.

This wasn’t the first time he was recognized for an extraordinary contribution. In 2000, he was honored for being the 30,000th patient at Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles.

Vigil was born without fibulas, a condition called bilateral fibular hemimelia. He would either have to spend his life in a wheelchair or have his lower legs amputated. His parents chose the latter.

“It was the only option,” Paul Vigil says. “It was the harder choice, though, to take something away from him that he was born with. But it really was the only choice.”

At 11 months old, Vigil was fitted with his first set of prosthetics. Six months later, he was walking. From there, he did what kids do as they grow up, playing baseball and soccer and basketball, pretty much whatever he wanted, whatever he saw other kids doing.

Many of the teammates who cheered so passionately for him Thursday, who can be seen on video using body English to coax home his 3-pointer, have been Vigil’s friends for years, some going back to kindergarten.

“We’re very appreciative of this program and what they’ve done for him,” his mother, Elizabeth, says. “The support has been amazing. Blaze has always had great determination and will. He’s never really been held back by anything.”

Vigil’s 3-point attempt Thursday actually was his second of the season. The first came during one of his earlier appearances and resulted in an air-ball.

But against his school’s No. 1 rival, he came through, in a legitimate Blaze of glory, the Centurions finishing with a record of 22-0, a perfect season capped by the perfect shot.