By Zach Alvira, GSN Sports Editor
It was a surprise that Gilbert High’s Marcus and Isaac MacDonald didn’t see coming.
With the No. 1 Tigers’ boys basketball team leading Higley, 42-30, late in the fourth quarter on Feb. 1, Higley coach Jerome Joseph called timeout and walked over to Tigers coach Jay Caserio and gave him the high sign.
Caserio sent Marcus and Isaac, who were honored on Senior Night before Gilbert’s 46-33 win, onto the floor along with fellow Tigers seniors Carson Towt, Doc Self and Jake Ehmann.
“I had talked to coach (Caserio) earlier and he had told me what was going on,” Joseph said. “Obviously, when I saw the game was out of hand and there was an opportunity I wanted to give them that.”
The twins were diagnosed at a young age with autism, a developmental disorder that impairs communication and social skills, but that hasn’t stopped their love for basketball.
Marcus and Isaac are more accustomed to cheering on the Tigers from the bench. As team managers, they typically aren’t in uniform.
Not long after a missed Higley shot, Marcus had the ball in his hands and drove to the hoop.
Marcus’ layup went off the backboard, but the ball fell into the hands of Isaac, who quickly put up a shot of his own that went in.
“I had to help my brother out on the first one,” Isaac said. “I was definitely excited for that.”
The crowd erupted as Isaac sprinted down the floor with Towt close behind.
“I started running after him, chasing him,” Towt said. “I thought we were all going to run after him but I was the only one. It was a surreal experience.”
Higley guard Isaiah Eastman then made a 3-pointer, leaving 10 seconds in the game. Marcus, with the ball in his hand again, headed toward the basket. The senior drove and put a layup off the glass. This time, it went in, just beating the final buzzer, as the crowd, on its feet, erupted once again.
“Yes, I did get swarmed,” Marcus said. “It was a sense of honor, a sense of pride and adversity as well. It was my first two points of my career.”
The twins have been around the game their entire life. Marcus and Isaac played basketball until they were 16, learning the game from their father, Neil, the head basketball coach at Corona del Sol High School since 2015.
Because the Gilbert school district has an excellent autism program, Marcus and Isaac attend Gilbert High instead of Corona del Sol, where their dad works.
“The easy decision would have been to bring them here with me so I can watch them every day,” Neil said. “But to have them be embraced by that community like they have been for four years – they’ve gone above and beyond for them.”
With Corona del Sol having a night off, the Aztecs players were in attendance in the stands to support their coach and his sons.
Marcus and Isaac quickly became Gilbert Tiger super fans. They’ve led the Tigers’ football team onto the field and pumped up the crowds at GHS sporting events.
They became managers of the basketball team their sophomore year and quickly became a part of the Gilbert family.
So when the idea to let them dress out on Senior Night came up, the Tigers’ players didn’t hesitate to make it happen.
“They are a part of our family,” Self said. “These guys are incredible. Their hearts are the purest I have ever seen. The joy they have just radiates. You can’t help but be happy when you’re around them.”
Marcus and Isaac were presented their jerseys in the locker room ahead of practice the day before the game. Towt and Self, the two senior captains, instructed them to open a pair of lockers which had the jerseys inside.
It took a second for them to realize exactly what was going on. When they did, they couldn’t help but celebrate with their teammates.
“They’re true Tigers,” Caserio said. “To be that happy every day, it’s amazing. And for coach Joseph to make that decision there to call a timeout to let us put the MacDonald twins in, that’s a top-notch move right there in terms of respect.”
It was a dream come true for the twins. Neil and his wife, Annica, were overcome with emotion when Marcus and Isaac ran onto the floor and then again as each of them made a basket.
After the game, Neil went into the Gilbert locker room to thank each member of the team for giving his sons that opportunity. He knows it’s a moment that will stick with them forever.
“For Higley to give up the ball and give them an opportunity, it’s unbelievable,” Neil said. “I always tell my players the single determining factor that will determine your success is how you treat each other.
“What they did tonight for our boys is remarkable.”
View videos of the MacDonald twins’ heartwarming baskets: bit.ly/Isaacshot and bit.ly/Marcusshot