A Perfect Season Then Dies

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A Perfect Season Then Dies
« on: March 04, 2011, 03:18:14 pm »
Prep star hits game-winning shot for perfect season, falls and dies

By Cameron Smith

Tragedy struck Western Michigan on Thursday night when Fennville (Mich.) High basketball star Wes Leonard hit a game-winning shot in a 57-55, overtime victory over Bridgman (Mich.) High, then collapsed on the court while celebrating the victory and was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly thereafter.

According to the Associated Press, Leonard, who you can see making the game-winning shot above, was celebrating his game-winning layup with the rest of his teammates when he collapsed to the ground. Paramedics tried CPR on the star at the site and in the ambulance, but he was pronounced dead upon reaching nearby Holland Hospital.

"Obviously, in the midst of celebration, I think shocking is exactly the word," Fennville Superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer told The Holland Sentinel about Leonard's collapse.

Making matters even more disorienting for Fennville fans were the events that transpired just before Leonard's death. The junior -- who was also the quarterback of the school's football team last fall -- not only hit the winning shot in the team's final regular-season game, but by doing so he also ensured that the Blackhawks would finish with a perfect, 20-0 record.

"It's tough to take in," Leonard's teammate Shane Bale told The Sentinel. "It's like somebody from your family, you know?"

Opposing coaches and their teams were also still trying to come to grips with the teen's passing. Bangor (Mich.) coach Rocky Johnson said that he was completely stunned by the death.

"It's hard to stomach," Johnson told MLive.com. "We are all hurting now.

"My son and Wes played AAU in different programs, but we saw each other all summer, all spring, and he's the kind of kid that I would make sure to say hi to him and he would go out of his way to say hi to me. He always had something good to say, all positives."

Meanwhile, comments in a Tuesday article in The Sentinel made clear just how much Leonard felt like his team was an extended family. When asked about coach Ryan Klingler's decision to make his wife, Becky, the team's assistant coach, Leonard was unequivocal in his support.

"It makes it feel like you're right at home," the junior told The Sentinel.

Now, that family will have to enter the district playoffs without one of its most significant members.

"That's what makes [Leonard] a little different," Klinger told The Sentinel in the Tuesday article. "He takes care of his body better than probably anybody I've ever coached. Spends a lot of time on his own in the weight room. He's a special kid."

No cause of death has been provided for the teenager, and none is expected until after an autoposy is performed, an event which has yet to be scheduled by the Holland medical examiner.