Tragedy struck the tiny town of Fennville, Michigan when the local high school basketball hero suddenly collapsed after making the game’s winning shot and died.
Yes, he died. Wes Leonard, 16, was a local legend since middle school. His team, the Fennville Blackbirds, was going 19-0 in the regular season. During the last match of the season against Bridgeman High, Leonard kept the game from ending in a tie by scoring the last point within the last 30 seconds of the game, putting them at 57-55 when the final buzzer sounded. A jumping and cheering Wes Leonard suddenly fell upon the ground, and stayed there. The gymnasium of 1400 fans and supporters reportedly went silent.
An autopsy conducted by the Ottawa County medical examiners revealed that Leonard died due to cardiac arrest. His heart was enlarged, with some speculation that athletics may have contributed to his demise, but that is not one of the major theories at the moment.
Leonard’s efforts ensured the Blackbirds an undefeated regular season, and even though he passed on, the game must continue. The Blackbirds were slated to play against Lawrence High for district playoffs. They gave up home-field advantage to play at a neutral location, Hope College.
The slogan of the game was “Never Forgotten.” Leonard’s teammates and fans wore T-shirts with that phrase and waved “We love you, Wes” signs as the Blackbirds defeated Lawrence High, keeping Leonard’s dream alive.
The school district took a the day off on the day of Leonard’s funeral, so that the community did not have to worry about going to school over a memorial service.
His friends described him as the “nicest and kindest guy you know.” His coaches describe him as an incredibly gifted player with the most natural talent that has come from that town. His teachers and administrators all loved him. The world is still reeling from losing such an incredible talent and human being. May Wes Leonard rest in peace.