On Monday I drove a couple hours to see a high school basketball game in Vicksburg, Michigan – about 20 minutes south of Kalamazoo. The Class C regional semi-final pitted Schoolcraft against Fennville. Both schools were undefeated – but that wasn’t why I was going.
Two weeks ago Fennville lost its star center, Wes Leonard, just minutes after the last regular season contest. Leonard had made the game winning shot, and the Fennville fans rushed the court and hoisted their hero onto their shoulders.
Then, just seconds later, the truly unthinkable happened: Wes Leonard’s enlarged heart gave out, and he collapsed, right on the court. Before midnight, the town pastor emerged from the hospital to tell the crowd Wes Leonard had died.
Now, the Fennville Blackhawks (20-0) have decided to play on despite their immense sadness.
The Fennville team will play Monday night against Lawrence High in the Class C district playoffs. The game has been moved to Hope College in Holland.
The Sporting News says the game was moved from Lawrence High School to Hope College to accommodate an expected large crowd and large media presence.
The Lawrence High School coach spoke with ESPN about how he expects the Fennville boys team to play. From the Sporting News:
Lawrence coach Curt Meat told ESPN of Monday’s game, “Either they’re going to come out and break down and be terrible, and I’d hate to see that … or they’re going to come out and they’re going to have angels on their shoulders and really light it up.”
Drew Sharp has an opinion piece in today's Detroit Free Press. He quoted a statement from Fennville superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer talking about Lawrence High School decision to change the venue:
"They have been more than gracious and accommodating in making this decision. By doing so, they are relinquishing home-court advantage. We also recognize that Lawrence has been cast in an unenviable position and must feel as if the world will be rooting against them. Rather than focusing on the outcome of Monday's game, our joint goal is to make it a fitting tribute to the memory of Wes Leonard."
Wes Leonard’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday morning at Holland's Christ Memorial Church.
Visitation is today from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Fennville United Methodist Church.
The Associated Press and USAToday are reporting that a 16 year old Fennville student died last night after making a game-making layup. From the AP:
The Fennville Schools superintendent says the basketball player who died last night after making a game-winning shot was "the quintessential all-American kid."
It's still not clear what caused the death of 16-year-old Wes Leonard, who collapsed on the court after making a last-second layup in Fenville's 57-55 win over Bridgman. The victory capped Fenville's undefeated season.
Leonard fell to the ground after teammates and fans rushed the court. Rescuers performed CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The junior was also the quarterback of the school's football team.