It began as one of the greatest moments in a Michigan schoolâ€™s history.
It ended as perhaps the worst.
Wes Leonard, star basketball player at Fennville High in a town 200 miles west of Detroit, scored the game-winning basket in overtime Thursday night to complete his teamâ€™s perfect season. The clutch play, by the schoolâ€™s starting quarterback, sent Fennville fans into a frenzy, as the team finished its regular season 20-0. Teammates hoisted Leonard into the air in celebration.
Moments later, Leonard collapsed on the court.
The thrill became dread. Cheers became tears. And in a split-second, every parentâ€™s dream for a son became every parentâ€™s worst nightmare.
An ambulance took Leonard to Holland Hospital. He died at 10:40 pm. He was 16 years old.
â€śAll efforts were made after he arrived to help restart his heart, but unfortunately those efforts were not successful,â€ť hospital spokesman Tim Breed told the Holland Sentinel. â€śThere likely will be an autopsy conducted to determine the actual cause of death. Clearly, we offer our condolences to Wesâ€™ family and friends.â€ť
Leonard recently passed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring, according to the Sentinel, and earned honorable-mention all-state honors in football last fall. He quarterbacked the Blackhawks to the second round of the Division 6 playoffs before they lost to two-time state champion Montague.
Leonard was recovering from the flu, according to Fennville coach Ryan Klingler, but seemed to be in great health otherwise. â€śThatâ€™s what makes him a little different. He takes care of his body better than probably anybody Iâ€™ve ever coached,â€ť Klingler told the Sentinel Tuesday. â€śSpends a lot of time on his own in the weight room. Heâ€™s a special kid.â€ť
Fennville is scheduled to start the state tournament on Monday.
The tragedy robbed the school and the town of a part of its history it would have always cherished.
More importantly, it robbed Fennville of a special part of its future.