It’s a story out of a movie. The most tragic, heartbreaking movie you’ve ever seen.
Wes Leonard was a 16-year-old basketball player at Fennvile High School in western Michigan. Last night, in the waning seconds of Fennville’s final game of the season, Leonard hit the winning layup to preserve the team’s undefeated, 20-0 season.
According to the Holland Sentinel:
Leonard, the undefeated Blackhawks’ star player, scored the game-winning layup in a 57-55 win over Bridgman in overtime at Fennville High School. He fell to the ground amid teammates and fans who stormed the court.
“Wes arrived at Holland Hospital in cardiac arrest,” Breed said. “All efforts were made after he arrived to help restart his heart, but unfortunately, those efforts were not successful.”
Moments before he collapsed, his teammates had given him a celebratory hoist into the air before a team huddle.
Leonard was described as “by far the best player on that basketball team—outstanding athlete.” He broke the career 1,000-point mark earlier in the season. He was also the school’s starting quarterback and lead them to the second round of the state playoffs.
But none of that matters. A 16-year-old died. It’s an impossible story. A young life lost—impossible to stomach.
More from the Sentinel:
“Wes is just an outstanding young man, and he has obviously been a leader for our athletic teams, and he is just an absolutely great kid,” [Fenville Superintendent Dick] Weeldreyer said.
The game that seemed so important—the school’s parking lots overflowed with cars, fans spilling out of the stands, watching with standing room only cheering their team to a 20-0 record—suddenly became “irrelevant.”
“It’s pretty irrelevant, yeah,” Norton said. “That was a good game, but when something like this happens, sports are pretty irrelevant.”
An autopsy report is still to come. Leonard, apparently, was recovering from the flu. He’s the second Fennville athlete to die within the last 14 months. Jose Hernandez, 14, died from a seizure after a home wrestling match last January.
—Photo AP/ Dennis R.J. Geppert