Despite High School Basketball Player's Death, Michigan High School Team Will Compete in Playoffs

A Michigan high school basketball team still mourning the sudden death of its 16-year-old star player will compete in the state tournament Monday night.

The Fennville Blackhawks will compete in the Michigan High School Athletic Association boys basketball state tournament just days after Wes Leonard died. Leonard collapsed after scoring the victory shot in a game Thursday that secured the Blackhawks’ perfect season.

Officials said that Leonard, a junior, died from a heart attack after scoring the winning layup in Fennville's 57-55 victory over Bridgman. It capped a perfect 20-0 regular season for the Blackhawks and further cemented Leonard's status as Fennville's unquestioned star.

Leonard's small town near Lake Michigan remembered him Friday as an "all-American kid" whose athletic heroics had been local legend since middle school, when opposing coaches sometimes asked to see his birth certificate, reluctant to believe that someone so young could be so skilled.

"He was a good kid, a good friend to have and a good person to hang around with," DeMarcus McGee, who played football and basketball with Leonard, said between sobs. "You never thought it could be him. He was so healthy. It shouldn't happen."

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After the teams exchanged handshakes following the game Thursday night, Fennville players celebrated. Some began scrambling to organize a team photo that would commemorate their undefeated record. That's when the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Leonard collapsed, with an estimated 1,400 fans watching.

"Thirty seconds earlier, he was laying in the winning bucket," said Ryan Klingler, basketball coach in Fennville, about 200 miles west of Detroit. "And then 10 seconds later ... everything's pulled out from under you, from out of nowhere."

Click to read more about Wes Leonard and the Fennville game from The Detroit News

The Associated Press contributed to this report.