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Michigan high school basketball player dies after making winning shot

March 4, 2011 |  9:28 am

Player_450 Wes Leonard of Fennville (Mich.) High sealed his team's undefeated season with a game-winning layup with 30 seconds remaining in overtime Thursday night. Then tragedy struck. After teammates and fans rushed the court to celebrate the victory, Leonard collapsed to the ground and later died.

Paramedics performed CPR on the 16-year-old junior, but he was pronounced dead at Holland Hospital, spokeswoman Deb Patterson said. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

“It's tough to take in,” Fennville teammate Shane Bale told The Holland Sentinel. “It's like somebody from your family, you know?”

Fennville Supt. Dirk Weeldreyer told the Sentinel before an ambulance carried Wes away from the high school: “Obviously, in the midst of celebration, I think ‘shocking' is exactly the word.”

Wes, who was also quarterback of the school's football team, had scored more than 1,000 points in his basketball career at Fennville. He was “by far the best player on that basketball team — outstanding athlete,” said Bridgman (Mich.) Coach Mike Miller, whose team lost to Fennville, 57-55, Thursday night.

In an interview with the Sentinel on Tuesday, Fennville Coach Ryan Klingler described Wes as someone who saw "the bigger picture."

“That's what makes him a little different. He takes care of his body better than probably anybody I've ever coached,” Klingler said. “Spends a lot of time on his own in the weight room. He's a special kid.”

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Members of the Fennville High School basketball team lift Wes Leonard, top, after he made a game-winning layup in overtime Thursday night. Credit: Associated Press / The Holland Sentinel