HOLLAND, Mich. - A high school boys basketball team in Fennville played its first state tournament game of the year, four days after its star player hit a winning shot before he collapsed and died from a heart ailment.
Fennville beat Lawrence High 65-54 Monday in the first round of a district tournament. The game was supposed to be played at Lawrence but was played instead at Hope College in Holland to handle a larger crowd.
Fennville High's decision to play the game came after school officials talked to the family of 16-year-old Wes Leonard.
"I know it's really hard for them to be out here, but this is something they had to do for Wes," said Julie Lungaro, a Fennville basketball fan. "He wouldn't have wanted them to give up."
The teams played before a sold-out crowd which included Leonard's mother and uncle. His younger brother sat on Fennville's bench to offer the team support.
"Our team needed this so much," said Fennville fan Michael Fries. "It's been a stressful couple of days for our team and our community. It's great to play a tough game against a good opponent and come out with a win."
Former NBA player Bo Kimble, whose friend and Loyola Marymount teammate Hank Gathers died of a heart ailment during a 1990 conference tournament game, also was at the game.
Kimble, who is part of a non-profit foundation seeking to prevent deaths from sudden heart attacks, will address both teams before the game.
Leonard made a basket Thursday to give the Blackhawks a victory over Bridgman High, capping an unbeaten regular season. He died because of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.
Leonard's funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Christ Memorial Church in Holland.
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