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Hundreds mourn teen basketball hero

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Players remember fallen teammate
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A church fills to remember high school star Wes Leonard
  • He collapsed and died after scoring a winning basket in overtime
  • His shot secured a perfect season for his high school team
  • On Monday the team won their first state playoff game

(CNN) -- Hundreds filled a small-town Michigan church on a chilly and overcast Tuesday to say a final goodbye to a teenage hero who died just after scoring a winning shot that lifted his high school's basketball team to a perfect winning season.

Friends and family paid their last respects at a funeral for 16-year-old Wes Leonard of Fennville.

The night before, his teammates charged into a gym, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his number -- 35 -- and the phrase, "Never forgotten." Fans erupted in a standing ovation and wiped away tears during a moment of silence before the tipoff of Fennville High School's first game without Leonard as the point guard.

The Blackhawks won their first state playoff game, 65-54, before a crowd of thousands.

"This was a game he would like to watch. There's no doubt his eyes were upon us," Fennville coach Ryan Klingler told reporters, choking back tears.

Former NBA player visits Fennville team

Friends came to the game with homemade shirts and signs, saying he was their angel on the court, CNN affiliate WZZM reported.

The teen's parents sat in the sold-out crowd of nearly 3,500 people. His brother sat beside teammates on the bench.

"Wes was like a brother to us," Fennville player Xavier Grigg told WZZM. "We were all like family. We knew he would have wanted us to come out here and keep the streak alive."

Leonard died moments after scoring the winning basket in overtime Thursday, securing a perfect season for the Blackhawks. He scored his team's last four points in the 57-55 victory.

An autopsy Friday revealed Leonard died of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart, according to a statement from Dr. David A. Start, the Ottawa County chief medical examiner.

 
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