High school team's gracious gesture to mourning rivals
Mon, 07 Mar 2011 17:05:56 GMT —
HOLLAND, Mich. - A high school boys basketball team in western Michigan is at the receiving end of a classy display of sportsmanship as it prepares for its first game in the state tournament, four days after its star player hit a winning shot then collapsed and died from a heart ailment.
Fennville High's decision to play in Monday night's game came after school officials talked to the family of 16-year-old Wes Leonard.
Fennville will play Lawrence High in the first round of a district tournament. The game was supposed to be played at Lawrence but will be played instead at Hope College in Holland to handle a larger crowd.
While Hope College will technically be a neutral venue, it lies in Holland, Mich., which is the closest large town to Fennville. Yet despite the fact that Lawrence held a home court advantage, it will now travel more than an hour to the site of the game, whereas Fennville will have to drive less than 30 minutes to the postseason opener. The Tigers willfully handed over their home court advantage to help make it easier for Fennville to play ... and to allow more of the school's grieving fans to be there when the team takes the court for the first time without Leonard.
"We would like to offer our deepest thanks to Lawrence Public Schools," Fennville superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer said in a statement. "They have been more than gracious and accommodating in making this decision. By doing so, they are relinquishing home-court advantage. It is a display of the utmost sportsmanship."
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.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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