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Leonard plays through pain after tragedy

Riverside King forward has 15 points in loss to Dominguez a day after father is shot to death.

January 20, 2008|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Only 24 hours after his father was shot to death in Compton, junior forward Kawhi Leonard of Riverside King decided the best way to deal with his pain was to play in a basketball game Saturday night against Compton Dominguez at Pauley Pavilion.

"He said he needs to play," Coach Tim Sweeney said.

The 6-foot-7 Leonard scored 15 points, but King (17-2), ranked No. 9 in the Southland by The Times, was defeated by fourth-ranked Dominguez, 68-60, in the Pangos Dream Classic.

Jordan Hamilton, an All-City forward last season at Los Angeles Dorsey, led Dominguez (16-2) with 35 points and 14 rebounds. Eric Wise had 21 points for King.

Leonard found out about his father's death Friday night. According to police, a man was shot around 6:15 p.m. Friday in the 400 block of North Wilmington Avenue in Compton and taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died. Leonard's mother, Kim Robertson, confirmed Saturday that the victim was Mark Leonard, Kawhi's father.

Leonard tried to hide his emotions all day, but after Saturday's game, he and his mother embraced, and he broke into tears near the southwest tunnel in Pauley.

Besides allowing Leonard an opportunity to focus on something other than his father's death, the game also was a chance to let others see his three-point shooting skills. He came in shooting 48% from three-point range and has started drawing recruiting interest from UCLA.

Hamilton scored 23 points in the first half, including 15 in the second quarter, to give Dominguez a 33-31 halftime lead.

It was 37-37 in the third quarter when Dominguez went on a 9-0 run and began to pull away.

"He was spectacular," Dominguez Coach Russell Otis said of Hamilton.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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