Kutztown boys are rid­ing the wave

Cougars amid 11-game win streak led by ju­nior Jean-Bap­tiste

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - SPORTS - By Lisa Mitchell [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @kutz­town­pa­triot on Twit­ter

Ex­cite­ment is build­ing around the Kutztown High School boys bas­ket­ball team this sea­son.

It’s hard not to with the team off to an 11-1 start (en­ter­ing Mon­day) and rid­ing an 11-game win­ning streak.

The chem­istry the Cougars play­ers have built over the years is now pay­ing off, ac­cord­ing to Kutztown Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Ed Yap­suga.

“What re­ally helps them ex­cel is their abil­ity to work as a team. They’ve been play­ing to­gether for many years. Their com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the floor and their will­ing­ness to pick each other up, re­ally help each other out, I think that’s what re­ally driven their suc­cess this year,” Yap­suga.

Ju­nior Lorencz JeanBap­tiste, 16, has been cen­tral to the Cougars’ suc­cess thanks to his scor­ing and ver­sa­til­ity. Jean-Bap­tiste leads Berks County in scor­ing with 20.9 points per game, high­lighted by a bril­liant 39-point per­for­mance in Kutztown’s over­time win over non-league Ken­nett on Jan. 6.

“This sea­son has been great,” Jean-Bap­tiste said. “I think right now we’re still hun­gry al­though we’re on a win­ning streak. We still have stuff to prove and still have ways to get bet­ter.”

Jean-Bap­tiste feels his as­sertive­ness and ath­leti­cism has im­proved through his first two sea­sons and now as a ju­nior, he feels he is now a ca­pa­ble ball han­dler and able to pick out the right pass.

“I’ve been able to help my team­mates more this year and am also scor­ing bet­ter,” he said.

Yap­suga, who praised Jean-Bap­tiste as a per­son off the floor too, en­joys the ju­nior’s abil­ity to do it all.

“He’s the type of player who can play just about ev­ery po­si­tion on the floor and that is so valu­able to have be­cause you can match up with the other team’s best player. He can go height ver­sus height or speed ver­sus speed with the op­pos­ing team’s play­ers. That ver­sa­til­ity and his of­fense aware­ness and his abil­ity to get down and make those down and dirty plays, that’s what re­ally makes him special,” he said.

The Cougars’ bal­ance – all five starters re­turned from last sea­son’s 13-10 sea­son – could be con­sid­ered special, too.

They have se­nior for­ward Bray­den Eck av­er­ag­ing 14.2 points per game (top 15 in Berks) as well as five oth­ers with five points per game or bet­ter (en­ter­ing Jan. 13): se­nior Brady Tucker (6.2 ppg), se­nior Matthew Angstadt (5.8 ppg), ju­nior Dane Fegely (5.7), se­nior Ivan Fegely (5.5) and se­nior Owen Fen­erty (5.0).

Jean-Bap­tiste cred­its the team’s suc­cess so far this year to first-year head coach Ted Sny­der, the for­mer Kutztown stand­out (fourth all­time scorer in bas­ket­ball) and mem­ber of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. Sny­der for­merly coached at Ex­eter and Owen J. Roberts, where he still teaches.

“We put teams away this year be­cause of good coach­ing, just be­ing able to ex­e­cute dur­ing games,” he said. “I think the team as a whole sees where we need to get to be con­sid­ered a top team. We’ve be­come more hun­gry for this year.”

The com­bi­na­tion has Kutztown ranked No. 1 in the Dis­trict 3 Class 3A power rank­ings en­ter­ing the week.

“I think we have a shot to win dis­tricts right now and even go on a state run,” Jean-Bap­tiste said.

Jean-Bap­tiste as­pires to play for a Di­vi­sion I school after grad­u­a­tion. He would like to study sports medicine and phys­i­cal ther­apy.

The Cougars’ suc­cess has led to ex­cite­ment around the school and com­mu­nity.

“The ex­cite­ment, in what this team is do­ing, around here and the school spirit that they’re re­ally gen­er­at­ing is awe­some to see,” Yap­suga said. “You go into the gym and you see the num­ber of stu­dents that are there. You see the teach­ers com­ing out. The ad­min­is­tra­tors com­ing out. You see the com­mu­nity mem­bers com­ing out and sup­port­ing this team. It’s a re­ally fan­tas­tic thing to see. We hope that the po­ten­tial they have this year re­ally take them far be­cause I know there are a lot of peo­ple around here who are root­ing for them.”

Those around the team and school are ea­ger for the sea­son to con­tinue well be­yond the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“At this point, I think it’s all up to the boys. I think they re­ally have the po­ten­tial to re­ally have a suc­cess­ful sea­son. They are hav­ing one of the great sea­sons that Kutztown has seen in a long time,” said Yap­suga. “We’re re­ally ex­cited to see where they’re go­ing to go.”

DEN­NIS KRUMANOCKER - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Kutztown’s Lorencz Jean-Bap­tiste leads Berks in scor­ing with 20.9 points per game.

DEN­NIS KRUMANOCKER - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Kutztown’s Lu­cas Floyd goes high to de­fend Brandy­wine’s Drew Miller last week.

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