Kutztown boys are riding the wave
Cougars amid 11-game win streak led by junior Jean-Baptiste
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.”
Kutztown’s Lorencz Jean-Baptiste leads Berks in scoring with 20.9 points per game.
Kutztown’s Lucas Floyd goes high to defend Brandywine’s Drew Miller last week.