The Kutztown High School gym rocked with a new kind of basketball on March 1 as Kutztown Strong held its second annual three on three hoops tournament.

Students Derek Hanna and Brandon Gehris won a half-court free-throw contest and were awarded a bag full of gift cards each. The cards were redeemable for roughly $150 in gifts such as sports clothing, movies, restaurants and other things appealing to teenagers.

“We broke the players into two sections,” said Kelly Neyhart, Vice President of Kutztown Strong and, along with his wife, Celine, adviser of Kutztown Strong Students, the high school group that designs youth activities. “The games played by the expert group looked about like you would expect them to. Some of them are really excellent players. The beginner’s games were something else entirely and a good bit more entertaining. Not a lot of points were scored, but they had a lot of fun and made a lot of noise. It was fun to watch.”

Teenage appetites were satisfied at the event by tacos made by students from the school’s consumer science classes, raw materials for which were donated by Giant, Weiss and Sheetz. A table full of tacos they made themselves, fruit and soda disappeared quickly as nearly 80 high schoolers descended on it between games.

“The home made tacos were a new idea and went over really big,” said Neyhart. “The players loved the food and the ones who cooked it got a bang out of seeing their efforts devoured by hungry teenagers.”

“The best part about it,” Neyhart went on, “is that quite a number of students came out just for the food. That bunch enjoyed the food and activities even though they didn’t want to join in the games, so we were able to reach a whole set of young people we haven’t been able to draw out up to now.”

The brothers from Kutztown University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity organized the games and provided referees, with a chorus of good-natured boos and cheers occasionally greeting a controversial call.

“These guys have been a rock for this organization since its founding,” said Neyhart. “Any time we have an event, they organize the young people and do most of the managing of the effort. They also provide positive role models for them like older brothers.”

Kutztown Strong was formed in 2014 after several tragic drug induced deaths in the Kutztown-Topton area prompted its formation to combat the seductive power of substance abuse. The organization has worked since then with after school activities and drug and alcohol education to turn endangered students toward something more constructive.

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