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Kulesa's hard work helping CB West back into postseason picture

01/18/2024, 12:00am EST
By Jared Leveson

By Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

FAIRLESS HILLS — Roman Kulesa set the tone for Central Bucks West this year at the September West Chester Big 64 Showcase. 

Things got chippy as West senior Julian Phillps got shoved during a dead-ball situation. Kulesa didn't hesitate. He sprinted into the thick of things. He had his teammates' back. 

"I saw that fire in his eyes that I hadn't seen before," senior captain Bowen Gugger recalled.

Kulesa's fire is still burning strong in January. It's been raging since the end of his junior varsity season. He wanted a role on the varsity squad this year, and Kulesa earned it in the offseason. 

Roman Kulesa (above) and CB West are 12-4 after a win over Pennsbury. (Photo: Jared Leveson/CoBL)

The 6-foot-2 guard never missed an opportunity to play and locked himself in the gym and the weight room. His work this past offseason showed in a gritty 44-31 away win over SOL Patriot opponent Pennsbury on Wednesday night. 

"I thought his energy was great," CB West head coach Adam Sherman said about Kulesa. "We were flat with the day off, and Pennsbury did a real good job of making long possessions, and I think that affected our ability to find a rhythm offensively, and we needed a catalyst. 

"Roman was that catalyst. He gave us that energy that we needed."

Kulesa scored 15 of his game-high 16 points in the second half and went 6-for-6 from the field. His energy on the glass and defensive end created opportunities for himself. He collected four points on two offensive rebounds (four total for the game) and notched three steals. 

"I was loving it," Kulesa added. 

He has the most fun playing basketball, but he wasn't playing at the level he wanted to for a while. 

Kulesa started his first year at Plumstead Christian. He made the varsity roster on the District 1 1A squad, but it wasn't the right fit. 

He wanted more competition. 

Kulesa found his way back to Central Bucks West for his sophomore year. His competition increased because of the sheer population at the 6A classification school, and he fell short of varsity, landing on the JV team. 

He started every game for the JV team but never saw varsity minutes during the 2022-2023 season. 

His mission was simple— become a varsity starter and help his team win. 

"He's a humble kid." Gugger said about Kulesa. "He's asking questions. He wants to learn. We were playing tough teams in the PW league, and he was playing his ass off. He was doing anything he could to get on the floor, and you can tell he really put in the work this summer. 

"I admire him for that."

"His work ethic has been phenomenal," Sherman added. "He's just really hungry for opportunity. I don't think he missed a workout all off season."

Kulesa was the eighth man off the bench in the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Spring League, but that only added more fuel to the fire. The summer came with more minutes, and there was an adjustment period. Still, seniors Gugger, Phillips, and captain Matt Engle kept encouraging him to shoot and trust his work. 

By September, Kulesa was in the starting lineup. 

"I just put the work in," he said. "I probably went to the gym six days a week. I hit the vertimax (to work) on my jumping. I probably did an hour and a half of shots every day. 

"Slowly but steadily I made that improvement and got my starting spot."

Kulesa hasn't looked back since. His fire has grown stronger and brighter, especially in the second half against Pennsbury (8-8, 4-5). 

“He’s carved out a niche for himself where he is our high energy guy,” Sherman added. “He’s not afraid of the big moment and makes big plays when we need him.”

Tied at 17 heading into the second half, Kulesa broke the deadlock on the first shot of the third quarter with a corner three. He drove to the basket on the next possession, got fouled, and finished. His personal 6-0 run turned into a 10-0 Bucks run to open the third frame.

Behind Danny Cohen and Simon Dlugi, the Falcons' rallied to within four heading into the fourth, trailing 31-27. 

Kulesa's fire still raged as the fourth began. He swiped the ball away from a Falcon, drove hard to the rim, got fouled again, and converted the And 1. With the Bucks up eight after two straight offensive putbacks by Kulesa, he intercepted the ball at mid-court. He finished at the rim untouched with a minute and change remaining, sealing the win. 

"I was ready to turn the game around," Kulesa said about his mentality entering the second half. "It was such a slow game, something needed to be done, so I decided to go and score and get a few shots. It all started on defense."

"That's what we need to win games," Gugger added. "We haven't won a lot of games [in past seasons] because guys haven't had that [fire]."

The Bucks (12-4, 6-4) are off to their best start since the 2019-2020 season when they appeared in the SOL semifinal and District 1 6A tournament. 

"This is our big year," Kulesa said. 

By Quarter
CB West:  8 | 9 | 14 | 13 || 44
Pennsbury: 6 | 11 | 10| 4 || 31

CB West: Roman Kulesa 16, Julian Phillips 8, Bowen Gugger 7, Sam Jankowski 7, Dan Gallagher 5, Matt Engle 2

Pennsbury: Connor Taddei 9, Teddy Mangan 8, Danny Cohen 6, Simon Dlugi 4, Eric David 2, Grayson Gozum 2

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