Central Regional Basketball Celebrates Two Big Wins

The Central Regional Golden Eagles and their admirers celebrate how much the fundraiser made. (Photo courtesy Central Regional High School boys basketball team)

  BERKELEY – The Central Regional High School boys basketball team wrote more than one success story.

  The Golden Eagles captured Shore Conference Class B South (11-0 in division and Crossover) en route to a 22-5 overall record, tying their single-season program record for wins (22-6) set in 2016-17.

  And they helped raise tens of thousands of dollars, hosting the eighth annual Jimmy V Showcase, an anti-cancer event. Central coach Mike Clemente, now in his sixth year of remission, was diagnosed in July of 2018 at the age of 33.

  “The wins were great,” Clemente said, “but what made this season special was the way we came together as a team and how much each player truly cared about each other. There was zero animosity toward another player’s success. The boys wholeheartedly cheered for and celebrated each other. We were able to put things together on both ends of the floor. We utilized an aggressive, up tempo style on both ends of the floor. We tried to keep opponents uncomfortable.”    

  The top scorers were junior guard Jaycen Santucci and senior forward Miles Chevalier. Santucci averaged 21.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He buried 15 treys and 127 of 167 free throws.

  Chevalier averaged 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.0 steals per outing. He netted 42 shots from deep and 46 of 62 free throws.

  The 6-foot-4 Santucci has scored 1,139 career varsity points in three seasons. The 6-3 Chevalier bucketed 1,122 in four varsity seasons.

  “Jaycen is a very skilled and aggressive downhill player on offense,” Clemente said. “He can quickly take over a game. Defensively, he is a great all-around player who can guard multiple positions while creating a lot of havoc for the offense. Miles is a knock down shooter who can score on all three levels of the floor – short range, medium range and three-point range. Defensively, he is very smart and guards multiple positions.”

  Both players are being courted by colleges.

  Clemente said senior guards Jordan Barbot and Brayden Lowden were the “heart and soul of the team.”

  Barbot averaged 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 assists per game. He put home 16 treys and 16 of 26 free throws and added two blocks.

  Lowden averaged 1.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game and added one block. He netted nine treys and one of two free throws.

  “They were unbelievable team players,” said Clemente, assisted by John Fredo, Mike Puglisi, Jeremy Wozniak and Kenny Beyrouti. “They put the team first at all times.”

  Junior guard Jayson King averaged 7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game and blocked one shot. He canned 28 treys and 28 of 35 free throws.

  Central also received contributions from junior forward Royalty Riley, junior guard Devont King-Reilly, junior guard Aidan Graham, 6-6 sophomore forward Elijah Reeder, sophomore guard Madden Leszczynski, sophomore forward Tyler Woermer, senior guard Mason Lisewski, junior guard Luke Denning, sophomore guard Gavin Lisewski and junior forward Rich Schmidt. Captains were Chevalier, Barbot, Lowden and Santucci.

Jaycen Santucci dunks for Central Regional. (Photo courtesy Central Regional High School boys basketball team)

  “They were chosen by earning the right to be named captain,” Clemente said.

  The team’s ninth-year coach said he enjoyed working with the club.

  “This was a TEAM in every sense of  the word,” he said. “What a joy and honor it was to be around them every day. Great group of kids who just happen to be outstanding basketball players.”

  Coming off a 20-7 season, Central won its third division title in Clemente’s tenure. This year’s team limited opponents to 40.8 points per game.

b “We take pride in defense,” Clemente said. “The team did a tremendous job on the defensive end of the floor.”

  The Showcase is named for ex-North Carolina State University men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, claimed by cancer at the age of 47 on April 28, 1993. He led the Wolfpack to the 1983 NCAA Division I Tournament championship. This year’s event raised $23,865. Its goal was $20,000. Partnered with the V Foundation since 2019, the Showcase has raised more than $135,000. Last season’s Showcase raised $25,309 – the fourth largest fundraiser for the Foundation.

  Joining Central in this year’s six-game Showcase were Mainland Regional, Donovan Catholic, Robbinsville, Toms River North, Matawan, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, Rutgers Prep, St. Rose, Ramapo, Manasquan and Egg Harbor. Teams committed for the 2025 Showcase are Central, North, Catholic, Freehold Boro, Rumson, Red Bank Regional, Monroe, Robbinsville, Montgomery and Rutgers Prep.  

 Clemente was diagnosed with primary mediastinal non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent intense chemotherapy led by Dr. Seth Cohen at the Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Central’s Jaycen Santucci and coach Mike Clemente enjoy Santucci’s achievement. (Photo courtesy Central Regional High School boys basketball team)

  “Central makes not a dime from the Showcase,” said event spokeswoman Maureen Clemente, Clemente’s mother. “Every dollar donated to the V Foundation goes directly to cancer research as they are funded by an endowment. Just an amazing gesture from the school board, athletic department, parents and community.

  “We are staffed by volunteers. Jersey Mike’s of Bayville, Pies Place, Dunkin Doughnuts and Oh What a Bagel donate food for the concession stand. Local businesses buy sponsorships for banners in our gymnasium and the money is donated. We sell event T-shirts and charge $10 admission for the entire day of games.”

  The first Showcase was in 2017. Clemente conducted tryouts for the 2018-2019 season on an i-Pad from the hospital while his assistant coaches and father, retired Central coach Mike Clemente, were in the gymnasium. Playing for his dad, Clemente scored 1,098 career points in four varsity seasons and handed out a program career record 457 assists.

  “The first Showcase was Mike’s way of teaching kids how to be involved in their community,” Mrs. Clemente said. “I’m just a mom paying it forward to the organization that saved my son’s life.”         

Miles Chevalier celebrates his milestone with coach Mike Clemente. (Photo courtesy Central Regional High School boys basketball team)

  Coach Clemente said he is impressed with the support.

  “The Showcase holds a special place in my heart as cancer affects so many people every year,” he said. “The amount of support from friends, family and the entire Central Regional community has been overwhelming. It is great to see the sheer number of people who have rallied together for this cause. Blessed to say I am feeling great.”