Coaches Vs. Cancer Game Highlights Team Talent

Central coach Mike Clemente credits his wife, Allison, and daughter, Emily, for their roles in his recovery from cancer. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Clemente)
Central coach Mike Clemente credits his wife, Allison, and daughter, Emily, for their roles in his recovery from cancer. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Clemente)

BERKELEY – Central Regional High School is Anti-Cancer Strong.

The Golden Eagles hosted the third annual Central Regional Boys Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase on Saturday, Jan. 19.

The event is part of a national fundraiser supporting cancer research in memory of former North Carolina State men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died of the illness at the age of 47 on April 28, 1993. He coached the Wolfpack to the 1983 national title.

Valvano, a former Rutgers University player and assistant men’s team coach, was quoted in pre-event literature as saying, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” 

This year’s benefactor was Coaches vs. Cancer, the event’s original beneficiary.

“Coaches vs. Cancer brings together basketball coaches and their programs at all levels as well as corporate sponsors to raise funds in an attempt to find cures and treatments against a disease that affects so many families,” event spokeswoman Maureen Clemente said.

Funds were raised through sponsorships, donations and T-shirt sales. A Hall of Fame sponsorship cost $500 – $400 if a banner was made last year. An MVP (Most Valuable Player) sponsorship cost $250 – $200 if a banner was made last year. An All-Star sponsorship was worth $150. An All-Conference sponsorship was worth $100. A Varsity sponsorship was worth $50.

T-shirts in Central’s colors of gold and maroon sold for $10 each. Two bucks resulted in the purchase of a wristband. Tickets cost $5 person. A ticket was good for the full schedule of games.

Jersey Mike’s and Oh What A Bagel, both of Berkeley Township, donated food, according to Roseann Puglisi of Berkeley, an event worker. There was a box for donations.

Workers sold T-shirts at the event. From left to right are Roseann Puglisi, Kathy Tierney, Danielle Moeller and Keira Ohleth, all of Berkeley Township. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Clemente)
Workers sold T-shirts at the event. From left to right are Roseann Puglisi, Kathy Tierney, Danielle Moeller and Keira Ohleth, all of Berkeley Township. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Clemente)

Lending a hand at the event was Central’s girls basketball team, which sold wristbands and T-shirts.

“This makes you a better person,” freshman center Kayla Krzykowski said. “We all work together. I am enjoying it. It’s a lot of fun to be with your teammates outside of basketball. We get to hang out together.”

“It’s the third year I have been here and it’s always a great event for a great cause,” Toms River North player Colin Baker said. “The whole community rallies to watch high quality basketball games. It’s just good. Thank God nobody in my life has been impacted by cancer.”    

A spectator was Anne Moyse, a retired physical education teacher in the Toms River Regional School District and a Toms River resident.                

“This is a wonderful, positive project,” she said. “I am very proud that Central initiates and promotes a positive program such as this. Nobody in my family has been impacted by cancer. We have been blessed.”

Moyse said she has known Central coach Mike Clemente, a cancer survivor, for a long time.

“I have known Mike since he was a little kid,” she said. “It’s good for these young men to be giving back and promoting good community spirit.”        

The event consisted of six games. The game between Freehold Township and Woodbridge was not played because of the threat of inclement weather in the Woodbridge area.    

Last season’s Showcase took on a more personal meaning when Mike Clemente, the son of Maureen Clemente and retired Central coach Mike Clemente, was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in July of 2018. He underwent intensive chemotherapy at the Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

“With a goal of helping the Monmouth Medical Center’s Cancer Services Program, the program was able to donate $20,000 thanks to the generous support of our donors,” Mrs. Clemente said.

Current coach Mike Clemente said there was no financial goal for this year’s event. He said it raised “nearly $2,000” in its first year.

“Being able to raise and give back any money to this cause is always a great thing,” he said. “Every dollar counts. The dollars will go to a great cause that can benefit a lot of people.”

Current coach Clemente, treated by Dr. Seth Cohen, said he is in good health.

“Everything is great,” said Clemente, 34, and a former Central athlete. “Another scan came back two weeks ago and everything is totally clear. I have been cancer free for nearly 14 months and I am starting to feel like myself again. I am under no diet restrictions. My doctor said, ‘Be yourself.’

“Last year, I had a lot less energy. Now, I do everything I have always done. Basketball has always been my number one passion outside of my family (Clemente is married and the father of a small child). I can always dig deep to find the energy to get the job done.”

Fourth-year Central coach Mike Clemente guided his Golden Eagles to a victory in the Showcase. (Photo courtesy of Central Regional)
Fourth-year Central coach Mike Clemente guided his Golden Eagles to a victory in the Showcase. (Photo courtesy of Central Regional)

Clemente said his illness is often on his mind.

“It is something I constantly think about,” he said. “I have a positive mentality about everything. I try to be a good person. All of that other stuff will take care of itself.”

The retired coach Clemente said the news of his son’s illness was tough to take.              

“Everyone was as surprised as they could be,” he said. “All of the kids his age said the same thing: ‘He was in the best condition out of all of us and he got sick.’ His doctor said it was not a case of genetics. He said it was bad luck. He said Mike had a cancer cell and it continued to multiply. Mike said he was not feeling well. X-rays revealed he had a tumor in his chest. His doctor told him, ‘The next six months are going to be tough, but you will be OK.’ “

Clemente underwent chemotherapy.

“He had six treatments, one every three weeks,” his father said. “After three weeks, the doctors gave him a PET scan and everything was clear. In the last two years, he has had two PET scans. They were clean. Mike’s doctor gave him a plan. We stuck together and he got through it.”           

In Showcase action:

Donovan Catholic 56, Howell Township 52: Senior Matt Melon, named the game’s Most Valuable Player for the Griffins (7-6), scored 15 points in their win over the Rebels (5-10).  

Freshman Jaden Anthony added 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman Amari Petty added 10 points.

Senior Matt Ganter, who erupted for 30 points, was named the Rebels’ MVP of the game.   

Manasquan 69, Brick Township 41: Senior Jalen Jackson pumped in 20 points for the Green Dragons (7-5) in their loss to the Warriors (13-2).

Jackson was named the Green Dragons’ MVP of the game. Teammate Shane Williams, who scored his 1,000th career varsity point earlier this season, bucketed 12 points.       

North 44, Cherokee 43: Colin Baker’s jumper from the foul line with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Mariners (10-3) a win over the Chiefs (11-2).

Cherokee entered the game ranked 16th in the state by nj.com.

Baker, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard who finished the game with two points, said he was the first option on the play.

“I was in the right spot at the right time and I just executed,” he said. “My teammates helped me get open and the play worked.”

Junior guard Jakari Spence, named the Mariners’ MVP of the game, netted 23 points, all after the first quarter. Cherokee led 18-3 through the first quarter. Junior forward Najae Hallenbeck added 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Central 65. Sayreville 40: Kyle Rhoden, a 6-foot- 9 sophomore forward, scored 18 points to propel the Golden Eagles (5-10) past the Bombers.

He was named Central’s MVP of the game. Freshman Justin Soranno added 15 points. Seniors Nick Altieri and Walter Maldonado contributed 10 points each. Maldonado scrapped fox six steals and handed out six assists.

Ranney School 78. Keansburg 25: The Panthers’ Alex Klatsky, named the team’s MVP of the game, scored 14 points and added six rebounds.

He erupted for the first 11 points of the game. Philip Wheeler led the Panthers (12-1) with 19 points. Senior forward Bryan Antoine, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for defending national champion Villanova University, bucketed 17 points.

Senior forward Scottie Lewis, who has inked an NLI to compete for the University of Florida, put home 14 points and added seven rebounds and eight assists. The Titans fell to 2-9.

St. Rose 45, Lakewood 33: The Piners fell to 4-9 despite nine points from Ryan Savoy.

Fredrik Andreasen, who scored 11 points, was named the game’s MVP for the Purple Roses (7-7).   Savoy was named the Piners’ MVP of the game.

Central Regional's Walter Maldonado advances the ball. (Photo courtesy of Joe Cimino)
Central Regional’s Walter Maldonado advances the ball. (Photo courtesy of Joe Cimino)
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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.