By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Saturday morning the Blue Devils of West Long Branch hosted the Blue Bishops of Asbury Park in a nondivisional Shore Conference match up. It was also senior day for Shore where they paid honor to the six players who are winding down their four years at Shore.
Erik Mazur, head coach of the Blue Devils, also decided to give Jake Walker a big opportunity. Walker has been the Devils manager for the past four years, but on Saturday morning he turned in his suit for a Shore Regional uniform. Walker was given number 40, and started the game.
Shore Regional won the toss and made a perfect pass to Walker who cut to the Asbury hoop. Walker took the shot, missed but grabbed his own rebound and put it right back up for the first basket of the game. Shore players on the floor all ran up to Walker giving his slaps on the back and high fives. Students and parents in the stands all stood clapped and cheered his name.
“Gratitude is such a loaded word, yet I still can’t express how special this weekend was for Jake as he got to stand alongside his peers as they honored Jack Dubois and dress for the game with all the senior,” said Kim Walker, Jake’s mom. “I can imagine the adrenaline rush for him because as a mom I felt so many emotions.”
Kim Walker had high praise for Mazur, who is Jake’s teacher, and for Shore Regional. “The real all-stars are Coach Mazur and Shore Regional for being inclusive. Coach Mazur has led the charge for the past four years on and off the court and through this incredible journey,” said Kim. She added she was skeptical freshman year when Mazur wanted Jake to manage the team. “I was unable to see the picture he was painting. It was truly a masterpiece.” Kim also wanted to thank all the coaches, players and students who have supported Jake during the past four years, as she said, it takes a village.
Asbury Park showed up on Saturday with only six players, however they put up a great fight. The first quarter was equal as both teams scored 10 points. Asbury took command of the game in the second quarter outscoring Shore 15-8, and taking a 25-18 lead into the break.
Mazur must have had one hell of a halftime speech, as Shore came out on fire during the second half. In the third quarter the Blue Devils attacked the rim, where in the first half they depended on outside shooting. In the third, Shore outscored the Bishops 22-6, as they also used a full court press to slow down Asbury.
During the fourth quarter with just over a minute to play, Mazur walked over to Jake Walker, tapped him on the shoulder and put him back into the game. A teammate passed the ball to Walker who took a jump shot from the left side and missed. Asbury Park had rebounded the ball but lost control. Walker grabbed the ball and put it back up for his second basket of the game. He scored the first and last basket of the 57-40 win over Asbury Park.
“I will truly miss these boys at the end of the season and feel it’s necessary to also thank their families for raising strong, caring and most importantly kind kids!,” added Kim Walker.
The game was also a fundraiser for Jack E. DuBois, who graduated from Shore in 2018. He was a member of the varsity basketball team who passed away suddenly on November 22, 2021 at the young age of 21. Shore Regional has never forgotten him and holds a special game in his honor every year.
Leading the Devils in scoring was Liam Gajewski with 11 points, Brett Sweeney had 10, Donovan Hughes nine, Alex George scored eight, Richard Studer had seven, Ben Levy had five, Walker four and Joseph Santi finished with three.
Shore Regional improves to 13-4 overall and are 11-4 in the C-South division. Asbury Park drops to 5-8 overall and 5-7 in the B-Central.
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