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For more than half a century, thousands of players have waltzed on the courts of Jerry Lynch’s in Belmar to Wall High School and St. Rose in the Jersey Shore Basketball League. While the 2023 league championship game took place Thursday night, the JSBL brought together a celebration that will be remembered for a lifetime.

With 171 former National Basketball Association & American Basketball Association Players as alumni, the JSBL has delivered for local basketball fans for 55 summers.

After 55 years, the JSBL welcomed back some of those alumni Thursday night at Manasquan High School as the league honored its 55-Year Anniversary Team. The 55 former players, including 27 former NBA and ABA players and 14 Shore Conference high school alumni, were recognized at halftime of the league championship game.

The JSBL 55-Year Anniversary honorees. (Photo: John Carelli)
The JSBL 55-Year Anniversary honorees. (Photo: John Carelli)

Since the commencement of the league back in 1968, there have been five commissioners – today’s being Former Monmouth University Head Coach and Hall of Fame Inductee Ron Kornegay. Kornegay was the Head Coach at Monmouth for 10 years, Kean University for five, and the current-day commissioner is now a member of the 55th Anniversary team.

“It’s an amazing night with so many wonderful individuals gathering for a fantastic ceremony,” the commissioner said while laughing with Hollis Copeland. “Fifty-five years of history on one floor with hopefully another 55 more to come.”

While the night honored 55 members from the last 55 years of the Jersey Shore Basketball League, one former member talked about how this type of gathering wasn’t just about the ceremony but the future as well.

“All of this is really good,” Former San Antonio Spur and JSBL inductee Lloyd Daniels said. “I mean it isn’t a surprise with how much talent is here. It’s really just such a great night with great people.”

Daniels, the JSBL season leader in assists in 1999 while scoring 70 points in the JSBL championship game that year, mentioned briefly how it felt being surrounded by so many different faces from so many different generations.

“You know, seeing all these old faces, it’s a good time. It’s something I’ll cherish for a long time.”

As the championship game between Ortho-NJ and Sterns Trailer commenced, the members of the 55-year team in attendance got the opportunity to watch a piece of JSBL history unfold on the floor. Sterns Trailer not only entered Thursday with a chance to repeat as champion, but to complete just the third undefeated season in JSBL history.

Former Christian Brothers Academy standout Louie Pillari of Ortho-NJ poured in three-pointers while Brookdale graduate and Matawan alum Larry Smith weaved through traffic, making the improbable buckets look easy. Former Elizabeth superstar Earl Foreman was highly impressed, even mentioning his championship record potentially on the line.

“I’m just here to make sure my record stays safe,” Foreman jokingly snickered, alluding to his 55-point championship JSBL record from 1974. “Pretty ironic the record is 55 points and we’re here tonight celebrating 55 years. It’ll be broken someday.”

As Sterns Trailer looked to repeat as JSBL champions, Ortho-NJ had different ideas. Ortho-NJ controlled the floor the entire game, taking an 85-76 lead with 3:26 to play. The heroics of Louie Pillari and former Monmouth Graduate Ray Salnave gave Ortho the hopes of being champions of 2023.

2023 JSBL champion Sterns Trailer. (Photo: John Carelli)
2023 JSBL champion Sterns Trailer. (Photo: John Carelli)

While watching the final minutes and drama unfold between the two squads, former NBA All-Star Kelly Tripucka talked about the growth of the league and the future throughout.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 55 days or 55 years. The league continues to shine every summer while bringing so many of us together. I miss these days, but seeing how far we’ve all come makes me proud.”

Over the course of the last 3:26 of the championship game, the 55-year anniversary team was treated to an improbable comeback. Led by Smith, Sterns Trailer went on a 16-2 run and completed the comeback for their second consecutive JSBL title 93-87, completing a perfect 10-0 summer in the league.

Sterns Trailer is the third team in league history to finish a season unbeaten, going 10-0 during this summer's championship run. Manchester alum Shavar Reynolds also made individual history by becoming the fourth player in league history to win back-to-back playoff MVP awards. Reynolds poured in 31 points on 10-for-18 shooting with 11 assists, while former Seton Hall teammate Myles Cale scored 30 points.

Bob Verga, Terrance Bailey and Justin Robinson are the other three players to win playoff MVP honors in consecutive summers.

As Chairman of the League’s Board of Governors Greg Kapalko presented the championship trophy to Sterns-Trailer, chants of “REPEAT” and “UNDEFEATED” roared through the Manasquan gym. As the players hugged their loved ones and greeted former JSBL champions, the celebration of the 55th season carried on later into the night with a celebration for the newly-inducted hall-of-famers at the Spring Lake Manor.

While the 55th year of the Jersey Shore Basketball League ended with a night that will never be forgotten, the 56th season will begin in a matter of time. Talent will continue to pour into the league, legends will continue to be born and the summer basketball memories live on.

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