Hornets off to strong start in A Central boys’ hoops season

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By Matthew Rocco

The Holmdel High School boys’ basketball team got off to a fast start this season, posting three early wins in a division that could be up for grabs.

The Hornets opened the season with a win over Shore Regional High School. They followed up with a six-point victory against Raritan High School. Holmdel then beat Saint John Vianney High School to give the team a 3-0 record against Shore Conference A Central Division opponents.

In a division that includes undefeated Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, the Hornets know they are facing a challenging road. But the team believes it’s up to the task. After losing their last three games — all outside the division — the Hornets are looking to bounce back and recapture the success they had in the opening week.

Holmdel’s next big challenge came this week, as the team traveled to face the Bulldogs (7-0) Jan. 10.

“While we were thrilled to get off to that good start; we’re hitting a rough patch in the schedule now,” head coach Sean Devaney said. “It’s a very together team. They pull for each other. Hopefully, our enthusiasm and work ethic can get us through this tough stretch and we can win some of these games.”

Following the three-game winning streak, Holmdel lost two games in the Butch Kowal Tournament at Rahway High School, falling to Arthur L. Johnson High School and Watchung Hills Regional High School. That made things tougher for the Hornets, who had to play Freehold Township High School (9-0) in an out-of-division game right after the holiday tournament. The Patriots handily won that matchup, 66-46.

Holmdel needed a quick recovery with Rumson-Fair Haven next on the schedule. The Hornets also face A Central rivals Matawan Regional High School, Red Bank Regional High School and Shore Regional in the three games that follow.

Coming into the season, A Central appeared to be evenly matched behind Rumson-Fair Haven. The race for the division title is wide open, and the Hornets are working hard to keep pace with the Bulldogs over the next four games.

“There’s not much separation [in A Central],” Devaney said. “Teams will start to knock each other off now. I hope we’re the ones knocking people off.”

The Hornets’ winning formula starts with Nick Harris, a senior forward who leads the team in scoring. In the win over Raritan, Harris scored a game-high 24 points.

Devaney noted Holmdel’s offense has been consistent even through the last three games. In Rahway, the Hornets scored 58 and 61 points in two losses.

“We’re scoring points, but we need to keep working on our defense,” Devaney said.

Holmdel also counts on senior guard Mike Simurro and junior forward Tim Zhou, who are two more returning players who give the Hornets experience on a roster filled with newcomers.

Most of Holmdel’s new players are upperclassmen, including junior forward Eric Celenti and senior guard Joe Sciacca. Sophomore Alex Rubano is contributing in his first season of varsity basketball. He recorded 10 points against Watchung Hills and seven points against Freehold Township.

Holmdel (3-3) will return home to host Matawan Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

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