The Holmdel boys basketball team entered the 2023-24 season coming off an 11-16 season, but returning a group of seniors that included a pair of guards who each averaged 17 points per game.

When one of those guards, senior Nick Seeloch, had to have an emergency appendectomy before the second game of the season -- a 59-37 loss at Manasquan -- Holmdel was staring at another season of injury and uncertainty.

Since that first game without Seeloch, however, Holmdel did not fold: the Hornets fought back.

After the 1-1 start to the season, Holmdel has reeled off eight straight wins and elevated to No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 rankings ahead of Thursday's showdown with No. 1 St. Rose.

As part of that eight-game winning streak, Holmdel opened 2024 with wins over Toms River North, Ranney and Jackson Memorial, certifying the Hornets as the Week 3 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week.

The only development that was better for Holmdel than the Hornets beating then No. 2 Toms River North without Seeloch is that Seeloch returned by the end of the week to a team on a six-game winning streak. He put up eight points and four rebounds in a supporting role during Holmdel's 66-48 win over Ranney on Jan. 4, then posted nine points and four assists in Saturday's 70-56 win over Jackson Memorial.

Holmdel's big week, however, centered around its trip to Toms River to open up the 2024 portion of the schedule. Facing a Mariners team fresh off winning the WOBM Christmas Classic with wins over Colts Neck, Central Regional and Manasquan, Holmdel set the pace early, absorbed a third-quarter surge by the home team, and landed the knockout blow in the second half to pick up a 49-44 road win.

Senior James Vallillo led the way in Toms River with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while senior Ben Kipnis went for 11 points, five rebounds and eight assists. The Hornets also got a boost off the bench from junior C.J. Karis, who contributed nine points and three steals -- including two key baskets in the fourth quarter.

Vallillo was in a similar position last year to the one Seeloch is currently in. He missed most of his junior year with a foot injury, but has come back strong this season and was particularly effective last week. Vallillo also posted 25 points and seven rebounds in the win over Ranney and went for 19, seven and six assists in the win over Jackson Memorial.

Kipnis closed out Holmdel's championship at the Huskies Holiday Tournament with a triple-double in a win over Sayreville and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:30 left in the win over Toms River North. He continued to put up numbers during the remainder of last week, including seven points, six rebounds and eight assists vs. Ranney and 21, five and six to go with five steals vs. Jackson Memorial.

2023-24 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Winners

Week 1: Toms River South

Week 2: Toms River North

Week 3: Holmdel

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