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Chaminade's Michael O'Connell thrives in the spotlight

He scores 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter as Flyers pull away.

Michael O'Connell scored 11 of his 23 points

Michael O'Connell scored 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter as the Flyers rallied from a 12-point deficit to clinch regular-season title.

Chaminade has an invaluable asset in junior guard Michael O’Connell. The three-year starter is a steadying force who can keep the Flyers on track even when things start to go askew. Coach Bob Paul describes him as “the guy who doesn’t mind the spotlight when the stage is big.”

And keeping Chaminade headed in the right direction is exactly what he needed to do after Holy Trinity took a 12-point lead on Friday night. He had 11 of his 23 points in the third quarter as the Flyers erased the deficit and scored five more in the fourth as they pulled away for a 69-62 home victory.

The win clinched the regular-season title for the Flyers (10-1) and the top spot in the upcoming playoffs. Chaminade has either won outright or shared the last four CHSAA crowns.

“We feel like we’ve been getting everybody’s best shot this season and we got a good one today,” said Chaminade’s Kieran Dorney, who had 19 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. “We feel like this gives us some momentum going into the playoffs.”

O’Connell’s big third quarter included consecutive possessions in which he picked off a Titans pass and took it the length of the court for a layup. The second tied the score at 51. He and Dorney totaled 16 of the Flyers’ 17 fourth-quarter points.

“[O’Connell] doesn’t let a bad play bleed into another and another,” Paul said. “The rest of the team sees that and understands it. That’s how he keeps us pointed in the right direction.”

O’Connell found Dorney on the right wing for a three-pointer with 4:22 to play and, after a Titans turnover, Peter Baron hit him on the left wing for another. It put the Flyers up 61-55 in the middle of a 14-1 run in which Dorney scored 10.

Holy Trinity (8-3), which still is in the running for the No. 2 seed with St. Anthony’s, got 23 points from Mike Sixsmith and 17 from A.J. Knight. The Titans have quick hands and get plenty of deflections, which was a key in the second quarter. Jalen Rivers had all of his eight points in the frame.

“They have the best pressure defense in our league,” Paul said of Holy Trinity. “You can’t mimic it. We try by putting six or seven players on defense.”

Sixsmith had 16 points in the first half, but the Flyers slowed him with a 1-3-1 zone defense that Paul said “showed him more bodies than guarding him one-on-one.”

While the Flyers have to feel good about a regular-season crown, they want something else.

“This is a good start for us,” O’Connell said. “You want to have as much momentum as you can going into the playoffs.”

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