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Thomas O'Connell leads Chaminade to big win over Kellenberg

Chaminade's Tom O'Connell, left, looks to drive to

Chaminade's Tom O'Connell, left, looks to drive to the hoop during a CHSAA varsity boys basketball game against Kellenberg on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. Photo Credit: James Escher

The words momentarily stung. After all, it was the first time Thomas O'Connell ever heard them.

Trust teammates? Pass the ball?

For O'Connell, it was as foreign a criticism as it was astute. But that's what Chaminade basketball coach Bob Paul told O'Connell after the star guard, in an overzealous moment, turned the ball over on a three-on-one fast break early in the fourth quarter of a critical CHSAA game against Kellenberg Tuesday.

"You can trust these guys," Paul firmly reminded O'Connell, a senior playing in his third game since spraining his MCL in early December and who is used to doing it all with minimal help.

Indeed, Chaminade has three starters who weren't on varsity last year. And they are talented.

After O'Connell rediscovered that, he returned to slinging passes and his teammates continued to score as host Chaminade rolled to a 64-48 win over the Firebirds, a team many expect to contend for the league title.

O'Connell had 18 points and seven assists. Kevin McNoble and Owen Prendergast each added 12 points for Chaminade (1-3).

Steve Torre scored 24 points for Kellenberg (1-1), which was without leading scorer Mike Torre (injury).

O'Connell's turnover happened with six minutes left and the Flyers holding a six-point lead. They closed the game on a 15-5 run.

"That's the first time he's ever yelled at me to pass the ball," O'Connell said. "I just didn't want us to be 0-4 and was just caught up in the moment. We laughed about it after."

Among Chaminade's new cast are first-year junior starters Charlie Salter and Prendergast and sophomore Kyle Murphy. McNoble and O'Connell are the only holdovers.

It's O'Connell's job to make it jell. His teammates believe he's off to a good start.

"He's like a mentor," Prendergast said. "Even on that turnover, I still think he was looking to pass when it went off his leg. At least I think so."

Sounds like a guy O'Connell can trust.

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