St. Mary’s had so much star power this season that any number of players could explode for a big scoring night.
But the orchestrator of the offense never changed.
Chantel Osahor is an unlikely maestro by appearance, but it doesn’t take long to realize her importance to the Knights’ halfcourt offense.
St. Mary’s uses back-door cuts and movement to initiate its offense, and no passer in the state compares to the junior forward. Osahor’s court vision and awareness made for countless easy buckets this season, which was a big reason why the Knights so easily mowed down their competition.
“She’s the best passing post I’ve ever seen,” St. Mary’s coach Curtis Ekmark said. “She’s got to be one of the best five passers in the country, period, and the other four are point guards. She is truly gifted at it.”
Osahor was the glue for the Knights this season as they posted a 30-0 record and grabbed a second straight state championship. Her combination of scoring, passing and rebounding abilities have garnered Osahor the Tribune’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year award.
Local coaches have compared her game to NBA All-Star Kevin Love. Ekmark goes back a generation and likens her to hall-of-famer Wes Unseld.
Osahor said it’s hard to explain the innate court awareness she brings from the high post.
“I feel like the ball just lets go,” she said. “If I see a teammate open, it just comes out of my hands. They deserve to get that pass instead of running for nothing.”
Ekmark calls Osahor a “matchup nightmare” for opponents.
She can stretch out defenses with a 3-point shot or get baskets inside against smaller defenders.
She kickstarts fast breaks by hauling down defensive rebounds and then firing the ball out to sprinting teammates. Ekmark said he’s never coached a player with such a varied skill-set.
“There aren’t a lot of kids in America that can get a double-double that’s rebounds and assists,” he said. “She’s a very unique kid and allows us to do so much.”
Osahor, who skipped eighth grade and just recently turned 16, said it was a big goal to send seniors Shilpa Tummala and Cortnee Walton out with a championship this year.
She will be a senior next season, and the Knights will look different without those two players. Osahor said she’s ready to take on a bigger scoring role if needed, but she’s not going to force it.
“I’ll just do what’s best for the team,” she said. “If it’s to shoot more, if it’s pass more, I’ll do it. It’s going to be different without (Tummala and Walton), but as long as we play our game and still know our roles, I think we’ll be OK.”
For Ekmark, it’s the perfect luxury.
“If you watch us play, she’s content to score only when we need it,” he said. “There are a lot of people that go out to pad their stats against inferior opponents. She is content to get others involved. As she’s gotten more experience and older, she’s learning when she needs to turn it on and when to get others involved.”
Opposing coaches should get the film ready, because the state’s most versatile player may be adding more to her repertoire.
“She just gives us so many different opportunities,” Ekmark said.
While the area didn’t get anyone on the first or second team, Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe were well represented on the honorable mention list.
Desert Vista had senior Jaymee Brugman, junior Kylie Butler and sophomore Emily Wolph honored. Mountain Pointe had junior Caitlyn Hetrick and sophomore forward Kaylah Lupoe selected.
All-Tribune First Team
Name School Pos. Yr. Comment
Chantel Osahor St. Mary’s F Jr. A matchup nightmare for defenses and deft passer
Arnecia Hawkins Mountain View G Sr. Averaged 14.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.2 steals; ASU-bound
Lauren Evans Hamilton F Sr. Va. Tech commitment averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 steals
Shilpa Tummala St. Mary’s G Sr. Harvard-bound shooter huge part of St. Mary’s success
Katherine Hamilton Dobson G Jr. Averaged 14.1 points, 8.3 rebs, 3.9 stls for D-I semifinalists
Player of the Year: Chantel Osahor, St. Mary’s
Coach of the Year: Karen Self, Seton Catholic: The Sentinels turned a rebuilding year into another state championship behind one of the best coaches in the state.
All-Tribune Second Team
Name School Pos. Yr. Comment
Simone Westbrook Chandler G Sr. First-team stats (22.8 ppg, 7.6 rebs, 5.5 steals) but missed nine games
Sydney Wiese Pinnacle G Jr. Long-range bomber can score in bunches
Dezirae Elias Chandler G Sr. Sparkplug averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 steals, 5.5 assists
Madison Austin Horizon F Sr. Big-time player averaged 21.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks
Julia Barcello Seton Catholic F So. D-II, Section III POY led Sentinels to title
Honorable mention (locals only)
Desert Vista: Jaymee Brugman, Sr., F; Emily Wolph, So., G; Kylie Butler, Jr., G; Mountain Pointe: Caitlyn Hetrick, Jr., G; Kaylah Lupoe, So., F.