Notre Dame’s big three of Stromer, Foster, Miller have a winning chemistry that lifted team to its first state final

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Talent is one thing, putting it together is another.

That’s the job Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant was tasked with when highly touted recruits Caleb Foster and Mercy Miller checked into school, joining 2022 Daily News Player of the Year Dusty Stromer.

“The great thing about Dusty, Mercy and Caleb is they just want to win,” Sargeant said.

A nickname helps, too. The three quickly coined themselves “Run D-M-C” as Notre Dame played in summer and fall games while getting acclimated with each other.

“We had a bond and chemistry from the beginning,” Foster said, “and I think a lot of it came from going at each other in practice every day.”

Notre Dame. CIF State SoCal Regional Division I champs.

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) March 8, 2023

The long season presented countless opportunities for the three to grow. Some of that growth came in victory, and some of it came in defeat.

The Knights lost to West Ranch (twice), Duncanville (Texas), American Fork (Utah) and Harvard-Westlake (twice) during the regular season, and then lost to top-seeded Corona Centennial in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs.

But there were marquee wins, too. Notre Dame piled up wins against DeMatha (Maryland), Brophy Prep (Arizona), Bishop Montgomery and Mater Dei, and beat Sierra Canyon four times.

One of those wins over the Trailblazers came on Jan. 27 at Pauley Pavilion in front of 8,000 fans.

“It means a lot,” Stromer said of the win that evening. “We took a tough loss to them last season, so getting the win was big for us and the program.”

Notre Dame’s boys basketball team has been led to the state finals by, from left, Dusty Stromer, Mercy Miller and Caleb Foster. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

The most recent win over Sierra Canyon came Tuesday night in the CIF State Division I SoCal Regional final at Calabasas High. Foster had 28 points to anchor an 80-61 win.

“The win coming against Sierra Canyon does make it a little sweeter, but I’ll take a win against anybody,” Foster said.

The win advanced Notre Dame to its first CIF State final. The Knights will take on Livermore Granada from the Northern Coast Section at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be shown live on Spectrum News 1 and SportsNet LA.

“This was our goal, and we did it,” Foster added.

This man can’t be stopped. Caleb Foster is doing whatever he wants.

He’s got 28pts and Notre Dame up 73-55 on Sierra Canyon. 3 to play

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) March 8, 2023

Stromer, Foster and Miller are the team’s proverbial three-headed monster, averaging 19, 21 and 18 points per game, respectively, but the rest of the roster is filled with talent, too.

Zach White, son of former Crespi High football running back Russell White, is one of the best freshmen in Southern California. Sophomore Angelino Mark is a do-it-all player who can defend, shoot 3-pointers and handle the ball. Junior Jayden Harper is the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-8, which becomes valuable against front court size.

The last piece has been the team’s unsung hero, senior Dante Ogbu. He is a physical, no-nonsense perimeter defender who has emerged as a consistent 3-point shooter, especially from the corners. Ogbu is shooting 44% from downtown this season.

“They’re winners and they wanted to get it done,” Sargeant said. “I’m so proud of them and our whole team.”


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