Notre Dame basketball beats Windward to win first CIF-SS title since 1993

Notre Dame celebrates after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

ONTARIO — Notre Dame boys basketball didn’t quite look like itself on Saturday night. After defeating its first four playoff opponents by an average of 10.5 points, the Knights were hung up on Windward in the first half.

A high-powered third quarter helped Notre Dame turn the game around and win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship 69-65 at Toyota Arena.

It was the Knights’ first appearance in a championship game since 2016 and first championship win since 1993.

“We’re resilient,” Notre Dame senior Mercy Miller said. “We’re going to fight until the end and the way we fought until the end, I’m super proud of my guys. Everyone stepped up.”

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame slam dunks against Louis Bond #23 of Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame controls the ball against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame reacts after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach DJ Gay of Windward reacts against Notre Dame in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Louis Bond #23 of Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mark Lewis #4 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Louis Bond #23 of Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Louis Bond #23 of Windward reaches for the loose ball against Zachary White #3 of Notre Dame in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame drives to th basket against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

JJ Harris #21 of Windward blocks the shot by Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Matt Sargeant of Notre Dame reacts against Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Asher Haloossim #35 of Notre Dame scrambles for the loose ball against Nasir Luna #10 of Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Matt Sargeant of Notre Dame reacts against Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Matt Sargeant of Notre Dame celebrates after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Matt Sargeant of Notre Dame rects against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame reacts after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

head coach DJ Gay of Windward and his coaches look on against Notre Dame in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Zachary White #3 of Notre Dame rebounds against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Windward bench reacts after a basket against Notre Dame in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame slam dunks against Louis Bond #23 of Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mark Lewis #4 of Notre Dame drives to the basket against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Zachary White #3 of Notre Dame rebounds against JJ Harris #21 of Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Asher Haloossim #35 of Notre Dame scrambles for the loose ball against Nasir Luna #10 of Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Angelino Mark #2 of Notre Dame looses the ball against Louis Bond #23 of Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bronson Schmidt-uili #20 of Notre Dame slam dunks against Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Notre Dame celebrates after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame shoots against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bronson Schmidt-uili #20 of Notre Dame slam dunks against Windward in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Mercy Miller #25 of Notre Dame reaches for a rebound against Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Asher Haloossim #35 of Notre Dame scrambles for the loose ball against Nasir Luna #10 of Windward in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Notre Dame won 69-65. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Notre Dame celebrates after defeating Windward 69-65 to win a CIF-SS Division 1 boys championship basketball game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

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Next up for Notre Dame is the CIF state tournament. Brackets are set to be released on Sunday afternoon.

Miller scored a game-high 22 points after scoring just six in the first half.

Trust in Notre Dame’s process kept him level-headed even when the shots weren’t falling.

“Knowing the work I put in, knowing the work the team put in, trusting everybody, having faith that if the offense isn’t going, we’re going to get a stop on defense,” Miller said. “Everybody’s got that killer mindset.”

Notre Dame’s Lino Mark added 16 points and five rebounds and Caleb Ogbu scored 14 points and pulled down four rebounds. Ogbu also shot a perfect 4 of 4 from range.

Windward appeared to be the aggressor and took a 9-8 advantage with four minutes left in the first quarter and held onto it for the next three minutes.

Miller dribbled in for a layup and a 16-15 lead, then the Wildcats closed out the frame with a 5-0 scoring run to take back the lead.

Miller, a McDonald’s All-American nominee, was heavily guarded throughout the first half and often double-teamed, which allowed his teammates to step up.

The Knights remained one step behind Windward in the second quarter despite fierce efforts from Miller and Mark.  Mark grabbed a loose ball and took it in for a lay-in to tie the game at 27-all with 2:48 to go in the quarter.

The Wildcats made 8 of 10 free throws to help stay ahead and were up 34-32 at halftime. Hard work on the boards heading into halftime helped earn the Knights points as well as momentum. Notre Dame outrebounded Windward 31-23 across all four quarters.

Notre Dame reclaimed the lead to start the third quarter on a Mark lay-in and the Knights took care of the ball to stay out front after logging seven turnovers in the first half.

“They were spoken to sternly,” Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant said of halftime. “We had to take this game by executing our game plan and if we did that, we were going to win.”

Windward scored in spurts but Notre Dame’s lead grew to as much as eight points in the third quarter. Zach White and Ogbu snuck in baskets when left unguarded by Windward’s defense.

Late free throws nearly derailed Notre Dame’s efforts. Windward took a one-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the game, but the Knights hung on to win.

“You don’t let (the score) ride you emotionally,” Sergeant said. “We’re gonna get an offensive possession and we’re going to execute, we’re gonna get another defensive possession and we’re going to execute.

“I’m expecting this to be a good, close game for 32 minutes and it was and we came out on top.”

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