Notre Dame boys basketball beats Santa Margarita to advance to Division 1 semifinals

SHERMAN OAKS — The Notre Dame boys basketball team is motivated by snubs.

The Knights were placed in Division 1 for the CIF Southern Section playoffs rather than the Open Division, and Mercy Miller did not receive McDonald’s All-American honors. It stung in the moment, but those two perceived snubs lit a fire under the Knights.

“I feel like our team put in the work day in and day out,” point guard Angelino Mark said. “We beat Harvard-Westlake at their house. We lost to Sierra Canyon, no excuses, but I feel like we deserved (Open Division).

“But it’s all right, we’re gonna use that as motivation. They put us in D1 and we’re going to win this.”

Notre Dame used that motivation to beat Santa Margarita 63-50 at home on Tuesday night to advance to the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals. The Knights will host Redondo Union at home on Friday.

Miller recorded a double-double of 29 points and 11 rebounds. Zach White added 14 points and Caleb Ogbu scored nine points.

“He’s the best scoring guard in the country,” coach Matt Sargent said. “And so any time we can get him the ball with an advantage or in space, it’s gonna be a high-percentage shot.”

Notre Dame (27-3) started off the game with a 6-0 run that was stopped by a corner 3-pointer by Santa Margarita’s Brayden Kyman.

The Eagles (19-11) maintained a physical presence in the paint that made it difficult for the Knights to score but also allowed for opportunities at the free throw line. Notre Dame made six out of nine free throws en route to a 14-11 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Jonathan Moxie threw down a two-handed dunk to end the frame, but Zachary White hit a corner three at the start of the second quarter to re-ignite Notre Dame. He put a finger to his lips in a “shhh” gesture after the three.

“Big shoutout to Zachary White and Caleb Ogbu,” Mark said. “Knocking down threes, being role-players. It was a great team win.”

The Knights used another scoring run, this one of nine points, to gain an advantage. Turnovers interrupted their rhythm, but Santa Margarita scored limited points off of their possessions.

Mark dished the ball to Mark Lewis with 1:30 left until halftime and although the pass appeared to hit the top of his head, Lewis still scored on a jumper.

Mark, a 16-year-old junior, pulled down seven rebounds and had six assists in the game.

“And he might average between 12 to 15 winning plays on defense that you won’t notice,” Sargent said. “He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the state and it shows up when we play good teams like that.”

Notre Dame’s rebounding created second-chance opportunities in the third quarter. Miller found the ball after a teammate’s missed 3-pointer and took it in for a layup and a 41-30 lead.

Miller was being double-teamed throughout the night, but managed to score through his determination. He found the basket on a jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining in the penultimate quarter while being triple-teamed.

Santa Margarita outscored Notre Dame 18-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Knights had built up enough of a lead to finish the game out strong.

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