Notre Dame boys basketball’s Mercy Miller’s will to win stems from childhood competition

STUDIO CITY — Mercy Miller grew up guarding his brother one-on-one when they played basketball on mini-hoops. It was big-time competition on a small stage to see who was the best hooper in the family.

The Notre Dame senior has moved from household hoops to the Mission League stage, guarding some of the best players in the country while putting up numbers from all three levels.

“Being the youngest, I had to fight for everything I wanted,” Miller said. “Being in the position I’m in, I’ve still gotta fight for everything I want. So I’m just gonna come out and give my all every time I step on the court.”

Miller was the driving force in Notre Dame’s 59-55 win over Harvard-Westlake on Wednesday night with 29 points and 11 rebounds.

Notre Dame and Harvard-Westlake are warming up now with an anticipated tip of 7:45 p.m.

800 tickets were sold for the game and the gym will be at capacity. pic.twitter.com/g1EOlmmhdb

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) January 18, 2024

Miller, a University of Houston commit, hit a triple to tie the game at 39-all with 3:37 left in the third quarter in a game that was tied multiple times. He his shots from range were eye-catching — he sank five 3’s in the game — but he didn’t shy from the grit and grind that came within the paint.

And even then, there were flashy moments. His ball handling twisted around opposing players and allowed for openings to kick out to his teammates. A finesse player who was also capable of running right through the opposition.

“Mercy Miller’s will to do whatever it takes to win is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant said. “Just his aggressiveness on both ends. We’re always in every game because his will to win is just…I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Knights walked into hostile territory in the Harvard-Westlake gym. The sellout crowd of 800 people had the facility busting at the seams, and extra seating was even brought in to accommodate a row of cheerleaders in front of the student section.

Harvard-Westlake was the No. 1-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 polls and Notre Dame was No. 4. Both are on the Open Division Watch List.

“Harvard-Westlake being in our league in the Mission League is definitely someone we’ll have to see (later),” Miller said. “So it’s just getting past one of the best teams in the country and doing what it takes to win, but also being ready to see whoever.”

Notre Dame was able to channel the energy of the student section directly behind the bench, which included other Knights coaches like girls basketball coach Jena Laolagi and football coach Evan Yabu.

Miller locked in defensively for the second half and held Harvard-Westlake’s Trent Perry, a USC commit who Miller grew up with, scoreless in the third quarter. Perry still finished with 22 points.

Miller is still the youngest of eight siblings, but he’s now also at the front of the pack leading Notre Dame into the Open Division.

Other Mission League scores

Crespi 80, Chaminade 72

Joe Sterling scored 24 points for Crespi and Peyton White added 13 points. Crespi (18-5, 1-2) plays Loyola on Friday and Chaminade (16-8, 0-4) will see Notre Dame on the same day.

Sierra Canyon 65, St. Francis 42

Mazi Mosley had a team-high 16 points for St. Francis. The Trailblazers move to 20-1 overall and 4-0 in the Mission League and will face Harvard-Westlake on Friday. St. Francis (15-7, 1-2) is set to play Alemany.

Loyola 62, Alemany 50

The Warriors drop to 11-11 and 1-3 in Mission League play.

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