Caleb Foster leads Notre Dame to Division I state basketball title
When Caleb Foster goes into attack mode, close the blinds, and get ready for superhero-like action moves. The Duke-bound senior guard from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High doesn’t care who’s in the way — he just scores and creates havoc.
At Friday night’s Division I boys’ basketball state championship game at Golden 1 Center, Livermore Granada had 7-foot center Andrew McKeever. Foster’s drives to the basket helped send McKeever to the sideline with five fouls with 4:42 left, causing coach Matt Sargeant to shout, “He’s out! He’s out!”
It was the last breath of life for Granada. Notre Dame’s fantastic trio of Foster, Gonzaga commit Dusty Stromer and Houston commit Mercy Miller was too much.
Foster’s offense propelled the Knights to their first state championship in school history, a 67-58 victory over Granada. The Knights led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Foster finished with 33 points, the best individual scoring performance in Division I state championship history and left little doubt he’s worthy of All-American recognition even if he was denied selection to the McDonald’s All-American Game.
“He was excellent,” Sargeant said.
Miller started the game with a dunk and eight quick points. Foster ended the first quarter with a three-pointer and seven points. Foster was just beginning to heat up and ended the half with 18 points.
Both players came from Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy. It took weeks for Notre Dame to develop the chemistry needed to win big games. It happened in February and March. Four wins over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, a double-overtime loss to Studio City Harvard-Westlake, a blowout win over Santa Ana Mater Dei, and victories over Torrance Bishop Montgomery and San Diego St. Augustine indicated the Knights had learned to play as a unit. Critical in the transition was Stromer accepting a lesser offensive role.
Stromer sat out his sophomore season, the abbreviated COVID-19 season of 2020-21, then developed into a standout player his junior year, averaging nearly 20 points a game. There are few more versatile players. Whatever Sargeant asked him to do this season, Stromer quickly and efficiently complied. Stromer was having back pains this week, and Sargeant said he probably shouldn’t be playing. “The toughness was unreal,” he said.
On Friday, Stromer, the tallest Knight in a lineup of five guards, was asked at times to guard McKeever and focus on getting rebounds.
“It’s another example of his versatility at both ends of the court,” Sargeant said.
With Stromer contributing as a rebounder and defender, it freed the Duke-bound Foster to ignite the offense. Foster scored 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Against Granada’s 2-3 zone, the Knights found an opening on the baseline, allowing Dante Ogbu to connect on a pair of three-pointers. The Knights ended the half ahead 39-27.
Now it’s on to Gonzaga for Stromer and Duke for Foster. They’ve earned themselves a special place in Notre Dame’s sports history book.
“It means everything to me,” Stromer said of winning the championship. “I promised my teammates last year I’d do this.”
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