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Sherman Oaks Notre Dame defeats Sierra Canyon and ends Bronny James’ high school career

It ended with hailfire from a familiar foe, Caleb Foster and Mercy Miller colliding and pounding their way to the edge as if nothing could stand in their way.

It ended with valiant efforts to stop the bleeding, but Sherman Oaks notre dame there was simply no denying it, his student section shrilly chanting “0 and 4” as the Knights closed out the fourth quarter of a Game 4 that left no doubt as to the stronger team.

Chatsworth Mountains CanyonThe season started with promise and ended with disappointment, the Trailblazers rising from the field as their San Fernando Valley foes jumped in celebration, Notre Dame chanting “State! State! State!” after an 80-61 win in Tuesday night’s Division I regional final. Every Trailblazers’ jab was met with a thunderous roundhouse kick, every hard end of the third quarter was answered with a three-pointer of the Knights that sent the crowd at Calabasas High into a frenzy.

Standing to the side after the game as coach Matt Sargeant proudly held the Division I regional title trophy, the Duke Foster pledge looked down as a fan handed him a sign, slowly unfolding the paper to read “0 -4”.

He smiled. A solo trip to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill’s preseason transfer was nearly complete. A program’s journey to the top of the mountain, to knock down Valley rival Sierra Canyon four times in one season, was now one step away from completion: a win this weekend in the state final in Sacramento.

“We just got one more, though,” Foster said with a dazed smile. “We just got one more.”

In late November, with the trains running smoothly and without any losses, Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier pulled out the crystal ball and spoke the words that would shape a season.

“We’re going to go as far as Bronny and (Isaiah Elohim) and Ashton (Hardaway) take us,” Chevalier said after a win over Crossroads.

Three leaders, each with their own apparent benefits and risks. Elohim, the high-ceilinged walking bucket, who had struggled with an injury. Hardaway, the sweet sharpshooter son of Penny Hardaway, whose ability to influence a game relied heavily on his jump shot. And James, the undeniable leader ready to really take the reins, but still finding himself as a player.

And on Tuesday, Hardaway’s shot fell flat, its impact muted. Elohim made a surprise return from a sprained ankle to come off the bench and fight his way to 14 points, but many of his buckets came too late. James hit a pair of 3-pointers but couldn’t find the net when his team needed momentum.

It just wasn’t enough against a Knights team that has been hungry in every matchup with Sierra Canyon this season. Enough to make Sierra Canyon junior Noah Williams laugh when asked about the repeat meetings earlier in the week.

“I was hoping Mater Dei would win,” Williams said, referring to the Notre Dame-Mater Dei semifinal matchup from the previous week, “but I was like, ‘Wow, we have to play them again.’ But we are ready. I think we are always improving. We are not afraid of anyone.”

Through the first quarter Tuesday night, Notre Dame absolutely chased the Trailblazers on offense, staying ahead on drives and making every dribble a personal nightmare. Even as Sierra Canyon raced to cut an early deficit to 19-16, Foster ducked his head like a raging bull, Trailblazer defenders rebounding off him.

Over the summer at the start of the season, Foster said his goal for his senior year at Notre Dame was to learn to be a better leader. Flanked by well-timed cubes from transfer partner Miller, he paved the way in force on Tuesday night.

Bryce Cofield sent home a jam to cut the third-quarter lead to single digits, then Foster returned with a layup. Elohim fouled a post, and Foster responded with a nifty passing shot. Elohim tossed a tray from the glass and whooped with glee, and Foster promptly returned with a number three dagger.

“It just shows that hard work pays off,” Foster said of her trip.

And as one journey continues, another ends. Early in the fourth quarter, up 10, Foster isolated Williams from Sierra Canyon, stepping back and burying a hard 3-pointer. Back on the pitch, James caught a pass, shot through it, and went up on goal looking for an answer.

Off the edge. Unfulfilled answer. It was a signature few-second sequence of the night, James scoring 10 points to Foster’s 28, ending a season-long journey of growth for the prodigal son with one step ahead.

James’ high school career is over. An uncertain future calls.