Kele Mkpado's Career-High 23 Leads CMS Men's Basketball to 81-72 win over Lake Forest

Kele Mkpado needed only 7 shots to score a career-high 23 (photo by Daniel Addison)
Kele Mkpado needed only 7 shots to score a career-high 23 (photo by Daniel Addison)

CLAREMONT, Calif. - Senior forward Kele Mkpado scored a career-high 23 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting from the floor as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball team fought off a strong challenge from Lake Forest to take an 81-72 win in its final non-conference game of the 2019-20 season on Monday night at Roberts Pavilion.

With the win, CMS extends its winning streak to five in a row as it improves to 8-2 on the season, while Lake Forest slips to 4-5 with the loss. 

Mkpado easily eclipsed his previous career high of 14, set earlier this season, making all seven of his field goals, including three from beyond the arc, and shooting 6-8 from the foul line. After hitting his first shot off the bench, he felt like he might have a strong night. 

"That's usually a good sign for me," said Mkapdo. "The first one falls, I'll keep firing them up until I miss." 

Mkapdo also added seven defensive rebounds to help CMS dominate in that category for the second night in a row (38-21) after holding a 42-21 edge yesterday in a win over Gustavus Adolphus. Three other players were also in double figures for the Stagas, as senior forward Maxwell Kirsch scored 15 points, senior forward Jeremy Horn had 12 and junior guard Mitchell Kirsch had 10. 

A 10-2 second-half run proved to be the pivotal stretch of the game for CMS as it went from being down 58-55 to leading 65-60 with 5:46 to go. Maxwell Kirsch started the run by hitting all three foul shots after being fouled beyond the arc, then hit a three-pointer to answer a Lake Forest basket to put CMS ahead to stay 61-60. Mkpado then hit his sixth field goal of the game on a tough 12-foot fadeaway from near the left elbow and Horn added a tough jump hook from 10 feet along the right baseline off a Maxwell Kirsch feed to make the score 65-60. 

After Lake Forest stopped the 7-0 run with a Sean Espinosa jumper, Mkpado finished a layup off a feed from Mitchell Kirsch to give CMS a 67-62 lead with 4:00 to go. Senior forward George Walker stretched the lead to 69-63 with 2:55 to go by following his own miss. 

With the score 69-65, CMS came up with two big steals to help seal it, as Maxwell Kirsch slid over in help defense to deflect a pass away to deny Lake Forest a possible layup. After Mkpado hit two foul shots, first-year guard Brian Kenyon had a steal and breakaway layup to make it a 73-65 lead with 1:20 to go, and the Foresters were unable to seriously threaten the rest of the way. 

Lake Forest used some strong pressure defense to take a 22-13 lead in the first half before CMS was able to weather the storm and get back in it behind some hot shooting from Mkpado. He hit a tough driving basket in the paint to cut the lead to seven, then grabbed a defensive rebound and hit a three-pointer to make it a 22-18 game with 10:04 left in the half.

Another Mkapdo three-pointer with 5:26 left in the half gave CMS a 25-24 lead, and his third three-pointer of the half gave the Stags a 34-27 advantage with 1:15 on the clock. Lake Forest came back to within 34-30 and tried to push the ball back up the court after a steal, but Maxwell Kirsch dove on a loose ball and then picked up a half-ending assist while lying on the floor, finding senior guard JD Levine for a 12-footer as the horn sounded to give CMS a 36-30 halftime lead. 

The Stags overcame a torrid offensive performance from the Lake Forest backcourt as Tashon Brown scored 34 on 12-16 shooting and Espinosa added 20 points on 8-15 shooting. CMS was playing without senior guard Miles President (illness), taking away some of the Stags' defensive prowess on the perimeter, but Kenyon stepped up down the stretch defensively to deny several one-on-one attempts from the Lake Forest backcourt. 

"With Miles out today we knew that some guys had to step up," said Mkapdo. "Our team really invited the pressure and brought guys to us, and that way we could open up our drives and find the open man." 

CMS will be back in action on Saturday when it gets back to SCIAC play with a home game against Whittier at 5 p.m. That will be the first of three straight league home games in a span of five days, as Chapman visits on Monday, Jan. 6 and Cal Lutheran comes to Roberts Pavilion on Wednesday, Jan. 8.