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Maxwell Kirsch shooting a three-pointer against Redlands
Maxwell Kirsch had a team-high 18 points in his final game for the Stags

A Bit Too Far: Final Three Back Rims as CMS Men's Basketball Falls 68-66 at Redlands in SCIAC Semifinals

REDLANDS, Calif. - Senior guard Miles President had a big three-point play in the final minute to cut a five-point Redlands lead down to two, but his game-winning 25-foot three-point attempt at the buzzer hit straight off the back rim and came back to him as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball team saw its season come to a close with a narrow 68-66 defeat at Redlands in the SCIAC Semifinals on Saturday evening at Currier Gymnasium.

The Stags were led in scoring by four seniors, Maxwell Kirsch with 18 points, Kele Mkpado with 11 points, and President and Jeremy Horn with 10 each. With the loss, CMS concludes its season at 19-7, while Redlands improves to 20-6 and advances to tomorrow's championship game at Pomona-Pitzer. 

The entire game was played within a two-possession spread, as neither team led by more than six, a margin which Redlands earned just one time in each in half. The second time came on a layup from forward Griffin Barker with 2:09 to go to make it a 65-59 score in the Bulldogs' favor, before CMS had one final push to nearly take the road win. 

Horn converted on a layup off a feed from President with 1:48 to go to pull CMS within four. After Redlands split two at the line, Kirsch hit both of his foul shots to make it a 66-63 Redlands lead with 1:27 on the clock. Barker knocked down a clutch 18-foot jumper for the Bulldogs with 1:08 left to stretch it to five, but the Stags attacked quickly the other way and President was able to convert a twisting layup while absorbing body contact from Barker, adding the foul shot to make the score 68-66 with 59 seconds left. 

CMS was able to force a difficult three-pointer at the end of the shot clock by Redlands, but the Bulldogs won the scramble for the long offensive rebound and forced the Stags to foul. CMS caught a break as Redlands missed both foul shots to leave it a two-point game, and the Stags worked the ball around the perimeter to probe for a tying or winning shot, before a broken play resulted in the ball deflecting out near midcourt.

President hustled and won the ball away from a Redlands defender, and was able to pivot and dribble into a straight-on 25-foot three-pointer as a Redlands defender flew at him late. The ball perfectly tracked the center of the rim, with the horn sounding in midflight, but the shot ended up an inch or so too long as it hit square off the back rim and ricocheted back along the exact same trajectory from which it came, ending both the game and the CMS season. 

Kirsch had a big first half to keep CMS in striking distance, scoring 11 points on 4-6 shooting (3-3 on threes) as Redlands led 32-29 at the break. The Bulldogs took a 22-16 lead (one of their two six-point advantages on the day), before Kirsch earned a tough second-chance basket in the paint in traffic. Mitchell Kirsch, Maxwell's younger brother, then converted another contested layup in traffic to cut the lead to two, and Maxwell Kirsch hit his third three-pointer of the half to put CMS in front 23-22 and cap a 7-0 run. 

Mkpado had a dunk in transition to give CMS a 27-24 lead, and then immediately had a chase down block on a Redlands three-pointer at the other end to momentarily give the Stags a good bit of momentum. Redlands responded, though, and closed out the half on an 8-2 run to go ahead by three at the break. 

CMS started the second half quickly on three-pointers from Mitchell Kirsch and Maxwell Kirsch to go ahead 35-32, but Redlands scored the next six points to surge in front 38-35, and the Stags would never lead again. A Mkapdo three-point play got CMS even at 40-40 with 15:30 left, before Redlands scored the next four points and maintained a lead between 1-6 points the rest of the way. 

Barker finished the game with 21 points and David Menary had 19 for Redlands to carry the Bulldogs to the narrow win. Horn and Maxwell Kirsch each had eight rebounds to lead CMS, which had a 42-36 edge in that department, while Horn also had three of the Stags' five blocked shots. 

The Stags lose a deep senior class of six players, including all four who were in double figures this evening, as well as center George Walker and point guard JD Levine, who both had a big hand in this year's success as well. CMS will return 14 of its 20 players next year, led by Mitchell Kirsch, who will take over much of the leadership reins as the team's only returning starter.