Blocks, boards and Reed highlight Royals win

Benny Kirkwood was a sultan of swat, Christian Mkpado was chairman of the boards and Nate Reed had a moment he’ll tell his grandkids about.

It was a stellar way to start the playoffs for the San Marcos boys basketball team, as the Channel League champs picked up a 53-32 win over visiting Mountain View in front of a hyperactive student section Wednesday at Maury Halleck Gym.

The Royals will play Corona del Mar on Friday, with the location to be determined by a coin-flip on Thursday morning.

Benny Kirkwood soars for one of his nine blocks.

Kirkwood, a high-jumper for the track team, racked up nine blocks on the night — four of them SportsCenter-worthy rejections. On one, he even knocked the padding off of the side of the backboard.

“It was amazing. With this crowd and this much energy, I felt like I was Superman when I was jumping,” he said.

Mkpado, meanwhile, threw his sturdy frame around in the post en route to 12 boards — seven offensive — and a game-high 18 points. Ten of those points came from the offensive glass.

Then there was Reed, a senior who was cut at the beginning of the season only to get an invitation to return about a month later. With just under two minutes to go, the student section started chanting for him. Their wish was granted, and Reed came in along with a pair of JV call-ups, Kevin Vasquez and Spencer Johnson.

Reed was intentionally fouled with a minute to go and was sent to the free-throw line. He kept a straight face as a couple hundred of his friends in the bleachers crossed their fingers.

He hit both of ’em.

“I feel happy that I was given every athlete’s dream, which is a second chance,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the coaches and that I was able to go out and make the best of it.”

Senior Nate Reed takes a deep breath before his first free throw.

It was just as sweet a moment for his coach, Jarrod Bradley, who initially made the decision to cut Reed.

“I taught Nate Reed as a freshman, and you don’t get any higher quality of a human being than Nathan Reed,” said Bradley. “To have him back on the team was really rewarding for me, because I love the kid… He earned every bit of it.”

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As if that wasn’t a great enough way to end the night, Johnson proceeded to nail a 3-pointer and Vasquez scored on a lay-up before the buzzer.

Mountain View (11-12), which played hard-nosed defense in the first half and actually took a 24-23 lead into the half, scored only four points in each of the final two quarters.

“I just think we ran out of gas. We played only seven guys, mostly six, and just ran out of gas,” said coach Bob Averill. “I think they’re a little bit more athletic than we are and a little bit stronger. I think we played pretty good defense until the fourth quarter.”

Jeremy Acosta led the Vikings with nine points while Eric Martinez added eight. The visitors missed four straight free-throws in the fourth quarter and went just 4-for-11 from the charity stripe, which Averill said was related to the fatigue.

The Royals (20-4) won the battle of the boards convincingly, 35-15, and went 15-for-21 from the line.

The lead changed hands 11 times in the see-saw first half. Kirkwood picked up one of his big blocks early in the third quarter and Mkpado scored an easy bucket off of an inbounds pass for the first points of the half. Mountain View re-took the lead on a rainbow baseline fade-away by Acosta that left Bradley shaking his head on the sidelines.

Johnny Manzo fired back with a 3-pointer for the Royals, who dominated the rest of the way. J.P. Dodson, who drew chants of “M-V-P” when he touched the ball, slashed his way to 10 points and swiped three steals on defense.

Bradley said that a halftime switch to man-to-man defense was key in turning the game around.

“I give credit to their defense for doing a great job in the first half, but what our guys have done all year long is really adjust in the second half… We make great adjustments,” he said.

SAN MARCOS 53, MOUNTAIN VIEW 32

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Martinez 8, Acosta 9, Benitez 4, Sanchez 2, Duarte 4, Angelo 5. Totals 14 4-11 32.

SAN MARCOS — Manzo 5, Kirkwood 2, Reed 2, Koopmans 2, Mkpado 18, Ridenour 2, Dodson 10, White 5, Vasquez 2, Johnson 3. Totals 18 15-21 53.

Mountain View…8  16  4  4 — 32

San Marcos…10  13  11  19 — 53

3-point goals — SM 2 (Manzo, Johnson). Total fouls — MV 14, SM 11. Fouled out — Benitez.

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