LAKE CHARLES — The notion that Cameron Dumas of Episcopal and Riverside Academy star Jared Butler would be linked by one key moment seemed remote.
Yet there they were. Butler picked up his fifth foul as he reached in to help defend the 5-foot-8 Dumas with 1.7 seconds remaining at the LHSAA boys basketball tournament. Dumas responded by doing what he did not do the year before in the final seconds of another semifinal.
All Butler could do was watch as Dumas calmly made both free throws to lift fourth-seeded Episcopal to a 68-67 victory over top-seeded Riverside in the Division III semifinal that opened Wednesday’s action at Burton Coliseum.
“First thing that came back to me was last year’s game (against rival Dunham),” Dumas said. “I thought, 'I can’t mess this up again.' It was nerve-racking. I made the first one and coach called time out and he said, “You’ve done this a thousand times.’ Everybody had confidence in me. I was able to knock the second shot down.”
Dumas scored a game-high 29 points on 6 of 13 shooting. The two free throws gave the Knights their only lead of the game, the only one they needed. Dumas made all 12 of his free throws to put the Knights (33-3) in an LHSAA boys basketball title game for the first time. They face the Dunham-Country Day winner at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Zac Holloway scored seven of his 13 points for Episcopal in the fourth quarter. Austin Jemison and Kade Edenfield each added 11.
Butler, the 6-3 Alabama signee, was left to ponder what transpired. He scored a team-high 25 points on 10 of 20 shooting for the Rebels (32-1). Jeremiah Bigham added 16 for Riverside.
“I’m really just in shock, disbelief,” Butler said. “All the work, all the practices and all the games we did to prepare. In my head, this doesn’t make sense at all. It breaks my heart. That’s the way it ends.”
Episcopal handed Riverside its second straight loss in the semifinals. The Knights kept their composure and also kept the game close. Riverside led 37-34 at halftime and then stretched its lead to 10 points at 55-45 after three quarters.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Episcopal coach Chris Beckman said. “Just an amazing win for us. Nobody in the state of Louisiana or anywhere, other than our locker room, our fans our coaches, our players and our community, believed we had a chance to win.
"With the name on their jersey they’re up 10-0. We told our guys don’t look at the name on the jersey, just do what you are taught. You keep it close and hope you can be one point better. Today we were one point better.”
Episcopal outscored Riverside 10-2 in the first 2½ minutes of the fourth quarter to climb back into contention. A layup and free throw by Holloway made it 57-55 with 5:35 remaining.
The Rebels held the lead until the final seconds. It took a 3-pointer by Dumas with 1:18 left to get Episcopal within one at 67-66.
“They outplayed us, they outcoached us,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “They were the better team today. We had no answer for No. 3 (Dumas). In a nutshell, I thought he was the difference. They played flawless.”