Two of the top teams in District 8-2A got district action off to a sizzling start when Episcopal and Christian Life squared off at the CLA gym Tuesday.
Episcopal went home with the important district victory, erasing an early double-digit deficit to take control down the stretch and claim a 68-56 win.
“They seized the momentum going into halftime, and it kind of snowballed,” CLA coach Stephen Dale said. “They clamped down on defense, and we couldn’t score and we couldn’t get stops.
“They’ve got real good players that can really fill it up and evaporate a lead.
“I thought Episcopal was the smarter team tonight. They handled the game better emotionally. We started pressing when we felt the lead slipping away, and they did a good job icing it down the stretch, making their free throws.”
The Knights’ leading scorer, Chris Beckman made six fourth-quarter free throws and finished with 28 points.
“It was tough out there tonight,” Beckman said. “I knew they would guard me tight, and there was a little grabbing and pushing, but my teammates ran the offense and started to get me open.
“I hurt my back a little (hitting the floor on a hard foul) but I was all right.”
Nothing much went right for Episcopal (21-3) in the first half. The hot-shooting Crusaders got three 3-pointers and 14 points from Sam Williams and two 3-pointers and 10 points from Marquis Webb to lead by as much as 18 at one time and 37-27 at halftime.
Their physical defense kept the Knights from getting many uncontested looks. Beckman had 14 first-half points but didn’t get a field goal until the 4:54 mark of the second quarter, a 3-pointer that made the score 37-27.
The Knights kept chipping away through the third quarter, tying the score at 44 and going up 46-44 on a basket by Gavin Perkins.
Beckman Jr. banked in a long 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to put the Knights up 49-46, and they never trailed again. Perkins and Sam Rotenberg combined for 10 fourth- quarter points to go with Beckman’s free throws to keep the Crusaders at bay.
“Other guys stepped up other than Chris when we needed them,” Episcopal coach Chris Beckman said. “We did a good job protecting the ball and scored some points. We did a good job guarding them, and they’re really good and really athletic.
“To come back from 18 down and down 10 down at halftime and take a lead going into the fourth quarter took a tremendous overall team effort.”
Perkins finished with 12 points for the Knights and Rotenberg had 11, all in the second half. Kevin Tripeau added 13 despite sitting out almost a half with foul trouble.
Williams heated up again with seven points for CLA (16-3, 0-1) in the last quarter, but his teammates were hurt by two charging calls that negated baskets and possible three point plays. The Chargers had four offensive fouls in the second half.
Williams had 21 points for the game. Webb failed to score in the second half and finished with 10.
“You’d rather play well at the end of the game than the beginning, I guess,” coach Beckman said. “When you dig yourself that much of a hole, you worry you’ll expend too much energy coming back. But our guys persevered.”
Is there a new rivalry in the district?
“Definitely a new rivalry,” coach Beckman said. “We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then get ready for a very good Runnels team.”