It takes quite an extraordinary moment to exceed a memorable trip to the Top 28 tournament.
Episcopal’s basketball program celebrated both in one grand evening.
Not only did No. 3 Episcopal advance to its first Class 2A state semifinal in four years, pulling away Friday from No. 6 Rapides 55-45, but the Knights also handed their coach Chris Beckman his 500th career victory.
“This team deserves it,” said Beckman, 500-170 in 19 years at EHS. “This is their moment and I’m just happy to be with them in this moment. To have 500 wins is a great accomplishment and lot a great players and great assistant coaches are a part of that.”
Episcopal (31-2) pushed its win streak to 24 straight games and faces No. 2 Lakeview, a 68-53 winner over Many, in Thursday’s semifinal at 2:45 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“They executed well and they’re a well-coached team,” Rapides coach Travis Broussard said. “I give coach Beckman a lot of credit. His kids always play hard and always execute.”
Episcopal’s big three — guards Spencer Kleinpeter, Chris Beckman Jr. and Kevin Tripeaux — combined for all but two of their team’s points.
Coach Beckman predicted a much different result than the one Episcopal produced Jan. 2 with a 95-68 win over Rapides.
Episcopal led 26-24 at halftime and 36-34 after three quarters in a game that had been tied five times.
Beckman Jr. scored five straight points for a 41-34 lead with 6:45 remaining before Rapides (21-10) later answered with a 6-0 run and closed to 43-42 on Ashton Washington’s two free throws to 2:46 left.
A driving lay-in from Beckman Jr., who along with Kleinpeter each scored 19, ignited an 8-0 run that evolved into a 12-2 surge over the next two minutes, stretching that lead to 55-44 with 12.2 seconds to go.
Tripeaux capped his 15-point, 10-rebound outing with a three-point play, getting fouled on a lay-up in transition with 1:55 remaining that made it 48-42.
While Rapides, who was led by Jonathon Green’s 21 points, missed four straight free throws during Episcopal’s run and was 3 of 9 for the quarter, Kleinpeter and Beckman Jr. combined to go 7 of 9 from the line.
“They missed some free throws and we got the rebound,” coach Beckman said. “We got the ball into the hands of Spencer and Chris, our two best free throw shooters and two best players, and the three-point play by Kevin was tremendous.
“It got us a little confidence and the extended lead.”
But the party was just getting started.
The school’s athletic department surprised Beckman with a postgame celebration at midcourt, complete with a cake adorned with sparklers and a 5-0-0 candle delivered by his son where the two shared a touching moment.
“I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life,” Beckman Jr. said. “I didn’t think it would be this fun playing for my dad but I’ve enjoyed every moment. It’s also a great group of guys to play with. They make it even more special.”