Lots of players dream of being “that guy” — the one who calmly ignores a legion of screaming fans to sink the game-clinching free throws.
Episcopal’s Chris Beckman Jr. did it on Friday night. The son of the Episcopal coach shook off cheers of “daddy’s boy” to make four free throws in the final 1:30 to help lift the Knights to a 46-42 road victory over The Dunham School.
“It’s fun shoot when there’s a lot of people behind you,” Beckman Jr. said. “You just have to blank that out. I concentrate on the rim really.
“We weren’t really doing much on offense. I don’t even know exactly what we were running. But I think it was the effort that got us through. That and defense. This was probably the best defensive game we’ve played all year.”
Despite being hounded by a box-in-one defense, Beckman Jr. and his Episcopal cohorts did just enough on offense to remain unbeaten in District 6-2A. Beckman Jr. and Kevin Tripeaux each had 14 points, while Spencer Kleinpeter added 13 for the white-hot Knights (17-2, 3-0), who have won 10 in a row.
Leviticus Bradley scored a game-high 19 points for Dunham (11-9, 2-1), which saw its six-game winning streak come to an end. Jyron Walker added 10 for the Tigers, who held the upper hand through final portion of the second quarter and the entire third quarter.
“You had both teams playing as hard as they could,” EHS coach Chris Beckman Sr. said. “Both teams made a ton of mistakes. I think that’s because it means so much to them. Sometimes they’re teenagers, and they don’t make the right decisions.
“Part of that is because they are trying so hard. The coaches are all acquaintances and friends, and it was standing- room only crowd.”
One key mistake came with 1:30 remaining. A Dunham player entered the game without checking in, so the Tigers had six players on the court. Officials stopped the game and called a technical foul.
That’s when Beckman Jr. hit his first two free throws despite the cheers from behind the basket by Dunham’s student section. The junior guard made two more free throws with 13.5 seconds left to help close the game.
Dunham got within two three times in the final 1:59 but couldn’t tie it.
“The environment was very good and both teams tried very hard,” Dunham coach Jonathan Pixley said. “Chris (Beckman Sr.) was worried a little about toughness. His guys were tougher than us on the defensive end of the floor.
“Toughness is something we’ve tied our wagon to all year, but tonight, (the Knights) had it. I also thought we took four horrific shots in the fourth quarter. And then you had the technical foul. We had all kinds of mental errors. … Just crazy stuff.”
Beckman Jr. gave a Episcopal a 3-0 lead before Walker countered with a 3-pointer a minute later. There were six lead changes in a first quarter that at times resembled an extended dance in which one partner countered the other’s moves. Kleinpeter scored on a driving layup in the lane with 2.1 seconds left to send Episcopal into the second quarter with a 14-13 lead.
Bradley’s jumper from the left side put Dunham ahead once again with 6:47 left in the half. Beckman Jr. and Kleinpeter scored the next two baskets, giving the Knights an 18-15 lead with 2:59 to go.
That was as far the Episcopal offense went. The Tigers scored the final six points. Tyveon Spurlock put back a missed shot by Walker just before the buzzer to give Dunham a 21-18 halftime lead.
The Knights could not catch the Tigers in the third quarter. Dunham’s box-in-one defense on Beckman Jr. worked well at that point.
Dunham also limited Kleinpeter’s slashing drives through the lane.
Enter Tripeaux, who scored eight of his 14 points in the period. Tripeaux’s bucket off a dish from Beckman Jr. got Episcopal within two at 33-31 with 59 seconds left in the quarter.
Episcopal tied the game on two free throws by Tripeaux to open the fourth quarter. Kleinpeter followed with a basket at the 6:17 mark that gave the Knights the lead for good. The last time Dunham cut the lead to two points was with 27.8 seconds left in two free throws by Bradley.