District play opened Thursday night for TCA Varsity Basketball, and the Conquerors began the 3A, District 2 schedule with one of their biggest rivals. Trinity Christian crossed the river to battle the Eagles of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville. Both the junior varsity and the varsity games were crowd pleasers, but Episcopal got clutch shooting down the stretch in both games -- especially the varsity at the line -- to sweep the double-header in two tight games.
VARSITY: Episcopal 49, Trinity 42
After falling behind by 10 (29-19) at the end of the third quarter, the Conquerors stormed back to pull to within three with 45 seconds left to play. During that strong fourth quarter, Miles Brooks scored 8 of his team-high 14 points while Travis King converted 4 of 5 free throws, and Colton Warren and George Hawkins each sank a three-pointer.
Episcopal, however, used free throws to keep the Conquerors from evening the score. The Eagles converted an incredible 16 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter alone. Matt Flakus was 8 for 10 throughout the period and 10 of 12 (87%) overall on the night. As a team, the Eagles were 23 for 30 (77%) from the line to Trinity's 9 of 17. That aspect of the game was the difference.
Flakus also had a pair of three-pointers and two deuces for a game-high total of 20 points.
The low-scoring first half saw Episcopal lead 9-8 after one period and the two teams go into halftime tied at 15. The Eagles, though, scored the first eight points after the intermission to win the third 14-4 and put up their 10-point lead before Trinity made it close in the fourth.
King and George Hawkins each followed Brooks with 7 points. Warren and Xavier Cobb each had three, and the remaining eight points were spread through the rest of the roster.
For Episcopal, B. Miller followed Flakus with 10 points, and P. Chappel scored 9 to help lead the Eagles.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Episcopal 47, Trinity 44
A 16-point fourth quarter nearly erased an 11-point deficit after three, but the Conquerors could not get off the final attempt to tie the score. Trailing 39-28 as the final period began, the Conquerors got threes from L.J. Kelly and Khori Jones and deuces from Jacqary Sinues (2), Josh Robinson, and Seth Bialek.
However, each time Trinity pulled close, Episcopal got clutch threes from Ellis Pajcic and Corey Scott. Pajcic also hit two free throws that forced Trinity to try for a long pass inbound and get off the three to try to it, but the Eagles defense did not allow the shot to happen.
Trinity led 9-8 after one, but Episcopal used big middle quarters to forge ahead. Pajcic hit two of his trio of threes and Jacob Hayer added another in a big 18-point second. Hayer then hit two more three-pointers, and Austin Stamper added a third as the Eagles got 13 in the third. Hayer finished with 16 points overall, and Pajcic scored 15. Scott followed with 8, Stamper totaled 5, Lee Tritt had 2, and William Horne had a free throw.
Kelley had a pair of threes himself for the Conquerors, and Jones had two overall. Kelly finished with an even dozen behind only Sineus, who had 14. Jones and Josh Robinson each had 6 while Jace Walker contributed 4 and Bialek added 2. The Conquerors were 4 for 7 from the line.
The JV and varsity Conquerors will return to the home court on Tuesday, December 10, to host Terry Parker. JV tips off at 6:00 p.m., and the varsity game follows at 7:30. The games will stream live on Facebook: TCA Conquerors Athletics. Trinity will then finish the week with road games at Orange Park High School on Thursday and Camden County High School (St. Mary's, Georgia) on Friday.