With five seconds remaining in regulation, Dripping Springs coach Craig Swannack called a timeout to settle his team’s nerves.
Missing their leading scorer Richard Milliron Friday night, the Tigers found themselves trailing the district-leading Seguin Matadors by three points.
Mckenly O’Neal, tasked with replacing Milliron’s production, drew two defenders and fired a pass to Cullen Young, who was wide-open behind the 3-point arc.
Young’s shot was on line, but bounced out after touching each part of the rim. And thus, Seguin kept pace with Boerne-Champion by securing a 47-44 victory on the Tigers’ home floor.
“We’re not happy the ball doesn’t fall the way we want to but I’m still proud of how hard we fought,” Swannack said. “You have to give credit to them. They are the No. 1 team in the district for a reason.”
O’Neal and Young were thrown into the fire to compensate for Milliron’s absence. In return, Swannack received a spirited effort on the glass as Dripping Springs held a 39-24 advantage in rebounding. On one possession in the second quarter, the Tigers corralled four consecutive offensive rebounds.
For the most part, it was O’Neal and Young cleaning up the glass and granting their teammates more shot opportunities. Dripping Springs entered the halftime break with an 18-13 lead and a decisive 25-12 edge in rebounding.
The rebounding chances dried up when Seguin amped up the defensive pressure in the third quarter. Dripping Springs, which had two players out sick and two more players fighting illness in addition to missing its star player, appeared to be gassed.
Seguin, meanwhile, was just getting started. The Matadors created four turnovers in the third period, fueling a 12-0 run that gave them a nine-point lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Swannack said Seguin found open seams in the Tigers’ defense that weren’t present in the first half. He felt fatigue was a factor since the rotation was shorter than usual.
“Ultimately, it was the third quarter,” Swannack said. “They made some really good adjustments. There were about three or four possessions that they eked out a 9-point lead and that really hurt us. If you take that stretch away, it’s our game.”
Dripping Springs fell to 14-11 overall and 4-3 in district, placing them in a three-way tie with Alamo Heights and Tivy for third place.
There are seven games left in the season before the postseason starts. Dripping Springs is hoping that they’ll catch a break in some of those games – in the health department and on the basketball court.
Neither area was particularly forgiving Friday when the Tigers couldn’t muster up enough energy to upset Seguin.
“We are going to go back in and get right back to work,” Swannack said. “We are in the No. 4 spot and we know we are better than that.”