Strong team defense wasn’t enough for the Dripping Springs Tigers (11-13) as they fell 48-33 to the Alamo Heights Mules in Friday’s district opener at Tiger Gym.
“We went into this game with really only about eight healthy players, and we knew this was going to be a tough battle,” Dripping Springs head coach Craig Swannack said. “In my opinion Alamo Heights is the best team in our district, very strong, very hard to defend. They just run great stuff, they’re a really good team. We knew we were going to be in for a dog fight.”
The Tigers opened the game in a zone defense to prevent the Alamo Heights offense from playing around the rim, while also forcing them to shoot from beyond the arc.
The defensive game plan worked well in the first half for Dripping Springs as they held the Mules to only seven points in the first quarter. Dripping Springs and Alamo Heights were tied at 15-15 at halftime.
The Tigers defense held Mules senior forward Evan Carcanagues, Alamo Heights’ star player, to only two points in the first half.
“The guys really gave great effort to committing to the game plan, then limiting what we knew that Alamo Heights was gonna want to do,” said Swannack. “When you have a group of players this intelligent, it’s really a blessing to be able to see them get out there and compete that way.”
Dripping Springs stuck with its vaunted zone defense in the second half, but a stellar third quarter by Carcanagues and late 3-pointer by Alamo Heights senior guard Brandon Johnson pushed the Mules lead over the Tigers to 30-23 going into the fourth quarter.
“We really wanted to limit his touches,” Swannack said about Carcanagues. “You know he is 21(points), over nine rebounds and four assists per game, and with someone like that we felt like if we could take him out of the game and slow the game down a little bit and make them play our pace, then it would give us a chance. And the reality is through three quarters we really had a pretty good chance.”
Alamo Heights extended its lead in the fourth quarter with quality offensive possessions coupled with several defensive stops. Carcanagues finished the game with 17 points, with 15 of those coming in the second half. Johnson was the Mules other lead scorer for the night with 16 points.
“They just hit a huge three at the end of the third quarter, and then had some really good possessions in the fourth,” said Swannack. “Alamo Heights really won the battle of possessions in the fourth quarter and that was the big difference.”
Drippings Springs senior forward Mathew McKiddie had 10 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Enzo Arnold contributed 10 points and two blocks. Senior guards Bryce Kalsu and Spencer Johnson were vocal leaders for the Tigers on the defensive end of the court.
“We’ve got some great kids with just lion hearts,” Swannack said. “I love watching them go out there and compete everyday even when we don’t get the results we want.”
Dripping Springs hosts Marble Falls at home on Friday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m.