Dripping Springs Tiger head boys basketball coach Craig Swannack couldn’t help but crack a small smile while mulling his team’s 41-34 loss to the Boerne Champion Chargers.
Having coached in the game for many years, Swannack realizes that sometimes, no matter what you do, it’s just not your night.
Dripping Springs’ ice-cold 23-percent shooting from field exemplified Swannack’s logic. It also gave Champion the ammunition to escape with a win and sole possession of second place in 26-5A with five games left in the regular season.
But Swannack’s smile wasn’t limited to just the struggles and failures. Rather, it extended to how his team, despite the bad shooting night, kept fighting and nearly pulled off a major upset.
“It teaches them bad things are going to happen and it’s about how you respond to them,” Swannack said. “It’s not about what happened on the court, but how are we going to progress from here and continue to dig in and fight.”
Dripping Springs (16-14, 6-3) kept pace with Champion in the early going. Champion only led 12-11 after the first quarter and then held a one-point lead at halftime.
Guiding the Tiger offense was the duo of Bryce Kalsu and Mathew McKiddie, who accounted for 17 of the Tigers’ 19 first half points. Of those 17 points scored between them, 15 came from the three-point arc.
Swannack said the team’s game plan centered on its ability to shoot well from the perimeter. Strong ball movement against a sizeable Champion lineup also paid dividends as well.
A three-pointer by McKiddie with roughly a minute to play in the first half pulled the Tigers to within a point at 20-19 at intermission.
That bucket was the Tigers’ last for the next six-plus minutes. In between that time, Champion orchestrated a 6-0 run to take a 26-19 lead. Helping the Champion cause was 6-foot, 9-inch senior Tristain Green, who thrived in the paint against a smaller Tiger lineup. Green led the Chargers with 13 total points in the game, with six of those points coming from inside the three-point arc.
While Swannack said his interior players battled with Champion’s lineup, they at times struggled to limit Champion’s presence in the paint. The Chargers out-rebounded Dripping Springs 27-22 in the game.
“When you have an excellent player such as Tristain Green, it makes it difficult to manage them. As a team, it’s tough to manage for sure,” Swannack said.
A three-pointer from Kalsu with 2:02 left in the third frame broke Dripping Springs’ scoring drought, but it wasn’t enough to shake the shooting woes of the Tigers.
Swannack said getting the ball inside to his post players and getting a few more inside shots could have been a focus later in the ball game.
“When we got cold, I think we got scared to shoot more,” Swannack said.
The Tigers didn’t back down, even when faced with a 33-23 deficit midway through the fourth frame.
A seven-point effort from senior Spencer Johnson gave the Tigers enough momentum for a late rally.
Dripping Springs fought to cut Champion’s lead to a small as five points with less than a minute to play, but couldn’t get any closer.
Working on scoring in the paint will be a focus for the Tigesr as they hit the home stretch of district play. For Swannack, taking things in stride will also be a point to mull.
“It’s one approach at a time, one game at a time, one shot at a time, one moment at a time,” Swannack said. “Ultimatley, it’s working on responding and how we respond after a tough loss like that.”
Kalsu finished with a game-high 14 points, while McKiddie scored ten points. Johnson led the team with six rebounds.
Dripping Springs hosts Medina Valley Feb. 2, then finishes the regular season at home against Seguin Feb. 13.