The Dripping Springs Tigers (14-4) earned their second district win of the season, and sixth win in a row, by fending off a fourth quarter LBJ Jaguar rally en route to a 63-55 win Jan. 2.
Efficient offensive play and tough zone defense were pivotal keys in the victory, said Tigers head coach Craig Swannack.
“You know the guys just had great effort today; we were very focused and very dedicated,” Swannack said. “I’m just proud of our team. They wanted this one and they played well.”
After a slow start shooting the ball in the first quarter, the Tigers caught fire from three-point range in the second quarter with four made shots from beyond the arc.
Within just a few possessions, including three straight buckets by senior guard Enzo Arnold, Dripping Springs gathered a 30-18 lead over LBJ. Twelve of Dripping Springs’ 16 points in the second quarter came from beyond the arc.
“With the amount of work the guys put in is what makes that happen. The extra time they put into the gym every single day to work on their shot, that’s why I have faith,” Swannack said. “When the shots aren’t falling temporarily, that doesn’t mean that’s going to stay that way forever. We believe in our guys and we believe in the work they’ve put in for this team.”
Although the Tigers lost the turnover battle, they made up for it with a tough zone defense accompanied with strong defensive rebounding. Dripping Springs’ defense only gave up 32 points through the first three quarters of
play, while also out-rebounding LBJ 37-22 for the game.
“LBJ is such a phenomenal team that we just hoped that we could slow them down, and today it worked really well,” Swannack said. “With the zone the guys played our gameplay to perfection, and it’s just something that when they do that it makes the game easier for us to be able to play.”
LBJ made things close in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Tigers 23-14 in the final eight minutes of play. Critical stops by Dripping Springs’ defense and clutch scoring from Arnold and junior guard Xavier Phillips sealed the victory for the Tigers. The win also puts Dripping Springs at 2-0 in district play.
Arnold led the Tigers in points with 18 for the game, while also posting six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“Love the kid, he’s (Arnold) a phenomenal player,” Swannack said. “One of the things that I think people don’t realize is how competitive he is. He wants to win big games and he wants to do it all the time. That’s what I love about him.”
In addition to Arnold’s big game, Phillips dropped 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal, with six of his points coming in crunch time in the fourth quarter. Another key contributor was senior center Nick Statz, who had seven points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal, despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. Senior forwards Kyle Rioux and Alema Louis gave the Tigers a boost off the bench, with Louis scoring nine points and Rioux collecting three points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“We really try to talk about never getting too high after a win and never too low after a loss, and this is a big win for us,” said Swannack.
Dripping Springs travels to play at Reagan Jan. 11, followed by a road game at Travis Jan. 15. The Tigers host Crockett Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. 1-9