When the time came for his team to withstand a furious LBJ Jaguar rally Friday, Dripping Springs Tiger head coach Craig Swannack knew his players were up to task.
A courage-under-fire mentality, along with 21 points from guard Jay Guevara, gave Dripping Springs the firepower to withstand everything state-ranked LBJ had to offer en route to a 54-48 upset of the Jaguars at Tiger Gym.
For Swannack, withstanding the “storm,” which came in the form of LBJ’s signature pressure defense, was the key to victory.
“We told the guys, ‘Be in the eye of the storm, stay calm.’ We knew they (LBJ) would come back and get us with a punch,” Swannack said. “The guys did what we asked them to, they withstood the storm and kept playing solid defense. Such a great team win.”
Dripping Springs (17-5, 7-2) led 31-12 at halftime, but a 19-3 Jaguar run cut the Tiger advantage to 34-31 with seven minutes left in the game. Playing a vital role in LBJ’s comeback was guard Jordan Teal who scored 11 of his 22 total points in the third frame alone. All 22 of Teal’s points were tallied in the second half.
A speedy Jaguar defense further exasperated Dripping Springs’ struggles as the Jaguars rocked 11 second half turnovers.
That all changed midway through the fourth frame as Dripping Springs slowed down the pace of play and began to attack the paint. As a result, the Tiger offense drew 10 Jaguar fouls in the final quarter, allowing Dripping Springs to go 12 of 19 from the free throw line.
Swannack lauded his team’s ability to be a “slow clock on offense” and control the pace of play, a tactic the Tigers successfully used in the first half. Effectively crashing the boards also gave Dripping Springs the upper hand, Swannack said.
Dripping Springs outrebounded LBJ 30-20 in the contest.
“We were rushing in the third quarter, but once we felt comfortable again, we began picking things up,” Guevara said.
Obtaining output from multiple contributors, primarily from the bench, equally pushed the Tiger offense along, said Swannack.
Bench player efforts helped to bridge the gap left by the absence of starters Trace Young and Jackson Friedman who did not play Friday.
Tiger guard Aidan Bailey finished with 10 points while Luke Lawyer and Xavier Phillips both scored nine points.
“That’s what makes these guys so special. They live for each other and play for each other,” Swannack said. “When you have a team like that, when something unfortunate happens, we have that ‘next man up’ mentality so where we can have a great game like tonight.”
Friday’s win offered the Tigers more than a late-season confidence boost.
With the win, Dripping Springs is now one game behind LBJ in the race for the 25-5A district crown with two weeks left in the regular season.
Keeping an even keel down the stretch is what Swannack said is key for the Tigers to avoid a letdown down the stretch.
Even though key contests against McCallum and Austin Northeast loom, upsetting a top-tier foe was a moment for Guevara to relish.
“We just beat the number 8 team in the state,” Guevara said. “It’s a good team win.”
Dripping Springs hosts McCallum Friday at 7 p.m. at Tiger Gym.