When the final buzzer sounded Friday at The Jungle, the Dripping Springs boys basketball team etched another mark in the program’s storied history book.
By virtue of a 50-35 win over the McCallum Knights, Dripping Springs (19-5, 9-2) secured the team’s fourth straight playoff berth, marking the first time since the 1985-88 seasons a Tiger squad has accomplished the feat.
But Tiger eyes are set on a much larger prize as dreams of a district crown are still in view.
“We just want to play our best and prepare for it (the rest of the season),” Tiger guard Xavier Phillips said. “We are already in the playoffs, but we want the number one spot.”
Explosive third quarter offense played a critical role in Dripping Springs’ win as the outburst helped the Tigers break a sluggish start.
Dripping Springs led 28-17 at halftime but struggled to generate offense in the first two frames. Phillips led the way with eight of his game-high 15 points in the first half.
That dynamic changed in the third quarter as Dripping Springs consistently attacked the paint with much success. On the opposite end, Dripping Springs’ defense locked down McCallum’s offense and kept leading Knight scorers Sam Workenthin and Rob Wade in check.
It all resulted in a 15-3 third quarter Tiger run, giving Dripping Springs a commanding double-digit lead it maintained the rest of the contest.
Adhering to a “next play” mentality kept Dripping Springs from dwelling on first half struggles, said Tiger head coach Craig Swannack. Phillips said distributing the ball, especially during times he was struggling from the field, aided in finding open shooters and build overall team confidence.
Strong minutes and key buckets from the bench equally boosted the Tiger effort, Swannack said. Dripping Springs junior Aidan Bailey scored eight points off the bench, while Tony Parra went 3 of 4 from the free throw line. As a team, Dripping Springs went 11 of 20 from the charity stripe.
“It’s such a blessing to have such depth,” Swannack said. “Our bench, they’re always ready. They practice hard and the guys are engaged and you can see how it pays off for them.”
Swannack also lauded Phillips’ leadership over the past several weeks of the regular season. With several key cogs out of the lineup, including standout guard Trace Young, Phillip’s presence has played an important role in Tiger success.
“Having Xavier on our varsity team for three years now, he’s a special kid and is the most selfless player and enthusiastic,” Swannack said. “The way he’s stepped up as our senior leader with Trace gone is absolutely outstanding.”
Now with a playoff ticket punched, Dripping Springs’ focus centers on district playoff positioning. On Tuesday, Dripping Springs took on Austin Northeast in a battle for control of second place in 25-5A. Dripping Springs travels to play Travis on the road Friday, followed by hosting Crockett Feb. 18 in the regular season finale.
All of it comes as the Tigers remain a game behind LBJ for the district lead.
But for Swannack, getting the chance to make history Friday was a humbling experience.
“It’s a neat experience to be part of. I’m only one part of this entire thing,” Swannack said. “I’ve had amazing players, assistant coaches and families. We’re all one big family and we know that.”