THE LAST GAME: Full circle for Panthers senior
By Scott Akanewich
When Bobby Mundy walked off the court after his final high school basketball game this past season, the irony of the location wasn’t lost on the Liberty Hill senior guard.
“My very first game for the freshman team was there,” said Mundy, of the antiquated gym at Austin High School. “So, it was fitting my last game was there, too.”
The occasion was the Panthers’ 62-56 opening-round playoff loss to Dripping Springs. And while the contest four years earlier was the dawn of Mundy’s time in Purple-and-Gold, the latter marked the dusk of a prep career that saw him grow into one of Liberty Hill’s most trusted and dependable contributors.
Much was expected of Mundy and his teammates in the postseason after they had finished the regular season with an overall record of 18-6 and a 7-4 district mark, which was good for a third-place finish and a playoff berth in the program’s first campaign as a Class 5A team.
In the days leading up to the game, Mundy said the mood within the ranks was one of assuredness.
“We were extremely confident,” he said. “Because we had already played them in a scrimmage.”
Proceedings began to unfold according to plan for Panthers’ head coach Barry Boren’s club, who capitalized on Dripping Springs’ ineffectiveness against their trademark pressure defense to build a 33-24 halftime advantage.
However, Mundy said there was more to the formula than just what happened on the court.
“Our overall intensity was higher and our bench was loud,” he said. “But, things changed in the second half – especially after they went up in the third quarter – and I don’t know why.”
As the mood of the team swung, so did the scoreboard until the Panthers found themselves on the wrong side of the numbers in lights on the wall of the venerable gym at game’s end.
Mundy said he was in shock as the gravity of the situation became clear.
“I just realized it was all over,” he said. “I had put a basketball down for the last time as a high school player.”
Mundy was one of only three seniors on the squad – along with Kadin Knight and Hunter Clayton – and said while he didn’t feel overburdened with the task of helping lead such a young team, he did acknowledge the trio’s leadership was needed by their inexperienced teammates.
“I think all three of us were good leaders,” he said. “The only pressure was to go the extra mile to make sure our teammates were on board with us.”
Experience he gained as a sophomore on the scout team for the Panthers side, which advanced all the way to the Class 4A state championship game three years earlier, provided him with a platform to give back wisdom that had been passed on to him at the time.
“We had guys back then who helped teach us how to lead,” said Mundy, of former teammates such as Parker McCurdy, Cade Cole and Jareck Naylor. “We would look at them and say ‘we’re going to do what they do.’”
Still, the disappointment of defeat was overwhelming, with a pall hovering over the players on the hour-long bus ride home in the aftermath, he said.
“It was pretty mellow – especially for us seniors – because we knew it was out last game,” said Mundy. “Really quiet – a couple words here and there, but very little.”
But, Mundy didn’t have much time to dwell on the outcome of his final contest, as he had some pressing business in the classroom looming in his bid to achieve valedictorian status for the Class of 2021, which he accomplished by narrowly edging out Jessica Holliday of the Lady Panthers’ hoops squad, ironically, for the title – a focus that needed to be razor-sharp for success, he said.
“My academics helped take my mind off it,” he said. “I needed to finish off the year.”
Following the season, Mundy didn’t even pick up a basketball for a month, but rather decided to give himself a break from something he had been doing for as long as he could remember and these days is simply focusing on lifting weights to stay in shape, spending more time with friends and just enjoying his summer before heading off to Texas Christian University in the fall, where he will study math and neuroscience.
However, he is spending some final moments on his home court as an instructor at the annual Runnin’ Panthers Hoops Camp for young players from third through ninth grades – something that is providing a salve for the wound suffered some four months earlier in the shadow of the state capitol.
“I miss basketball a ton,” said Mundy. “Just being here at camp is great.”