New Central Arkansas Christian boys coach Matt Hall is hoping history can repeat itself at Mustang Mountain.
In Steve Quattlebaum’s first season with the Mustangs, they started 0-9 before getting hot in conference play and eventually qualifying for the state tournament.
Hall’s first Mustang squad is 1-6 after a non-conference schedule that has included Morrilton, Paragould, Little Rock Christian, Maumelle, Pulaski Academy and defending Class 3A state champion Harding Academy.
“We’ve played an extremely tough nonconference schedule,” Hall said. “Little Rock Christian is 5-0, and we played them right down to the wire and had a chance to win late.
“What we’re hoping is that our tough nonconference schedule has prepared us to get some good wins in the conference. I think that’s very possible.”
As an example, he pointed to the Mustangs’ loss to Maumelle.
“It ended up a 20-point game, but we were down single digits in the fourth quarter, and they turned around and beat Pottsville, the defending Class 4A state champion, (a few nights later)” he said. “I definitely think we have a good chance to get hot in the conference season and make a good run. We’ll see Friday.”
That’s when the Mustangs will open 7-4A conference play at Arkansas Baptist. The game is part of the Eagles’ Classic, which also includes Drew Central and Harding Academy. CAC will face Drew Central at Baptist on Saturday in the final game before Christmas.
Hall said he had seen Baptist play several times already this season.
“They’ve got a good player, Noah Patterson, who has been there a while, and I know Coach (Jeff) Hogue does an extremely good job,” he said. “It will be a tough game, especially going over there, so this is an extremely big game for us.
“Not only would it be a good win, but to get the first conference win before Christmas and give you something to build on over the break — I think our kids understand the importance of starting the conference (schedule) off with a win. We’ve had some good practices.”
After a slow start, the Mustangs fell at Pulaski Academy last week, 65-40.
“That was not one of our better performances,” Hall said. “We got in a hole early. With two players as good as they’ve got, you can’t dig yourself a hole like that.”
He downplayed the significance of the CAC-PA rivalry in the slow start.
“Our kids didn’t make it a big deal,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t say they were nervous. PA does a good job running a 3-2 zone (defense), and we struggled early. I think that was it.”
Stephen Flanigan had 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead CAC.
The Mustangs lost a close one at Harding Academy by three points Friday after being down 23-9 at the half.
“Again we got off to a really slow start,” Hall said. “I think they missed one shot in the first quarter and made four or five 3s. We had to dig out of the hole, and we did. We had a chance to tie it with 30 seconds to go; we made a layup but a walk was called. Still, our kids played extremely hard and did some really good things. I was excited about how they came back.”
Davis Allen led the Mustangs with 11 points.
After Saturday’s game with Drew Central, the Mustangs are off until the Spa City Classic in Hot Springs Dec. 27-30.