Having won 16 consecutive games, Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs are hoping for more in the Class 4A South Regional at Ouachita Baptist University this week.
CAC (23-5), after sweeping through the 7-4A conference race 16-0, did what it was supposed to in the 7-4A District Tournament at Bauxite last week, beating Malvern in the semifinals and Arkadelphia in the championship.
Steve Quattlebaum’s Mustangs moved up to No. 4 in one statewide newspaper’s Class 4A rankings.
Quattlebaum, who added coaching the boys to his duties with the girls at Mustang Mountain three years ago, will give up the boys team following this season. He said he never dreamed this team would be where it is now.
“They are continuing to find ways to win,” he said. “They’re playing teams that we’ve played multiple times. It’s hard to beat them when you get up there playing them three and four times, but we were able to do that.
“It’s a pretty good accomplishment.”
CAC, the conference and district champion, is a top seed to the regional and will play Hamburg, fourth seed from the 8-4A, in Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. first round.
A win there would assure the Mustangs a berth in next week’s Class 4A State Tournament at Cave City.
“They are very athletic; they have good size and they will be a real challenge for us,” Quattlebaum said of the Lions. “Several of the teams in our conference are similar — Ashdown, Arkadelphia, Malvern — so we’re used to playing athletic teams. But they’re pretty good. They finished fourth in a tough conference that has probably the best team in the state, and it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
The rest of the regional field includes Dumas, No. 2 from 8, against Malvern, No. 3 from 7; Monticello, top seed from the 8 (24-2 and ranked tops in the state), against Nashville, No. 4 from the 7; and Arkadelphia, second from the 7, against Star City, third from the 8.
Should the Mustangs beat Hamburg, they would play the winner of Dumas and Malvern on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The regional championship is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday; the third-place game will be at 1:30 p.m.
Quattlebaum said he figured Dumas would be the favorite in that first-round match-up.
“Their conference overall is probably stronger than ours, but you never know,” he said. “Malvern is playing well. They’re capable of winning.”
CAC has beaten Malvern four times this season. Quattlebaum said he didn’t know much about Dumas except that the Bobcats finished ahead of Star City, a team the Mustangs saw and respected from summer camps.
After a first-round bye in the district tournament, the Mustangs beat Malvern in the semifinals, 51-45, after leading by 26-21 at the half. CAC won the third quarter by eight.
Travis Byrne scored 14 points to lead the Mustangs; Josh Holland added 13; Logan Stafford 11 and Dylan Sherrill nine.
In the district championship, CAC beat Arkadelphia, 42-37. Arkadelphia built an early lead of 11 points early in the second quarter, but the Mustangs cut the difference to 23-20 at the break.
“Travis and Holland ran into each other and bumped heads, nearly knocked them both out, so I had both of them on the bench at one time, but they fought back before the end of the second quarter,” Quattlebaum said. “We were tied going into the fourth quarter. Just like they’ve done all year, we’ve played a lot of close games, and their experience and competitiveness — they’ve just refused to lose sometimes.”
Sherrill led the Mustangs with 16 points; Holland added 14.