Central Arkansas Christian’s Lady Mustangs will take the No. 2 seed into this week’s 7-4A District Tournament at Nashville and with it a bye to Friday’s semifinals.
The district championship will be played Saturday.
The semifinal berth also assures CAC of a spot in next week’s Class 4A South Regional, also at Nashville. The top four from there will advance to the Class 4A State Tournament in two weeks.
“I think we’re getting there,” CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum said, referring to his team’s recent performances. “We still know that we can play a lot better and more consistently than what we’ve played. I told them the other night it seems like we have a tendency to play to the level of our opponent, and now that the tournaments are here, everybody’s pretty good.
“I hope we’ll be ready to peak and go out there and play well for long periods of time.”
CAC opened the week 19-4 overall, 11-2 in conference play, having lost only to Malvern, the defending state champion that swept through the league schedule unbeaten. The Lady Mustangs closed the regular season Monday against Bauxite in a game that was postponed earlier because of weather.
Last week they took three lop-sided wins: over Arkadelphia, 47-23; Pulaski Robinson, 45-28; and Ashdown, 64-35. Robinson and Ashdown were on the road.
Against Arkadelphia, Falan Miller led the offense with 12 points. Chloe Elkins added 10.
At Robinson, Sydnie Jones had 22 points and seven rebounds. Miller added 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Sarah Butler recorded four assists and three steals. Robinson managed just eight points in the second half.
“Sydnie is finishing a little better,” Quattlebaum said. “Falan seems to be playing better. She hadn’t been rebounding as well as she did last year, but she had eight or nine in the first half, and that was good to see.”
At Ashdown, Jones and Miller scored 25 and 18 points, respectively. Elkins added 12. The Lady Mustangs outscored the Lady Panthers by 27-9 in the third quarter despite being short several players for various reasons.
“Not bad,” Quattlebaum said of the week. “Against Arkadelphia, we played a better whole game, but in the others, we got off to kind of a slow start but played good second halves.
“We’re still having trouble playing a whole game. We wore down Robinson in the second half and had a good fourth quarter, and at Ashdown we had a good third quarter even though we were a little short on numbers. We only took seven players, really, but we finished pretty strong and hit six or seven 3s.”
As the week began, the tournament seedings looked to be Robinson third, followed by Nashville, Arkansas Baptist, Bauxite and Arkadelphia and then Ashdown.
Bauxite and Arkadelphia were likely to face each other in a first-round tournament match, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals against Robinson. That winner will then move on to play CAC in the semis.
“Robinson’s a team that’s capable of beating us, but we’ve got two pretty good wins over them,” Quattlebaum said. “We feel pretty good about that.”
Likely looming in the championship is Malvern, which has won five straight over the Lady Mustangs over the last two years.
“At some point we have to beat them,” Quattlebaum said. “We may get a couple of more chances. Down the line, I know that third place in our region will end up on the same side of the bracket (in the state tournament) as first, so we want to get first or second in the regional to get separated from, probably, Malvern.”
He and his team are ready for the post-season.
“We’re pretty healthy and ready to go,” Quattlebaum said. “We know we haven’t peaked yet. We hope we’ll peak at the right time.”