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CAC GIRLS Mustangs ready for conference tournament

Central Arkansas Christian’s Lady Mustangs begin their post-season surge this week in hopes of gaining a bit of revenge.

After losing twice and finishing second to Malvern in the conference race, the Lady Mustangs have a bye to Thursday’s 6:40 p.m. semifinals of the 7-4A District Tournament at Bauxite. They await the winner between No. 3 Bauxite against the survivor of No. 6 Nashville and No. 7 Pulaski Robinson. Should they win in the semis, the Lady Mustangs (22-5 overall, 12-2 conference) would likely get their third shot at the Lady Leopards in Saturday’s championship.

“Bauxite will be on our side of the bracket, so we could play the home team in the semifinals,” CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum said. “We’ve got two wins over them, both by eight or 10 points. But we like our chances. We’d really like another shot at Malvern.”

Bauxite handed Malvern its only conference loss.

“We played them right after they beat Malvern,” Quattlebaum said. “Some teams you match up pretty good with and some teams you don’t. We’ve played well against Bauxite both times.

“Malvern played really well both times we’ve played them, but when they played Bauxite, late in the first half Malvern only had five points. But Malvern has always shot the ball well against us. I think they play better against us than they do against the other teams.

“But we’re getting better. I hope they’ve reached their peak, but I think we’ve got a chance to get even better.”

The crucial item this week is getting a semifinal win. A loss would put CAC at a No. 3 or 4 seed for next week’s regional, depending on the consolation game Saturday.

“You want to get to that final to be one of the top two seeds,” Quattlebaum said. “That’s pretty important.”

The district championship is set for 6:40 p.m. Saturday. The consolation game will be at 4.

The top four teams in the district tournament will advance to next week’s regional at Ouachita Baptist University. First-round winners at the regional will all advance to the Class 4A State Tournament at Cave City.

CAC completed the conference schedule unblemished except for the two losses to Malvern. Ashdown is seeded fourth for the tournament; Arkansas Baptist is fifth and Arkadelphia eighth.

The Lady Mustangs finished the regular season last week with wins over Arkadelphia, 55-36; and Ashdown, 57-43.

Against Arkadelphia, CAC got four 3-pointers from Jessica Saunders, who was perfect on the night. The Lady Mustangs led by six points at halftime but extended their lead to 43-27 after a big third quarter, during which Saunders hit three treys. Falan Miller’s 17 points led CAC; Sydnie Jones added 16 points and six blocks. Saunders added 14 points.

“That’s big when we get some scoring from other places (besides Miller, Jones and point guard Sarah Butler),” Quattlebaum said. “And we played a pretty good defensive game.”

Against Ashdown on Senior Night at Mustang Mountain, CAC trailed by two points after the first quarter, but Miller sparked the Lady Mustangs with 12 points in the second quarter. CAC built a 32-23 halftime lead. Miller and Jones scored 22 and 20 points, respectively.

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