Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs got their winning streak to three last week and nearly stretched it to four against one of the top teams in the state.
After senior Eric Bentley hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer at Bauxite for a 52-50 CAC win, Matt Hall’s Mustangs saw a furious rally come up just short at Arkadelphia on Friday, 62-59.
Arkadelphia (13-3) is ranked fourth among Class 4A teams this week, according to one statewide newspaper.
CAC opened the week 5-11 overall but 3-2 in 7-4A conference play.
The Mustangs played host to Ashdown on Tuesday and will travel to Malvern on Friday to conclude the first half of the conference round-robin schedule. They’ll play host to Arkansas Baptist on Tuesday, Jan. 28 to start the second go-round.
"We’re so much better now than when we started the season, it’s unbelievable," first-year Mustang coach Matt Hall said. "They’ve worked so hard. There’s been a big improvement, and I think we’ll continue to get better as they gain more confidence."
CAC started the season 1-7.
The Mustangs fell to Malvern during the Spa City Shootout over Christmas break, 42-39 in overtime.
"They’re going to know what we do, and we’re going to know what they do," Hall said. "I expect it to be a good game. I expect they’ll play well. We’re pretty similar as far as talent, but they are more athletic than we are. It would be another big road win if we can get it."
Arkansas Baptist should provide a good measuring stick to see how far the Mustangs have come since falling to the Eagles in the conference opener, 50-45.
"We’re a lot better than we were the first time we played Arkansas Baptist," Hall said.
Last week at Bauxite, CAC led most of the game, but the margin was close throughout. With seven seconds left and a one-point lead, the Miners had a one-and-one chance, but the Mustangs rebounded the miss and converted on Bentley’s trey at the other end for the win.
Stephen Flanigan and Joseph Strange led CAC with 22 and 13 points, respectively. Davis Allen added 10.
At Arkadelphia, the Badgers built a big lead before CAC mounted a big comeback.
"We just didn’t make any shots in the first half," Hall said. "Stephen Flanigan and Davis Allen got in foul trouble in the first half, and that really hurt us. But (the Badgers) played really well, shot the ball well and made the big shots when they needed to."
CAC had four players in double figures: Bentley led with 14 points, followed by Allen, 13; Flanigan, 12; and Strange, 11.
"The thing is, we’re 3-2 in conference, and four of those five have been on the road," Hall said Sunday. "We’ve put ourselves in a good position. We’re playing good basketball. We said all along this is the time of year we want to play good."