Central Arkansas Christian boys coach Steve Quattlebaum never expected his Mustangs to start 9-0 in 7-4A play, but that’s where they started the week.
CAC won three more last week, a 48-47 overtime win over Arkansas Baptist; a 56-33 decision at Nashville and a 48-32 finish at Bauxite — to improve to 16-5 overall.
"To be undefeated — no, I didn’t expect that at all," Quattlebaum said Sunday. "I knew Arkadelphia would be good. Malvern’s been good in the past. It’s a pretty athletic conference with Malvern, Ashdown and Arkadelphia, similar to the one we were in (the 5A-Southwest).
"It’s a little surprising."
Starting the week, every other conference team had at least two losses. Bauxite was second to the Mustangs, followed by Arkadelphia and Baptist. The top two finishers will receive a bye to the district tournament semifinals, which would guarantee a berth in the regional tournament.
"We still haven’t played Ashdown, but we feel pretty good after we’ve seen almost everybody," Quattlebaum said. "Three wins this week would just about wrap up first place."
CAC played at Pulaski Robinson, a team it beat in the earlier meeting, 64-34. The Mustangs will play host to Bauxite on Friday, travel to Ashdown on Saturday and to Arkadelphia (which they beat the first time, 54-34) on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Arkansas Baptist led most of the game last week against CAC.
"We came back in the fourth quarter after being down four or six at halftime," Quattlebaum said. "But we hung around and got ahead. Travis Byrne made a big play late in the game, got a steal, and they missed a last-second shot in regulation."
In the overtime, Byrne got a steal at half-court, made the layup and drew an intentional foul. Dylan Sherrill made two free throws late to ice it.
"That was a good win; Baptist is really good," Quattlebaum said. "It’s a good rivalry game. Both teams shot the ball pretty good. Josh Holland and Dylan Sherrill both had good games."
At Nashville, the Mustangs played well and ended up with a pretty easy win.
"We got to play just about everybody," Quattlebaum said. "We were up 12 or so at halftime, stretched it to 15 at the end of the third and got up over 20 in the fourth quarter.
"They’d been playing well; they played us good the first time, but we did a good job this time in the press and got a few steals. Travis has been good on the front of the press; he’s very athletic and gets his hands on a lot of balls. Beau (Barnes) and Dylan are pretty quick. We put some pressure on them."
At Bauxite last week, the Mustangs built a 12-8 lead after one quarter and grew that to 13 at the half.
"We had a good third quarter and held them to two points for most of the quarter before they ended up with four," Quattlebaum said. "We got up 20-plus. They were the second-place team and had just one conference loss before that. That was a big win for us."