Steve Quattlebaum pronounced last week’s season opener for his Central Arkansas Christian Lady Mustangs "one of the best defensive games we’ve played in three or four years."
The 53-31 win over Pottsville, which reached the Class 4A State Tournament last year, could bode well for a special season at Mustang Mountain.
CAC will continue the season Tuesday, Nov. 26, at Class 7A North Little Rock.
"We played really well," said Quattlebaum, starting his 19th season atop the CAC girls program. "We have a lot of the same ones from last year, but they’re just a little more mature and they understand a little better what we’re trying to do. They were ready to play, and they got after them on defense."
The Lady Mustangs held the Lady Apaches to single-digit scoring in the first half and led by 41-12 at one point.
"They scored more points in the fourth quarter (by which time CAC was substituting regularly) than the first three combined," Quattlebaum said. "I was really proud of the effort."
Sydnie Jones, recently out of volleyball, led CAC in scoring with 20 points. Falan Miller added 16.
"Sydnie was really stronger and more physical than she was at any time last year," Quattlebaum said of his 6-1 junior post. "We did a good job in the press, which we never really did last year. Jessica McCauley hit a big 3 right before the half, and everybody we brought off the bench did a good job.
"All-around, it was a pretty good game."
He said he didn’t really mind the 12-day hiatus until the second game.
"Offensively, we can execute a little better, so we’ll use some time on that," he said. "Sydnie and Jessica McCauley are just out of volleyball, and Rachel Mina is just in from cross country, so we’ve got a little conditioning to do. I’d probably rather play a game sometime this week, but we’ll get some good practice this week. I think we’ll be ready to go."
North Little Rock prevailed last year, 54-52, after building a 10-2 lead to start the game. The Lady Charging Wildcats ultimately reached the semifinals of the Class 7A State Tournament.
"We should’ve beaten them last year," Quattlebaum said. "They hit a shot basically at the buzzer to beat us. We’re a lot better than we were this time last year, but I’ve also heard (North Little Rock coach Daryl Fimple) say this is one of the best bunches he’s had, which is kind of scary. But we’re looking forward to it."
He said he sometimes gets criticized for playing North Little Rock, but after nearly 30 years leading programs, he knows what he’s doing.
"I like good competition," he said. "It gives us a good idea where we’re at and what we have to work on. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. We’ve got a great schedule this year, with Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian, and we’ve got three good teams in our tournament. We picked up Harding Academy.
"That’s what prepares you for conference (play)."