Weather disrupted Central Arkansas Christian’s three-game schedule last week as the Lady Mustangs got just one game in.
This week they faced four, but an ominous forecast for the early part of the week threatened to play havoc with the last scheduled week of the regular season.
Steve Quattlebaum’s team went 0-1 last week with a disappointing 46-38 loss to league-leading Malvern, its second of the season. CAC was 16-4 overall and 8-2 in the 7-4A to start the week, which, as of Sunday, was supposed to include games on Coach Q Court at Mustang Mountain against Bauxite on Monday (to make up for last Friday’s cancellation) and Arkadelphia on Tuesday, at Pulaski Robinson on Thursday (to make up for last Tuesday’s postponement) and at Ashdown on Friday.
"I don’t know what we’d do if we can’t play Monday and Tuesday," Quattlebaum said Sunday.
Heading into the busy week, the Lady Mustangs held a one-game lead over Robinson for the second seed to next week’s district tournament at Nashville. The Lady Senators will face Malvern during the final week.
"So Thursday’s game could be a really big one," Quattlebaum said of the date at Robinson. "We just need to beat the teams we beat the first time and we’ll be all right."
Although the Lady Mustangs triumphed over Robinson the first time, 55-31, Quattlebaum has been concerned about the trip down Highway 10 because his team has not played well there in recent years.
The top two seeds will earn byes to the district semifinals at Nashville next week — which also secures a berth to the regional.
"Second’s pretty big," Quattlebaum said. "You never want to play that 3-6 game or 4-5. That’s one you should win, but you just never know. If you have a bad night or somebody gets hurt, you could miss out on going to the regional."
The Lady Mustangs, who have now lost five straight to Malvern since joining the 7-4A, had plenty of chances to interrupt the losing streak last week on Q Court.
"But when you have 23 turnovers, it’s hard to beat anybody," Quattlebaum said. "Several of those came in the fourth quarter. We just can’t seem to make the plays when we need to. So it was a little frustrating, but again, it probably won’t be the last time we play them."
CAC junior post Sydnie Jones picked up three quick fouls and sat most of the first half. Sarah Butler’s free throw lifted the Lady Mustangs by 8-4 with 2:02 left in the first quarter, and they maintained a four-point edge, 13-9, helped by Falan Miller’s trey from the left wing and Rachel Mina’s inside bucket 5:59 before halftime.
But with the 6-1 Jones out, the Lady Mustangs had trouble defending the lane, and Malvern went on a 10-2 run (including six straight) to reverse the four-point swing. The Lady Leopards’ 6-3 Tieris Smith scored eight of those for a 19-15 lead with 3:01 left in the period. CAC won the rest of the half, 5-2, as Miller, Brittney Higgins and Mina scored to pull the Lady Mustangs within 21-20 at the break.
Malvern scored two quick buckets to start the second half, but Miller drove for a basket and hit a baseline 3 to tie the game at 25. Jones’ free throw lifted CAC by a point, and the Lady Mustangs held their last lead at 28-27 on Jones’ shot off the break with 3:03 left in the third.
But CAC didn’t hit another field goal until 5:55 of the fourth quarter, and the Lady Leopards’ field goals — including a pair of 3-pointers by Raven Baker — outpointed the Lady Mustangs’ free throws for a six-point lead after three, 39-33.
And Jones’ three-point play turned out to mark CAC’s last field goal. The Lady Mustangs got just two more free throws from Chloe Elkins, and Malvern extended the lead down the stretch thanks to multiple CAC turnovers.
"We’ve just got to get over the turnovers," Quattlebaum said. "You can’t beat them making 23 turnovers. They had 14. They cause a lot of turnovers because they’re very aggressive on defense and put a lot of pressure on the ball, but it was a little discouraging from the fact that two seniors had 11 of those 23. That shouldn’t happen."
Miller finished with 16 points. Jones added eight.
"We’ve got to get better production offensively," Quattlebaum said.