Central Arkansas Christian’s Lady Mustangs survived a close game against Arkansas Baptist last week and then rolled to a couple of double-digit wins to improve to 17-5 overall and 7-2 in 7-4A play.
Steve Quattlebaum’s Lady Mustangs trail only unbeaten Malvern in the conference race, but a runner-up finish would secure a bye to the semifinals of the district tournament and with it a berth in the regional tournament.
"I think we’re actually getting a little better," Quattlebaum said. "We’re still trying to find somebody who can consistently hit a shot when they’re wide open. Chloe Elkins has stepped up and had one or two big games.
"We’ve got a good defensive bunch we can play, but we rely so much on (Sydnie) Jones, (Falan) Miller and (Sarah) Butler to score, when one of them is not scoring, it hurts us."
Last week the Lady Mustangs beat Arkansas Baptist, 54-48; Nashville, 42-29; and Bauxite, 46-35. They played at Pulaski Robinson on Tuesday and will play host to Bauxite on Friday, travel to Ashdown on Saturday and Arkadelphia on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
"We didn’t play a very good game against Baptist," Quattlebaum said. "They played a junk defense on us, concentrating on Miller and Jones and kept them from getting the ball a lot. We couldn’t get any shots.
"We stretched it out a little by halftime, but they came back in the third quarter. Really, we were kind of lucky to win the game."
He put his team in its delay game with about five minutes left — earlier than he’s done so in a long time.
"I’m not sure we’d have won if we hadn’t," he said. "We turned the ball over and didn’t hit many shots. They’re capable; they’ve got one really good player, and she makes some of them around her a little better.
"We didn’t play well and didn’t defend very well. It was one of those games we have every now and then when we’re just not very good. We were pretty lucky to win."
But the Lady Mustangs responded with a good game at Nashville, building an early 20-3 lead. The Lady Scrappers cut into the difference before CAC stretched its advantage back to 10. The Lady Mustangs hit eight 3s, led by Miller’s four.
"They scored 52 on us the last time and had three people in double figures, but this time they scored 29 and had nobody in double figures," Quattlebaum said.
He said CAC and Bauxite were pretty evenly matched, but a good defense made the difference for his team.
"We struggled to score," he said. "We were up two at halftime and were up five going into the fourth quarter. Falan hit 10 of 10 free throws, including eight in the fourth quarter."
Again he sent his team into its delay game early, and again the strategy worked.
"They did a good job protecting the lead in the fourth quarter," he said.
The Lady Mustangs had hoped to have Rachel Mina cleared medically to return last week, but she was not and likely won’t be available the rest of the season, Quattlebaum said.