Central Arkansas Christian’s Lady Mustangs are in the Class 4A State Tournament, but they didn’t plan on a two-game losing streak to get there.
Steve Quattlebaum’s team (24-8) won the game it had to last week, beating Monticello in the first round of the Class 4A South Regional at Ouachita Baptist University, 73-51, to secure a trip to the state tournament at Cave City.
But the Lady Mustangs fell to Malvern in the semifinals for the third time this season, this time 54-49 in overtime, and then lost to Bauxite in the consolation game, 52-48, to settle for the fourth seed to the state tournament from the 7-4A.
They’ll open the state tournament at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Maumelle from the North Regional. Should they win that one, they would advance to Thursday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal against the winner of the East Regional (Heber Springs or Valley View). That survivor will move to Saturday’s noon semifinal.
"We’re a little disappointed we ended up fourth in the regional, but it’s a really strong region," Quattlebaum said. "We actually got the best spot in the bracket, but we haven’t lost two in a row in a long time. That’s a little disappointing."
The Lady Mustangs handled Maumelle in November, 59-34, in the OrthoArkansas Classic. Maumelle went on to win its conference. Quattlebaum said his team was familiar with Pottsville as a good quality team from seeing the Lady Apaches at a team camp.
In the first round of the regional against Monticello, CAC got a career-high 40 points from sophomore Sydnie Jones as the Lady Mustangs led by 17-14 after one quarter, 34-23 at the half and 60-35 after three. Jones, who pulled down 17 rebounds, made 16 of 21 shots from the field. Falan Miller added 18 points and eight rebounds; Jessica Saunders added eight points.
"We did a real good job of getting the ball inside, and Sydnie did a good job of finishing," Quattlebaum said. "We gave up a few too many points on defense, but they’re pretty athletic and had a good post girl. It was a good way to start the tournament."
CAC played Malvern closer than it had in the earlier meetings (won by the Lady Leopards, 52-40 and 54-44). The game was tied at the break, 23-all, and CAC built a three-point lead in the third quarter and extended it to 10 early in the fourth.
"We were up five with a minute left, and they hit a big 3 and got a steal and a layup to tie it," Quattlebaum said. "In the overtime, they outscored us 5-0.
"We had a chance; we just couldn’t finish the game, which is unusual for us. We usually win games when we get ahead the last few minutes, but we didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball. But it was a good game and it gave us a little confidence, and I hope we put it in their minds that we can beat them."
Miller led CAC with 18 points; Butler added 12, Jones 10 and Saunders eight.
In the third-place game, Bauxite prevailed over the Lady Mustangs for the second time this season in a close game that was tied at 20 at the break. The Lady Miners led by 26-24 after three quarters.
"We tied it and threw the ball away in the last minute and fouled with eight seconds left," Quattlebaum said. "They hit two free throws and we didn’t get a shot off after that."
Jones led CAC with 15 points. Sarah Butler added 10 and Saunders seven.
"Falan got her knee banged up in the consolation game," Quattlebaum said Sunday. "She’s kind of iffy, but we think she’s OK. They’re going to do an MRI; she might have a slight tear in her MCL, but the doctor thinks she’ll be 90 percent by Wednesday or so. We’ll give her some rest and rehab."
Maumelle vs. CAC
4A State Tournament at Cave City
Getting there: Take Hwy. 67/167 to Bald Knob, take the second exit for Batesville and stay on Hwy. 167 until you arrive in Cave City. The drive is about two hours from Maumelle and around 120 miles.
Pro tip: Dining choices are limited in Cave City, better to eat in Batesville.