After a disappointing 54-42 loss at Riverview, Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs headed into Thanksgiving 2-2 after a 44-41 win over LISA Academy.
“This one was pretty good,” Mustang coach Bradley Spencer said. “We had some changes. I was really challenging my guys to play with more togetherness, to play with more energy and do it for each other.
“It’s early, but I thought there were times (in the early games) we looked like individuals instead of a team. We made some adjustments, and we had a really tough game. It was fun; I think the kids had fun playing, and we looked like a team trying to accomplish one goal.”
What were the changes?
“Just making it very intentional and giving encouragement to your teammates, helping each other and getting excited when they make plays,” Spencer said. “Even on the bench, making sure they were locked in to the game and encouraging one another and making it a point to come together as a team.
“Try and give a high-five on every possession, help somebody up who hit the floor. That was the challenge and the focus.”
The Mustangs were in control throughout, but senior point guard Kam Vick fouled out in the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars scored 23 points.
“It was a challenge for our guys, especially our young ones, to step up and take on the task Kam usually has, to bring the ball up the court,” Spencer said. “After he fouled out, Kam had a choice — to sit and pout or to encourage them from the bench. He showed some great leadership. He continued to coach the young guys and make sure they had that confidence.”
Vick led the balanced Mustang scoring with 12 points. Jacob Hale and Blake Smith added eight apiece. Davis Gatling scored six.
This week, the Mustangs are playing in a tournament at Brinkley. They opened against East Poinsettia County on Tuesday. The winner will play Thursday against the winner of the first-round game between Brinkley and Saline County Christian Homeschool; first-round losers will get each other.
The other half of the bracket includes Riverview, Stuttgart, KIPP Delta and Hamburg. The tournament will conclude Saturday.
“We would like to get Riverview back,” Spencer said. “But like I told the guys, they’re going to be there at the end. If you want them, you’ve got to handle your business and give yourself a chance. I hope they can use that. But we don’t want to pass by anybody. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready.”
The Mustangs will visit Mayflower (1-0) for a conference game Friday. The two split meetings last season, the Eagles winning in December, 65-64; and the Mustangs taking the January match, 52-40.
“They’ve still got their big guy inside and their point guard,” Spencer said of Brent Stallings’ Eagles. “They are two tough competitors, and they’ll be getting their football guys back as well (after the MHS football team closed 11-1 last week with a playoff loss). They’ll be getting back in the flow of things.
“That’s a place that at times is hard to play in, so you’ve got to make sure you’re ready.”
The Mustangs will return home on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to face defending Class 3A state champion Episcopal Collegiate (1-1 at press time).
“I’ve heard they lost one good player who moved to Bryant and they graduated their big guy inside, but that’s a team that every time you look around, they’re either in the semifinals or the state finals,” Spencer said of the Wildcats. “I’m sure they’ll have some younger guys step up. I expect a good battle with them.”