Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs, who played at Episcopal Collegiate on Tuesday, opened the week on a three-game winning streak.
Bradley Spencer’s team improved to 7-12 heading into Tuesday’s game with Episcopal Collegiate.
He said he’d been frank with his players about their chances for the post-season.
“We told them, ‘If you want to continue to play, if you want to give yourself a chance at the end, you’ve got to start now. We’ve got to start trying to beat the teams that have already taken one from you to get that game back.’” Spencer said.
He said he’d used the analogy of preparing the crops.
“Two farmers were praying for rain, and only one farmer received it — the one who was preparing the crops,” Spencer said. “I’ve been preaching that if you want the rain to come, if you want to keep playing, to give yourself a chance, you’ve got to prepare yourself and work hard.”
The Mustangs will try to extend that streak when Lonoke — Spencer’s alma mater — visits Mustang Mountain on Friday.
The Jackrabbits opened the week 10-11, including a 56-53 loss to the Mustangs at Lonoke’s Gina Cox Center.
In previous regular-season games between Spencer’s Mustangs and the Jackrabbits, the visiting team has won all five, so he knows what CAC is facing.
“We know they’re fully staffed now,” he said. “They’ve got their guys back, and I know what’s going through their minds, what’s being said in that locker room — ‘We let one get away, and we’ve got to get this one on their home floor.’
“They’ve been playing well as of late. Everybody is gelling. I expect a dog fight, and I know they’re going to be ready to come out with a bunch of energy and fire and probably a lot of pressure.”
Kam Vick had the hot hand for the Mustangs in the first meeting with 38 points.
“We’ve got to be ready for them to key in on him and hope some other guys step in and help him,” Spencer said.
eStem whipped the Mustangs pretty well in a 71-45 win in the first meeting.
“That’s why I like this game — you get to play teams twice,” Spencer said. “After the first time, win or lose, you’ve got to go back and see what worked and what didn’t and make those adjustments. That’s the fun part about coaching.”
The Mustangs swept LISA Academy, split with Mayflower and went 1-0 against Bauxite during the recent winning streak.
“Kam had a great three games,” Spencer said. “When he’s playing some good basketball, that always helps us, for sure.”
The 62-54 win over Mayflower last week avenged a 56-42 loss in December.
“We came out pretty hot and they hung around,” Spencer said. “We couldn’t pull away. They had a couple of guys out, but they fought hard. Luckily, we had a good enough lead at the beginning, but it was still a really close game.”
Vick scored 35.
In their first meeting with Bauxite on Saturday, Spencer said the Mustangs knew they’d have their hands full.
“My guys knew defensively they had to be disciplined and match their intensity,” he said. “They stood in and fought and executed the game plan. That was good to see, too — that they fully trusted the game plan for four quarters, plus they were doing the little things right.
“We talked a lot early on about giving up offensive rebounds, and we did a good job limiting them to one shot and done. Bauxite got a couple of offensive rebounds and made some runs throughout the game. I hope my guys learned when teams make runs, you’ve got to hang in.
“I’m proud of my guys for finishing and getting the job done.”
Vick’s 28 led the Mustangs in scoring, but Spencer also praised the play of Levi Smith and Blake Smith.
“Levi played some heavy minutes,” he said. “Defensively, he did a great job getting his hands on balls, making deflections, getting key rebounds. Blake scored eight points and was following his shot, crashing the boards.
“Those guys helped us, and it was good to see that.”