Basketball: CAC advances to state tournament, Lady Mustangs lose

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Central Arkansas Christian’s Mustangs will advance next week to the state tournament for the first time since 2015, but the Lady Mustangs fell short by one game in the Class 3A Region 3 Tournament.

Matt Hall’s Mustangs, the top seed from the 3A-6, survived Jessieville, fourth from the 3A-5, Wednesday, 60-59, to reach the regional semifinals and thus the Class 3A State Tournament. They will play at Mustang Mountain Friday at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of tonight’s game between Mayflower, second from the 5, and Jacksonville Lighthouse, third from the 6.

“I expect that to be a really good game,” Hall said. “We’re glad we’re in (the state tournament). It’s the first time since 2015, and that was one of the goals we set for this team — to get there. 

“But we’re not going to throw our hands up and be satisfied now. We want to keep winning and see what we can do.”

The regional championship will be played Saturday at 6 p.m. at CAC with the third-place game set for 2 p.m.

The first-round regional game was more competitive than a normal matchup of 1-4 seeds, but Hall said the Mustangs weren’t surprised.

CAC (14-6) got off to a quick start, leading after one quarter, 19-12. But the Lions rallied to go up at the half, 33-31. Jessieville retained a two-point edge after three, 48-46, but the Mustangs won the third quarter, 14-11, after Karsen Richard broke a 59-all tie with 2.7 seconds left when he was fouled and hit one of two free throws.

“Andrew Haughaboo shot unbelievably good — 8 of 11 field goals, 22 points,” Hall said. “Steven Massey was really clutch down the stretch. He made 9 of 12 free throws, a bunch of those at the end. Obviously, Karsen made some big plays for us.”

Massey and Richard finished with 13 points each. 

“Those three guys carried the load offensively, and we had some others who didn’t score as much who helped a lot as well,” Hall said.

Jackson Richmond recorded five points and five assists. Palmer Gilbrech had five points, four steals and two assists. 

The Class 3A State Tournament will be played at Clinton next week. First-round games will be spread over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with quarterfinals Thursday and semifinals Friday.

The Mustangs are excited to be moving on.

“Any time you win a close ball game that’s well played by both teams, it helps,” Hall said. “That gives your kids confidence.”

Lady Mustangs

For the first time since 2000, Central Arkansas Christian (17-1) will not play in a girls state tournament.

Steve Quattlebaum’s Lady Mustangs, top seed from the 3A-6, fell to Lamar, fourth from the 3A-5, in the opening round of the regional Wednesday at Episcopal Collegiate, 40-38.

The game was tied after the opening quarter, 12-12. Lamar claimed a 22-18 lead at the break; CAC shaved that advantage to 31-28 after three quarters, but the Lady Mustangs were only able to get within two by the final buzzer.

Bethany Dillard led CAC with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Ava Knoedl added 13 points.