Basketball: CAC teams undefeated, lead conference standings

Central Arkansas Christian’s basketball teams are each 4-0 in 3A-6 play and will take winning streaks into Tuesday’s games with Palestine-Wheatley.

This week’s games with Dollarway and DeWitt will be rescheduled because of covid issues within those programs.

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From an 0-3 start, Steve Quattlebaum’s Lady Mustangs have won five straight and eight of their last nine for an 11-6 record.

“We’ve just kind of gelled a little better as a team,” Quattlebaum said. “We’ve been working together a little better; our defense has gotten a little better. Livian Burton been playing well and gained some confidence. (Reese) Shepard is playing better and shooting well and giving us another scorer. She’s done a good job with assists and had double-digit assists during the latest stretch.

“It just took us a while to adjust to not having Bethany (Dillard, now at Union University). Maybe we didn’t realize how much we counted on Bethany.”

A big turning point, he said, was the 70-36 win over Kirby on Dec. 17 heading into the Christmas break.

From a 13-11 deficit after the first quarter, the Lady Mustangs outscored the Trojans the rest of the way, 59-23, including a 25-5 run through the second quarter.

“We played one of our better games of the year,” Quattlebaum said. “They’ll be one of the better teams in (Class) 2A, and we manhandled them.”

Riley Bryant led CAC with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. Burton added 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. Ava Knoedl notched 11 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.

During the break, the Lady Mustangs won the consolation championship of the Dragon Fire Invitational in Collierville, Tenn. They lost to Covington in the opener, 59-28; then beat Power Center Academy, 75-15; Collierville junior varsity, 50-40; and Memphis Business Academy, 41-39.

“The first game we didn’t play very well, and we had a couple of injuries and one in quarantine,” Quattlebaum said. “But we came back and played a really bad team and played really well. Several teams dropped out before and during the tournament, so things were shifting, but that was a good win over the Collierville B team. That’s the biggest school in Tennessee. And the last game we played a pretty good team. They’ve got a girl (the University of Central Arkansas) has offered a scholarship to, and we ended up coming from behind and winning with a good second half.”

With that momentum heading into 2022, the Lady Mustangs resumed conference play last week with a 61-25 win over Jacksonville Lighthouse and a 65-37 decision over Helena-West Helena Central.

“I was a little scared about Helena, but that was probably our best game we’ve played all year,” Quattlebaum said. “We pressed hard, played hard and played pretty well.”

Knoedl led scoring with 27 points; Bryant and Shepard added 13 and 10, respectively. Shepard had five steals; Knoedl and Carleigh Petlak added three apiece. Bryant added four assists.

CAC will play host to Palestine-Wheatley (0-9, 0-2) on Tuesday and Episcopal Collegiate (9-5, 2-1) on Friday, Jan. 21.

“We’re getting there,” Quattlebaum said.

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Matt Hall’s Mustangs are 10-2 overall, having won seven straight and 10 of their last 11.

In conference play, CAC has knocked off Episcopal Collegiate, 68-58; Lisa Academy West, 54-30; Jacksonville Lighthouse, 49-43; and Helena-West Helena Central, 41-26. Episcopal (4-1) and Jacksonville Lighthouse (3-1) trail the Mustangs in the conference standings.

The Mustangs will play host to Palestine-Wheatley (1-9, 1-3) on Tuesday and Episcopal on Friday, Jan. 21.