CAC to face Cedarville today

Central Arkansas Christian will make its first trip to the state tournament since 2015 with a 1 p.m. tip against Cedarville today in the opening round of the Class 3A State Boys Championship at Clinton.

Matt Hall’s Mustangs (15-7) earned the third seed from the Class 3A Region 3 Tournament last week, beating Jessieville, 60-59; falling to Mayflower, 46-44; and knocking off Lamar in the third-place game, 56-44.

“That was a big one for a lot of reasons,” Hall said of the consolation win. “It was huge — we would’ve played Monday if we’d lost, so that gave us time to prepare and time to rest.”

Cedarville is 16-11 after a 10-4, second-place run through the 3A-4.

The winner of the first-round game will move on to face Harding Academy in the quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m. Harding Academy beat Drew Central in the opening round, 28-25. The CAC/Cedarville-Harding Academy winner will advance to Monday’s 7 p.m. semifinal. The Class 3A championship game will be March 19 at 7 p.m. in Hot Springs.

The bottom of that portion of the bracket had McGehee against Clinton and Baptist Prep (second seed from Region 3) against Waldron.

Lamar won the tournament’s opening game over Bergman, 64-57. Mayflower, top seed from Region 3, beat Elkins in another first-round game, 49-40. The other games in the top half of the bracket included Newport-Glen Rose and Dumas-Osceola.

“Mayflower and Baptist could make a deep run,” Hall said. “If the stars align, if we keep playing well, we might.”

In the regional semifinals, the Mustangs nearly avenged a 17-point loss to Mayflower in December. This time with a full roster, CAC trailed after one quarter, 12-10; and at halftime, 24-23. The Eagles led after three, 37-33, but the Mustangs rallied and had a chance to win at the end.

“We were up two under a minute and miss a one-and-one, and if you make that, you’re going to win,” Hall said. “We played really well. Mayflower has really got a good chance to win the state championship. I think they’re that good — they’ve got size and good guards.

“We did a really good job defensively, holding them to 46 points. That was big for us to defend a team with that kind of size. We can’t match up against them physically.”

Steven Massey led CAC with 14 points and six rebounds. Jackson Richmond added 13 points and five assists.

“There are no moral victories, but a lot of good things came from that game,” Hall said.

The third-place game, he said, looked like a third game for both teams.

“Nobody had a ton of energy,” he said. “We did a good job being physical. We pounded the ball inside to Karsen (Richard). We got them in bad foul trouble. They took a lead early in the third quarter, but we pretty much controlled that whole game.”

The Mustangs led after the first quarter, 16-8; and at halftime, 26-19. Lamar pulled within 40-39 after three, but the Mustangs won the final period, 16-5, to settle for the 12-point difference.

Richard led CAC with 21 points. Massey added nine points and nine rebounds.

It’s already been an enjoyable season for Hall’s team.

“We’re playing with house money now,” he said. “That’s relaxed them and freed them up to go play. We hope we can make a little run.”

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