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Central Arkansas Christian Lady MustangsPublished October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
Coach: Steve Quattlebaum, 19th year, 410-152 at school and 554-209 overall
Assistant coach: Jason Gates
2012-13 record: 25-9 overall and 12-2 conference; runner-up in conference. Lost in quarterfinals of the Class 4A State Tournament to Valley View, 64-59.
Returning starters: Falan Miller, 5-10 senior, four-year starter, 13 points per game, second-leading rebounder; Sydnie Jones, 6-1 junior center, led team in scoring and rebounding last year with 16 points and 10 rebounds per game; Sara Butler, 5-5 junior point guard, three-year starter; Chloe Elkins, 5-4 senior. Quattlebaum said Miller has committed to Harding. Jones is a “super athlete drawing D-I attention,” the coach said. Butler has great court vision and led the team in assists the last two years. She is also capable of scoring, as evidenced by her 18 points in the state tournament against Valley View last year. Elkins is a solid player capable of having a big night shooting.
Best inside players: Jones is a three-year starter. Quattlebaum called her a great rebounder and shot blocker who did a better job of staying out of foul trouble last year. Rachel Mina, a 5-9 senior, sat out all last season with an injury but got good minutes off the bench as a sophomore. Dana Potts, a 5-9 sophomore, should contribute inside.
Best outside players: Miller and Butler, and 5-5 sophomore Brittany Higgins, who was the second-leading scorer on the junior high team last season. After a great summer of work, she will vie for a starting position, Quattlebaum said. Seniors Kristiana Watson, Anna Kay Marlar and Jessica McCauley, all of whom played some last year, will also compete for playing time outside.
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year?: Quattlebaum said the Lady Mustangs hoped to exceed their accomplishments last year. “We felt like we should have done better,” he said. “We lost six of nine games when we led in the fourth quarter; turnovers and careless passing just killed us.”
Team strengths: The Lady Mustangs return five players who started at times last year — Miller, Butler, Jones, Elkins and Watkins — so they have experience. “Another year of experience, strength, playing together and improved defense will help us compete for a state championship,” said Quattlebaum, who brought three consecutive state titles to Mustang Mountain in the early 2000s.
Team weaknesses: With just 11 on the roster, pure numbers are the Lady Mustangs’ biggest weakness. But seven seniors, the largest class in several years, are among that group. “Can we get better in practice every day?” Quattlebaum asked, referring to a weakness the girls could overcome. “Injuries would be critical. We’re not just a great shooting team. We must improve there.”
Games to watch: The Lady Mustangs lost all three meetings with Malvern last year, and they aim to avenge those in several chances this season. “They will all be big,” Quattlebaum said. Other big tests include North Little Rock, one of the best programs in the state the last several years; rivalry games with Little Rock Christian, Pulaski Academy and Harding Academy; and Charleston, a good Class 3A team.
Toughest opponent: North Little Rock and Malvern will be two of the best teams in the state, Quattlebaum said.
College prospects: Miller will sign with Harding in November. Jones has drawn Division I interest from Arkansas, UALR, Arkansas State and others. Quattlebaum said Butler was undersized but skilled enough to play.
In a nutshell: “We felt like we underachieved last year,” Quattlebaum said. “The kids are really motivated to make a run at a state title this year, [something] that we failed at last year.”