An open basket after a back-door cut and a steal that resulted in a breakaway field goal led Little Rock Catholic to a 38-30 victory over host Central Arkansas Christian at the Mustang Christmas Classic on Mustang Mountain on Saturday night.
The victory was the fifth consecutive for Coach Todd Ezzi's Rockets (6-5) and stopped a four-game winning streak for Coach Matt Hall's Mustangs (8-3).
The teams combined for 29 points in the first quarter, a 15-14 Catholic edge, then needed the last three quarters to add 29 points to the final score.
"Our guys pride themselves on defense and rebounds but will take the open man when they have it," Ezzi said.
Will Kleine got free for a point-blank shot with 1:13 left that increased the Rockets' lead to 34-30. After a CAC timeout, Catholic's Warren Heird missed the first shot of a one-and-one with 38.1 seconds left, allowing CAC to get a rebound.
Heird wasn't through, though. He stole the ball on the other end of the floor and outran two defenders to score on a layup with 18 seconds left, increasing the lead to 36-30.
"Catholic had a back-door score and then a breakaway layup to bump the lead to 36-30, and we just couldn't score," Hall said. "I wouldn't say those were easy baskets because there weren't that many points scored tonight."
Parker Lloyd completed the scoring, hitting two free throws with 5.2 seconds left.
"We still made a lot of mistakes and turnovers tonight, and we can't do that when we get into conference play," Ezzi said. "The teams in our conference [6A-Central] won't let you to do that."
Hall said the Mustangs got behind early and couldn't make up ground.
"They got 3 three-pointers in the first quarter, and that just gave them a big edge," he said.
But until Kennedy Washington got a tip-in at the first-quarter buzzer for the Rockets, CAC held a one-point advantage. The Rockets kept increasing the lead little by little, outscoring the Mustangs in each quarter.
Scoring was at a premium in the third and fourth quarters. Two free throws by Catholic's Jordan Edington, the tournament's MVP, with 3:24 remaining in the first half gave the Rockets a 22-18 advantage at the break.
Were it not for a three-point field goal by Jackson Richmond with 2:54 left in the third quarter, the Mustangs would have been held to only a free throw in the quarter. Still, the Rockets managed to score more points than CAC in the quarter to increase their lead to 28-22.
The closest CAC would get in the final eight minutes was 32-30 with 1:28 left after Brock Hendrix hit two free throws.
Hendrix had a game-high 15 points for the Mustangs. Richmond chipped in with seven.
Kleine led the Rockets with 12 points while Edington added eight.
Sports on 12/29/2019