Photographs by Thomas Metthe
Central Arkansas Christian’s Christyn Williams (center) celebrates with her teammates after the Lady Mustangs’ 68-57 victory over Riverview in the Class 4A girls state championship Friday at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
HOT SPRINGS -- Christyn Williams got her state championship ring.
The Central Arkansas Christian senior guard finished her high school career with 42 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks as the Lady Mustangs won the Class 4A girls state championship with a 68-57 victory over Riverview on Friday night in front of 3,174 at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
Williams played in front of her future college coach, University of Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma, who sat on the baseline near CAC's bench Friday night. Auriemma flew to Little Rock from Hartford, Conn., on Friday as UConn is off until the NCAA Tournament.
Earlier Friday, Williams won the Naismith Award, given to the top girls high school basketball player in the country.
"It's been a crazy day," said Williams, who will play in the McDonald's All-American Game on March 28 in Atlanta. "I didn't even know they were announcing it [the Naismith Award]. That was a huge honor.
"Then, I got to check off my last goal. We worked so hard for this. It's amazing."
Riverview Coach Ryan Smith quipped he was glad to not have to coach against Williams anymore after Friday.
"I won't be the only one, either," Smith said. "But I told her it was a lot of fun these last four years. She's a great player."
Williams recalled losing the 2016 Class 4A state title game against Riverview. After Friday's victory, she was relieved.
"Tenth grade, I was in here literally stuttering. I was so devastated. I couldn't even talk," Williams said. "But the feeling is totally different now."
This is CAC's first state championship since 2007, which capped a three-year run as state champions.
"I'm super proud of this bunch," CAC Coach Steve Quattlebaum said. "Since that day [losing in the 2016 title game], we've had our eyes on getting back here and getting one of these before they [the seniors] graduated. They worked really hard at it. They achieved what they were looking for."
The Lady Mustangs (36-1), whose only loss this season was to Class 7A runner-up Conway, shot 51.1 percent (24 of 47) and outrebounded the Lady Raiders 35-29. Riverview was held to 35.7 percent shooting (20 of 56).
CAC trailed 6-4 in the first 2:44 but used a 19-2 run to take a 23-8 lead. During the spurt, Williams scored seven points, including a three-pointer that capped the run. The Lady Mustangs led 23-10 at the end of the first quarter.
With 6:05 left in the second quarter, senior forward Alexa Mashburn (10 points) made a bounce pass to classmate Kelson Miller, who finished for a layup to extend CAC's lead to 28-12.
It was 34-19 CAC with 3:10 left in the first half after Williams' second three-pointer of the half. But Riverview cut the lead to 34-24 on junior guard Baylee Davis' three-pointer. CAC went into halftime with a 36-26 lead.
In the third quarter, Williams helped CAC pull away.
She scored 19 points in the third quarter as the Lady Mustangs stretched their lead to 59-39. She scored nine consecutive points to make it 54-32. Her three-pointer extended the lead to 59-36.
"I scored 19? Wow, I didn't even know that," Williams said. "I was just trying to win. Whatever it took to win."
Smith said Williams' third-quarter performance was too much for the Lady Raiders to overcome.
"That's why she's going to UConn," Smith said. "She's by far the best player I've coached against. There's no doubt."
Junior guard Abbie Jiles led Riverview (26-10) with 18 points. Sophomore guard Parker Smith added 11 points.
CAC and Riverview have enjoyed one of the top rivalries in Class 4A in recent years. The Lady Mustangs won all three meetings against the Lady Raiders this season, including victories in the 2-4A Conference and 4A East Region finals.
Williams was glad to end her career not only winning a state championship but also by knocking off Riverview.
"It's our senior year. We don't have to play them again," Williams said. "We end on a win."
The University of Connecticut signee lifted Central Arkansas Christian to its fourth state championship overall and first since 2007. She had 42 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in Friday night’s victory over Riverview. Williams was 14 of 24 from the floor, 5 of 8 from three-point range and 9 of 13 at the free-throw line. Her 19-point third quarter helped the Lady Mustangs extend their lead to 59-39 entering the fourth quarter.
Central Arkansas Christian’s only loss during the 2017-2018 season was to Class 7A runner-up Conway. … CAC senior guard Christyn Williams averaged 39.0 points in three state tournament games. She scored 34 points in a quarterfinal victory against Ozark, 41 against Pottsville in the semifinals and 42 on Friday against Riverview in the state championship game. … The Lady Mustangs trailed for 40 seconds Friday, but led for 30:52. … Riverview was 7 of 25 from three-point range. … Senior forward Alexa Mashburn scored at least 10 points for the first time this season Friday for CAC. She finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Sports on 03/10/2018
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