Friday, February 27, 2009

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits still in hunt for repeat

Leader sportswriter

HEBER SPRINGS – Spreading the wealth is always a good thing, especially when a state tournament berth is on the line.

That’s exactly what Lonoke did in its 74-59 opening-round win over Gosnell on Thursday night in the 4A East Regional tournament. Five players ended up in double-digit scoring, led by 15 points each by seniors Michael Howard and Clarence Harris.

With the win, the Jackrabbits, defending 4A state champs, earned a bid to the state tourney for the third consecutive year. They played Osceola last night in the tournament semifinals. The winner of that game will take on the winner of the other semis matchup between Stuttgart and Marianna-Lee on Saturday for the Regional title.

“This was the pressure game,” said Jackrabbits coach Wes Swift. “And we put five seniors in double figures. I’ve been a little bit hard on them, but they came through tonight and played pretty well. Defensively, I’m not just super happy with the way things went, but I’m very happy to get the win an to be in the state tournament again.”

The Pirates made their comeback run late in the third quarter, as they cut a 19-point Lonoke lead to 54-43 heading into the final period. Exhaustion and foul trouble got the best of them, however, as the deeper ’Rabbits extended their lead again in the fourth quarter.

Senior post Linwood Lambert proved to be the go-to guy early on. The 6-6 player, known as ‘Juicy,’ put Lonoke’s first points on the board with an inside assist from Trenton Spencer at the 7:01 mark of the first quarter, and upped the early lead to 4-0 with an assist from Lance Jackson on the ’Rabbits next trip. He ended up with six points during the opening period, 12 for the game.

“I didn’t think they would guard Juice with (post DeAntre Scott),” said Swift. “If they did, we were still going to him, because obviously, he’s their best player. If they didn’t, then Juice was going to be against a 6-1 kid. We knew if they came out man to man, that we wanted to go to him, and Juice got a couple of baskets there early and got us going.”

Howard ended up with only two points in the first quarter, but it was his pilferage and assists that did the most damage to Gosnell early. His steal and feed to Harris with 2:16 left in the first put Lonoke up 15-7, and he repeated the same feat again with the same result in the final minute for a 19-11 Jackrabbit lead.

The Pirates kept the deficit in single digits until the final two minutes of the first half, but Lonoke closed strong with an 11-4 run. Spencer hit a lay-up at the 1:58 mark to start the spree, and finished the half with another basket that followed Pierre Smith’s three-point play.

Lonoke shot over 50 percent for the game, going 30 of 53 from the floor. Gosnell was 20 of 51 shooting, and had 28 team rebounds and 23 turnovers compared to 30 boards and 10 giveaways by the Jackrabbits.

Spencer and Smith each had 11 points for Lonoke. Smith, Lambert and Howard each pulled down six rebounds, while Howard added five assists and three steals. Darius Scott finished with six points and Chad Dixon four to round out scoring for the Jackrabbits.

For Gosnell, senior post player DeAntre Scott led the way with 25 points and nine rebounds, with 21 points from guard Ethan Bryant, including 4 of 6 three-pointers.

SPORTS >> Miles delivers dagger

Special to The Leader

WEST MEMPHIS — As Laquinton Miles brought the ball upcourt there was no doubt as to who was going to take the last shot for Jacksonville.

Miles, the lanky senior guard, almost willed his way into the lane and hit a floating jumper after being fouled with 1.7 seconds left here Tuesday night to give the Red Devils a 49-48 victory over West Memphis.

“He’s been doing it for us all year,” Jacksonville head coach Victor Joyner said of Miles. “We felt comfortable with him taking the last shot. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter.”

Miles’ heroics, which gave Jacksonville its first lead since the end of the third quarter, came after West Memphis forward Tarvin Gaines, who hit a game-high 18 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 13.2 seconds to play and the Blue Devils leading 48-47.

“We figured if (Miles) got down in there and didn’t lose the ball on the initial take-off, then he’d be able to jump up and finish,” Joyner added. “It was just one of those things where he had about a four-inch height advantage (over West Memphis’ Rikendal Weast).”

Jacksonville’s comeback keeps the team on pace to win at least a share of the 6A-East Conference championship. The Red Devils (20-3 overall, 11-1 in the conference) have two remaining games against last-place Mountain Home. Little Rock Hall (25-2, 12-1) is a half-game ahead of Jacksonville, but the Warriors have one game left, and it’s not a gimme.

The Warriors travel to fifth-place Jonesboro on Friday night. Jacksonville hosted the Bombers last night and will travel to Mountain Home for a make-up game today. The Red Devils hold the tiebreak over Hall.

With West Memphis (18-7, 9-4) controlling the game through virtually the entire fourth quarter, the Red Devils pulled off two crucial plays.

They fouled out both 6-10 center Anthony Borden and 5-11 guard Derrick Burns, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. Burns was gone for the final 4:33 of the game and Borden, who was largely a non-factor once again against Jacksonville, sat the last 1:10 of the game, a span that saw the visitors outscore West Memphis 6-0 to end the game.

“We’ve been fortunate against (Borden) this year,” Joyner said, noting Borden has only scored seven points in the two games this season. “But the difference in this game was that (Burns) picked it up. Last time we played them we were able to contain their guards.”

The Red Devils, who outrebounded West Memphis 29-23, got two free throws from Demetrius Harris and a 10-foot jumper from Antawn Lockhart following a Blue Devil turnover with 35 seconds to play.

West Memphis was all set to force Jacksonville to foul, which it did. Gaines, one of West Memphis’ best free-throw shooters and its leading scorer on the season, missed the front end of the one-and-one to set up Miles’ last-second winner.

Miles led Jacksonville with 16 points while Deshone McClure pumped in 10 and Harris scored seven. West Memphis also got six points apiece from Kevin and Jonathan Fitzgerald.

Earlier in the evening, the West Memphis girls flexed their muscles with a 57-35 win over Jacksonville. West Memphis ran out to a 37-12 lead at halftime and then rested its starters for a winner-take-all match-up against Little Rock Parkview on Friday night.

Jessica Lanier and Sherice Randall scored 12 points each to lead Jacksonville (7-17, 1-11) while Tyra Terry added five.

West Memphis (20-5, 12-1) got a game-high 18 points from Simone Young and 11 more from forward Jazimen Gordon.

SPORTS >> Lady Owls pull upset, reach state for first time

Leader sportswriter

AUGUSTA – The Lady Red Devil fans were not aware that they were witnessing history in the making. Nor did they much care.

That was evident by the stunning silence in their gymnasium with 2:42 left to play when Abundant Life sophomore Sydney Venus stepped up to the foul line with the Lady Owls holding a 46-33 lead. Venus hit both ends to extend the lead to 15, as Abundant Life went on to stun the defending 2A state runners-up 50-36 in the first round of the 2A-East regional tournament on Wednesday afternoon.

Abundant Life (25-12), which came into the tourney as a long shot No. 4 seed, pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round with the win over top-seeded Augusta, and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in the program’s history.

“That sounds good. I’ve been waiting to hear that,” said an elated Lady Owls coach Justin Moseley. “It’s been a long process, but I’m so proud of them for getting here. I felt like we had a good matchup tonight for it being a No. 1-No. 4 game. We worked really hard on defense and boxing out. I had to call time-out once to remind them of our game plan, but the rest of the game, they did everything I wanted them to do defensively, and I know that’s why we won.”

That plan included packing the lane tight to avoid dribble penetration. Augusta got plenty of looks, but made only 14 of 67 from the floor after starting off a dismal 2 of 15 in the first quarter.

The Lady Owls were more selective, making 16 of 38, including 10 of 19 in the second half.

Augusta cut the Lady Owls’ lead down to three to start the fourth quarter on a putback jumper by Deanna Gillespie, but that was as close as the Lady Devils got. Abundant Life followed with a 9-0 run that extended the lead to 39-27 with 5:27 left to play. The Lady Owls went 8 of 11 from the floor in the fourth quarter, and hit eight of their final nine shots.

“That fourth quarter was awesome,” said Moseley. “We had a couple of big threes. We made some foolish passes, but that’s part of the learning process. They haven’t been here before in this situation, so they’ll learn from that.”

A single free throw in the first quarter was all AL senior Brittany Sharp had to show until the final six minutes, when she hit an inside jumper to give the Lady Owls a 36-27 lead. She followed that with a three-point basket assisted by Hannah Pastor to extend the lead to 12, and tacked on another trey with 4:36 left to play that essentially put it away.

“That’s when she got her looks,” Moseley said. “They played a triangle-and-two defense, and had one on her and Hannah the whole game. It was tough for both of them to get good looks, I know that had a lot to do with it, but those were huge shots she had in the fourth.”

It was sophomore post Carmyn Sharp who got things going for the Lady Owls in the first quarter. The younger Sharp scored seven of her 10 points in the first eight minutes, taking advantage of extra defensive pressure on Pastor.

Her biggest shot of the night was a three-pointer to start the third quarter after the Lady Devils had pulled to within one.

Abundant Life marched out to a 14-7 lead at the end of one before the Lady Red Devils rallied to start the second quarter. Their 6-0 run was capped with a jumper by Janea Green at the 5:17 mark to make it 14-13. Green then tied the game at 18 with 3:08 left in the half on a transition lay-up, but a pair of free throws by Savannah Lancaster put the Lady Owls back out front. Lancaster finished with five points.

The Lady Red Devils had 36 rebounds and committed 10 turnovers, while Abundant Life had 45 rebounds and 19 giveaways.

Pastor led the Lady Owls 13 points and nine rebounds. Brittany Sharp added nine points and 11 rebounds. Andrea Venus had eight points and eight rebounds. For Augusta, Daysha Barber led the way with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Green added 10 points and Autumn Brown had 11 rebounds.

The Lady Owls took on Hughes in the regional semifinals last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >> Falcons’ loss to Lions ‘bittersweet’

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski lost a game and won a championship on Thursday night.

Needing a win or a loss by five points or fewer at McClellan, the Falcons achieved the latter when Aaron Cooper stepped to the line and made two free throws with 8.5 seconds remaining in the Lions’ 55-51 victory over North Pulaski at Lions Gym. By virtue of the Falcons’ 77-71 win over McClellan on Feb. 17, they earned a No. 1 seed from the 5A-Southeast heading into the state tournament next week at Alma. Both McClellan and North Pulaski finished 13-1 in league play.

“It’s bittersweet,” said North Pulaski head coach Ray Cooper. “Right now, the guys aren’t throwing a party in there. We wanted to win the game.”

Winning the game seemed an unlikely possibility when the Lions made six consecutive free throws — while the Falcons were missing seven straight — to take a 52-40 lead midway through the final period.

But North Pulaksi (22-6) finally began to get dividends from their pressure defense, cashing three consecutive steals into 9-0 run. Aaron Coopers’s steal led to a Jerald Blair breakaway to whittle the lead to 52-49 with 2:10 left. After the Lions made 1 of 2 free throws, Daquan Bryant’s lay-up at the other end rolled tantalizingly around the rim before rolling out with 1:38 left. Mike Bradley extended the lead to six again with a soft turnaround 6-footer in the lane and, after Cooper misfired from beyond the arc, McClellan’s Rick Allen went to the line with 22 seconds and a chance to push the victory margin beyond the six that would secure the Lions the conference title.

Allen missed both and Cooper was fouled on a drive through the lane with 8.5 seconds.

“I wasn’t really that worried because he’s kind of spoiled me,” said Ray Cooper of son Aaron’s free-throw shooting. “He always seems to make them, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Ray Cooper said that, while the final margin was in his mind, it was not a factor in his players’ minds.

“We hadn’t even talked about the tiebreaker,” he said. “But I called a time out (late in the game) and I told them we had to lose by six or less and they looked at me like, we’re going to win. So that never entered the equation in their mind and that was a good thing.”

McClellan coach Chris Threatt agreed that, while his team was aware of the tiebreak scenario, it never factored into strategy.

“I wasn’t going to be up by three points and then lose the game trying to be up by seven,” he said. “We were just going to play the game. Because the competition is more important than the seeding.”

It was a high-charged atmosphere with the arena full and with a healthy contingent of Falcon faithful on hand. In the end, McClellan’s superior size and intensity proved the difference. The Lions blocked nine shots in the game at North Pulaski and added seven more to that total on Thursday.

Their defense also limited the Falcons’ looks, especially from Daquan Bryant and Aaron Cooper. While Cooper finished with 19 points, he made only two three-pointers and one of those was from nearly 28 feet. Bryant scored only eight points.

It was an up-and-down affair with both teams beating the other down court for early fast-break buckets. Two consecutive breakaway baskets by Kyron Ware had North Pulaski ahead 16-13 early in the second period. But Jacoby Vaughn made 5 of 6 free throws over a 40-second span and the Lions never trailed again.

Ware, who scored eight of his 14 points in the second quarter, kept the Falcons in the hunt with two more fast-break baskets late in the period, but Crandon Isaac sandwiched a breakaway jam and a buzzer-beating runner around Allen’s three-pointer and North Pulaski found itself trailing 34-25 at intermission.

“We didn’t play well overall in the first half,” Cooper said. “I think we got caught up in the hype and were scattered. We turned the ball over more than we have all season. Our defensive intensity was terrible and our rebounding was bad. I couldn’t find a whole lot of things that were good.”

Allen added two more three-pointers early in the third period and even after a technical foul for six players on the court netted Cooper two free throws, the Falcons still trailed 46-35 after three periods.

McClellan outrebounded North Pulaski 39-34. Bryant pulled down a team-high seven for the Falcons. Bryant also had a pair of steals and two blocks.

The Falcons made only 2 of 13 three-pointers and just 19 of 46 overall. Their 11-of-21 free-throw shooting especially had Cooper scratching his head.

“Normally, we’ve been real solid all year,” he said. “And the guys that were missing them are guys that are usually our best shooters.

“I thought all night long, though, (McClellan) played with more energy and more urgency. They brought it to us. I don’t know what we were expecting, but it took us a while to adjust to how tough they were playing us.”

Threatt said he hopes the two teams will get a chance down the road to settle the tie.

“I hope we can each win three games and play again,” he said. “Some teams like to shy away from competition. I think the more tough situations you’re in, the better seasoned and better prepared your team becomes.”


The Lady Falcons concluded a disappointing season with a one-sided loss. Laura Dortch led North Pulaski with 10 points while Kayla Springs added five.

SPORTS >> Abundant Life boys survive scare, advance

Leader sportswriter

AUGUSTA – Abundant Life qualified for the 2A state tournament for the second consecutive year, but not without a serious fight from the regional hosts.

Augusta rallied in the fourth quarter to make a game out of it after the Owls secured a 33-22 lead at halftime. It was enough to get the hometown crowd on its feet until the final minute, and nearly cost Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard his voice.

Despite the scare, they prevailed 61-55 in Wednesday’s opening round of the 2A East regional tournament to advance to last night’s semifinal round and qualify for the state tournament. Dane Lottner poured in 29 points for the Owls.

“Being at home was a big key for them,” said Ballard. “Getting to play at their home. They played a lot more aggressively than we did for the most part. They ran that 1-3-1 really high way out on the floor. They were leaving the blocks open, but we just weren’t doing a really good job of finding them. Their speed allowed them to do a good job of recovering, but that was the only open spot on the floor.”

Red Devil Demarcus Spears and Matthew Bowen gave Abundant Life all it wanted in the second half. Bowen scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and Spears finished strong with seven fourth-quarter points.

Everything appeared to still be going the Owls’ way at the 4:47 mark when senior guard Dane Lottner broke away for a dunk that even lit up the Augusta fans. That gave Abundant Life a 43-26 lead, but the Red Devils ended the period on a 10-4 run, and continued their momentum into the fourth quarter.

Lottner picked up his third foul in that time, and sat out the final three minutes of the third quarter.

“You like that coaching decision there when I took Dane out and allowed them to go on a 10-0 run?” Ballard said. “That was brilliant. We took Dane out and couldn’t do anything. We acted like we were scared to death out there without him there for a little while. We fell apart.”

Augusta cut the lead to single digits with a three-point basket with 7:01 left to play, and a steal and lay-up by Spears cut it seven. The Owls turned it over three straight times over that time, and Bowen capitalized with a pair of foul shots at the 5:25 mark that made it 49-44.

Spears then answered a Lottner basket at the 4:37 mark to keep pace before Mike Stramiello went to the line for the Owls. He missed both ends, but got a steal at mid court and took it in for two. That gave Abundant Life a 53-46 lead, and Lottner tacked on two more baskets in the final 1:21, along with a jumper by Terrell Ghant, to hold off the stubborn Red Devils.

“There were doubts because I kept thinking with only two fouls, they’re going to go to hacking, Ballard said. “And there’s probably going to be a couple of steals in those next five fouls that they commit. I figured they would probably get a couple of lay-ups before we could get to the one-and-one.”

A pair of free throws by Lottner in the final eight seconds of the first quarter gave Abundant Life a 16-14 lead heading into the second quarter. They outscored Augusta 17-8, including a 9-3 run to start the second quarter.

George Herring started the second quarter off with a Lottner-assisted jumper to give the Owls an 18-14 lead, and put them up by double digits for the first time with a three-pointer with 1:28 left in the first half for a 31-20 lead.

The Owls shot 24 of 51 from the floor. They had 31 team rebounds and gave up 16 turnovers. Augusta shot 18 of 40 and had 26 team rebounds along with 21 turnovers.

Stramiello added 10, while Herring had seven. Post Garrett Southerland had five rebounds to lead Abundant Life, while Ghant had five assists and four steals.

Abundant Life took on Carlisle last night in the semifinal round.

SPORTS >> Cabot runs win streak to 10

Leader sports editor

This one had all the makings of a trap game for Cabot.

Winners of eight straight, the Panthers headed to Russellville on Tuesday night to take on a talented, somewhat desperate Cyclone team against whom Cabot began its winning streak after a remarkable comeback last month.

Add to that a short week with Cabot’s makeup game at Van Buren looming on Thursday and it’s no wonder Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges was just a little nervous.

But after a slow start, the Panthers rode the inspired play of Miles Monroe to win their ninth in a row with a 58-47 win. The Cabot post man scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds despite missing much of the second half with four fouls. Adam Sterrenberg, scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.

“Miles really kept us in it in the first half,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “And he got some garbage and some putbacks that were real big for us.”

Cabot ran its winning streak to 10 games with a hard-fought 42-35 win at Van Buren in a make-up game on Thursday night. The wins, coupled with Conway’s victory over Catholic, put the Panthers temporarily in front of the Wampus Cats as they finished the conference season 12-2. Conway (11-2) finished the regular season at Russellville last night. The Wampus Cats own the tiebreak and would win the conference if they and the Panthers tie.

“Somebody told me they don’t think we’ve ever won a conference championship (in boys basketball),” said Bridges. “I am really proud of the kids. But we’ve still got work to do.”

After trailing by five points on four separate occasions in the first half against Russellville, the Panthers took the lead for good on Monroe’s baseline drive and left-handed lay-up. His free throw on the play put Cabot ahead 23-20 and they never trailed again. Alex Baker, who came up big off the bench to score 12 points, hit three free throws the rest of the way as Cabot took a 26-20 lead into intermission.

“Alex is capable of that,” Bridges said. “We call him the ‘Microwave’ because he can come off the bench and get hot for you. He hit a couple of big pull-up jumpers.”

But when Monroe picked up his third and fourth fouls in quick succession midway through the third period, thinks got dicey for the Panthers. Super quick point guard A.J. Broadnax, who had been hounded by a combination of Baker and Seth Bloomberg in the first half, began to find his way to the basket. His drive cut the Panther lead to 35-33 late in the third quarter. But Jack Bridges answered with a big three and Sterrenberg scored on a drive down the right side of the lane and the Panthers had some breathing room at 40-33 after three.

Two Sterrenberg free throws two minutes into the final period still had the Panthers up seven, but Russellville post man Hunter Hawkins began to assert himself with Monroe still on the bench. His putback narrowed the Cabot lead to 44-43 with 4:50 left in the game. Sterrenberg answered with a three-pointer and, after a pair of Russellville free throws cut the lead to two, Sterrenberg got a big offensive rebound off his own miss and stuck it back with 3:45.

Austin Johnson (11 points, four rebounds) made a pair of free throws and Baker knocked down 5 of 6 as Cabot held on. On Jan. 30, Cabot rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter when Sterrenberg scored 22 points in the final four minutes, 55 seconds. The Cyclones were not only hungry for revenge, but in need of a victory to secure a state playoff berth.

But after getting off to a hot start to take an 11-8 lead after one, the Cyclones went cold, making only 12 of their final 33 shots. Overall, they made just 2 of 24 from beyond the arc.

Cabot, meanwhile, made 4 of 10 from deep and 20 of 24 from the line, where they have been on fire of late. That, and a mere five turnovers, allowed them to overcome 17-of-43 shooting.

Baker was the fourth Panther in double figures with 12 points. Broadnax finished with 18 points, while Hawkins added 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Against Van Buren, Sterren-berg scored 17 points and Johnson added 16. Monroe had eight rebounds and Clark six.


The Lady Panthers racked up a remarkable 20 steals — 10 in the first quarter alone — and were never threatened by winless Russellville on Tuesday night. The victory secured the No. 2 seed at the state tournament next week at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

Shelby Ashcraft led the way in pilferage with five steals, while Taylor Rosel snagged four. Jenna Bailey and Stephanie Glover had three each and Kelsey Spry grabbed two.

Eleven Lady Panthers cracked the scoring column, led by Brooke Taylor’s 11 points and Glover’s 10 points and six rebounds.

The Lady Panthers, who led 15-0 after one period, forced 27 tunrovers and limited the Lady Cyclones to 10-of-32 shooting.

Amber Rock’s three-pointer opened up a 26-9 lead late in the second period and Cabot went on to lead 28-12 at intermission.

Ashcraft added eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Rock, Rosel, Spry and Sarah Moore added six each. Moore also swatted away three Lady Cyclone shots and grabbed six rebounds.

Cabot made 20 of 41 shots, including 5 of 9 from deep.

SPORTS >> Raiders returning to state after easy win over Bauxite

Leader sports editor

The streak lasted only one year but that was plenty long enough for Danny Starkey.

After winning the 3A state championship in 2007, the Riverview Raiders failed to make the state tournament last year.

They’re back. The Raiders pounded Bauxite 68-37 in the opening round of the 3A-3 Regional at Jessieville on Wednesday night. The added bonus is that the Raiders will be hosting the Class 3A state tournament next week at the Riverview Activity Center.

“We sure didn’t want to be sitting around and watching it,” said Starkey, whose Raiders improved to 22-10. We didn’t want that steak to continue.”

Bauxite only briefly challenged the 2-3A district champions, who were led by 26 points from Ben Jones. But after leading by a single basket after one period, the Raiders opened up a 34-23 lead at halftime and then put it away by outscoring the Miners 20-10 in the third period.

“We did a lot better defensively in the third quarter,” Starkey said. Offensively we weren’t that sharp overall. I say that but then we still win by 30 and score 68 points.”

Jones, who has often taken a backseat in the scoring department to Cameron Angerman, Jordan Perry and Taylor Smith, hit four threes and also took it hard to the basket for big buckets. He scored 10 of Riverview’s 23 second-quarter points when the Raiders were starting to put some distance between themselves and the Miners.

Angerman, Smith and D.J. Teague each added 10 points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Filing deadline is Monday

The filing deadline for the special election for Jacksonville mayor is Monday, March 2.

Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk Pat O’Brien reminds potential candidates for Jacksonville mayor that the deadline to file for office is noon, Monday, March 2 in the County Clerk’s office in Little Rock.

O’Brien said in a press release that an error in the first ordinance passed by the Jacksonville City Council concerning the election mistakenly carried a later deadline.

“If a person submits their paperwork one minute late, they will not be certified,” said O’Brien. “That is the law.”

He said that during his four years as county clerk, several candidates for various offices have waited until the last minute to file.

“If they do not have enough valid signatures or their paperwork is incorrect, we have to turn them down,” he said.

O’Brien said waiting until the last day on March 2 to file is a “bad idea.”

Four candidates have already filed for the office including Aldermen Gary Fletcher and Kenny Elliott, realtor Tommy Dupree and Farm Bureau executive Jody Urquehart.

It is rumored that as many as eight to 10 candidates may eventually file to succeed Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim in the election which will be held Tuesday, May 12.

An expected run-off election would be held Tuesday, June 2.

Swaim, who has held the office since 1987, will retire in the middle of his term.

O’Brien says candidates with questions about the filing process should contact the County Clerk’s office at 340-8500.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood should get new school

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District board member Charlie Wood told the Sherwood City Council Monday night that construction of the new Sylvan Hills Middle School is moving forward despite opposition from Jacksonville.

He addressed the council, at the request of the mayor, to give them an update.

“There’s been some confusion as to whether or not the school is going to be built,” he said, adding that he was there to assure Sherwood that the PCSSD had approved construction of the school at its last meeting.

Wood said a few years ago when the school board approved its master plans, it approved construction of a new Oak Grove High School in the Maumelle area and a new Sylvan Hills Middle School near the current school. Property has since been purchased for the middle school.

Wood said at that time, the estimated cost for the middle school was about $24 million and about $40 million for the high school.

“The high school costs have increased to $81 million,” Wood explained. “We can’t afford that and build the middle school.”

The district’s administration at the last board meeting supported building the high school and proposed putting the Sherwood school on hold.

“I offered a friendly amendment to build both on the same timetable for $81 million. The motion was accepted,” Wood said, but quickly added that the district couldn’t do both for $81 million.

“We have a workshop planned in March to come up with ways to finance both schools,” Wood, who represents the Sherwood area, said. Some possibilities are to scale back the high school or to build it in two phases, freeing up money for the middle school.

“The official plans are to build both,” Wood said, “although there are no answers yet as to where to get the money.”

He then explained that it is in the best interest for Jacksonville to have no new buildings built. “When they break away, they will have to assume part of the cost, about $15 million,” Wood said. “They don’t want to assume that debt and are campaigning against it even though Jacksonville board member Bill Vasquez voted to build the two schools.”

Wood likened the school board to a city council, saying, “There’s lots of politics on the school board.”

“If the district just builds the new high school, I wouldn’t vote for it as it gives us the shaft, and school board president Tim Clark of Maumelle would vote against the idea of building just the middle school,” Wood explained.

And is that one vote important? The plans to build both schools passed at the recent school board meeting by a tight four-to-three vote.

“We have to get momentum to get these things approved,” Wood said.

In response to questions from aldermen, Wood said the architectural plans for the high school are about 80 percent completed and the middle school plans are much further behind.

Mayor Virginia Hillman said the middle school is truly needed. “I talked to the middle school principal and they are expecting an additional 200 students next year,” she said.

The master plan called for the school to be completed by 2011. Wood said he was not sure if the school would be open by then.

TOP STORY >> Murder trial begins in LR

Special to The Leader

A jury was seated and an array of experts took the stand in Little Rock on Tuesday in the double-murder trial of Daud Amir Jones of Jacksonville, charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend Meloney Graham, who was 17 weeks pregnant.

But the most powerful testimony will likely take place today as members of her family take the stand – in at least one case to testify to Jones’ good character.

Jones, facing two counts of first-degree murder, spent the day quietly between two deputy public defenders. He was dressed in a black suit, dark red shirt and black tie, while chief Pulaski County Public Defender Bill Simpson handled his defense.

Deputy prosecuting attorneys Kelly Ward and Will Jones, called on Jacksonville police officers and Arkansas Crime Lab experts to make their case.

By the time the jury was seated, the directions each team of lawyers intended to take was clear. Prosecutor Jones kept asserting to the jury pool, “Actions speak louder than words.” Simpson continually asked them, “Can you hold the state to its high burden of truth?”

Daud Jones allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend at their home on Pike Avenue during an argument over whether he was cheating on her. In a recorded statement to police, Jones claimed it was an accident – that Graham had taken his gun out of a closet during the argument, he took it away from her and then dropped it, whereupon it fired and the bullet struck her in the back of the head.

Prosecutors tried to debunk that version of events by calling upon a firearms expert from the crime lab, Steve Hargis, who handled the inspection of the .380 semi-automatic pistol used in the shooting. Hargis testified that he struck the gun with a rubber mallet in several places to simulate a drop to the floor.

“It never fired when struck,” Hargis said.

In cross-examination, Simpson asked why Hargis had not actually dropped the gun during the tests; to avoid damaging it, Hargis replied.

Simpson asked Hargis if there was a chance that the gun could go off if dropped, to which Hargis replied yes, but “that would be a very slim chance.”

Dr. Frank Peretti, who performed the autopsy, testified that the wound made by the bullet was “a nice, round hole,” which he said indicated straight-on entry.

Challenged by Simpson as to whether such a wound could be from a bullet fired by a dropped gun, Peretti was adamant: “If the gun was dropped, the entry wound would be different,” he said, because it was likely the angle of entry would not be straight.

But he also acknowledged that he could not predict the path of the bullet or position of Graham’s body at the time of the shooting.

At deadline, the court was still listening to the audio recording of the statement Jones made to Jacksonville police hours after the murder.

The jury consists of seven women (three black, four white) and five men (three black, two white). Testimony was expected to end today.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke judges want two full-time bailiffs for security

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Court last week decided to hold off on a request for more than $46,000 needed to fully fund two full-time bailiff positions for the Lonoke County Circuit Court.

The positions would be for Judge Phillip Whiteaker’s and Judge Barbara Elmore’s courtrooms.

Whiteaker made the appeal to the court on behalf of Sheriff Jim Roberson, who is out on medical leave. Whiteaker pitched the idea as a way not only to beef up courtroom security, but as a boon for the sheriff’s department. The bailiffs, when not needed in court, would be available to transport prisoners, serve warrants, and perform other administrative tasks.

The funding request was in response to Act 576 of 2007, which requires the Administrative Office of the Courts of Arkansas to assist district and circuit courts in efforts to improve court-facility security and emergency preparedness.

Assistance would come in the form of training and certification of bailiffs, as well as grants to help cover administrative costs of developing a comprehensive security plan, as well as pay for facility modifications, security equipment or other improvements.

Concerns about violent incidents in courtrooms in Arkansas and around the nation sparked the formation of the policy to direct courts on security issues. This encompasses not only bailiff training and certification, but also mail handling, building access, bomb threats, evacuation planning, and after-hours security.

Whiteaker said it has taken until now for the state to “to get its ducks in a row,” as policy makers developed the criteria for bailiff certification, but that the time had come to get in compliance. Full-time bailiffs – now called court security officers according to the law – need to replace the existing part-time officers, he said.

Rather than approve the proposed ordinance, the quorum court instead voted unanimously to refer the matter to its personnel committee that would come back to the full court in March with recommendations.

As it turns out, the 2007 law does not require full-time bailiffs nor does it mandate the courts to do anything.

On Monday, after she had had a chance to read Act 576, quorum court personnel committee chair Janette Minton, said, “It turns out we are not out of compliance, and we don’t have a deadline. We were told this was an emergency, and it is not an emergency.”

Pete Hollingsworth, director of security and emergency preparedness for the Administra-tive Office of the Courts, explained that although the law is not a mandate for the courts to do anything, the sooner they respond to Act 576, the more likely they’ll get a share of state grant monies to cover costs of stepped-up security.

The state has already allocated $500,000, and there may be more, Hollingsworth said.

“As grant money becomes available, courts that don’t follow guidelines won’t be able to get any of it,” he said.


The court voted to form a committee to explore ways to affordably reduce the number of stray dogs that roam rural Lonoke County.

Justice of the Peace Adam Sims, who sponsored the ordinance, thinks that the number of dogs on the loose will increase as the result of the new animal-cruelty law, which makes it a felony in Arkansas to kill a dog unless it is a threat to livestock or poultry.

“They will make an example of somebody, sometime,” Sims predicted.

Lonoke County resident Rose Klein said over the past five years she has taken in a number of strays, tried to place them in homes, or had them euthanized, but the financial burden has become too much to bear. She now gets calls from folks hoping she will take a stray off their hands.

“I have been inundated with stray animals; I am asking for help, a solution,” Klein told the court. “I want the county to find a solution. There are a lot of people who are very frustrated by these dogs dumped and wandering around and there are no spay and neuter programs.”


Meteorologist John Robinson of the National Weather Service presented a plaque declaring Lonoke County a Storm Ready county. The designation is issued by a national program that encourages communities to take a proactive approach to hazardous-weather preparedness.

Eleven other counties and four cities in the state have earned the Storm Ready recognition.

To become eligible for the designation, a community must have in place a severe-weather preparedness plan, a 24-hour warning and emergency operations center, multiple communications channels and ways to alert the public about severe weather, weather monitoring capabilities, and public education about weather safety.

Lonoke County deputy emergency manager Kathy Zasimovich was credited with doing the bulk of the work, beginning two years ago, toward the Storm Ready award. She helped obtain a grant that has gone toward disseminating weather radios to many locations, including schools, nursing homes, churches and day care centers.

Since 1950, there have been 62 tornadoes in Lonoke County, making it third in Arkansas for tornado prevalence. The county ranks fourth in the state for tornado fatalities.

Robinson said that lack of awareness about an approaching storm contributes to fatalities.

Of the 21 tornado fatalities in Arkansas in 2008, six of the people who died were killed while on the phone rather than in a sheltered location.

“Too many people are oblivious to the warnings,” he said.


The court voted 10-2 in favor of the sheriff’s department purchasing a drug dog to assist with drug bust investigations. A transfer of $7,500 from the Sheriff’s Special Crimes Unit fund will cover the cost of the dog – expected to be $1,500 to $2,000 as well as training and other expenses.

Chief Deputy Dean White told the court, “In essence, a K-9 is another officer, and we could use the nose.”

At present, when the sheriff’s department needs to call in a drug dog, “98 percent of the time one is not available,” White said.

Cabot has a drug dog, and England is looking into getting one. Often, the sheriff turns to Tucker Prison to bring in a dog, and that can take up to two hours.

The dog likely would more than pay for itself. In the past when the county did own a drug dog, seizures of drugs, drug money and other items had a total value of $2.3 million, White said.

TOP STORY >> Cabot rebuilds junior high

Leader staff writer

Cabot School Board members had a sneak peak last week at the progress being made in the re-building of Cabot Junior High North which is set to open this fall.

James Dalton, assistant superintendent, led board members Jim Coy, Dean Martin, David Hipps and Wendel Msall on a tour of the construction site. The junior high school burned down in 2006.

“I think it was one of the best- planned schools I’ve ever seen. I’m totally blown away and proud of it,” Msall said about the new building.

He said the $12.5 million junior high was about 70 percent completed. He was pleased with the management of all the contractors, especially in light of the project’s complexity.

“I’m very impressed with the progress,” Coy said.

Martin said he is pleased with the size of the junior high given that students will have more room. He said the new building has 33,000 square feet more than the old building and meets all new standards for schools.

The previous junior high was 101,000 square feet; the new one has increased to 134,000 square feet. He noted that the media center will have two separate media labs to help keep up with the demands of new technologies.

In line with new building standards, the cafeteria was built to feed 600 students, half of the student body, at one time. The walk-in coolers and freezers still need to be installed.

March plans to be a busy month for construction crews. During the first week, elevators will be installed, which schools with two or more stories are required to have. Also, crews will start laying floor covering in the building and carpeting in the media center early next month.

According to Dalton, several truckloads of mill work are scheduled to arrive in March. The deliveries will include cabinetry and wood trim for the classrooms.

Around the school, parts of the drop-ceiling panels are in place.

Tile work has begun in the bathrooms. Walls are covered with a primer coat of paint and are waiting for finishing coats to be applied.

When the state-of-the-art construction nears completion, a glass front retaining wall will be installed from the ground at the main staircase to the ceiling to prevent falls.

EDITORIAL >> Arkansas is getting help

Arkansas’ good fortune in dodging the worst of the global economic collapse will not be its perverse undoing. President Obama assured Governor Beebe on Monday that Arkansas would not be penalized in the distribution of billions in emergency school aid because the state has held the public schools harmless from economic travails since 2003.

Unlike California and most other states, Arkansas has not reduced school funding in the long recession. The Arkansas Supreme Court said in 2002 that the state Constitution forbade it, and the legislature changed its fiscal laws to insure that whatever else happened the schools would not be penalized when the economy turned south.

But Beebe worried that Arkansas might be penalized in the big economic stimulus program because it did not have the same financial woes that other states had. (Ours just happen to be longstanding, not recent.)

We had suggested after the election that the governor pursue federal stimulus funding for part of the $1 billion of capital needs in Arkansas schools, which were identified in a legislative study two years ago. Arkansas school facilities are among the worst in the nation. Although the state set aside a large sum to help the schools build, remodel, renovate, weatherize and modernize classrooms, not a lot has been done because schools have not been able to raise the money for their matching share. Why couldn’t federal stimulus funds provide that match?

President Obama told the governor Monday that they could be used for school and college buildings, though maybe not for entirely new facilities. No gymnasiums, tracks and stadiums, please. This new president is proving to be a wise and practical man.

The school spending, which will enable the state to modernize and re-equip schools to be energy efficient, will give children a better break and at the same time create work and jobs. Who could be against that?

Well, quite a few, including several Republican governors, our own congressman from northwest Arkansas, John Boozman, and — most shocking of all — our former governor and favorite-son presidential aspirant, Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee, who is counting on the country collapsing and the stimulus program failing, has joined Rush Limbaugh and his fellow Fox News commentator Sean Hannity in condemning the president’s effort to generate a burst of economic activity to halt the slide into depression. He opposes the federal handouts to the states, in the form of new infusions of money for the health care of the poor and for education.

This is the same Mike Huckabee who pushed for a huge expansion of government assistance for health insurance for children and adults while he was governor. No state beseeched Washington for more federal aid than Arkansas under Mike Huckabee. He got waivers from Washington to qualify for 75 percent federal assistance for children of families up to twice the federal poverty line and to qualify whole families for federal health aid under a Medicaid plan for businesses with low-wage employees. He boasted that these little socialist projects were his greatest achievements as governor. He also engaged in some clever maneuvering to qualify Arkansas for an extra helping of U. S. taxpayer aid for nursing homes.

The only difference is that he won’t be able to claim credit for these latest achievements, so they are not worth doing and are taking us down the road to a socialist state. Another difference is that no one is listening to him now.

TOP STORY >> Push is on to renovate North Hills golf course

Leader staff writer

Even though the park study that Sherwood has paid for is about three months away from completion, the parks and recreation committee decided Monday that the 106-acre North Hills Country Club and defunct golf course need to be revamped into a working golf course.

The committee made the decision to renovate the property back into an 18-hole municipal golf course without holding any public hearings or debate on the issue.

The committee, according to Alder-man Ken Rankin, decided that the property would be an 18-hole golf course with work to begin immediately.

“Why are we having a park study done if we are not going to wait for it or look at it?” questioned Mayor Virginia Hillman.

The park study, which the mayor signed the letter of intent for on April 20, 2008 and the council approved on April 28, calls for spending about $90,000 for a complete survey, inventory, needs analysis and short- and long-range plans for the city’s parks, including those in the Gravel Ridge area.

The city bought the North Hills property, which it condemned, for about $5.5 million, and has already invested about $200,000 to renovate the clubhouse for rentals and meetings. The city also recently contracted Casco, a local contractor, to demolish and fill the concrete swimming pool.

Three feasibility studies performed while the city was attempting to purchase the property in 2007 and 2008 estimated that it would cost $1.3 million or more to bring the golf course back up to par.

Mizan Rahman with ETC Engineers, the company commissioned to do the park study, told the council that he could not make any recommendations at without further investigation and financial figures.

He said one of the biggest cost questions was whether or not the sprinkler-irrigation system worked.

Rahman said the golf course system is about 30 years old and the infrastructure may have run its life. “We won’t know until we investigate,” he said.

Sonny Janssen, director of the Sherwood Parks and Recreation Department, said the city may need to purchase or repair pumps and check the well in order to verify the condition of the golf course’s water system.

“We may turn it on and everything works or nothing may happen, but we don’t have any money budgeted in case we have repairs or replace something or to even see if its working,” Janssen said.

Aldermen Rankin and Charlie Harmon, who are both on the parks and recreation committee, wanted a resolution to spend the minimal amount to get the golf course opened, and then backed off and instead voted for a resolution to have the parks department check the sprinkler system. No money restrictions were placed on the resolution.

Harmon, who pushed hard for the golf course decision, with intermittent cheers from the audience, said, “The property is an expense item now. The only feasible use is for it to financially carry itself is by being an 18-hole golf course with 20,000 to 25,000 rounds of golf a year being played. That will cover the cost of the note.

“As good financial stewards, we have to make it an 18-hole golf course,” Harmon said.

He said the committee looked at two other possibilities: doing nothing with the property or turning it into a nine-hole golf course and using the remaining land for other recreational activities like a small water park.

“We just have to plug the greens, fill in some sand traps, get the irrigation running and do some work on the cart paths,” Harmon said, adding, “It needs to be started already.”

Rahman said as part of the master park study, his company was also looking at the cost of the other renovation possibilities. “But at this point I have difficulty recommending anything without investigating what needs to be done and the financial cost,” he said.

“Can’t we at least get a driving range opened?” Alderman Becki Vassar asked, “to get some income started.”

Alderman Butch Davis said there needs to be public input before the council makes a decision.

Rahman said the contract for the park study includes public input and said they were close to that point.

Vassar wanted Rahman to survey not only Sherwood residents, but those outside of the city. “Outside people are having a fit to play on North Hills as a golf course. It’s not fair to just poll Sherwood residents,” she said.

Rahman said his contract obligation was to the people of Sherwood. “They are the ones that have a financial risk in the decision. It would be cost prohibitive to do what you want,” Rahman said.

The council gave Rahman up to 45 days to come up with cost figures for the golf course and told him to be ready to present the information at a workshop.

In other council business:

Police chief Kel Nicholson presented awards to the police officer, dispatcher and civilian employee of the year. The awards, voted on by members of the police department, went to Officer Danny Kelley, cashier supervisor Nicole Weatherly and dispatcher Allison Rady.

The chief also presented awards to officers Ryan Baker and Bryan Kinder for their efforts in saving an elderly man who was found unconscious, without a pulse and not breathing.

The officers’ quick actions saved the man’s life, according to the chief.

The council approved a resolution authorizing the study of a possible merger between Sherwood and North Little Rock’s wastewater departments. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will conduct the study at no cost to either city.

Mayor Hillman said the study is non-binding but felt it deserved to be looked at in light of the success of the North Little Rock and Little Rock water department merger into Central Arkansas Water.

Aldermen voted to condemn the structure at 8800 Landers Road as a public nuisance, meaning the owners have 30 days to bring the building up to code or the city can tear it down.

The council approved the selection of Don Hughes to re-place Clytice Koehler on the Civil Service Commission.

TOP STORY >> Loop goes forward

Leader staff writer

Despite an attorney’s implied threat that if the Sherwood City Council approved the city’s master street plan it could cost the city “tens of millions of dollars,” the aldermen went ahead and approved the plan.

Hal Kemp, an attorney for the Sherwood Land Company which has plans for building 1,500 homes on 500 acres just west of Hwy. 107, said by approving the master street plan, the city is forcing the developers to place the North Belt on their plans and effectively cut off about 60 acres from development.

He added that he was at the council meeting to make sure the aldermen didn’t blindly vote for the street plan. “The Highway Department is not here tonight and neither is Metroplan, but the city is here to vote on taking on my client’s property. Your vote will trigger a train of events,” Kemp said.

Those events, according to the attorney, include the city having to pay not only for the North Belt right of way, but for all the land damaged because the owners don’t have access to develop it.

Kemp said he couldn’t guarantee that his clients would be in court in 30 days asking for the city to pay fair market value for the land. “Your budget is at risk. You will be named the defendants, not the highway department,” Kemp said, and then came back with, “but my clients don’t want to get crosswise” with the city.

Kemp couldn’t understand why the city would put the North Belt above the plans of one of the premier developers in the city. “You are asking him to put his livelihood on hold for a year,” Kemp said.

But Alderman Steve Fender and others questioned why this concern was not brought up a year ago when the council approved a resolution that accepted the latest federally-approved location for the North Belt.

“You are asking us to renege on an agreement,” Fender said.

Alderman Charlie Harmon said he had talked to Dan Flowers, the director of the state Highway Department and has received assurances that the state would not cut off the property, that some kind of access would be made available.

“A problem really doesn’t exist,” Harmon said.

Dwight Pattison, the city planner, told the council that the North Belt was already on the master street plan and had been on it for years. All the city was doing by approving the newest version of the street plan was making an adjustment to the location.

“If we don’t put it on the plan then no federal dollars are allowed to be spent on the project,” Pattison said.

Once the master street plan is approved with the location of the North Belt locked in, it puts the state highway department on notice that it has one year to purchase those right of ways.

If no movement is made, then the developers can build within those corridors, making the land more valuable and most costly for the state to purchase when it’s ready to buy.

Planning commissioner Lucien Gillham said in his talks with members of the highway department and highway commission he felt confident that everything would work out and that there would be significant movement on the project within the next two years.

TOP STORY >> Go-ahead seen for big water project

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke-White Water Project to bring water from Greers Ferry Lake to the central part of the state that has been in the planning stages for about 15 years could be funded from President Obama’s $800 billion economic-stimulus package approved earlier this month and be under construction by June.

The project is “shovel ready,” said project engineer Tommy Bond of Bond Consulting Engineers in Jacksonville. That will likely make it eligible for about $30 million in low-interest loans and possibly make it eligible for up to $5 million in grants to build the 24-inch transmission line from the lake.

Only projects that are ready for construction are eligible for economic-stimulus money because the purpose of the stimulus package is to put people to work now.

Partners in the total $62 million water project still hope that Congress will give the Corps of Engineers the $6 million approved in 2002 to build the intake site at Cove Creek. And although officials with the project are talking to Community Water Systems about temporarily using its water-treatment plant, eventually $30 million would be needed to build a treatment plant for Lonoke White.

Bond has been working with an alphabet soup of government agencies trying to find money for the long-awaited water project even before Congress approved the stimulus package: the ANRC (Arkansas Natural Resources Commission) ADEQ (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) and the USDARD (United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development).

Although it has become clear that Jacksonville and Cabot, which have a population greater than 10,000, are ineligible for grant money from the USDARD, the other 12 project members might be eligible for grants.

In addition to Cabot and Jacksonville, the members of the project are Grand Prairie, Beebe, Lonoke, Ward, McRae, Vilonia, North Pulaski, Furlow, Southwest White County Water Association (SOWCO) and Austin.

Bond said the ANRC, which volunteered about eight years ago to provide loan money for the project, is looking now at all the available pockets of money that could make the project affordable.

The challenge over the next 30 to 45 days, he said, is to get signed contracts from the 12 members which will include how much water they will pay for from the transmission line whether they use it or not. If the members as a group sign contracts to pay for 4 million gallons a day, the water will cost $2.64 per thousand gallons.

The problem, Bond said, is that right now several of the partners, like Cabot, Beebe, Jacksonville and Grand Prairie, have wells and don’t need water from Greers Ferry Lake at this time. Additionally, Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Water are under contract to buy ground water from Central Arkansas Water and are working toward building a transmission line from the Little Rock area.

“We have to get a commitment of at least 3 million gallons a day from the 12 members,” Bond said.

“What it all boils down to is the future of your water system. You pay a little now so you don’t have to pay outrageously in the future. Water won’t get any cheaper.

“If we use stimulus money, we would have to start (the project) in June and be finished in 21 months,” he said. “It’s doable. We can meet the challenge if we’re just turned loose.”

TOP STORY >> Bailouts costly, but do not let them fleece us

Leader editor-in-chief

The federal government could soon take over more failing financial institutions, including the giant Bank of America, which has several branches in the area.

Bank of America is a crippled giant, having lost 90 percent of its value, even after it received $45 billion in federal aid. The U.S. government in effect now owns 66 percent of the bank, but its chances for survival look grim.

The feds will keep pumping more funds into the ailing institution and will probably sell its less-toxic assets after a formal takeover.

Regions, another bank with several branches here, has accepted only — only! — $3.5 billion in bailout money, but that translates into a 69 percent federal- ownership stake.

Citigroup leads the pack with a $42 billion bailout, which means the government owns 40 percent of the rotting corpse.

Whatever the outcome of this financial crisis, you’ll pay for the mistakes of others, and not just with your taxes. In fact, you’ll pay in many different ways, especially if you’re not careful.

Watch out for hidden fees from financial institutions, as well as sudden spikes in interest rates on your credit cards, even if you’ve never missed a payment. Don’t let them pick your wallet and pockets, too. Next, they’ll steal your kids’ piggybank.

Many of you may have opened your credit card bills recently and noticed that the interest rate you’re paying has jumped to 24.49 percent, which is about what payday lenders and mobsters charge their customers.

Some banks are suddenly raising interest rates without warning as a way to cover their losses elsewhere. They’re hoping you’re not paying attention. The big national banks think they can cover their losses by taking advantage of unsuspecting customers who have always paid their bills and would never default on their mortgage.

As a punishment for your good behavior, some banks have doubled and even tripled the interest rate they charge their faithful credit card customers.

You need to call and tell them you’re already bailing them out with your tax dollars, and you’re not paying them any more.

The gang of incompetents who run our largest banks are penalizing their honest customers for the banks’ mistakes.

This scenario is repeating itself across the country: Bailing out financial institutions means that responsible citizens are stuck with huge bills that will remain unpaid for generations.

You’ve been paying your bills and your mortgage, but these floundering banks think they can get away with double-billing you and the government, too.

First the government decided that responsible citizens should pay for the billions in losses the banks suffered from bad mortgages, credit-card defaults and other loans that went sour.

Then the banks figured on recouping some of those losses by fleecing their best customers.

Families across America are asked to save these bankers from drowning. But their credit-worthy borrowers were not the ones who went in over their heads. They were responsible borrowers, yet they’re stuck with the tab.

If they’re going to nationalize the banks, shouldn’t we at least get stock certificates as part owners of those failed financial institutions?

The certificates will make nice wall decorations, even if they’re worthless.

We could pass them on to our grandkids as mementos of these depressed times.

TOP STORY >> Group objects to funding school

Leader senior staff writer

A special school board meeting has been called for Tuesday at the request of 228 Jacksonville-area residents afraid that an $80 million second-lien bond to build yet another new school in Maumelle will saddle them with so much debt that Jacksonville might never get the standalone school district for which they have worked so diligently.

Some members of the Jacksonville World Class Education Association feel that their board member, Bill Vasquez, has taken positions contrary to the best interests of Jacksonville residents, according to Daniel Gray, one of the association’s activists.

Jacksonville residents are also upset with plans for a Sherwood middle school. (See p. 3A.)

Despite a dire warning by Pulaski County Special School District chief financial officer Larry O’Briant that the district may not have the revenues to pay off that bond, the board voted 4-3 to proceed with selling bonds, and ground will be broken at 10:30 a.m. Friday for the Maumelle High School. That precedes the special meeting by four days.

O’Briant said that the district stands to lose many millions of dollars a year when the state stops funding desegregation efforts for the three public Pulaski County school districts, that enrollment has declined for 15 years and the district will lose even more if Jacksonville finally gets it standalone district.

Furthermore, if the $80 million second-lien bond is finally approved and then Jacksonville breaks off, members of the Jacksonville World Class Education Association fear that area residents will be responsible for 15 percent of that $80 million debt, but with nothing to show for it.

“The debt-to-income ratio would adversely affect (creation of a Jacksonville district) and we might need a new feasibility study,” according to former state Rep. Will Bond.

“The prudent thing is to hold off or adopt an amendment to the bond issue saying that it will not attach that debt to the proposed new district,” said Bond, who has been among the leaders seeking a Jacksonville district.

Bond is moving to Little Rock, where he has become managing partner of the McMath Law Firm, but he remains active in seeking the new district for his hometown.

Bond also questions the propriety of the PCSSD board, particularly Vasquez, recombining the boys and girls middle schools at Jacksonville.

“We believe any rush to combine the schools without proper planning, funding and proper communication with Jacksonville area students and parents would be adverse to their interests,” Bond wrote to the board prior to the February meeting at which the board recombined the schools.

Both he and Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim say that decision should have been left for the eventual Jacksonville district board to decide.

The petition for the meeting asked to discuss the financial impact of those second-lien bonds, the possible loss of desegregation funding and projected enrollment decline on the ability to repay the bonds, and also the possible effect on teacher’s salaries and positions in the event that bond repayment causes a shortfall.

It suggests possible litigation over the matter, the near doubling of the cost of the Maumelle High School and the bid process.

The petition also asks for a discussion establishing a finance committee to monitor and investigate long-term deficit ramifications and finally, the recombining of the single-gender middle schools.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville gets upbeat review

Leader staff writer

City officials and business leaders convening for an annual planning retreat last week seemed optimistic about Jacksonville in 2009. In the three-hour session, the 30 participants looked at milestones met in 2008 and set goals for this year.

Forging stronger connections with Little Rock Air Force Base, downtown revitalization and community pride, city-employee retention, Vandenberg Boulevard intersection modifications, and more parks and activities for youth and families topped the list of action items for 2009.

Better public schools for Jack-sonville through establishment of an independent school district was mentioned more than once during the evening as the steppingstone to a brighter future for Jacksonville. That hinges on a decision by the courts.


Ron Copeland, director of the university district partnership for University of Arkansas at Little Rock, facilitated the session that began with a look back at accomplishments and major events impacting the city in 2008.

Noted were the opening of the new library, approval of a charter school, the city’s $5 million donation to Little Rock Air Force Base for construction of the joint education center, new management of the city-owned hospital that ensures continuation of vital medical services, expansion of CenturyTel’s operations in Jacksonville, $4 million dedicated for a police and fire training facility, a failed annexation of Gravel Ridge, the school board’s endorsement of an independent Jacksonville school district, hiring of a new police chief and a national economic recession.

Thankfully, Jacksonville so far has not been hit hard by the downturn, with the exception of a cooled real estate and housing sector.

“Retail sales have remained steady according to sales tax revenues,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said.

“The economic downturn has affected the housing industry because of the psyche of all us; people have hit the bunkers,” said real estate broker Bart Gray.

The consensus in the room was that the city last year made progress on seven strategic fronts identified at last year’s planning retreat: developing activities to attract youth and families; securing the future of LRAFB; retaining employees; maintaining a clean city; improving Jacksonville schools; improving roads and transportation and improving housing.

Participants were not so sure that those who live and work in Jacksonville share in their sense of progress and optimism.

“If you go around the gossip coffee shops, most feel that not much has been done,” said Alderman Reedie Ray.

It was proposed that better communication to city residents, through the news media, city Web site and other outlets, was vital to getting the word out about the city’s vision, achievements and events. To that end, a Web site designer has been hired to revamp and update the city’s site, Swaim noted.

On each of the strategic fronts, participants divided up into small groups to talk about progress on last year’s goals and to brainstorm on goals for 2009.


Attendants’ discussions of improved housing and the city’s overall appearance seemed to go hand-in-hand.

On housing, concern was expressed about the low rate of home ownership and the poor appearance of many rental properties owned by individuals who don’t reside in Jacksonville.

“Non-local owners don’t have a vested interest because they don’t see (their properties) every day,” said Alderman Marshall Smith.

Tax incentives, low-interest loans, better communication by the city with landlords, and a public education campaign to promote pride in home ownership were among suggestions for making Jacksonville a more attractive place.

Improving the appearance of the city involves not only pride of property ownership, but continued revitalization of the Main Street district, it was decided. The revamping of the Dupree-Main intersection, the new library, Walgreens, First Arkansas Bank and Trust’s headquarters, and the Chamber of Commerce building were seen as a foundation for future enhancements to the corridor.

A streetscape plan with landscaping and public art, continued support of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, as well as removal of overhead utility lines, could all play a part, McCulley reported.


On more activities to attract youth and families, city Parks and Recreation Director George Biggs pointed out that a ball tournament on city fields is planned every weekend but three this season. Recommendations were for more parks and green space, especially in the west part of town, and enhancements to Paradise Park that might include a water park.


On improved roads and transportation, the widening of Vandenberg intersection was identified as a top priority. Engagement of air base representatives in the planning process and a design that serves the future joint education center, to be located at the west side of the intersection, are critical it was decided, as will be a feasibility study by the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation. But that one thing could bog down the process.

“They have so much on their plates right now, it may not be realistic with the department of Highways and Transportation,” said Susan Dollar, a city planning commissioner.

Work on other transportation goals set forth last year is moving ahead, officials reported. A study has been completed on how best to reconfigure the Dupree-Main intersection.

Widening of Hwy. 67/167 is in progress. The city will issue a request for proposals to redesign West Main Street for smoother traffic flow. About $280,000 has been appropriated for maintenance of existing roads.

It was agreed that an idea proposed at the 2008 planning retreat ­— using school buses while not in use for in-town public transit — should be put on hold until the day that Jacksonville has its own school district.


Besides coming through last year on its goal of a 5 percent salary increase for city employees, the city has other means for keeping folks around – longevity bonuses, college tuition reimbursements and community center memberships. In 2008, the city had a 35 percent turnover rate.

Suggestions for keeping city-employee relations humming in-cluded making sure job descriptions and competitive salary data are up to date and rewarding employees for jobs well done. A good example, someone noted, was a recent breakfast for public works employees put on by department head Jimmy Oakley. Things like that can go a long way in creating a “family-type environment and keep them all there,” said city planner Chip McCulley, who reported for his discussion group.


The future of LRAFB requires continual efforts to strengthen community ties to the base, it was agreed, although the relationship is already strong. Swaim noted his briefings held weekly to welcome air base newcomers and that he as mayor, attends weekly briefings on base, where he is made privy to insider information.

“No other base (community) in the country has that privilege,” Swaim said.

Recommendations for improvement include stepped up efforts to engage airmen in civic activities and involve base representatives in city planning on issues of mutual interest such as the Vandenberg intersection.

Better public education in Jacksonville by establishment of an independent school district awaits a decision from the courts. Meanwhile, keeping the public informed that the effort is alive and ongoing is important, it was decided.

On that note, Alderman Mar-shall Smith summed up the evening by saying, “It’s been good tonight … but a lot of things are tied to our having a separate school district. When that happens, a lot of things will happen.” No one disagreed.

Meeting facilitator Copeland said that proceedings from the retreat will be compiled and distributed so that city leaders can monitor their progress on action items throughout the months to come. The retreat report will be posted on the city Web site.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SPORTS >> Cabot girls take over 2nd place

Leader sportswriter

Once the fourth quarter started, the Pointerettes found themselves between a Rock and a hard place.

Amber Rock scored half of her team-leading 10 points for Cabot — including the go-ahead basket — in the final period as the Lady Panthers came from behind for a 37-34 win over Van Buren on Friday night at Panther Pavilion. Post player Stephanie Glover also came up big on the low block late in the game, tallying all six of her points in the fourth quarter.

“It was like two old men at a party,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “Nobody wanted to find a dance partner. It wasn’t pretty, but they make a lot of teams play that way. They are very well coached, and they’re deceptive.”

The win, combined with Bryant’s loss to North Little Rock on Friday, puts the Lady Panthers in sole possession of second place in the 7A-Central Conference standings. North Little Rock has clinched the league title with a 13-0 record, while Cabot (19-6 overall) sits 9-3 and Bryant is 9-4. Van Buren fell to 13-12 overall and 5-7 in league play, a half-game behind fourth-place Central.

Van Buren stretched its lead to as many as 10 points to start the third quarter. Keri Arnold’s jumper at the 3:55 mark gave the Pointerettes a 27-17 lead, but Rock cut that lead in half with a three and two free throws that made it 27-22 by the 2:51 mark.

Defense made the difference in the end, as the Lady Panthers held Van Buren 1 of 7 from the floor in the fourth quarter, while outscoring them 14-5. Glover hit two free throws with 3:19 left to pull Cabot to within two, and Shelby Ashcraft knotted it up with a putback at the 2:48 mark. Rock gave the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game with less than two minutes left with her second three-point basket of the night to make it 35-32, and Cabot never trailed again.

A struggle for both teams in the first quarter was a sign of things to come in the sloppy contest. The first field goal of the night came at the 4:14 mark when Amy Waldon tied the game for Van Buren at 2-2 after Shelby Ashcraft put up two foul shots for Cabot in the first minute.

The Lady Panthers continued scoreless from the floor until junior post Sarah Moore hit from the paint with 1:43 left in the opening period. Lindsay Hoggatt scored the only other Cabot goal of the first quarter on a putback with 1:04 left, but Van Buren added two more before the end of the frame for a 10-6 lead.

The Lady Panthers finished the game 11 of 44 from the field, while Van Buren was 10 of 38.

Van Buren finished with 30 rebounds, with 28 for Cabot. Cabot also suffered 17 turnovers, but the Pointerettes were even more careless with 25 miscues.

Ashcraft led the Lady Panthers with six rebounds, with six blocks for Moore. Waldon led Van Buren with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

SPORTS >> Owls grind out gritty win against league rival

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – Tim Ballard politely declined the offer to cut down the nets shortly after his Abundant Life Owls beat Conway St. Joseph 43-35 to capture the 5-2A North district tournament championship on Saturday night.

Maybe the high-octane Owls proving they could prevail in a slugfest was reward enough for Ballard. More likely, Ballard had his eyes on bigger nets — and prizes — down the road.

“I don’t want any kind of feeling of closure right now,” said Ballard, whose team remains atop the state rankings in 2A. “I told them before the game, I don’t care if you win or lose, I just want to see some things that show we’re ready for state. Toughness and grit and determination. I saw that tonight.”

The Owls, who ran the table in the conference regular season, handed the Bulldogs their third loss of the season to drop them to 27-4. Abundant Life improved to 28-7 and will open regional play next Wednesday evening at 8:30 when it takes on host team Augusta.

“I feel like every time we beat (St. Joseph) like we stole something,” Ballard said. “I feel like they’re better than us, but we’ve somehow beat them three times.”

With the Bulldogs limiting Owls leading scorer Dane Lottner to just 11 points, it was Mike Stramiello who picked up the slack for Abundant Life, leading the way with 18 points, hitting critical free throws and repeatedly taking it inside against the big Bulldogs for baskets or fouls. He single-handedly kept the Owls around in a brutal first half when the team that routinely scores in the 70s connected on only 4 of 17 shots and trailed 14-13 at intermission. Abundant Life scored only four points in the first quarter.

“Mike is a savvy player,” Ballard said. “He makes things happen. I told him tonight that I needed him to be a playmaker, to go with his instincts and make plays. Sometimes he has a tendency to question what he’s doing but I told him, don’t look at me, just go make some plays.”

Marcus Kordsmeier, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points, gave St. Joseph its biggest lead at 14-7 on a bucket and a free throw at the 3:08 mark of the first half.

But a couple of inside buckets and a free throw by Stramiello had the Owls trailing by a single point at intermission. Stramiello had 10 of Abundant Life’s points at halftime.

The Owls finally began to solve the Bulldogs’ man defense in the third period when they made 5 of 10 shots. Lottner finally got untracked, opening the quarter with a pull-up three-pointer to give the Owls their first lead of the game. Terrell Ghant followed with a three and Dustin Keathley added another with 2:14 left. Lottner’s spinning 10-footer opened up a 26-19 Abundant Life lead late in the period.

“They threw us off,” Ballard said. “We were all keyed for their world famous match-up zone and went and flipped the script on us (and played man). It was a good move so I decided to change it up on (St. Joseph coach Brent Bruich). We hadn’t played them man before so went to man to see if we couldn’t bother them some.”

Cameron Slayton’s three from the left corner rattled in to give the Owls an eight-point lead and when Lottner scored from 12 feet and Ghant drilled a pair of free throws, it looked like the Owls were home free at 35-25 midway through the final period.

But Abundant Life turned the ball over twice in succession and Kordsmeier delivered a three-pointer and a bucket and free throw to close the gap to 37-34 with 1:52 left.

Stramiello, who made all six of his free throws in the fourth quarter, knocked down a pair to extend the lead to five and Kordsmeier hit one of two to whittle it to four.

St. Joseph had a chance to get it to a one-possession game after another Owl turnover, but missed and Slayton made a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 41-35 with 1:10 left. The Bulldogs’ last gasp came five seconds later when they got two free throws. They missed them both and Lottner made 2 of 4 charities over the final 41 seconds to set the final margin.

While Lottner struggled on the offensive end, he came up with two steals and two blocks. Ghant, the Owls point guard, helped his team to a critical 31-20 advantage on the boards by pulling down a team-high eight rebounds. He also had a pair of steals and scored five points.

After missing all seven of their three-point attempts in the first half, the Owls hit 4 of 6 in the second half and finished the game 11 of 30 overall from the field. They turned it over 19 times. The Bulldogs were a frigid 13 of 42 overall and made only 2 of 14 from deep. The Owls helped themselves at the free throw line, where they made 17 of 21.

“I tell you why a game like this helps our confidence,” Ballard said. “Everybody knows we can play up-tempo and flashy and win on the run. But people question whether we can grind one out and win a tough one. When you can win a tough one like this on their court, that speaks well of you as a team.”

SPORTS >> Bost named new coach at Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke High School an-nounced Monday that current junior high football coach Doug Bost will be the new varsity football coach of the Jackrabbits. He replaces three-year coach Jeff Jones, who announced earlier this year he would be departing to return to Springdale High School as its new defensive coordinator.

“This is something that has come along in the last seven or eight years that I knew I wanted to work toward being some day,” Bost said. “It’s something that I had kind of burning inside of me. It’s very exciting. There were a couple of years that really weren’t like Lonoke football, but we came in with the new system, and now, the kids are excited too.”

That new system was Jones’ version of the popular Spread formation. Bost spent countless hours meeting with Jones over the past three seasons learning the system, and said that will be the same system Jackrabbit fans will see when the 2009 team takes the field in early September.

“I told the kids that 90 to 95 percent of what was in place will still be,” Bost said. “Of course, there are a few of the pass sets that I call a little differently from coach Jones, but it will be the same type of philosophy.”

Bost has also been the boys track coach at Lonoke High for the past seven years. He took over as coach of the junior high football team in 2006, leading the junior ’Rabbits to a conference title and an 8-1 season record in his first year.

“One of the factors was that coach Bost has done such a nice job with the junior high team,” said Lonoke athletic director Mark Hobson. “Learning the system under coach Jones, we expect a smooth transition.”

Lonoke defensive coordinator Tim Scarborough was one of two in-house candidates for the job. Offensive line coach Larry Smith initially expressed interest before pulling out.

As a member of the faculty at Lonoke for the past 13 years, Bost has worked his way up through the ranks. He began as an assistant coach on the junior high team and head coach of the junior high track team.

The Jackrabbits earned their only state championship in football in 1994, but fell on hard times after the departure of coach Mark Uhiren after the 2001 season. Lonoke suffered through four straight losing seasons before Jones came on board in 2006. Jones’ team struggled to a sub-.500 record in his first year, but the Jackrabbits earned a conference runner-up No. 2 seed in his second season, as well as a trip to the second round of the 4A state playoffs. Lonoke won the 2-4A league title outright in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs with a final 10-2 record.

Bost will lead the senior boys track team at the indoor meet in Fayetteville this weekend before stepping down from that helm to focus on football. He said athletic director Mark Hobson “has a couple of guys in mind to fill that spot.”

He will have his work cut out for him. Only three starters on offense will return for 2009. That includes running backs Brandon Harris and Morgan Linton, along with guard Tyler Breashears.

Upon the announcement on Monday night at the school board meeting, Bost met with the team the following morning. He will meet with each player individually through the rest of this week to discuss team and individual goals.

He plans on keeping the summer 7-on-7 tournament squad going, as well as the weight regimen for linemen.

“The biggest thing for us this spring will be filling positions,” Bost said. “We lost a lot. We will lift two or three days a week, and we will keep doing the 7-on-7.

“That’s something you have to have when you’re running out of the spread. You have to have the kids out there doing it all summer or you’ll get behind. Lonoke was traditionally an I-formation team, but since we’ve switched to the spread, more kids have come out.”

SPORTS >> Panthers keep pace

Leader sportswriter

Adam Sterrenberg continued his reign of terror over the 7A Central on Friday night, pouring in 33 points in Cabot’s 72-56 win over Van Buren.

Sterrenberg has scored 196 points over his past seven games — all Panther wins. Cabot has won eight in a row.

Sterrenberg scored 15 of his points in the decisive third quarter, when Cabot rallied. Despite committing no first-half turnovers, Cabot led only 32-31 at intermission before the senior began to score almost at will in the third quarter.

The Pointers did a respectable job of containing the Arkansas State signee in the first half, holding Sterrenberg to only three field goals and nine points.

“When you have an Adam, you have a chance,” said Panthers coach Jerry Bridges. “Very rarely does he have off nights. All of our seniors contributed tonight. I thought Jack (Bridges) hit some big shots early to get us going. I thought (Miles) Monroe did a good job defending their big man, especially in the second half on the rebounding part, also. Austin Johnson is a heck of a ballplayer too; just a great team effort.”

Cabot (20-5 overall) still remains tied with Conway for first place in the 7A-Central Conference standings with 10-2 records. North Little Rock is two games back in third at 9-4.

The containment of Sterrenberg came to an end at the 7:38 mark of the third quarter when he took an assist from Jack Bridges and put the Panthers up 34-31 on a long jumper. He followed that with a steal and lay-up, but his biggest damage began with 4:32 left in the period.

That’s when he hit the first of three-straight shots from behind the arc. The Pointers were still able to keep pace, however, with treys from Tyler Spoon and Brooks White. The last of Sterrenberg’s barrage at the 3:42 mark put the Panthers up 45-37. Seth Bloomberg followed that with a three-point play for Cabot’s first double-digit lead of the night, 48-37.

Aaron Owen snuck in a three-pointer for Van Buren at the buzzer to cut the Panthers’ lead to 52-44 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Pointers still had one push left in them, and used that to pull within 56-50 with 5:13 left on an inside shot by Colton Montgomery. Austin Johnson hit two free throws to extend it back to eight, and Sterrenberg dunked it off a steal at the 4:43 mark for a 60-50 lead.

The fairly large Van Buren crowd held out hope until the 3:48 mark, when Sterrenberg missed a long attempt, but got the ball back when Johnson rebounded and quickly dished back to him. He immediately put it up once again, this time finding all net for a 63-51 lead.

Johnson added late insurance for Cabot with a putback, followed by a three-pointer with 59 seconds left.

“We were trying to run and jump a little too much, and we were leaving their shooters wide open,” Bridges said of Cabot’s defense in the first half. “That’s my fault, and that’s why we said for the second half, let’s go full-court on them and make them work. Let’s get behind the post instead of fronting them.”

Johnson finished with 15 points for Cabot, while Bridges had nine, all on three-pointers. Gary Clark led the Panthers in rebounds with six. Sterrenberg also had four steals along with his 33 points.

Cabot shot 25 of 53 from the field, including 10 of 21 three-pointers, while Van Buren was 19 of 49. The Panthers finished the game with only two team turnovers, compared to 21 for Van Buren. The Pointers won the rebounding battle 28-23.

White led the Pointers with 18 points, with 11 for Owen.

Bridges said his senior-led team of Sterrenberg, Johnson, Monroe, Jack Bridges and Clark have not only brought great success to the program, but have also changed the face of Cabot basketball completely.

“It’s been fun coaching him,” Bridges said of Sterrenberg. “And we’re coming down to that final stretch run. Cabot basketball used to be the laughing stock of 6A/7A, I don’t care what you say. These young men have worked hard to change that. I’m not going to lie, it helps to have an Adam Sterrenberg and Austin Johnson. But dadgummit, Gary Clark, Jack Bridges and Miles Monroe do a great job too for us. I can’t lie, I just try to stay out of his way and not screw him up.”

Cabot finished the regular season out last night at Russellville.

SPORTS >> Lady ’Rabbits grab district title

Leader sportswriter

BATESVILLE – Want to spice up an already bitter rivalry?

Just put a little hardware on the line.

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits put up one of their best defensive efforts of the year in a 47-35 win over Bald Knob to capture the 2-4A district championship on Saturday at SHS Southerner gymnasium. The Lady Bulldogs swept Lonoke (21-7) during the regular season, but struggled to find any offense in the third meeting other than senior post Brittany Fulks’ 13-point, nine-rebound performance.

The win gives the Lady Jackrabbits a No. 1 seed heading into this week’s 4A East Region tournament at Heber Springs. Lonoke will take on 3-4A No. 4 seed Trumann today at 4 p.m.

“We have a lot of respect for them, but I guess it’s like the old days of Texas and Arkansas,” said Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris, of Bald Knob. “We have a genuine dislike for each other because they are our rivals. Not that we’re wishing anything bad on them, we just don’t like them that much. You can tell by all the close games and the fan support that both teams have, and we are consistently playing each other with a lot on the line.”

Lonoke had plenty of offense for the task, just not from any of the usual suspects. It was junior point guard Michaela Brown that led the way for the Lady ’Rabs with 17 points, four assists and three steals, eclipsing the normal point generators of Asiah Scribner, Cara Neighbors and junior guard Ashleigh Himstedt.

The trio still finished with good numbers. Neighbors had nine points, six rebounds and four steals. Scribner had seven points and 10 rebounds, while Himstedt chipped in six points. But perhaps the biggest story in the game was who didn’t produce for Bald Knob.

All-state senior guard Phagen Altom struggled to reach double digits in the second game between the two teams, and fell short on Saturday. All of Altom’s eight points for the game came at the foul line. She was 8 of 10 at the stripe, 0 of 4 from the floor.

“We did a great job of defending,” said Morris. “We didn’t give up any easy baskets. We took them on man-to-man, and did as good a job as we have done all year.”
At 5-6, Brown was one of the smallest players on the court, but played bigger than everyone. Besides her stellar defensive work against Altom, her biggest offensive play of the game with 1:20 left to play killed momentum during Bald Knob’s biggest run when she drove the paint and floated to the basket for a side-arm shot that gave Lonoke a 43-35 lead.

The Lady Bulldogs began to find Fulks inside to start the fourth quarter. She cut a 40-25 lead at the end of the third with two free throws, followed by a three-point play that made it a 10-point game with 7:03 left. A free throw by Scribner at the 4:59 mark served as Lonoke’s only point in the fourth quarter until Brown’s strong move late.

That put momentum back on the Lady ’Rabbits side, as Himstedt caused a steal that was picked up by Neighbors on the ensuing BK possession. She converted for two, and Erin Shoemaker put it away with 47 seconds left following a Lady Bulldog miss with a basket assisted by Brown that made it 45-35. Brown and Scribner each tacked on a free throw from there to set the final score.

“That kid came to play,” Morris said. “On both ends, offense and defense. She kept Altom from getting in the lane too many times and frustrated her. She got to the basket, opened things up. I can’t say enough about her game. Seventeen points, that’s like Asiah or Cara scoring 30.”

Brown wasted no time showing her hand, putting Lonoke up 2-0 on a jumper to start the game, and a three-pointer moments later to up the advantage to five. She struck again at the 1:41 mark with a basket that gave the Lady ’Rabbits a 10-4 lead.

She hit another from long distance to start the second quarter, and senior Lauren Harper backed Brown up at the 5:13 mark with a trey that gave Lonoke a 17-13 lead.

Brown then ended the first half the same way she started it, with a strong move to the basket to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 26-19 lead at intermission.

The Lady Jackrabbits finished 15 of 35 from the floor, and 3 of 6 behind the three-point line. They were 14 of 29 at the foul line, and had nine turnovers. Bald Knob was 9 of 29 from the field and 1 of 11 on three-point attempts and had 14 turnovers for the game.

SPORTS >> Moore released from team for leaving bench

UALR sports information

UALR head coach Steve Shields announced Monday that junior guard Steven Moore has been dismissed from the men’s basketball team. Moore was suspended from Saturday’s game at North Texas for his actions during the Western Kentucky game on Feb. 19, which included walking off the court midway through the first half.

“I met with Steve this morning and have decided in the best interest of our basketball team to move forward without him. We appreciate Steve’s contributions over the last three years and wish him the best going forward,” said Shields.

“With us being in a race for the overall conference championship, we have a big week ahead of us with games against New Orleans and Louisiana-Lafayette. I know how excited our guys are about the challenge in front of us.”

Moore, the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, came out of the WKU game with 9:43 left in the first half after a disagreement with Shields.

He left the floor at the 8:10 mark and went to the locker room, only to reemerge with 6:21 on the clock and sit in the stands. He went back to the locker room with 2:52 left in the half, but came back out with the team at the start of the second half.

Moore was named preseason All-Sun Belt Conference prior to the start of the 2008-09 season, and was averaging team highs of 13.6 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Trojans.

He was suspended at the start of the season for conduct detrimental to the team, and missed UALR’s first two games. Following Saturday’s win at North Texas, the Trojans are now 4-0 in games Moore has missed this year.

A native of Little Rock and a North Pulaski graduate, Moore played in 84 games over the past three seasons with 48 starts, and averaged 9.8 points per game for his career.

As a sophomore, Moore led UALR in scoring and assists, averaging 9.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. UALR (20-7, 13-3) closes out the regular season at home this week with games against New Orleans (Feb. 26) and Louisiana-Lafayette (Feb. 28).

The Trojans are currently tied with WKU atop the Sun Belt Conference standings with a 13-3 record in league play.