Friday, February 26, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Dialogue was useful

It may not produce any relief for the 36 million Americans who are not insured for medical care or for the thousands more every week who lose their insurance because they are cut off or the premiums get too high, but the all-day health-care summit Thursday was historic. We would like to think it was a watershed event, too: one that leads to the reform that has eluded the country for a century and that produces more such national dialogues.

Would it not serve the nation well if from time to time the president and all the leaders of Congress of both parties assembled in front of the country and actually debated — not brayed about, but actually discussed — the burning issues of the time? It is even better than those regular televised confrontations in the House of Commons where the honorable members badger the prime minister about the course of national affairs.

For seven hours, the president of the United States, the former law school professor, led a roundtable discussion among 38 members of Congress, equally divided between the parties, on the intricacies of the deeply troubled medical and insurance systems that will soon consume 20 percent of the nation’s wealth production every year. President Obama demonstrated calm mastery of every facet of the systems and of the reform proposals of both parties, which made the Republicans so reluctant to engage in the seminar if it were going to be televised live nationally. But the Republicans, most of them, were impressive, too.

Few people could or would watch seven hours of lively but tedious discussion of any subject, but especially one so arcane.

You got a quick idea about why the bill passed by the House of Representatives was nearly 2,400 pages long, a favorite talking point of the Republicans. It can’t be, as they like to say in the Arkansas legislature, “a simple little ole bill.” If it is, you had better watch out.

Mr. Obama’s goal clearly was to create a national forum where the ideas of both parties would be so openly ventilated that it would dispel all the horror stories and fearful rumors about what the bills passed by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate would do: the death panels, the “government takeover of health care,” Medicare benefit cuts, the mushrooming budget deficits. Insofar as the country was watching, it should have had the desired effect.

The Republicans still used those talking points — the death panels were noticeably absent — but the president politely demolished each one. One after another, the Republican congressmen talked about the mammoth costs and huge deficits the Democratic plans would produce, but the president blunted each time by pointing out that the impartial Congressional Budget Office, which the Republicans brandished when its figures favored their ideas, had concluded that both the House and Senate plans would reduce the deficits by hundreds of billions of dollars and by trillions in the second decade and that both bills would reduce the costs of insurance and medical treatment for most people who already have it.

Democrats tried to emphasize that the forum showed that the two parties were not so far apart. It was true to only one extent.

They agreed on many problems in the present system that needed somehow to be fixed. But the summit demonstrated clearly that on the central issue, they were irretrievably far apart. The Republicans do not believe that the United States should try to extend health coverage to the 36 million people who cannot or think they cannot get insurance.

The Republican plan would try to shore up coverage for people who have it now, but the others are just out of luck. The CBO estimated that over the next 10 years the GOP plan would add up to 3 million people to the insurance company rolls by letting them shop across state lines for cheap, low-benefit policies. The Democratic plans would add more than 30 million.

Obama said he hoped the Republicans would try to find common ground and enact a comprehensive plan. If not, the Democrats will have to go it alone, he implied. The first option seems farfetched. And we are dubious that the Democrats can retain a majority to pass the more moderate Senate health plan even if the Senate goes along with the reconciliation process used so often by Republicans the past 30 years to pass controversial legislation by a simple majority.

Arkansas’ vacillating congressional delegation will be little help. Either the Senate or House bill would be a bonanza for Arkansas. No state in the nation would receive more benefits or pay less for universal coverage. Arkansas would get more federal assistance to buy private insurance than any other state, and it would benefit more than any other state in the expansion of Medicaid to cover low-wage working adults.

Every Arkansas senator and congressman knows that, too. We long for the days when Arkansas’ delegates — Wilbur Mills, J. William Fulbright, Joe T. Robinson, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor — stood tall. They look like giants today.

TOP STORY >> Lottery chief says program huge success

Leader senior staff writer

Even as the General Assembly prepared to double the amount of college Arkansas lottery scholarships this week, lottery director Ernie Passailaigue told Jacksonville Rotarians Monday that the fledgling lottery raised $28 million for scholarships in its first four months of operation.

Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bill into law Friday morning, meaning eligible students at accredited four-year Arkansas colleges or universities now qualify for $5,000 a year and those attending two-year colleges or accredited trade schools qualify for

$2,500, according to the bill the General Assembly passed Thursday, part of a $4.5 billion budget.

Both houses passed identical versions of the bill, the Senate unanimously, the House 98-2. The money is expected to help 30,000 Arkansans go to college next year.

“We’re in the business of producing scholarship money,” he said.

Passailaigue said that among the 44 U.S. lotteries, this was the quickest launch and one of the most successful startups in history.

He was hired June 29 and the first ticket was sold on Sept. 1.

He said the lottery could generate more money, but that like the people of South Carolina, where he was a lawmaker and launched the state lottery, Arkansans are conservative and principled and the state is running a low-key promotion.

When Georgia launched its lottery, it showed a flatbed truck driving through a peach orchard with dollar bills blowing off the back, and the words “Georgia’s new cash crop,” he said.

“We’re trying to thread the needle,” he said, “trying to respect the culture. A lottery has its down side and we hope the net benefit to society outweighs the negatives.”

Passailaigue said people needed to look at the lottery as entertainment, not as a source of personal income.

He said the Arkansas lottery was intentionally set up as a cash- only venture so people couldn’t easily squander money from a credit card chasing a payoff.

“You will be a net loser,” he said. “That’s how gambling works. Only play with discretionary money. Otherwise, we don’t want your money.”

He said that the state Health Department has a budget of $200,000 to help those with gambling addictions, whether in the form of a lottery, horse racing, sports betting or other forms.

“At the end of the day, adults have the freedom of choice to spend money on a lawful activity,” he said. “Most are reasonable.”

He said the gambling industry generates about $50 billion a year in revenues.

Predicated on studies in South Carolina, “About 60 percent of people will play the lottery, or at least try it,” he said. “Most of them are middle income or above.”

Most played less than weekly, $1 to $5 at a time, with 60 percent of the purchases for the scratch-off tickets, most of which payoff at the site of purchase immediately.

He said the large jackpots on the Power Ball and Mega Millions get a surge in purchases.

“We want a lot of people to play a little bit,” he said.

The lottery has paid off its $2.8 million start-up loan from the state and is now debt free, he said.

As for the concern that lottery kills retail revenues, he said that 99 percent of the money stays in state, with 24 percent going to education and about 50 percent being paid back out.

He said Oklahoma complains that it is losing $10 million to $12 million a year because Arkansas now has its own lottery. And nearly all states that touch Arkansas have lotteries. All that is money now staying home, he said.

TOP STORY >> Bart Gray a good sport as he’s roasted at fundraiser

Bob Walker (left) roasts Bart Gray Jr. (fourth from left) at the Jacksonville Senior Center roast. Also enjoying a laugh are (from left) Daniel Gray, Kim Crook and John Hardwick.

 Bart Gray Jr. responds after a long evening of being roasted and toasted. 


Leader staff writer

More than 300 people packed the Jacksonville Senior Center on Thursday night to roast longtime businessman and city leader Bart Gray Jr.

The annual roast is a major fundraiser for the senior center and the money is used to support its many activities and programs.

For Bart it was a homecoming of sorts. In his younger days the Gray family owned and operated Grayco Theater which sat on the site of the current senior center.

John Hardwick, one of the roasters, told of the time Gray, as a teenager, brought a date to the theater.

“He worked there so he knew where all the dark corners were and the dark spots in the movie, and he sat right over there,” Hardwick said, pointing to the right side of the banquet room.

“And when the time was right,” Hardwick continued, “Bart started that stretching thing and had his arm around the girl and slowly, carefully, waiting until all was dark, grabbed that girl’s Junior Mints.”

Commenting on Gray’s strong faith, Hardwick said as a first-grader, Bart listened intently to his teacher talk about whales.

“Bart’s hand went up and when the teacher called on him, he said, ‘Jonah was swallowed by a whale,”’ Hardwick said.

The teacher responded, saying the whale’s throat was too small to swallow Jonah and that it was only a Bible story. Bart insisted it was true and told the teacher that when he got to heaven he would ask Jonah. “But,” Hardwick said, “the teacher responded, ‘What if he’s not in heaven?’”

“Then you can ask him,” Bart replied.

Fellow Realtor Bob Walker said Gray was the only person he knew who could take a simple yes or no question and turn it into a 20-minute dissertation. “And then you still don’t know if the answer was yes or no,” Walker said.

Walker said Gray mentored him in the real estate business. “He’s been in it a long time. His first client was someone named Moses, and Bart’s biggest deal involved some beads, trinkets and Indians,” Walker quipped.

Walker said when he was called to roast Gray, he already had another commitment. “But then I thought, well, I can wash the cat anytime,” Walker said.

City Attorney Robert Bamburg was another roaster and took the crowd on a musical journey of Gray’s life, playing snippets of songs that describe Gray from “Blue Suede Shoes” (Bamburg said Gray actually owned a pair) to “Sweet Caroline,” a dedication to Gray’s wife, to “I Will Survive.”

Bamburg did say that Gray was getting a “tad forgetful” as he has aged and often wears a shirt that says, “If found, please return to…”

Bamburg said besides the opportunity to poke some fun and raise money for “this jewel of a senior center,” he had to say that Gray was a mentor and a true friend. “And true friends are very rare in life,” Bamburg said.

Gray’s nephew, Daniel, also got into the roasting, saying he was quick to accept the role.

“I’ve been waiting 30 years for this. In fact, when it was first talked about back in November, I lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Gray brought out the family album and showed pictures of a young Bart on the big screen, but the kicker was Bart’s college transcript, which showed that he had all A’s except in sales management. “He got a C,” Gray quipped. “A C!”

Gray said that his uncle never sees problems, only opportunities. “And I’ve had plenty of opportunities behind closed doors with him getting my backside chewed,” Gray added.

He also said that Gray was his favorite uncle on his father’s side, “and so what if he was the only male on that side?”

Bart Gray was the last to go on, having the chance for rebuttals, and rebut he did.

He said the way he was raised was that if you didn’t do something right the first time, you did it again. Then looking at Walker, he said, “And Bob, you seem to do everything twice.”

Gray called Hardwick a good friend in spite of showing him 490 different houses when the Hardwicks first came to Jacksonville and “then he buys a ‘for sale by owner’ house.”

Gray called Daniel one of his five favorite nephews. “He’s done a lot of good work in the community and in the church. Now, if we can only get him to do some good work for the company.”

The master of ceremonies for the night was Kim Crook, one of Gray’s two stepdaughters. She kiddingly said that when Gray proposed to her mother, she wasn’t sure if it was a good deal.

“But then I got thinking,” she said. “With Bart in the house it meant an extra phone line, a microwave, another vehicle and he owned a hotel with a swimming pool. Hmmm, I think this marriage will work after all.”

And it has worked for 29 years and Gray told his wife that the best was yet to come.

Jacksonville Senior Center’s mission is to improve the quality of life for senior citizens with a primary focus on the prevention and postponement of the requirement for nursing-home care. The center is staffed mostly by volunteers who logged nearly 6,450 hours of service with the center during 2009.

The senior center provides a host of activities and programs, including serving meals at the center and taking meals to seniors’ homes, transportation for seniors, phone calls and home visits to check on the health and welfare of seniors and light housekeeping for some seniors.

In 2009, the center provided 10,372 meals at the center, 41,480 home-delivered meals and responded to 10,014 transportation requests.

Other activities provided by the center staff include blood pressure and sugar testing, hearing testing, diabetic footwear fitting, health and nutrition education, scheduling doctors appointments, computer classes, day trips, holiday celebrations and in-house concerts.

TOP STORY >> One finalist left for school job

Leader senior staff writer

One of the two finalists for the Pulaski County Special School District’s superintendent’s job has accepted another position and has withdrawn from consideration.

Board president Tim Clark issued a written statement late Friday afternoon.

“I was informed this afternoon by (search firm) McPherson and Jacobson that Dr. Vashti Washington of Charleston, S.C., has withdrawn from consideration for that position because she has accepted a job offer elsewhere,” Clark wrote.

For now, that leaves interim superintendent Rob McGill as the sole finalist for the job.

Washington was due in Little Rock Monday evening for a public forum and to be re-interviewed by the school board members.

“As you know, during extensive discussions and considerations last week regarding the strengths of different applicants, the board had already narrowed our choice of candidates to only two ‘finalists,’ including Dr. Washington and our current acting Superintendent Rob McGill. We had determined through a painstaking process that these two were the top two choices from almost 20 highly qualified candidates.

“Thus, a second round of interviews for both Mr. McGill and Dr. Washington had been scheduled for this Monday, March 1, including a public meeting to let the patrons of our district meet and question both parties. Now, however, Dr. Washington has cancelled her plans and will not be coming to Little Rock.

“The board will follow through on its original plans for a public (finalists forum) on Monday at 5:30 p.m., followed by a second interview with Mr. McGill after that public forum,” Clark wrote. “We will continue with our plans for a special board meeting on
Monday evening to discuss the next steps in the hiring process.”

McGill’s interview with the board will be in executive session, according to spokesman Deborah Roush.

McGill, a 17-year veteran educator with PCSSD, was Pine Forest Elementary School principal when he was hired as the interim superintendent in March.

Clark had said previously that it was possible that the board would emerge from its interviews with Washington and McGill to vote on a recommendation and hire a superintendent.

Friday evening, he said that was still possible, but “the next step is to reconvene (the board) and decide where we go from here.”

“We could hire the only remaining candidate or ask the search company for more candidates out of the pool. We won’t know until we meet,” he said.

If the board hires McGill, it will mark the third consecutive time that the board has engaged a professional search company, then hired the interim candidate already in the job.

If that happens, “We need to think long and hard before hiring a search committee,” Clark said.

“Rob is a candidate, but he’s not guaranteed the job. It could be back to square one.”

Clark said McPherson and Jacobson were being paid about $20,000 for their services.

The board hired interim Superintendent Don Henderson after a professional search, then bought out his contract about a year later, naming James Sharpe interim superintendent. Then it hired McPherson and Jacobson, which launched a national search before the board hired Sharpe as superintendent.

The board bought ought Sharpe’s contract in March and named McGill interim superintendent.

SPORTS >> Wildcats triple fun in victory

Leader sports editor

SEARCY — Harding Academy went from the outside in.
Into the second round that is.

The Wildcats built a comfortable lead with three-pointers in the first half then held off Episcopal Collegiate in the second for a 56-41 victory in the first round of the Region 2 tournament at Riverview High School on Thursday night.

Harding Academy made five three-pointers and a free throw in the first quarter to take a 16-3 lead and was up 30-15 at halftime. Episcopal Collegiate fought back to within 34-28 when Derek Keaton hit a floater in the lane with 4:29 left in the third quarter, but Jordan Smith converted a three-point play on Harding Academy’s next possession and Episcopal would get no closer.

“The key to the game for us was to control tempo,” Harding Academy coach Brad Francis said. “And I thought we did that early in the game and got a lead and that allowed us to dictate it even more.”

Will Francis gave Harding Academy a spark when he came off the bench in the first quarter to hit the first of his three 3-pointers.

“We don’t mind those kind of shots if we’re getting them out of the offense after we’ve given the other things a chance,” Brad Francis said of the three-pointers. “I thought we hit a stretch late in the first half, early in the second, where we were taking those same shots but we were taking them quicker.”

Will Francis finished with 27 points, getting 12 on free throws.

Stevens added 12 points for Harding Academy.

Harding Academy faced Arkansas Baptist in Friday’s late game. Top seed Riverview played Fountain Lake in the early game Friday evening.

SPORTS >> It’s tails; North Pulaski draws second seed

Christian Knight (right) tries to dribble around a defender in a recent game.

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski did its part to keep pace in the race for a No. 1 seed to the state tournament.

But luck and the U.S. mint had other plans for the Falcons.

Little Rock McClellan won a coin toss between the two 5A-Southeast schools Wednesday and claimed the conference’s top spot to the state tournament that begins at Alma on Tuesday. North Pulaski, the state runner-up last year, is the No. 2 seed and will face the No. 3 seed from the West in its first game at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“That’s why I stay away from Tunica,” said Falcons coach Raymond Cooper, who called heads and watched the toss come up tails for McClellan coach Chris Threatt.

The coin toss, originally planned for Friday, was instead held at the 5A coaches meeting in White Hall. The outcome was contingent on North Pulaski beating White Hall in its season finale, a makeup game at White Hall last Thursday night.

With a loss North Pulaski would have been the 5A-Southeast’s second seed anyway.

The Falcons took care of their end of things with a 56-27 victory after beating White Hall 74-49 in a regularly scheduled game at North Pulaski on Tuesday night.

North Pulaski (23-5, 13-1) and McClellan (24-3, 13-1) split their season series, beating each other by three points each time, to wipe out the primary, head-to-head tie-breaker. With this week’s games the Falcons made sure they stayed even in the second tie-breaker — points scored against conference opponents up to 10.

The Falcons mercy-ruled White Hall at North Pulaski on Tuesday and got their better than 10-point victory over the Bulldogs last Thursday to officially end the season tied with McClellan.

“You really hate to be playing games worrying about how many points you lose by, or win by,” Cooper said. “The reality is that we don’t want to give it away. We’ve got to be focused and be conscious of it.”

Except for one second-half lapse, North Pulaski appeared focused and conscious in its final home game Tuesday night. The Falcons took a 25-16 lead after one quarter and ran away in the second period, outscoring the Bulldogs 19-3 to take a 44-19 halftime lead.

Marvin Davis made a three-pointer with 4:42 left to give North Pulaski a 74-44 lead and start the continually running clock under the mercy rule.

“You can’t defend them all,” White Hall coach Joe Stacey said of North Pulaski’s veteran roster featuring six seniors and two juniors. “They have too many. We’ve caged people this year, box and one. You can’t cage them, they’ve got too many weapons.”

Cooper’s only complaint was for what he saw as a mental lapse in the third quarter as White Hall got a few too many uncontested shots for Cooper’s liking. After White Hall’s 6-5 sophomore center Jeremy Sprinkle got a steal and a layup, Cooper pulled the five players he had on the floor for reserves and had words with his first five on the bench.

“What I was trying to drive the point home to them is those things can become habit,” Cooper said. “You get up on a team in the state tournament and those teams are not going to quit. You’ve got to keep playing through the game.”

Aaron Cooper led the Falcons with 18 points, scoring eight on free throws, while Bryan Colson scored 14 and Kryon Ware had 13. Sprinkle scored 15 for White Hall, all in the third quarter, and Cameron Stone also scored 15.

“It’s not fun. They’re extremely talented,” Stacey said. “We’ve played them and McClellan. Two peas in a pod. They look like each other. They have a lot of depth and that’s what hurt us. We have about six ballplayers.”

North Pulaski concluded its season with a stretch that included a Saturday makeup game with Sylvan Hills and Thursday’s makeup with White Hall, along with its regularly scheduled conference games.

Other than the 67-64 loss at McClellan on Feb. 16, the Falcons outscored their opponents in that span by an average 30.6 points.

SPORTS >> Lonoke keeps return to final in future plans

Leader sports writer

HEBER SPRINGS — The buzz around Lonoke’s bid for a fourth-straight state finals appearance will get louder now that the Lady Jackrabbits are officially qualified for the 4A state tournament.

And an easy qualifier it was for the Lady ’Rabbits, who gunned down an outsized Highland team 63-37 in the first round of the 4A East Regional tournament at Heber Springs High School on Wednesday.

Junior guard Cara Neighbors put an end to her recent shooting slump by scoring 26 points to lead Lonoke, while Ashleigh Himstedt added 15 points and point guard Michaela Brown scored 13.

The Lady Jackrabbits (25-5) started the game with a 17-3 run and put Highland out of contention with a 16-0 run to start the third quarter.

“Our guards carried us,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Our guards hit some big threes today. Cara Neighbors — especially early in the first quarter, Ashleigh Himstedt and Michaela in the second and third, and that got us to where we just needed to take care of the ball, and we did that.”

Although Brown and the rest of the Lonoke guards were unable to secure easy steals as they did against many of their 2-4A Conference opponents, their defensive pressure still caused a number of mental mistakes by the Lady Rebels. Highland had several early possessions end on traveling and double-dribble calls.

“That’s what we’ve got to understand,” Morris said. “The people who you just take the ball from aren’t still playing. They’re done for the year. All the teams that are left now can handle the basketball.”

Neighbors assisted Asiah Scribner on an inside shot to start the third quarter to make it 28-16 before hitting a three-pointer on the next possession. Brown followed with back-to-back three-pointers that stretched the lead to 37-16 with 5:54 left in the third.

Himstedt drove the lane and found a wide open basket for Lonoke’s next points, and Neighbors capped off the 16-0 run with a basket and free throw for a 42-18 Lady Jackrabbit lead.

“She shot the ball well,” Morris said of Neighbors. “She stayed after practice and shot some. A shooter’s got to be all about confidence. And if she’s got it going into the game, she’s going to be strong. She’s never been told not to shoot it, she’s got the green light all the time.”

The victory advanced Lonoke into Friday’s semifinal round to play Valley View, but the stress of securing a spot in next week’s 4A state tournament is over.

“We know we’re playing next week; we know we’re dancing,” Morris said. “That’s the thing. We’ve laid the tracks, and now we just need to enjoy the ride. We have to keep game planning for the people that come, keep doing things all year that’s made us successful and see how far it takes us.”

Kristina Langston led Highland with 11 points while Whitney Davis scored 10.

SPORTS >> A head coach today, a father forever

Aaron Cooper, (3) above and at right, is in his senior season at North Pulaski and in his last year playing for his father, Falcons coach Ray Cooper.

Leader sports editor

The clock dominates everything in basketball.

Whether time is running out on a close game or winding down in a mercy-ruled blowout, the ticking seconds are a reminder that, like most good things, the game must sooner or later come to an end.

Raymond Cooper can almost hear the seconds blinking off the clock these days. Each one seems to carry a certain weight.

With the 5A state tournament beginning Tuesday, Cooper can measure the time he has left to coach his senior son Aaron by a handful of games, and he hopes that, together, they can make each one, each second, count.

“Tonight it really kind of sunk in that this would be the last home game,” Ray Cooper said after North Pulaski, with Aaron scoring 18 points, beat White Hall 74-49 on Tuesday night. “So I’m kind of soaking it all in. It’s a great experience. It’s un-describable. I started thinking about the days.”

The days have included smiles and frowns, long talks on the drive home from practice and a few stony silences. It has been a period of learning for father and son, a run that included a bid for a state championship last year and, for the most part, good times.

“It’s hard for him to be a dad but it’s also good because he’s also going to push you, push you to be your best,” Aaron Coop-er said.

The Falcons, who suffered a shooting outage in last year’s 39-34 state final loss to Greene Co. Tech, are 23-5 and the 5A-Southeast’s No. 2 seed to the state tournament in Alma. While Ray Cooper has had his successes, he readily admits a coach always has room to learn and grow.

Cooper said he may have over coached his team during last year’s state tournament run and volunteered he was probably too hard on his oldest son Quinn, a former North Pulaski player now at Lyon College in Batesville.

“We’d be at home and we’re talking about basketball, we’re in the car and we’re talking about basketball,” Ray Cooper said.

“We’re in school and we’re talking about basketball. It got to the point where he didn’t want to go to the gym. And I realized that he’s got to have a break. He’s got to be a kid too and I can’t be coach all day every day, I’ve got to be Dad too.”

So Ray Cooper sat down with Quinn, a junior guard at Lyon, and worked out some ground rules. And when he needs advice on Aaron these days, Ray Cooper calls Quinn.

With Aaron, a 5-11 guard, basketball is of course the subject when he and his father are in the gym, and usually on the ride home. But after that, restrictions set in, and Ray Cooper leads a kind of double life.

“He’s two different people,” Aaron Cooper said. “When he’s at home he’s a father. When it comes to basketball he’s a coach, because I call him coach and Dad.”

“We may watch a tape sometimes at home,” Ray Cooper said. “But I don’t make him watch it. I ask him if he wants to watch it.

If he doesn’t, fine. I try to make home be home to him and school be school. At school he calls me ‘Coach.’ At home he calls me ‘Dad.’ So we’re trying to create that to where he’s not feeling pressure all the time.”

There have been nights when keeping to the home rules are harder than others, Ray Cooper said. Sometimes, after a tough loss or dissatisfying performance, it is harder to flip the switch between coach and father and his wife Treva takes over.

“So sometimes after games they’ll know that they’ll ride home with their momma so they don’t get that ride home with me,”

Cooper said. “Home is off limits.”

One thing that hasn’t been discussed much since the start of the season is a return to the state final. While the Coopers want to get back to Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Ray said they wanted to enjoy the ride this year too.

“You can’t look in the rearview mirror and go forward at the same time,” Ray said.

Ray never pushed Aaron to play basketball. The son makes that clear.

“I just love basketball, I’ve just been around it my whole life,” Aaron said.

But when he chose basketball as his main game, it was inevitable Aaron would spend a lot of time getting coaching from his father, a former Arkansas State player. Aaron is not only a fighting Falcon; he has been a member of the AAU Arkansas Wings and played for his father on the 17-and-under team, among others.

“I’ve played for him my whole life,” Aaron said.

It is almost a cliché the coach’s son will be the starting pitcher, the quarterback, the point guard. But there are no cries of nepotism at North Pulaski because Aaron, averaging 16.8 points, is one of the senior leaders and one of the hardest-working players on the team.

Ray Cooper is more than happy to step aside and let Aaron and the other seniors run the first 20 minutes of practice, and Aaron is usually among the group of players, including 5-2 guard Joe Agee, who voluntarily sticks around afterward.

“He makes it a lot easier on both of us because he is as hard a worker as I’ve ever coached,” Ray said of Aaron. “He’s there after practice without being told, him and Agee, they’ve got a group of guys and they do drills on their own. If he’s hurt I’ve got to make him sit out. He goes hard every day. That makes the other guys respect him and that makes it a whole lot easier.”

Aaron’s hard work paid off in a scholarship to Missouri State and he signed his letter of intent in November. When asked about having two sons on basketball scholarships, Ray Cooper reverted first to father mode.

“It means that I saved a lot of money,” he said with a laugh.

Turning serious, Cooper said he was gratified that his sons had achieved the opportunity most parents want for their kids.

“Most of all they get a chance to move on to a phase of their life and get an education,” Ray Cooper said. “Pro basketball is one in 10 zillion, but everyone has to go to work. Now those guys have got a chance to go to college and not be burdened by student loans and those kind of things.”

“He was happy about it,” Aaron said. “At first I was thinking about it but he told me to go on and sign, because he didn’t really want me waiting on it. That’s where I wanted to go, he liked the school and the coach.”

The final season is growing short, but there is still time before Aaron begins practice at Missouri State. There are still a few more games to play and, hopefully a championship at the end.

There are still a few more precious seconds.

“The biggest thing is, he’ll leave me as a player this year but he’ll be my son for the rest of his life,” Ray Cooper said. “And I want him to leave here with a positive feeling.”

SPORTS >> Appleby deals for Red Devils

Deshone McClure attempts a shot for Jacksonville on Tuesday against West Memphis. The Red Devils got a last-second shot from Raheem Appleby to beat the Blue Devils and stay in the hunt for the No 4. seed to the 6A state tournament.

Leader sports editor

Demarcus McVay had five blocks for West Memphis on Tuesday. Four of them were Jacksonville drive killers; the fifth ended up an assist for a dramatic Red Devil victory.

Jacksonville won 60-58 on a last-second shot by Raheem Appleby to hand West Memphis only its second 6A-East Conference setback of the season.

Senior forward T.J. Green drove the lane with three seconds left and Jacksonville trailing 58-57 when McVay slapped his shot away. But he sent the ball right into the hands of Red Devils junior guard Appleby, who launched a three-point basket just before the buzzer and caught all net to send the Devils Den into a frenzy.

It was the first time the Red Devils had led since the first quarter, as West Memphis controlled the tempo most of the way. The Blue Devils led by nine points in the third quarter before Jacksonville slowly worked itself back into contention on Red Devil senior night.

“No guts, no glory in that game,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “You’ve got to commend West Memphis. For one, they only played about five or six kids. What those kids have done up to this point is phenomenal. But I thought my little youngsters grew up tonight. They battled, they banged, they looked like they were outgunned at times, but they never stopped fighting.”

Jacksonville (10-6, 6-7) benefited from Appleby’s heads-up play at the end, but relied mostly on senior Deshone McClure’s 28-point performance to keep pace with the inside-dominant Blue Devils (16-7, 10-2).

McClure found tough points inside as well as enjoying a night of strong outside shooting that included five, three-point baskets.

“He’s been a leader on this team all year,” Joyner said. “It’s not his scoring, trust me. It’s what Deshone does during time outs, during practice and during the day. How he’s calling these kids and keeping them up and telling them what it’s like. I mean, he’s been a rock for them.”

McClure pulled Jacksonville, the defending 6A state champion, to within 58-57 with 1:17 left to play on an arching three-point shot from the right corner. The Red Devils then sent Jonathan Fitzgerald to the free-throw line and Fitzgerald missed the first shot and Tee Brown was there for a Jacksonville rebound.

That resulted in McVay blocking a jumper by Justin McCleary, but Brown came up big with another rebound with 23 seconds left on another missed Blue Devils free throw to set up the winning possession.

“We didn’t make our free throws down the stretch,” West Memphis coach Larry Bray said. “And it really hurt us. They came up with it and made a good shot. It just happened to go in. You win some, you lose some.”

McClure scored eight points in the first quarter that helped the Red Devils to a 12-6 lead. But his 17 points in the second half, including a 5 of 6 performance at the free-throw line, paved the way for a dramatic comeback.

“He’s a great ballplayer,” Bray said of McClure. “We were trying to keep him from getting the ball. He worked real hard to get it, and when he did get it he scored. He made his free-throw shots, but he also got open and penetrated and got to the basket.

You can’t knock that; that’s a great player.”

The Jacksonville underclassmen held their ground with West Memphis in the second half, especially when they rallied from a 41-32 deficit to cut it to 42-39 late in the third quarter with McClure on the bench for most of that time.

“You have to make West Memphis stay on the defensive end,” Joyner said. “They don’t want to be down there very much. In the first half, they had all those run-outs and dunks and all those things they like to do.”

Green added 16 points for Jacksonville while Appleby scored seven, but it was his three-pointer at the end that brought the student body and faculty onto the floor to celebrate.

Joyner said the winning play was nothing close to what was planned during the timeout before Jacksonville’s final possession.

“Sometimes, it comes down to someone making a basketball play,” Joyner said. “I’ve been coaching for 21 years, and I bet I can count on one hand the number of times where the play I drew up worked.”

West Memphis was still alive for a shot at the 6A-East title pending two make-up games with Little Rock Parkview, and those games also affected Jacksonville. A West Memphis sweep will give the Blue Devils the top seed and Jacksonville the No. 4 seed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TOP STORY >> Alderman chosen, sewer debated

Sherwood Municipal Judge Milas Hale III (left) swears in Rev. Timothy McMinn as the city’s newest alderman, filling the vacancy of Keith Rankin who resigned.


Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council unanimously elected Rev. Timothy McMinn as alderman at its regular meeting Monday after meeting in closed session for 35 minutes to discuss the eight candidates.

Judge Butch Hale then swore in McMinn, who will serve out the 10 months remaining in the term of Keith Rankin, who resigned in January after it came to light that he no longer lived in Sherwood.

Fearing a lawsuit, the council decided to get a second legal opinion on making major repairs with a sewer tax.

After the meeting, McMinn said that he had “no agenda or issues” that prompted him to run, but a desire to take 25 years of volunteer service to the city “to a new level.” He said that he plans to seek the position in the general election in November.

“I am honored to serve the citizens of Sherwood and the citizens of Ward 4,” McMinn said. “And I definitely am going to run for this position.”

McMinn has lived in Sherwood since 1976. He has been a church pastor for more than 30 years and is a pastor at Sylvan Hills Community Church in Sherwood. He is an electrician, an Air Force veteran and the senior chaplain for the Sherwood police.

The council returned to the murky issue of the 2010 sewer sales tax budget, which members agreed in January to table over worries that if they went through with it, the city would be sued.

Engineer Ellen Norvell has proposed spending $2.68 million for improvements to the city wastewater system and wants to use revenues collected from a 1 percent, 60-month sewer sales tax that Sherwood voters enacted 10 years ago.

Some Sherwood residents contend that the intent of the original ordinance passed in 2000 was not for repairs to the system, but only new construction and acquisition of the independent sewer districts that exist in city limits.

Tom Carpenter, attorney for the Sherwood sewer committee, says that state statute and case law are on the side of the council if they approve spending the tax revenue for repairs.

Alderman Charlie Harmon, who is also an attorney, advised fellow council members in January to table the budget ordinance to give time for further study. This time around, it was Harmon who again warned the council against approving any money for anything other than new construction until after a second legal opinion is obtained.

“I’d like a second opinion just like getting a second opinion for surgery, and this is expensive surgery,” Harmon said. “I would like another law firm’s opinion, or look at alternate funding.”

Alderman Sheila Sulcer added, “I agree with Charlie. After reading the ballot (of the 2000 measure), I am fearful of using these funds for some of these things and jeopardizing the city by leaving it open for a lawsuit. I want to hear someone say this is new construction.”

“This is not repairs,” Norvell said. “We are building new levees for the sludge lagoon basin and equalization basin.”

Harmon proposed cutting the budget down to $1.64 million, deleting funds proposed for wastewater collection-line repairs, manhole replacements and a sewer study.

He recommended paring engineering fees from $350,000 to $288,217 and leaving intact $1.25 million for treatment plant improvements and $103,000 for a sewer bond payment.

That would enable the city to go forward with the “most urgent of these expenses necessary to keep us on track with the consent decree,” Harmon said, alluding to an Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality order that the city of Sherwood complete wastewater system improvements this year or face heavy fines.

“This will be enough to see us through, but everyone needs to understand that we’ll need to find funds for the collection lines,” Norvell told the council.

Even with Norvell’s assurances, Sulcer voted against the amended budget. McMinn abstained, as he did on all matters before the council that night because, he explained afterward, he did not have enough information ahead of time to participate. Becki Vassar was absent.

It will be up to the sewer committee to recommend a law firm to the council for a second opinion on sewer sales tax revenue expenditures.

In other business, the council:

Passed an ordinance creating a position for full-time wastewater operations supervisor and one full-time wastewater equipment operator. Salaries, taxes and benefits for the two positions total $86,082.

Passed an ordinance approving issuance of bonds totaling nearly $7 million to pay off $5.3 million in short-term debt remaining from the city’s purchase of North Hills Country Club in 2008 and to provide $1.5 million for improvements to the property, which will include expansion of the parking lot and installation of a new sprinkler system.

The interest on the bonds over 30 years will range from 2 percent to 5 percent, with monthly payments averaging $36,000.

Alderman Lex “Butch” Davis, who is the chairman of the street committee, asked for Sherwood residents’ patience with pothole repair. He said that the icy weather caused patches with cold mix to come out of repaired potholes.

The more durable hot mix must await warmer weather, Davis said. He vowed that work crews will be taking care of the many potholes caused by adverse weather as soon as possible.

TOP STORY >> Cabot board agrees to boundary lines

(Click on graphic to enlarge)
The Cabot School Board has drawn up an attendance map for the new Mountain Springs Elementary School (top left).


Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board last week tentatively approved changes in boundary lines for elementary schools in anticipation of opening the new Mountain Springs Elementary.

The proposed changes in boundary maps will be available for viewing during two open houses at the administration office at 602 N. Lincoln from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9.

Boundary information also will be available in all elementary school offices today and a map will be posted on the district’s Web site at Board support of the maps for public viewing was unanimous. But the lines won’t be approved until the March meeting. After the lines are approved, the administration will allow no waivers except for the children of employees. All others will attend their assigned schools.

In anticipation of the questions parents will have about the changes, the school district provides the following information:

Who makes the final decision on boundaries?

The Cabot Board of Education makes the final decision on boundary changes within the district. This approval will be based on recommendations by administration after several months of planning and research. Boundary changes are a decision that our administration and school board takes very seriously since we understand the impact of change on our community.

Why are the boundaries being changed?

All areas of the Cabot School District are increasing in student population. This increase varies from approximately 2 percent annually in some attendance areas to 10 percent annually in other areas. When a new elementary opens, it is necessary to look at the entire district and try to give all elementary schools a proportional amount of room for growth. The state requires the district to maintain regulated class sizes.

When will the new boundaries take effect?

Boundary changes will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.

How can I find out if I live in an area that has been changed?

The district will notify parents of each K-3 student impacted by rezoning to inform them of their child's assignment for the upcoming school year. A map of the attendance zones will be posted on the district's Web site and published in local newspapers.

Will parents have the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposed boundaries before they are finalized?

Yes. Parents will have two opportunities to review the boundary changes, ask questions, and provide feedback. Administrators and school board members will be available on Tuesday, March 2, between 2 and 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, March 9, between 4 and 7:00 p.m. at the Central Administrative Offices located at 602 North Lincoln. In addition, boundary information will be available in all elementary school offices today. A map identifying proposed boundaries will be posted on the district's Web site at


Why is school capacity important when rezoning?

District leaders recognize personal relationships with students and parents are essential in maximizing the quality of a child's social, emotional, and academic experiences in the primary grades. It is difficult for staff and administrators to remain connected with students in larger schools. The Cabot School District has determined the capacity for a K-4 school should not exceed 600 students. This number has been set as a guideline and is not firm.

How does the district consider the location of new schools?

Several factors are considered before determining the location of a new school. First, the district looks at area schools that experience the greatest growth and have difficulty staying within class size standards. Second, the district identifies a parcel of land large enough to meet the state's requirements and located geographically close to the overcrowded school. Third, the district determines utility access (e.g. adequate water, sewer, gas and electricity to support a large building). If utility access is unavailable, can it be developed to an appropriate level within reason? Fourth, the district determines the accessibility for car and bus traffic.

How does the district determine the number of students living in each neighborhood?

The district uses an advanced computer program to determine the number of students in each neighborhood. The program uses Cabot School District property maps and assigns an address to the property description. The file is merged with the district’s student database. The program allows the district to highlight a house, street, or neighborhood and reports how many students are enrolled in each grade level. District administrators form boundaries based on this information.

How does the district determine student enrollment for each school?

The district identifies student enrollment based on the number of regular classrooms available in each school. Availability is determined by taking the total number of classrooms and subtracting the number of classrooms specified for other purposes (art, music, science, etc.). The new school will have 30 regular classrooms in addition to those constructed specifically for activities. Enrollment trends and projections for each school are also considered.

I live in an area that's being reassigned due to boundary changes. Does my child have a choice to remain at his/her current school?

Since boundaries are established with target numbers for each school, student choice is not an option. The district must accurately establish school enrollments for every child in the designated boundary while considering projected growth.

Can my child stay at his/her current school if he/she will be in the last year offered at that school during the 2010-2011 school year?

The district's administrators and school board wish this choice could be an option. However, all of the district's elementary schools must be in compliance with state standards. It would not be appropriate to send a student whose home is in one attendance area to another school because of boundary waivers. Students impacted by boundary changes will transition to new schools for the 2010-2011 school year.

Will boundary changes decrease the number of students per classroom?
No. Boundary changes will decrease the number of students enrolled in each building, but not the number of students assigned to each classroom. The number of students per classroom is regulated by state standards.

Will boundaries change for middle and secondary schools?

No. Middle and secondary boundaries will not change.

I live in an area that's being reassigned to a different school. I've heard there will be additional new schools built which will open after the 2010-2011 school year. Will my child be reassigned again?

An additional K-4 school will not open in the district for at least three years. It is possible your child may be reassigned at that time. The district uses the most current data available to make boundary decisions.

Is it possible some students could be assigned to three different elementary schools in five years?

Yes. Unfortunately, the need for rezoning is one aspect of the rapid growth experienced in the Cabot School District. Cabot is the only district in the state, outside of northwest Arkansas, that has experienced consistent three-digit annual growth.

TOP STORY >> Judge will set a new hearing for school case

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District’s desegregation hearing, slated to begin Thursday, has been postponed for the third time since the beginning of the year.U.S. District Judge Brian Miller is expected to set a new hearing date next week.

A person familiar with the situation said the postponement was called because of a sudden health issue with one of the lawyers involved.

A similar hearing to determine whether or not the North Little Rock School District should be considered desegregated and released from court oversight concluded last week. Miller has said he won’t rule on either petition for unitary status until he has reviewed the transcript, which could be weeks or months off, according to Sam Jones, PCSSD’s attorney for the desegregation suit.


The North Little Rock hearing lasted more than three weeks and based on that, Jones said the PCSSD hearing could take at least one and one-half weeks.

He said the length would pretty much depend on the rigor of the examination and cross-examination by the Joshua Intervenors.

The Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts have been entangled in expensive, complicated and inelegant desegregation plans for nearly three decades.

The Little Rock district has been declared unitary and excused from court oversight despite an unsuccessful appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals by the Joshua Intervenors.But now Little Rock is involving itself in the unitary petitions of the other two districts because it wants to keep as much state desegregation money coming its way for as long as possible.


Many Jacksonville residents believe the road to a stand-alone school district carved from part of PCSSD could be easier if the district is declared unitary.

An amicus brief filed just before Christmas by retired attorney Ben Rice and two other Jacksonville-area residents asked Miller to order an election to decide on a Jacksonville district if he rules PCSSD unitary and releases it from court oversight.

Both the Joshua Intervenors—representing black students and parents and also the Knight Intervenors, who represent district teachers—have expressed opposition to a declaration of unitary status and to a stand-alone Jacksonville district.

Miller had originally set Jan. 11 for a desegregation hearing for the North Little Rock School District and Jan. 25 for PCSSD, but in response to a motion filed by the Joshua Intervenors, the North Little Rock hearing was moved to Jan. 25 and the PCSSD desegregation hearing to Feb. 22.

Tuesday, the judge notified Jones that the hearing would not start Thursday and that next week he would reschedule it.


When the hearing begins, two desegregation experts hired by the state of Arkansas are expected to testify that PCSSD is in substantial compliance in the important areas of discipline and of teacher and student assignment, according to Justin Allen, chief deputy attorney general.

These two experts are at the top of Jones’ witness list—Christine Rossell and David Armor.

Rossell, a Boston University professor of political science, is an expert on discipline.

“The school district has done an extraordinary job in creating a clear and fair district-wide discipline management plan and a parent/student handbook for student conduct and discipline for both elementary and secondary schools,” Rossell has written.

Through statistical analysis, Rossell says the district has performed in reducing “disproportionality” of discipline between Black students and whites, better than most districts that have been granted unitary status.

“Rossell has some history with the case,” Jones said. “Little Rock (School District) consulted with her for about a decade.”

Armor, a George Mason University professor of public policy in Virginia, will give expert testimony to evaluate racial balance and certified staffing.

“In my opinion the PCSSD has adopted and implemented a desegregation plan that has been effective in meeting the requirements of unitary status that courts have established in the areas of student and staff assignment,” Armor wrote in the introduction of a 14- page report that will be one of 85 exhibits introduced by PCSSD.

Armor says he has testified as an expert witness in more than 30 school desegregation cases.

“Generally, a school board must implement a desegregation plan in good faith that eliminates the vestiges of past discrimination to the extent practicable, and it must not adopt new policies or practices that discriminate on the basis of race,” he wrote.


Others on the district’s list of 21 witnesses and 85 exhibits include Brenda Bowles, PCSSD assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services, who will testify on compliance with Plan 2000, the existing desegregation plan; Robert Clowers, the PCSSD director of education accountability; Jerry Holder, director of plant planning; Gary Beck, acting executive director of support services and Marty Alberg, director of the Center for Research in Educational Policy at the University of Memphis.

Others on the PCSSD witness list include:

Laura Shirely, PCSSD director of talented and gifted; John McCraney, coordinator of multi-cultural education; Jenny Dunn, acting director of special education; Debbie Coley, PCSSD assistant superintendent for human resources; Margie Powell, chief of the office of desegregation monitors, and June Elliott, deputy superintendent for learning services.

The Joshua Intervenors, who oppose the petition for unitary status, have submitted a witness list of at least 22 people, not including a decade’s worth of school board members.


On the Joshua Intervenors list of witnesses are Bowles and Clowers, interim PCSSD Super-intendent Rob McGill, former Superintendent Don Henderson, Steve Ross who was involved in Plan 2000, Rizelle Aaron of the Jacksonville NAACP, Jacksonville Middle School principal Veronica Perkins, Mills High School principal Michael Nellums; Sandra Roy, executive director of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and of the Pulaski Association of Support Staff, and current and former PCSSD school board members, dating back to 2000.

TOP STORY >> Hank’s ‘Last Ride’

The cast and crew of “Last Ride,” a movie about Hank Williams, film a scene at an old gas station in Sherwood.

Story by
Nancy Dockter
Photos by David Scolli

The quaint and crumbling former filling station that sits in the middle of the intersection of Round Top and Trammel roads in Sherwood was reclaimed to a former glory when it was used Sunday and Monday as a set for a movie about the last days in the life of singer-songwriter Hank Williams Sr.

Williams is famous for a raft of country-music classics, including, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “I Am So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Honky-Tonk Blues.” He died at age 29.

The 1930s-vintage gas station with the red-turret roof, though badly in need of repair, seemed the perfect location for a few night scenes in the movie, which is tentatively titled “The Last Ride” and is being directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomason.

It stars Henry Thomas (who as a boy starred in “E.T.”) as Williams.

The restoration was so realistic, with an antique gas pump placed there for the shooting, that several motorists stopped to get gasoline. They were told they had wandered into a movie set.

A rumor circulated on the set Sunday night that the station is in danger of being demolished. Thomason’s comment on that prospect was, “Let’s save this building!”

The rumor had been triggered by a bright-red citation that Sherwood code enforcement officer Scott Kelley had posted last week on a door-frame of the station. It called the building “dilapidated” and threatened a lien in county circuit court if repairs weren’t made.

The little white-stucco building with the red “witch hat” roof was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. It is one of the few remaining examples in the state of the whimsical architectural style often chosen in the early 1900s by smaller oil companies to attract customers.

The station on Round Top was built by North Little Rock developer Justin Matthews for Pierce Oil and opened in 1936. For several decades it was a popular way station for travelers between Little Rock and St. Louis.

All that changed with the advent of interstate highways and the station closed in 1972. Sometime after that, the building was given to the city of Sherwood.

There has been some debate about what to do about the historic structure, which needs an overhaul. The roof is a patchwork of shingles, the windows are broken out and what appears to be remains of a weather vane tilts at a crazy angle.

Despite all that, set artists swooped in Friday to clean up the station – the floor was littered with trash and glass – and work their magic, so that by nightfall Sunday, the east façade looked convincingly like a working gas station of a bygone era.

Filming began after dark on Sunday and wrapped up at 2 a.m. Monday.

The movie, based in fact, is about Williams as he travels from Knoxville, Tenn., to perform in Canton, Ohio. Winter weather has forced him to cancel a flight and hire a chauffeur, a 17-year-old named Silas.

Williams, who was in the grip of addiction to alcohol and painkillers, spent most of the trip collapsed in the back seat of his new, robin’s-egg blue Cadillac. He died quietly along the way, apparently of a heart attack. He was pronounced dead on Jan. 1, 1953, in Oak Hill, West Va.

“This is a character-driven drama and the intimate story about a 17-year-old driving a man who died so young and had accomplished so much,” explained Tim Jackson, co-producer with Thomason.

The script creators of “The Last Ride” are Howie Klausner and Dub Cornett. Klausner wrote “Space Cowboys” for Clint Eastwood.

The story was an immediate hit with Thomason, according to Jackson.

“Harry read it and said, ‘I want to direct this,’” Jackson said. “Everybody who reads it loves it and wants to be involved.”

The scenes filmed at Round Top include several of the Williams character and his young chauffeur, Silas, and some of Silas and his love interest, Wanda.

Silas is played by Jesse James, who starred in “Fly Boys.” Wanda is played by Kaley Cuoco, who as a teenager starred with John Ritter in the television series, “Eight Simple Rules.”

Robert Perry of Sherwood, a drama major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was stand-in for James. Perry, who aspires to a Hollywood career, said he was “very grateful” to have a part in the production.

Mozark Productions is owned by Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. The couple is best known for two popular sitcoms, “Evening Shade” and “Designing Women,” but they have also made feature and documentary films, including

“The Day It Came to Earth” and “The Hunting of the President.”

Over the years, Thomason has been a mentor to Jackson and his business partner, Josh Miller, who own Category One Entertainment Group, a Little Rock-based production company for film and television.

Jackson says work on “The Last Ride” should wrap up in September.

“Expect to see it in theaters in early 2011,” Jackson said.

Filming in central Arkansas started last week. “Ninety percent of the movie definitely will be shot in Arkansas,” said Jackson.

Locations include Benton, Little Rock, and several spots in Scott including the Plantation Agriculture Museum and the elementary school (made to look like an airport). Later this week, scenes set in Chattanooga, Tn., will be shot in downtown North Little Rock.

“We want to say that the city of Sherwood has been very helpful, and that all the powers that be in all the cities have been really great,” Jackson said.

Sherwood Alderman Becki Vassar, who recently announced her interest in seeking a grant and community support for renovating the building, was delighted when she got the news about the station being used as a movie set.

“I am tickled to death about the movie and the publicity,” Vassar said, “This might be the little ‘umph’ we need to get it started. It would be tragic to have it fall down.”

Kelley said he put the citation on the station door to draw attention to the structure and also to let passers-by know that the city is aware of the problems needing to be addressed.

Kelley said finding “vulgar graffiti” spray-painted on the building last week is what prompted his action.

“It hurt my feelings that someone would do that,” Kelley said. “The Round Top gas station has a lot of historic value. I take a lot of pride in it. I have pictures of kinfolk standing there since as early as 1946.

“I wanted to make the city aware that if they want to keep this history alive that they need to do something.

“The structure is dilapidated. Termites have eaten up several studs on the north side. We have to deal with it now or lose it forever.”

At the council meeting Monday, Alderman Sheila Sulcer announced that the moviemaking had already inspired several offers of cash and in-kind contributions to the effort.

Photographer David Scolli also contributed to this story.

EDITORIAL >> Capitol follies

You can never underestimate the public spiritedness of the average politician in an election year. If self-interest clashes with the public good, look out public.

The state is in dire straits, too little revenue chasing expanding needs. Trying to plug holes in the budget, Gov. Beebe proposed a patchwork of fund transfers to protect the schools, counties, prisons and medical services to the needy. He wanted to take $10 million from the slush fund that legislators reserve for vote-getting projects back home in their districts and use the money for desperate state needs. If revenues pick up by the end of the year, he would restore the money to the lawmakers.

But the Joint Budget Committee would have none of it. That money reminds voters back home that their lawmaker is getting lagniappe for them and they could not take a chance on losing it. Instead, the committee voted to take most of the money from perilously strapped funds regardless of the risk to solvency. Richard Weiss, the state’s longtime chief fiscal officer, warned that they were “pushing the envelope.” Sen. Jim Luker of Wynne, sometimes the lone sane voice, told his colleagues they were begging for trouble. He could not understand why they were so anxious about losing their little pork projects.

We thought this was resolved a couple of years ago when Mike Wilson of Jacksonville took them to court and won a decision that the individual earmarks were unconstitutional and a misuse of the taxpayers’ money. They were taxpayer-funded re-election slush funds and violated the prohibition against local and special acts. We should have known they would find a way around a prudent but inconvenient law. You can’t write a law that will compel politicians to put the public interest first.

EDITORIAL >> Halter doesn’t need a staff

A meanly conceived idea is not necessarily a bad one. Take state Rep. Keith Ingram’s idea of eliminating three of the five jobs in the office of the lieutenant governor, which would leave the alternate governor with a single assistant. (The legislature’s Joint Budget Committee didn’t take it.)

Had he searched, Ingram could have found more needless jobs in the government than the lieutenant governor’s scheduler, liaison and communications director. And he could have found agencies that needed those three jobs and more to get the job done. Child welfare services comes to mind.

Ingram was not concerned with waste but with embarrassing Bill Halter, the lieutenant governor, who is supposed to be contemplating a race against U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary. Ingram, who supports Lincoln, tried to amend Halter’s appropriation to give him a single employee, which had the salutary effect of getting some attention in the media and planting the idea that Halter is a spendthrift. Government waste is the catchphrase of the season.

We think Halter might make a pretty good senator in spite of his paternity of the state lottery, which may be the worst idea of this generation. But that would be immaterial at any other time. As spiteful and petty as Ingram’s little artifice was, he was right. The lieutenant governor doesn’t need a staff at all. He has two functions under the Constitution, and one of them is so archaic that one day we will be rid of it.

The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate for some 45 days a year if he wants to — the Senate does not miss him in his absence — and gets to be governor when the real governor steps over the border. The latter duty is a relic of horse-and-buggy days when there was no one to call out the militia in an emergency if the governor had vanished to the far reaches.

The president of the United States is still the president if he is in Malaysia, but if the governor of Arkansas dines in Memphis, the lieutenant governor is invested with his powers for a few hours. When that happens, the governor’s staff and all the forces of government are his.

Mike Huckabee began to build the office staff when he was lieutenant governor, and Win Paul Rockefeller inflated it further.

The lieutenant governor needed to feel important. We remember when Lt. Gov. Joe Purcell had a part-time secretary and she twiddled her thumbs.

Once the election season has passed and perhaps a new lieutenant governor is to be sworn in, Ingram or someone should renew the idea. Then it could rest on its merits.

SPORTS >> Cabot sets new marks in state run

Ariel Voskamp set a Cabot school record in the pole vault at the state indoor.


Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers had a few firsts and set a slew of school records at the state large-school indoor track and field championships at the Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville on Saturday.

UALR signee Brendon Tucker won the boys 1,600 meters in a school record 4:27.62 while Ariel Voskamp cleared 12 feet, 1 inch to win the girls pole vault and set a Cabot record and Sabrina Antimo won the 200 meter dash in a school record 26.81 seconds.

The girls finished third overall out of 23 teams and the boys were fifth out of 24.

Antimo was also second in the long jump at 16-8, second in the triple jump (35-6) and third in the 60-meter dash in 8.19 seconds. Antimo set school records in the triple jump and the 60 meters.

Antimo helped the 1,600-meter relay team to a seventh-place finish and a new Cabot indoor record of 4:22.92 and Joe Bryant tied the Cabot 400-meter dash record in 51.80 seconds.

In other field events, T.J. Bertrand was second with a shot put of 50-6½; Brittany Briswalter took fifth in the girls shot (33-2) and Julia Gairhan was seventh in the pole vault.

Tucker was sixth in the boys 3,200-meter run at 9:57.99, EmKay Myers was eighth in the 1,600 meters and Voskamp was sixth in the 60-meter girls hurdles in 9.84 seconds.

In the relays, the 3,200-meter team of Colton Johnson, Zach White, Chris Dunbar and Phillip Treat took second in 8:26.49 and the 1,600-meter team of Joe and Powell Bryant, Clint Cates and John Wheatley took third in 3:34.00.

Fayettevile’s boys won the team competition with 86 points, Fort Smith Southside had 49 points to finish second, Bentonville (46 points) was third and Bryant (45) was fourth. Cabot scored 42 points for fifth.

Bentonville’s girls scored 105 points to take first and Fayetteville scored 79 points for second. Cabot took third with 54 points while Camden Fairview scored 46 points to finish fourth and Springdale Har-Ber rounded out the top five with 44 points to finish fifth.

SPORTS >> Scribner is weekend’s big warrior

Leader sports writer

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits show no sign of slowing down.

The Lady ’Rabbits backed up their unbeaten run through the 2-4A Conference regular season with a sweep of the district tournament at Stuttgart over the weekend.

Lonoke (24-5) sent tourney host Stuttgart packing in the semifinals with a 43-29 victory Friday and claimed its second straight district championship the following day by beating Clinton 62-44.

Lady Jackrabbits senior post player and future UALR Trojan Asiah Scribner was a standout both nights with 15 points against Stuttgart and a 25-point, 12-rebound performance against Clinton in the finals on Saturday.

“Asiah just dominated in the post,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “They played behind her, and she took it one-on-one to the basket. Our guard play was also strong, which we needed once they started coming back on us. They made three threes in the fourth quarter and had six for the game.”

Senior guard Ashleigh Himstedt also had a consistent weekend for the Lady ’Rabbits with 16 points against Stuttgart and 12 against Clinton. Lonoke was aided by another double-digit performance Saturday when junior Cara Neighbors began to shake off a recent slump with 15 points.

“Even then, we’re talking about mostly lay-ups,” Morris said of Neighbors’ late-season funk. “Shooters are going to go through that, they just have to keep shooting. And that’s what she has to do, is keep shooting and keep a good mental attitude. The thing is, when you have four scorers, one of them can have an off night and you can still be successful.”


The old coaches’ saying that it is hard to beat a team three times in a row proved true for Abundant Life in the finals of the 2A District 5 tournament at White County Central on Saturday.

The Owls beat Conway St. Joseph twice during their unbeaten, regular-season run through the 5-2A North Conference, but the Bulldogs got the last laugh with a 63-56 victory in the district finals.

Senior post player Garrett Southerland led the Owls with 19 points, while point guard Mike Stramiello scored 16.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and stretched that to 29-20 at the half. Abundant Life (29-5) began to close the gap in the third quarter until a seven-point outburst by St. Joe’s Tyler Jones in the closing seconds put the Bulldogs up 45-33 and forced the Owls to try and play catchup in the final period.

“That killed us,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “Same kid, just bam, bam, bam. We missed a bunch of threes that we normally make. When we beat them at their place, we actually got down by seven and hit three threes in a row. We had some of the same looks in this one and just couldn’t get them to fall.”

Jones went on to lead St. Joe with 15 points.

White County Central will also be the site of the 2A East Region tournament this week. The Owls will be the No. 2 seed out of the 5-North and will play 6-2A No. 3 seed Clarendon on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs will be the 5-North No. 1 seed and will face 6-2A No. 4 seed Augusta today at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Riverview beats rival in district

Tyler Colvin handles the ball against Harding Academy in regional action.


Leader sports writer

ROSE BUD — Harding Academy stuck around just enough to keep Riverview honest in the 2-3A District tournament final on Friday night at Rambler Arena.

Riverview beat Harding Academy 56-49 and dominated the first half just as it had in the two previous meetings between the conference and cross-town rivals, though the Wildcats attempted yet another of their furious comebacks in the second half.

They were successful at cutting into the Raiders’ lead, which was 20 points in the first half, but ultimately fell short.

“At the end of the third, we just rushed some shots,” Raiders coach Russell Stumpenhous said. “We thought it was all going to be easy and thought they were going to lay down. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight. I give credit to them — it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row.”

Raiders junior post player D.J. Teague imposed his will inside early against the Wildcats, taking advantage of his four-inch height advantage on Harding Academy’s Daniel Stevens. Teague got a dunk in the first two minutes of the first quarter and went on to score 12 points.

“He was able to get in good position,” Stumpenhous said. “We were able to give him the ball, and some of his seals were really working early. Later on, he kind of got a little flatter, and they started being a little more physical with him. The refs weren’t necessarily cooperating on that end.”

Junior guard Taylor Smith took over for Riverview (24-5) once Teague began to draw extra attention. Smith closed the first quarter with a pair of three-point baskets for six of his team-high 15 points.

Freshman Will Francis came alive for the Wildcats (16-7) in the second quarter with six of his game-high 18 points. But after Francis, there was not much else going on offensively for Harding Academy in the first half.

Teague got back in the mix to open the third quarter while Keanan Lee, Jordan Perry and Tyler Colvin each added a three-pointer as the Raiders pulled away to a 42-22 lead with 2:18 left in the period.

But when both teams reached the double bonus in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, the remainder of the game was played out at the free-throw line. There were 11 trips to the line in all, with the Raiders making eight.

Riverview went 10 of 17 at the line in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the difference after a three-pointer by Francis with 37 seconds left and a three-pointer by Raymond Dailey at the buzzer.

“We knew it was going to be tooth and nail in parts, but we were hoping it was going to be early and not late,” Stumpenhous said. “But it ended up being late and not early. But you take a win however it is.”

Colvin added 14 points and Perry scored 10 for Riverview. For Harding Academy, Jordan Smith scored 10 points.

The victory completed a 14-game sweep of the conference regular season and the district tournament for Riverview, but Stumpenhous says there is still work to do with regionals and state beginning.

“You want to be playing your best basketball right now, but I still feel like we’ve got a little bit of room for improvement,” Stumpenhous said. “There are some inconsistencies that we have at times. Maybe it’s just a lack of focus. It’s kind of hard to put your thumb down when you’re winning. You don’t want to critique too much, but at the same time, you don’t want to let things go.”

Riverview will be the No. 1 seed and the host for the 3A Region tournament this week. The Raiders will open the boys side of the bracket against 5-3A No. 4 seed Jessieville today at 5:30 p.m. while the Wildcats will be the No. 2 seed and play 5-3A No. 3 seed Episcopal on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Panthers fan tourney flames

Cabot’s Darin Jones makes a move between defenders in a recent Panthers game. Jones hit the go-ahead basket against Bryant on Friday.


Leader sports editor

There were no head coaches in sight when Cabot and Bryant tipped off in a 7A-Central boys game at Cabot on Friday.

Not that there wasn’t a lot of coaching to be done.

Cabot, led by assistant Mike Tucker, denied Bryant a trip to the state tournament and enhanced its own chances with a 37-33 victory.

Panthers junior Darin Jones hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 2:53 left to break a 31-31 tie, and Cabot stayed in front to eliminate Bryant, led by interim coach Ron Marvel, from postseason contention.

Tucker was filling in for suspended Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, who by rules had to sit out because he drew two technical fouls and an automatic ejection in the Panthers’ previous game at Little Rock Central.

But Tucker is a veteran who spent 19 years as head coach of North Little Rock’s girls.

“I’ve been at this a long time,” Tucker said. “I’ve coached in a lot of basketball games. And I’m real proud of them tonight; they did an excellent job. Especially when you’ve got a guy like coach Marvel, who is a legend in his own self, coaching over there.”

Marvel, the long-time women’s coach at Central Arkansas University, stepped in this season when the Bryant job became vacant and the school didn’t have time to mount a search.

“Tonight was for the trip to the state tournament obviously,” Marvel said after the Hornets fell to 6-16, 2-10. “If they beat us we’re eliminated. That put them in a pretty good position to go, and they will go, so it was a big game.

“We didn’t execute real well. We played hard; we stayed in the ballgame obviously. We had a couple chances to tie the ballgame up, couldn’t knock the shot down. It’s kind of been the story of our season.”

While Bryant will miss the state tournament, Cabot (10-13, 4-8) kept its postseason hopes alive.

“That gives us four,” Tucker said. “One more victory would assure us of being in the state tournament. But we had to win tonight.”

Cabot led 31-25 on Alex Baker’s baseline jumper with 5:31 left in the game, but after the Panthers threw it away on a bad pass, Brandon Parish made a three-pointer from the right wing with 4:00 to go, and he tied it with another three-pointer on the Hornets’ next possession.

Jones hit his go-ahead shot for Cabot, but Parish, the only Bryant player to score in the fourth quarter, came back with a jumper from the top of the key to pull the Hornets within 34-33 with 1:20 to go.

K-Ron Lairy fouled Baker, who made both free throws for the 36-33 lead with 26.3 seconds left.

Cabot’s Christian Armstrong missed a free throw after a Parish foul, and then Cabot fouled to force Bryant to inbound the ball with 7.3 seconds left. Dontay Renuard’s three-pointer caromed out and Jones got the rebound, then made a free throw with 2.6 seconds left for the final margin.

“We spread the floor on them a little bit and we were closer to the bonus situation than they were and we had some fouls to give,” Tucker said of his late-game strategy. “I felt like if we could spread the floor and get some opportunities to get into the lane that we could pick up some fouls.”

“It just came down to mistakes,” Marvel said. “We made some mistakes at crucial times. It just happened to get us at the wrong time.”

Marvel praised his players for the way they responded to him this season and promised Bryant would play out its remaining games with effort.

“The kids adjusted fine and I’ve enjoyed the kids,” Marvel said. “They’ve been a pleasure to work with. We’ve got two more ballgames and we’re going to go play those and I told them if we lost them all we’re going to try to win the last one so we’re still going to try to win the next one.”

Jones made four three-pointers and got the rest of his points on free throws to finish with 19. Parish led Bryant with 16 points, with four coming on three-pointers.

The biggest lead for either team was six points. Bryant was up 19-13 in the second quarter and took a 20-16 halftime lead and Cabot held its 31-25 lead before Bryant fought back to tie in the fourth quarter.

“When you’re at home you’ve got to control the tempo, which we did,” Tucker said. “We kept the game at a low score and tried to keep the last possession, tried to keep the ball in our hands to the end.”

SPORTS >> Wrestlers grab state championships

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski came home with two individual medals and Cabot and Beebe grabbed one each at the state wrestling tournament at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock on Saturday.

North Pulaski’s Jonathan Buzzitta pinned Gentry’s Barney Cheney at the 3:40 mark to win the 125-pound classification in the small school, 1A-5A division and the Falcons’ A.J. Stephens defeated Gentry’s Shawn Johnson by a 19-4 technical fall in the 171-pound class.

Beebe’s David Day, top seed in the 1A-5A 160-pound class, beat Valley View’s Kyle Adams 16-12 in the finals. Cabot 112-pounder Tyler Kurtz, wrestling in the large-school, 6A-7A division, defeated Searcy’s Devonte Miller on points, 13-12.

North Pulaski, last year’s state runner-up in the 1A-5A division, this year sent a team of 14 and four No. 1 seeds including Buzzitta, Stephens, 140-pounder Tony Mongno and 119-pounder Jacob McClain.

McClain beat Ashdown’s Cody Ford by technical fall, 16-0, in the third-place finals and Gentry’s Kolby Rankin beat Mongno 6-0 in the finals.

In other finals action, top seed Connor Frederick, of Little Rock Christian, pinned North Pulaski’s Mariah Mongno, the No. 2 seed, at the 2:40 mark for a victory in the 103-pound match. No. 1 seed Nicholas Kurfess, of Little Rock Christian, pinned
Beebe’s Al Sharp at the 1:30 mark for a victory in the 112-pound class.

In the 134-pound small-school final, top seed Andrea Johnson, of the Little Rock School for the Blind, pinned Beebe’s Mykel Bain at the 2:26 mark. Gentry’s Robert Henderson, top seed in the 189-pound class, outpointed North Pulaski’s Vinnie Osmun 4-1.

In the 6A-7A, 285-pound class, Brad Ball, of Rogers Heritage, beat Searcy’s Patrick Bingham 11-5.

SPORTS >> Lady Wildcats standing tall

Harding Academy point guard Molly Koch drives inside for a shot against England in the 2-3A District final on Friday at Rose Bud. Koch scored a season-high 13 points against the Lady Lions.


Leader sports writer

ROSE BUD — Getting big resulted in a big victory for Harding Academy on Friday at Rambler Arena.

The Lady Wildcats lost their two previous 2-3A Conference matchups with the England Lady Lions, but came up big, literally, when it counted most in the district finals with a 59-57 triumph to earn the No. 1 seed for this week’s 3A Region 2 tournament at Riverview.

England overcame a six-point, fourth-quarter deficit to get within 58-57 in the final two minutes. McKenzie Miller made a free throw with 26 seconds left and Janeka Watkins missed a last-second shot for England as Harding Academy held on.

The Lady Wildcats take on 5-3A No. 4 seed Bauxite in the regional today at 4 p.m.

Harding Academy senior post players Megan Pack, 5-11, and Ariel English, 6-1, alternated frequently through the first half, but both graced the court at the same time two minutes into the third quarter and remained a package deal for the duration.

That took away second-chance opportunities for the Lady Lions (24-4), and allowed the Lady Wildcats (18-8) to control the interior.

“From the middle of the third quarter on, we went to two post kids,” Lady Wildcats coach Rusty Garner said. “We were getting beat inside; getting killed in the paint. We couldn’t seem to grab a rebound. I thought Ariel English and Megan Pack both rebounded it really well.”

Pack scored 12 points inside, while English pulled down four critical defensive rebounds in the second half and found open teammates for three assists. English also pulled Harding Academy even with England on a pair of inside baskets in the final minute of the third quarter, including a third-attempt shot with 15 seconds left to make it 42-42.

The Lady Wildcats got the biggest lead of the game for either team with 2:38 left to play when Pack hit a pair of free throws to make it 56-50, but Lady Lions sophomore guard Jameka Watkins, one of England’s talented Watkins twins, hit two foul shots and followed that with a jumper in the lane to cut it to two.

Molly Koch then went the length of the court on the inbound for Harding Academy to score two of her season-high 13 points, but a three-pointer by Janeka Watkins cut it to 58-57 with 1:24 left.

The Lady Wildcats kept possession for close to a minute before McKenzie Miller was sent to the free-throw line with 26 seconds left. Miller hit the first free throw but missed the second and Tanesha Wiley grabbed the rebound for England.

The Lady Lions put the ball in Janeka Watkins’ hands for their last shot, but she burned valuable time on the perimeter looking for openings and could not shake pressure from Koch. That resulted in an off-balance shot that fell short off the rim and into Pack’s hands as the buzzer sounded.

“Really, we caught a break, because they were out of timeouts,” Garner said. “Janeka’s up top with the ball, and I think she kind of panicked with eight seconds left. I saw her look up, and it was late in the clock. I thought Molly Koch for us defensively did a good job of defending her, because that girl’s going to score.”

Harding Academy senior Anna Bangs was another key inside for the Lady Wildcats. Bangs led all scorers with 25 points, including six straight points starting with 2:05 left in the third quarter that cut England’s lead to 40-38.

“It validates that we’re who we hoped we were,” Garner said. “We played them in early January at home and got beat by three.

We missed a bunch of free throws, thought we should have beaten them. Went to England, got destroyed, so we had it in the back of our mind that we thought we could beat those guys. Now we can walk out of here and say that now we know on a good night, we can play with England.”

Janeka Watkins led England with 18 points and Wiley had 12.

The Lady Lions are the No. 2 seed out of District 2 and will play 5-3A No. 3 seed Mayflower Thursday at 7 p.m.

SPORTS >> Area teams advance, fall in district games

Harding Academy senior Megan Pack scored 11 points against Rose Bud.


Leader sports writer

Double-double hardly begins to describe Lonoke senior post player Asiah Scribner’s effort, especially rebounding, during the Lady Jackrabbits’ 43-29 semifinal victory over host Stuttgart in the 2-4A district tournament Thursday.

Scribner grabbed 19 rebounds, most of them defensive, and scored 14 points, as Lonoke (23-5), already qualified for regionals, advanced to Friday’s final round against Clinton.

Scribner’s rebounding work gave the Lady Ricebirds few second-chance opportunities and helped the Lady ’Rabbits control the tempo despite early foul trouble that limited playing time for leading scorer Cara Neighbors.

“Their guards are known for shooting the deep three,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “So we were fortunate that a lot of them didn’t fall, and Asiah was there to grab some long rebounds, and she also got some put-backs from her rebounds on the offensive side.”
Ashleigh Himstedt added 16 points for Lonoke.

2-4A boys

Lonoke will move on to regionals courtesy of a 31-29 victory over Southside Batesville in the first round of the 2-4A district tournament at Stuttgart on Wednesday.

But the Jackrabbits suffered a 59-46 loss to Heber Springs in Thursday’s semifinal round. It was the Jackrabbits’ second loss to the Panthers in six days.

T.J. Scott led the Jackrabbits (12-11) with 13 points Thursday. Lonoke battled to a 30-30 tie at the half, but was outscored 18-4 in the third quarter.

“We talked about defensive transition and picking our guys up early,” Jackrabbits coach Dean Campbell said. “And for the most part, we did that in the first half. But we got behind and started taking quick shots in the third quarter, and that usually leads to points on the other side.”

2-3A boys

A strong defensive effort helped Harding Academy beat 2-3A district tourney hosts Rose Bud 59-44 in the semifinals on Thursday. The Wildcats (16-6) entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, while the Ramblers were No. 3.

Daniel Stevens led Harding Academy with 18 points, and was 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. Jordan Smith and freshman Will Francis each scored 12 points.

“The keys were that we took care of the ball and didn’t give them turnovers that led to easy baskets,” Wildcats coach Brad Francis said. “Then we defended them well.”


After an unbeaten run through the 2-3A Conference in the regular season, top seed Riverview got more than it bargained for in the semifinals matchup with No. 5 Barton in the 2-3A district tournament at Rose Bud High School on Thursday.

Senior Jordan Perry hit a 25-footer at the buzzer to help the Raiders secure a 59-56 victory, a trip to the finals and a fourth meeting with cross-town rival Harding Academy.

The Bears kept themselves in the game with solid outside shooting that included eight, three-point baskets from five different players.

“Any win is a good thing,” Raiders coach Russell Stump-enhous said. “Do I wish we won every game by 30 points? Sure, it makes my job a lot easier, but we’ve managed a lot of close games this year. When you go through the conference 12-0, you have a big target on your back.”

Taylor Smith led the Raiders (23-5) with 19 points while Perry had 14.

2-3A girls

After an uneventful first round, Harding Academy provided the drama in the 2-3A district tournament semifinals at Rambler Arena against host Rose Bud Thursday.

Anna Bangs hit a buzzer-beating turnaround shot in the lane for a 48-47 overtime victory that sent the Lady Wildcats to Friday’s championship with top seed England.

Harding Academy (17-8) found itself trailing 27-20 at the end of the third quarter but outscored Rose Bud 21-14 in the final period to tie the game 41-41 at the end of regulation.

“We stole that one for sure,” Lady Wildcats coach Rusty Garner said. “I haven’t had a legitimate buzzer-beater win since I’ve been here, so the kids were really excited to get that one.”

The Lady Wildcats, who entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, easily advanced in the first round against No. 6 seed Brinkley in a mercy-ruled 53-24 rout. Bangs led Harding Academy with 14 points while senior post player Megan Pack scored 11 points.


The Lady Raiders’ season ended at the hands of Pangburn, which won 53-46 in the first round of the 2-3A district tournament at Rose Bud High School on Tuesday.

Riverview sent Pangburn to the free-throw line in the late going to stop the clock, but the Lady Tigers hit six consecutive free throws in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

Queen Banks led the Lady Raiders with 21 points while Brianna Harris scored 10.

5-2A North

Bigelow ended the Abundant Life Lady Owls’ season with a 48-46 overtime victory in the first round of the 5-2A North district tournament Thursday.

Carmyn Sharp led the Lady Owls with 12 points while Sidney Venus scored 11.

With the loss, the Lady Owls (18-13) did not qualify for regionals, which means no repeat trip to the 2A state tournament after they qualified for the first time last season.

But the good news for Abundant Life is, with the exception of senior post player Erin Miller, the Lady Owls will return all of their key players next season, including Sharp and Venus.

“We had a good year, 18 wins is a good amount, and it’s more than a lot of teams have,” Lady Owls coach Justin Moseley said. “We had a couple of games that we would love to have back, but seven of those losses were against ranked teams. We have a lot coming back next year, and we have a good group of ninth graders coming in.”

The Abundant Life boys earned the No. 1 seed in their bracket and did not play until Friday night.