Friday, January 14, 2011

EDITORIAL >How do we grow?

Warren Stephens, the head of the financial powerhouse Stephens, Inc., outlined a new growth strategy—new in these parts anyway—for Arkansas’ municipal leaders. They should go to states that are in unusually deep distress in this long economic slump and pick off some big companies.

Stephens, who inherited one of the biggest investment banks off Wall Street from his father and uncle, said Arkansas should start recruiting businesses in Illinois to move their headquarters to Arkansas. He noted that Texas was doing that in California.

Illinois and California have grave budget problems—so does Texas, for that matter—and are slashing state spending and raising taxes to get their budgets in balance. The governor of Wisconsin this week invited Illinois businesses to come to Wisconsin to avoid the higher taxes that Illinois is about to levy to balance its budget.

Stephens’ strategy sounds a little ghoulish, feeding on the misery of people in other states, but that has become what economic development is all about—not the creation of new business and opportunity but stealing others’. Everybody does it, so if it seems a little amoral, we have to look out for ourselves in this Darwinian world.

But what do we tell them that Arkansas has that they do not have in Illinois, California, New Jersey or Florida that should cause them to leave the states where they apparently have operated successfully and set up shop in Arkansas?

Well, we have a state government that is much sounder fiscally than those states and, in fact, sounder than just about any in the country except several states in the northern plains. (What business executive wants to move his offices up to those iceboxes—the Dakotas and Wyoming?) Our jobless rate is lower than that of the distressed states, although why that is so may not be something we want to brag about. We didn’t have the manufacturing and technical jobs that companies have been shedding by the millions since this malaise all began in the summer and fall of 2007.

Stephens had a suggestion for putting ourselves in a better position to raid the distressed states: lower our income taxes. That’s where we thought he was heading. The legislature assembled this week and there is talk about lowering state taxes on the wealthy, especially those with high investment income.

Stephens said Arkansas tax rates are higher than those in surrounding states. He was corroborated by Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a think tank that lobbies for lower taxes on business and investors. He said that our neighbors Texas and Tennessee do not have income taxes. That is not exactly true. Tennessee does not tax wages and salaries, but it does tax investment income from dividends and interest. (By the way, it also taxes rich inheritances, which Arkansas does not.) While Texas and Tennessee do not call their taxes on corporations “income taxes,” both do tax them.

Kaza said states that do not have income taxes or have very low ones fare better than those with higher tax rates. Stephens and Kaza would have a hard time proving that. Let’s see. How do they measure stability and prosperity besides a sound government budget? What about joblessness? Yes, it’s pretty high in Illinois and California.

But the unemployment rate in Arkansas is lower than all the surrounding states except Oklahoma, and that includes Texas and Tennessee, the two that do not have a broad-based income tax. So our income tax is not the driver of unemployment. Of the seven states with no individual income tax of any kind, only the frost-belt states of South Dakota and Wyoming have a lower jobless rate than Arkansas. Florida, where people like Mike Huckabee flee to reap big profits without having to pay state income taxes, has one of the highest jobless rates in the country, 12 percent. Don’t throw us into that briar patch.

Arkansas’ income tax is, indeed, regressive. It reaches the top bracket at around $33,000. The structure ought to be more progressive. But all the surrounding states are just as regressive. They reach the top marginal rate at much lower income levels than Arkansas.

It simply makes no sense that the executive of a big company in Chicago or Los Angeles would decide to move his headquarters to Arkansas or even a state with no income tax at all so that his top executives would not have to pay quite as much income tax. State income taxes are made considerably smaller by the federal deduction for the taxes. The differential in impact of state income taxes is minuscule.

Neither does the tax record support the notion that cutting taxes on investors produces growth and jobs. We cut taxes on investment income by 30 percent in the tax year 2000. The state fell into a slump and Gov. Huckabee raised the income tax for two years to stabilize the state budget. Then we began to grow again.

No, it is not our tax structure that discourages economic development. If that were so, Arkansas would have been an economic powerhouse for the first century and a half after statehood when we had the lowest per-capita taxes in the country, by far. Investment decisions are made on far more pragmatic concerns: proximity to markets, raw materials and resources, the climate, infrastructure, a qualified work pool, energy availability and cost.

Gov. Beebe has a different idea. The big goal in his inaugural address Tuesday was to double the number of college graduates. He thought that was the key to prosperity. He may be on to something.

TOP STORY > >Cabot hosts NFL referee this Friday

Leader staff writer

Walt Coleman, an official with the National Football League for 21 years as well as an executive with Coleman Dairy, the oldest family-operated dairy west of the Mississippi, is the guest speaker for the Cabot Chamber of Commerce Banquet set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria.

Billye Everett, chamber director, said this week that she started looking for a speaker for this year’s banquet as soon as last year’s banquet was over. And when she learned that Coleman was reputed to be an entertaining speaker and that he was available, she booked him. A successful businessman who can talk football is a perfect fit for Cabot, she said.

Coleman is a 1970 graduate of Little Rock Central High School who has worked for the family business since completing a business degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

He has served on numerous boards and he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

But he is perhaps best known for his call in the 2002 playoff game between Oakland and New England. After replay review, Coleman reversed a fumble by New England quarterback Tom Brady, saying his arm was going forward, though he was trying to tuck the ball and run and the play was instead an incomplete pass.

New England kept possession thanks to the call, won the game and went on to win its first Super Bowl and the “Tuck Rule” entered the language.

Roast beef is the main course for this year’s banquet. Tickets are still available at $25 each or $225 for a table of eight. To make a reservation, e-mail

TOP STORY > >Will Bond to lead Democratic Party

Leader senior staff writer

Following a disastrous general election nationwide for Democrats, Gov. Mike Beebe on Friday asked Jacksonville native Will Bond to chair the state Democratic Party.

If elected at the Hot Springs committee meeting Feb. 12, Bond, the managing partner of the McMath Woods Law Firm, will replace Arkadelphia Attorney Todd Turner, who decided not to run for re-election, Beebe said in a statement Friday.

“Will Bond is a friend and colleague,” Beebe added. “I believe he will be an excellent leader as the next chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. Will has the energy and vision to lead the next steps in the road ahead. It won’t be easy, but I know Will is up to the job.”

Bond, 40, was Jackson-ville’s state representative for three terms.

Bond would be the sec ond Jacksonville native to hold that position in recent years. Former state Sen. Bill Gwatney, 48, was gunned down on the job at state party headquarters in Little Rock on Aug. 13, 2008, for reasons never determined, by a man who took his own life later that day.

Turner was well-known for his work in helping drive payday lenders from the state, and on his watch, Beebe was the only Democratic governor in the southeast elected in November.

“I look forward to more time with my family in Clark County and continuing my law practice there. Will Bond has been a friend of mine for many years and he will be an outstanding leader for the state party.”

Bond said he’s not taking the election Feb. 12 for granted, but said that typically the party elects the governor’s choice for the position.

“We just went through a tough election cycle and there’s probably a lot of people out there with ideas,” Bond said.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and “I have some energy to do that and to communicate some of the good things the Democratic leadership has done in this state.”

“Look around the country,” he said. Other states are having financial woes. “In tough economic times, under Beebe, we've been incredibly stable. We had the largest tax cut in Arkansas history in 2007.

“My job is not to Monday- morning quarterback the last election, it’s to figure out with the help of a lot of people the way forward. I don’t like the yelling back and forth.”

He said the challenge is to recruit candidates who want to fix problems, create jobs and balance budgets.

“If you have the right policies and solve problems, people will elect and re-elect you,” Bond said.

“I want to sit down with constitutional and federal office holders and see what they think is the role of the party chair. We have to remind the public that we’ve had the benefit of some great Democrat leadership.”

Bond, a 1988 Jacksonville High School graduate, received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbuilt in 1992 and his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1995.

He and his wife, Gabriel, have twin 5-year-old girls and a 10-year-old son. They live in Little Rock.

Bond won’t be giving up his day job as a trial lawyer, and said his partners at McMath Wood support his decision. “The firm has a long history of public service,” he said.

“Sam (Ledbetter) is on the state board of education and the firm was founded by a governor (Sid McMath) and a federal judge (Henry Wood).”

TOP STORY > >Chamber submits priorities for PCSSD

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville needs a new middle school, but not at the cost of transporting all its middle-school students to the new Sylvan Hills Middle School for a year or two during construction. That was the one specific thing the 50 people who attended the Thursday afternoon meeting on the future of area schools could agree upon.

But any of those expecting to pick a fight with Operations Director Derek Scott of the Pulaski County Special School District over specifics or even the venue or time of the meeting were dissuaded or disappointed to find that Scott had no agenda or plan other than to help them pick the way forward to new and better schools.

Scott stressed that nothing was set in stone.

“What I’m married to is getting kids in good facilities,” said Scott, whose father taught in Jacksonville.

Scott spoke on invitation of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee at 3 p.m., a make-up meeting for the one cancelled by snow and ice earlier in the week, and while the original meeting notice appeared several times in the newspaper, the makeup meeting notice did not.


At least one committee of volunteers will be formed to consider consolidating some schools and locating and building new schools.

Construction czar

Scott, a recently retired Air Force colonel, oversaw maintenance and construction of new and existing structures for 18 years before being hired by new PCSSD Superintendent Charles Hopson just prior to the beginning of this school year.

Scott told those assembled at the Jacksonville Community Center that every $1 million saved through consolidation of small and old schools--most of them elementaries--could leverage about $15 million in bonded debt. That’s enough money to build a new elementary school, he said.

Many of the people most supportive of Scott’s approach to building and rehabilitating Jacksonville area schools have also been involved — some for decades — in the movement to split off Jacksonville area schools from the PCSSD and form a new district.

Attending the meeting, for instance, were former state Rep. Pat Bond, retired teachr Martha Whatley, attorneys Ben Rice, Mike Wilson and Patrick Wilson, bankers Larry Wilson and John Hardwick, and the meeting was chaired by realtor Daniel Gray.


Ivory Tillman, the local NAACP president who has been active in Jacksonville area school issues, PCSSD board member Tom Stuthard and former board members Danny Gililland and Shana Chaplin also attended and spoke.

In December, Scott had drawn up a proposal that could result in consolidating some Jacksonville area schools, closing some and building at least one new middle school and elementary and major remodeling of the Jacksonville High School, but Scott stressed that nothing is set in stone.

Scott said the district hoped to pay for the improvements with an estimated $181.5 million saved from maintenance and operation of schools the district might close.


But Scott’s proposals for Jacksonville, the Robinson area and also regarding the small inefficient elementary schools like Harris, Scott and College Station stirred deep-felt opposition, so he didn’t even bring a copy of his proposal to the Jacksonville meeting.

“We need to repair and replace schools,” he said, but which schools and how fast is up to you, he told those attending.

The only other given is that patrons of the district are in no mood to approve millage increases to pay for new schools.

Consolidation would save on heating, cooling, maintenance, operation and some staffing cuts, he said.

He estimated $1 million could be saved by closing Jacksonville Elementary School, and sending the students to nearby elementary schools. “That’s about enough to pay for a new elementary school,” he said.

Part of his initial proposal that seemed to have some traction with those at the meeting and those he had heard from is tearing down Jacksonville Middle School and building administration offices and a kitchen at the site, flanked on one side by a new elementary school, on the other by a new middle school.


Rice challenged him saying area residents don’t want to ship their middle school students to Sylvan Hills for two years while the new complex is constructed.

Scott said many people had told him that.

Rice suggested moving the middle school into the old junior high next door instead, while demolition and construction take place.

“The slate is open,” said Scott. He suggested those present form committees to investigate possibilities. “I don’t have specifics,” he said.

Regarding consolidation of Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School, one woman said, “Falcons don’t want to be Devils and Devils don’t want to be Falcons,” referring to the schools by their mascots.

But former school board member Danny Gililland said all his children had gone to North Pulaski. “I bleed North Pulaski,” he said, “but we have to do what’s best for the students.”

Tillman, who has attended about every meeting for 10 years about the future of Jacksonville schools, asked how fast there could be new schools.

Scott said if the decision were made to demolish the old Jacksonville Middle School and build a new one, demolition could begin this summer, with 18 months of construction to follow.


“Two years from this summer, you could be in it,” Scott said.

“But we may be late to the trough to do it for next year.”

“Apparently we have no bonding capacity left,” said Rice. “You are basing it on savings. How much study have you done?”

What’s still uncertain is whether bond underwriters would be satisfied with income from projected consolidation savings as the revenue to service debt. Scott said he would be meeting soon with bond advisors.

He said they would need to “drill down into the numbers really hard,” to establish the bonding capacity.

As for getting millage increases to pay for new schools, “There is a historical lack of trust,” Scott said. He said if the district could prove its trustworthiness, then perhaps in time the patrons would be willing to raise the millage.


Scott’s original recommendations, which seem to be accepted as a starting point for figuring Jacksonville’s facilities future, look like this:

 North Pulaski High School would serve all area ninth- and 10th-grade students, while Jacksonville High School would serve all juniors and seniors.

 Jacksonville Middle School students would be reassigned and the Jacksonville Middle School building would be demolished.

 The Star Academy would be moved.

 Tolleson Elementary would be closed, its students would be reassigned to Arnold Drive Elementary and Cato Elementary schools.

 Jacksonville Elementary School would be closed and the students moved to adjacent elementary schools and the Adkins pre-Kindergarten school would be closed and pre-K moved to another school.

 Those closures alone are estimated to save an estimated $3 million a year — money then would be available to demolish the existing Jacksonville Middle School and replace it for an estimated $60 million with a new kitchen and administration complex and a new elementary school attached on one side, a new middle school attached on the other.

 Then, the Jacksonville and Northwood middle school students would be assigned to the new school and Northwood would be remodeled and converted to an elementary school.

 Students from the nearby elementary school zones would go to the new elementary and the old elementary schools would be closed.

 Jacksonville High School would be partially replaced with a new $45 million building. North Pulaski High School would be closed and all area district students would be moved to the new Jacksonville High School.

 A new Arnold Drive Ele-mentary is not in this plan, but Scott met last week with the deputy director for family affairs from the Defense Department, which is choosing from 189 schools serving military dependents, which it intends to build new schools for.

 Should Jacksonville succeed in its efforts to form a standalone school district, it could be expected to pick up the debt service for the new buildings, Scott said.

Currently, Sherwood, which will open the new Sylvan Hills Middle School next fall, is not on the plan, but Scott said he hoped to make repairs where needed in that area.


Scott said that the industry standard is that a repair budget should be about 1.5 percent of the replacement cost of buildings.

“We’ve been underinvesting for years,” he said.

As for consolidations, closings and taking on new bonded indebtedness for repairing and replacing buildings, Scott agreed that the state Education Department and the courts have an important role.

SPORTS>>Raiders whip Bulldogs, remain atop standings

Leader sportswriter

The Riverview Raiders kept their perfect 2-3A Conference record intact with a 56-39 victory over Bald Knob on Tuesday at Bulldog Arena.

The Raiders (12-3, 3-0) jumped out to a 17-4 lead at the end of the first quarter and built that to 32-11 at halftime. Senior guard Taylor Smith led with 20 points and post D.J. Teague scored 19.

“It’s gone well for us these first three games,” Riverview assistant Nathan Claxton said. “We’re still trying to come together defensively and improve our intensity there. Our communication is getting better, and we want to continue to grow in that aspect.”

Riverview went with a reserve-heavy rotation in the second half and still played close. The Bulldogs outscored the Raiders 11-10 in the third quarter and 17-14 in the final period.

Richard Bailey finished with 10 points for Riverview.

Claxton and head coach Jon Laffoon are new to the Riverview program this year after replacing previous coach Russell Stumpenhous, who led the Raiders to the 3A state semifinals last season. The coaches inherited a team chock full of talent, and Claxton said their coachable attitudes have made the transition mostly painless.

Claxton credits junior transfer Dillon Waggle for the good communication early in the process. Waggle transferred from the Searcy School District over the summer, and has quickly become a key component on the Raiders.

“So far, they’ve taken well to the coaching,” Claxton said.

“Every new coach has different things to learn, but the transition is going good for these guys. Dillon Waggle has been a big part of that, he’s really good with it.”

The Lady Raiders fell to the Lady Bulldogs 71-48 on Tuesday. Senior Queen Banks led Riverview (5-10, 1-2) with 16 points while Meg Meachum added 15 points.

It has been a tough go for the Lady Raiders through the first half of the season as they have played with limited personnel.

“We don’t have much depth,” first-year Lady Raiders coach Ryan Smith said.

“We can pretty much play with anybody through three quarters, then we have to fight through the fourth quarter. We have eight girls, and seven of them play a lot.

“I plan on moving up some kids from the junior high whenever their season is over.”

The Raiders and Lady Raiders hosted Brinkley Friday night and will host cross-town rivals Harding Academy on Tuesday at the Riverview Activities Center.

SPORTS>>For QBs, spotlight always on

Leader sports editor

According to ESPN, it has been the Year of the Quarterback.

Who puts ESPN in charge of declaring these things anyway? Just because the network is the leading sports voice in the country, it thinks it can go around saying, “This is the year of this” or “This is the year of that.”

I wish the network would use its clout to declare the Year of the Sports Editor sometime soon, but I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, ESPN is right in the sense that every year is the year of the quarterback. A team rises or falls by how its signal caller performs and there are few jobs in team sports more important.

The best pitchers in baseball only take the mound once every five days, while a quarterback touches the ball on almost every offensive play in every game.

But it’s fair to say that this season quarterbacks attracted the spotlight a little more than usual, especially in college football and especially late in the past year and early in this one.

Let’s start with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The quarterback of the national champion Auburn Tigers was suspended for a nanosecond when it was revealed his father, Cecil, had asked for money in return for a commitment to Mississippi State.

The NCAA declared Newton eligible, and he didn’t miss a start.

Next up, the Ohio State five, led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. A group of key Ohio State players, with Pryor in the forefront, got in dutch right before the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas when it was revealed they had sold memorabilia in return for things like discount tattoos.

The NCAA ruled the group could play in the Sugar Bowl but would miss the first five games of next season, and with all five making big plays, Ohio State went on to outlast Arkansas on Jan. 4.

Moving on, it’s Ryan Mallett, who went from being the darling of Arkansas fans at the beginning of the year to being the guy with the “10-cent head” who always throws the critical interception. Mallett, like Newton, is foregoing his senior year to play in the NFL.

Rumor has it Mallett, the one-time Heisman candidate who threw his chances away against Alabama, has some off-field demons to wrestle with and his departure for the NFL may prevent what could have been a fall from grace had he stayed with the Hogs.

However, at least in Mallett’s case, the NCAA didn’t have to intervene and make one of its bogus rulings on any malfeasance.

With its decisions on Newton and especially the Ohio State players, the NCAA has pretty much given up all pretense of being for good, clean athletic competition and is clearly opting in favor of big-game TV revenues, among other sources of money.

Well, we all knew it was about money anyway. Let’s just hope when stuff like this happens again — and it will — the NCAA is consistent with its punishments.

I know, I laughed when I wrote that too.

Speaking of money, we’ve reached the point that comes at the end of every college season when we see the “Will he or won’t he?” parade of players who have shown NFL potential. Every year some guys bolt for the pros and the big money and some guys stick around.

And every year those guys get criticized either way.

If a player takes the NFL money he is accused of being greedy, of having no loyalty to the program. Fans who worshipped the quarterback in college suddenly find flaws in his game and say he needs another year of seasoning in college ball.

If a guy stays put, like Pryor has surprisingly chosen to do, the cynics line up to call him a fool for risking injury and a big NFL contract when he has nothing more to prove in college.

I read a blog in which someone questioned Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s decision to play his senior year and wondered if this proves Luck lacks the “hunger” to be an NFL quarterback.

Of course I think it’s honorable to finish school and get your degree and have that to fall back on. Not every signal caller in the NFL lasts as long as Brett Favre and there is no guarantee a great college quarterback makes a great NFL quarterback.

The landscape is littered with the husks of cautionary tales like Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch and Heath Shuler.

But who can blame a college quarterback if he does jump for the NFL money as a junior?

He is just following the example of the NCAA.

SPORTS>>Searcy splits for starters

Leader sportswriter

The Searcy Lady Lions are off to a good start in their 6A-East Conference schedule with a 50-46 road victory over West Memphis and a close, 50-46 loss at Mountain Home on Tuesday night.

The Lady Lions (8-7, 1-1), who reached last year’s state final, were one of the few teams in Arkansas who went through with their Tuesday game after winter weather hit the entire state Sunday night.

The already lengthy trip to Mountain Home was made even longer with a departure time from the high school at 11:45 a.m.

“I think Mountain Home is a tough place to play,” Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong said. “That was probably the best performance from any Searcy team I’ve taken up there. I thought our defense did a good job of keeping them from scoring outside. They had a few, but not as many as they normally do.”

Senior Elliot Scarborough led the Lady Lions with 20 points and four rebounds and classmate Chelsea Butler added eight points and six rebounds. Freshman Brittnee Broadway had five points and four rebounds.

“We did a good job of handling their pressure,” Birdsong said. “For us to be out with a snow day, the kids played well.”

Birdsong said there are several factors that make Mountain Home a difficult place to play.

“Their crowd is loud, but I don’t know if it’s more to do with having to ride on a bus all day to get there,” Birdsong said.

“You get there, and it’s cold in their gym. They also tend to be a little more aggressive than they would in other places, where they wouldn’t be able to get away with quite as much in my opinion.

“So, it’s a combination of a lot of different things.”

Broadway and Butler led the way in the Lady Lions’ victory over West Memphis Jan. 7. Both had 15 points, while Lindsey Hanshew added 10.

Searcy outscored West Memphis 17-5 in the first quarter and never trailed.

“I thought we came in and played well in the first quarter,” Birdsong said. “That was the difference in the game. We go up by 12, we play the rest of the game even, and we end up winning by 12. Getting off to a good start was a big help for us.”

Junior post Kierra Blanks has been Searcy’s defensive catalyst early in 6A-East play.

“She’s a 5-7 post player, and she’s had to guard girls who are 6-1 and 6-2,” Birdsong said. “She does a tremendous job not allowing their post players to get inside even though she’s outsized. Her effort sparks our defense.”

The road trips to West Memphis and Mountain Home, plus Jonesboro later this season, are the longest for Searcy and the teams also among the toughest to play.

For Birdsong, a big victory and close loss to a team expected to be a serious 6A-East contender is a relief.

“We’re getting off to a good start,” Birdsong said. “To get over there to West Memphis and win, and to get in there and play within four points of Mountain Home, who I think is going to be one of the better teams in conference, we’ve started off well.

“I know we have a loss, but I’m proud of our start.”

SPORTS>>Bombers limit Lions, run away late for victory

Leader sportswriter

The Searcy Lions dropped their second-straight 6A-East Conference game as Mountain Home won 54-37 at Mountain Home on Tuesday.

The Bombers (1-1 6A-East) pulled away from the Lions (11-5, 0-2) in the last five minutes. Searcy trailed by five points at halftime and by eight when the game reached the five-minute mark.

Senior forward Chris Blakely led the Lions with 12 points, while Ole Miss signee Jamal Jones was held to eight. It was one of the lowest point totals of the season for Jones.

“I think we contained ourselves more than anything,” Searcy coach Jim Summers said. “We went for two days without practicing — not making excuses — but with a bunch of teenagers, you’re rolling the dice whenever you get them out of their routine. It was a very long trip, but we know that trip is tough.

“Mountain Home always plays well at home; we just weren’t mentally prepared.”

The Lions dropped their conference opener to West Memphis 62-52 in a game that was close right up until the end.

The Blue Devils held a 25-24 lead at halftime and held a three-point lead after three quarters.

Searcy was forced to foul in the final two minutes and West Memphis padded its lead on free throws.

Summers was pleased with his team’s effort against West Memphis despite the loss.

West Memphis, ranked at the top of the conference in preseason polls, lost its ensuing conference game to Jonesboro on Tuesday.

Jacksonville lost its 6A-East conference opener to defending state champion Little Rock Hall.

Mountain Home improved to 11-11 overall by beating Searcy after it lost its 6A-East opener to Little Rock Parkview 60-52. Conference member Marion opened its conference schedule with a 54-53 victory over Jonesboro.

Searcy posted a successful non-conference run but is already at the bottom of the 6A-East standings after losing its first two games.

But Summers said the chances of any team running the table in conference play is unlikely, and that it is not yet time to panic.

“Not in this league,” Summers said. “There are a lot of people who will lose more than two games. Whoever wins this conference will most likely have three or four losses, so there’s no need to panic.

“The only thing about this conference is that there are no get-well games. Every week is tough, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself. It’s a rough road, but you’ve got to go as hard as you can go.”

As for the strength of the conference, Summers has to do nothing more than glance at the next two weeks of the Lions’ schedule.

“We’ve got Jacksonville this Friday, then we have Parkview next Tuesday and then Hall,” Summers said.

“That’s about as tough a three-game stretch as you’ll find.”

Searcy and Jacksonville played at Searcy on Friday while West Memphis hosted Marion, Little Rock Parkview played at Little Rock Hall and Jonesboro traveled to Mountain Home.


Leader sports editor

There was a time when Asiah Scribner might not have believed it herself, but the UALR freshman still has something to play for.

It didn’t seem that way to Scribner in March, when she and her Lonoke teammates bowed out of the state semifinals against Prairie Grove, 35-32.

The loss ended a run of three straight appearances, with three losses, in the 4A state final game and squelched Scribner’s hopes of finally winning a championship trophy with her Lady Jackrabbits teammates.

“It was an unbelievable feeling that I wouldn’t really wish on anybody,” Scribner said.

Fast forward and Scribner is, bit by bit, finding her way with a veteran UALR team coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance and first victory. UALR upset Georgia Tech in the first round last year before falling to Oklahoma.

Clearly the future is bright for UALR and Scribner, who saw the Trojans’ tournament trip as a validation of her choice, is happy to be a part of it.

“I was like, yeah, definitely, no changing my mind, no going back,” Scribner said. “Knowing that I still had a lot of those girls to play with, they were a pretty young team then, and knowing that a lot of those girls

were coming back this year and I’d get an opportunity to do it with them.”

The only significant departure from last year’s Trojans was standout guard and Cabot product Kim Sitzmann, a four-year starter, while preseason Sun Belt Conference player of the year Chastity Reed is back to put up numbers like the 34 points she scored in Wednesday’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

Up close, Scribner said, college basketball is even more impressive than it is when viewed on TV or from the stands.

“When you watch it and you look at it, you think it’s not as fast a pace as what it is,” Scribner said. “And the girls don’t look as strong as what they are but they really are. Once you get out here and you actually have to go against them, it gets very tough.”

UALR coach Joe Foley has gotten the program to that enviable level where the veterans and newcomers overlap, giving the freshmen the luxury of learning on the practice floor instead of the hard way by getting thrown into games.

Of course that means Scribner’s playing time is limited, but she expected as much when she signed with the Trojans in the fall of 2009.

In Saturday’s victory over Troy at the Jack Stephens Center, Scribner replaced freshman Hannah Fohne with 2:30 left. Though the announcer mispronounced her first name as “Isaiah,” Scribner made her presence felt when she attempted two shots and made a short jumper from the right side to close out the scoring in the 83-48 victory.

That ran Scribner’s season total to five points and her minutes-per-game average to 4.8.

“You’ve got to go out and do the best you can and show him that you can handle what he’s giving you right now so you can earn more for the next game,” Scribner said of the playing time.

Under Lonoke coach Nathan Morris, who uses elements of the motion offense Foley has long favored, Scribner played inside and got to give Foley a glimpse of how she might fit in with the Trojans.

But the Trojans are allowed much more freedom in Foley’s offense than most high school players.

“A lot of the stuff that coach Foley teaches, coach Morris taught too,” Scribner said. “So I kind of knew a little bit about it but it’s, like, really a big change coming from high school with set offenses and knowing exactly what you’re going to do to having to come here and run motion and not be told what to do every single possession.”

Foley has further extended Scribner’s learning curve by playing her more on the outside and asking her to work on her longer-range shooting.

“He told me that from the beginning,” Scribner, 6-2, said. “He knows I have a strong left hand but I need to work on finishing more to my right and shooting the ball more.”

The seniors and other returning players have helped to ease the transition Scribner and her fellow underclassmen have had to make. Beginning in the summer, when there is little supervision from the coaches, the veterans set a tone with their example and guidance.

“When I first got here I didn’t know how it was going to be,” said Scribner, who is leaning toward a major in early childhood development. “I’ve never been in a college environment with college girls, knowing how they would act. And I was a little nervous in the beginning. But when all the freshmen got here, they took us under their wing.”

Scribner said she tries to pay her teammates back by working as hard as she can to simulate the opposition in practice. If she can do her part to make the current starters better, Scribner expects the whole program to benefit and more postseason trips to follow.

Hopefully, Scribner will also have increased her role a little by season’s end.

“I hope to have a nice jump shot down and be getting some more playing time for myself and being able to help out the other post players,” Scribner said.

As Scribner spoke outside the locker room following the Troy victory, her new teammates were spreading the word she was being interviewed. Soon the other Trojans were peeking out the door or lining up to take photos of Scribner’s media opportunity.

Clearly, Scribner is fitting into her new environment, so much so that she rarely makes it back to Lonoke, though it is less than a 45-minute trip away from Little Rock.

“Everything,” Scribner said when asked what she liked most about college life. “It’s close to home, nice group of girls. Young, nice coaching staff. I’ve heard nothing but good things about coach Foley.

“It all worked in my favor coming here.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EDITORIAL >Beebe makes amends

The Arkansas Democratic Party, which sorely needed a warm wind after its shellacking in November, got a gale. Gov. Beebe donated his surplus campaign cash, $881,000, to his broke and moribund party. That should mend the feelings of many Democrats, who thought the governor did far too little to help the party in a season when he breezed to election while Democrats all around him foundered.

Beebe raised a whopping $5 million for his re-election campaign when he could have won handily on a ten-dollar bill. Beebe spent $4.2 million while his opponent, the happy but hapless Jim Keet, was beating himself with every dollar he spent. Keet finished the campaign $171,000 in debt to himself and the bank.

A candidate cannot keep his surplus campaign cash and the law requires him to dispose of it quickly after the election. Beebe’s campaign report shows that he made four gifts to the party totaling $881,279.

We can think of a few charities that would have been better, more deserving beneficiaries but the money was raised, after all, for politics. Who can seriously quarrel with his giving it to his desperate party? Certainly not the Republicans, who benefited from enormous transfers of cash from better-heeled fund-raising entities to candidates in pivotal races like Arkansas congressional campaigns, before the election when it counted.

Many Democrats think Beebe had a big obligation to the party. Though he was promised a safe re-election and he was titular leader of the party, he did little to help Democrats down the ticket, except his good friend Shane Broadway, his sidekick and then floor leader in the legislature. Despite the governor’s strong demonstrations of support, Broadway narrowly lost his race for lieutenant governor. Democratic lawmakers who had helped build his popular record of success went begging and down to defeat. In this strange election season, the popular governor’s coattails were useless unless he openly tendered them.

Beebe’s gift seemed to say that next time it will be different.

TOP STORY > >Minihan: No break for wing since 9/11

Leader executive editor

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, sent off 40 airmen and a couple of C-130s into combat before the storm hit last weekend.

He was on the flightline at 6 a.m. and watched families say goodbye to the airmen as they left on their three-day trip to combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Another 40 flew out on Friday, and 160 others left on a commercial plane.

“Anything they need in combat, we do. We’re very proud of the air drops in Afghanistan to forward-deployed troops to make sure we can carry on the fight with the Taliban,” Minihan said after the planes took off with the airmen.

The C-130 crews can drop supplies with pinpoint accuracy — “literally the size of a basketball court,” he said.

“It’s a great reminder how precious their service is to the nation.”

They’ll be deployed overseas for four months, he said.

“This wing has not had a break since 9/11,” said Minihan, who has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq several times. “I’ve done four tours as a squadron commander.”

“We haven’t lost one plane,” he said. “The crews are highly skilled and professional.”

“People worry about the new generation of Americans,” he continued. “I do not. They’re professional warriors….They really do inspire with their actions.”

Flying into combat is the culmination of their months of training: Delivering personnel and supplies and weapons — “beans and bullets,” Minihan said — and evacuating the wounded and cutting down on the number of truck convoys, which are often targets of roadside bombs.

Minihan was sitting Thursday at the head of a long conference table in his office at the 19th Airlift Wing headquarters building.

There are several high-backed chairs around the table, and draped over one chair is a weathered, leather bomber jacket that belonged to his grandfather, who was a B-26 pilot during the Second World War.

Minihan comes from a long line of pilots: His great-grandfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in December 1941. As a Marine, he piloted a B-29 Superfortress, which was a key component of the 19th Bombardment Group, a forerunner of the 19th Airlift Wing. Two of those planes later dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

His father, retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, is a former director of the National Security Agency who served as a combat pilot and intelligence officer in Vietnam.

The colonel graduated in 1989 from Auburn, which won the national football championship Monday night. He was named wing commander here last August.

He was previously stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he trained as a C-130 pilot. Last year, he commanded the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in the Middle East in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

He survived the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, which killed 184 people. “I felt it and heard it and smelled it,” he said.

“I was fairly far away, but we thought another plane was going to hit the building. I didn’t see anybody panicking. The evacuation was orderly. When we went to work the next day, we knew we were going to war.”

Minihan was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas.

“What was great was I got to command three squadrons from Dyess, Little Rock and Pope,” he said.

They’re part of Air Mobility Combat, whose C-130s are almost always on the go. The crews that maintain those planes work around the clock.

Almost 10 years later, he’s still commanding airmen going into Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 19th Airlift Wing has about 50 combat-ready planes, and about half of them are deployed overseas.

About 40 other C-130s are assigned to the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, which train C-130 pilots from all the services and those from several foreign countries.

It takes more than $100 million a year to operate the planes on base. The annual payroll is about $330 million. The 189th Airlift Wing adds another $44 million to the local economy.

“We have great airmen who deserve from their leadership unyielding support and affection,” Minihan said. “It is a privilege to be associated with these folks who do their job so well. It’s an absolute honor.”

As for the airmen who took off last week, Minihan said, “The fun part is that in two weeks they’ll be relieving the other guys. I love it when they come home.”

He’ll be on the flightline, shaking every returning airman’s hand and thanking them for their service to their country.

TOP STORY > >Minihan: No break for wing since 9/11

Leader executive editor

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, sent off 40 airmen and a couple of C-130s into combat before the storm hit last weekend.

He was on the flightline at 6 a.m. and watched families say goodbye to the airmen as they left on their three-day trip to combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Another 40 flew out on Friday, and 160 others left on a commercial plane.

“Anything they need in combat, we do. We’re very proud of the air drops in Afghanistan to forward-deployed troops to make sure we can carry on the fight with the Taliban,” Minihan said after the planes took off with the airmen.

The C-130 crews can drop supplies with pinpoint accuracy — “literally the size of a basketball court,” he said.

“It’s a great reminder how precious their service is to the nation.”

They’ll be deployed overseas for four months, he said.

“This wing has not had a break since 9/11,” said Minihan, who has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq several times. “I’ve done four tours as a squadron commander.”

“We haven’t lost one plane,” he said. “The crews are highly skilled and professional.”

“People worry about the new generation of Americans,” he continued. “I do not. They’re professional warriors….They really do inspire with their actions.”

Flying into combat is the culmination of their months of training: Delivering personnel and supplies and weapons — “beans and bullets,” Minihan said — and evacuating the wounded and cutting down on the number of truck convoys, which are often targets of roadside bombs.

Minihan was sitting Thursday at the head of a long conference table in his office at the 19th Airlift Wing headquarters building.

There are several high-backed chairs around the table, and draped over one chair is a weathered, leather bomber jacket that belonged to his grandfather, who was a B-26 pilot during the Second World War.

Minihan comes from a long line of pilots: His great-grandfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in December 1941. As a Marine, he piloted a B-29 Superfortress, which was a key component of the 19th Bombardment Group, a forerunner of the 19th Airlift Wing. Two of those planes later dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

His father, retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, is a former director of the National Security Agency who served as a combat pilot and intelligence officer in Vietnam.

The colonel graduated in 1989 from Auburn, which won the national football championship Monday night. He was named wing commander here last August.

He was previously stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he trained as a C-130 pilot. Last year, he commanded the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in the Middle East in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

He survived the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, which killed 184 people. “I felt it and heard it and smelled it,” he said.

“I was fairly far away, but we thought another plane was going to hit the building. I didn’t see anybody panicking. The evacuation was orderly. When we went to work the next day, we knew we were going to war.”

Minihan was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas.

“What was great was I got to command three squadrons from Dyess, Little Rock and Pope,” he said.

They’re part of Air Mobility Combat, whose C-130s are almost always on the go. The crews that maintain those planes work around the clock.

Almost 10 years later, he’s still commanding airmen going into Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 19th Airlift Wing has about 50 combat-ready planes, and about half of them are deployed overseas.

About 40 other C-130s are assigned to the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, which train C-130 pilots from all the services and those from several foreign countries.

It takes more than $100 million a year to operate the planes on base. The annual payroll is about $330 million. The 189th Airlift Wing adds another $44 million to the local economy.

“We have great airmen who deserve from their leadership unyielding support and affection,” Minihan said. “It is a privilege to be associated with these folks who do their job so well. It’s an absolute honor.”

As for the airmen who took off last week, Minihan said, “The fun part is that in two weeks they’ll be relieving the other guys. I love it when they come home.”

He’ll be on the flightline, shaking every returning airman’s hand and thanking them for their service to their country.

TOP STORY > >Massacre in Arizona hits home

Leader senior staff writer

Former Second District Rep. Vic Snyder and his successor, Rep. Tim Griffin, have both weighed in over the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the deaths of six people, including Arizona’s Chief Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl, and the wounding of 14 others at Giffords’ meet-and-greet with constituents outside a Safeway store in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, Chief Judge John Roll and others today while Rep. Giffords was meeting with her constituents,” Griffin said Saturday. “This senseless act has no place in our country. My prayers are with Rep. Giffords, her husband and family, her staff, the family of Judge Roll, the other victims and all those affected by today’s tragic event.”

“We both were on the House Armed Services Committee,” Snyder said. “I knew her before she was elected. She is wonderful, sincere, witty and upbeat about politics and life in general,” Snyder said.

He called her attempted assassination “a horrendous event. Most people could not think of a nicer person.”

Some have been angry that Giffords was “targeted” on a Sarah Palin website–the same website Snyder was targeted on.

“I took a different view than some,” said Snyder, reached at his Little Rock home. “I’m not as offended.”

He said the term “targeted” has been used as a metaphor “in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.”

Snyder, who has said he retired in order to remain home in Little Rock with his family, including young triplets, said he thought it was “stupid” when the website took credit for his decision not to run for re-election.

“They claimed credit for our having triplets,” he said.

Snyder said that addressing the tone of the public political dialogue–the name-calling and threats and anger–was long overdue, but “I think I have a problem in taking one incident (and making that connection)” the former congressman said. “It’s been a worthwhile discussion to have for several years.

“There has been a coarseness to our rhetoric. And people are willing to promote thoughts that are contrary to facts,” he said.

Snyder said that three years ago, he was on a radio talk show and “a guy called in with a lot of talk about getting armed and getting what he wanted one way or another.”

“He threatened me and the talk-show host didn’t stop him or defend me,” he said. Snyder said he reported the incident to the Capitol police.

He said he had not decided what his next act would be now that he has retired from national politics.

TOP STORY > >2010 Top 10 stories Base, PCSSD make news; voters shake it up at polls

Selected by Leader staff writer Rick Kron

In 2010, The Leader printed 104 issues. Each issue averaged 15 news stories, five editorials, a dozen pictures, plus police reports, news briefs, weddings, engagements and obituaries—that’s a lot of news.

Culling through all that news, some topics like the air base and Pulaski County Special School District were in just about every paper. The difference was that most of the time there was an air base story, it was good news, and for PCSSD it was troubling news. 

Other stories—like the joint-education center, possible state fair relocation and new schools—made our top 10 list because of the impact they will have on the area.

And politics was in the news because for an off-year election year, it was a rambunctious one at the local, state and national level.

Here are The Leader’s top 10 stories, in no particular order:

Joint Education Center

The facility is just now opening, but construction of the $14.6 million Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center was completed in late 2010.

In the coming weeks about six colleges and universities will begin holding classes and offering programs in the new facility.

The Joint Education Center is on Little Rock Air Force Base property, but outside the security fence in order to be more accessible to Jacksonville-area residents who approved a sales tax for a year to raise $5 million for the project. Jacksonville’s raising of the money and giving it to the Air Force to build the education center was such a unique event that it took some time for the bureaucratic wheels to turn in such a way that the money could be accepted.

At the time residents voted for the tax, the center was estimated to cost about $10 million, but as time went on the cost went up. The federal government did chip in the remaining $9.6 million.

The formal grand opening is Feb. 1.

Classrooms are designed to hold 24, 32 or 40 students, and many classes will be offered during the day.

Programs range from associate’s degree programs to master’s degree programs.

Air Base

Little Rock Air Force Base started the year with the Herculean task of providing humanitarian aid to Haiti which was hit by a savage earthquake in early January. Airmen and C-130s from the 41st, 50th, 53rd and 61st airlift squadrons helped deliver more than 1,500 tons of supplies.

Then in October, more than 225,000 people from across the state and region attended the base open house, aptly named “Thunder Over The Rock.” A tradition since 1955, the open house featured military aircraft, manpower, facilities and, of course, the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Army Golden Knights.

In between, Jacksonville and the surrounding area was recognized for their support of the air base, as Jacksonville was presented with the Abilene Trophy which is presented annually to a civilian community for outstanding support of an Air Mobility Command base.

A former C-130 pilot stationed at the air base in 1994, Col. Michael Minihan returned to become the new commander for the 19th Airlift Wing, and Lt. Col Paul Heye Jr. was named new vice commander for the 189th Airlift Wing. The base was named a Tree City USA community by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Senior Airman William Caram, with the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, was named Air Force logistics readiness maintenance airman of the year. Also, the base air-traffic control tower was named best in the Air Force in May.

The 19th AW reactivated the 345th Airlift Squadron in August and the 19th Security Forces Squadron started manning the base gates again, taking over for a private firm. The decision was mandated by Congress.

In November the base added a C-47 to its Heritage Park display of aircraft. The base has a C-47, a C-119, a C-123, and a C-130 on static display.

And let’s not forget that latest figures show that LRAFB has a $700 million economic impact on central Arkansas.


Jacksonville’s bid to capture about four square miles to the north of the city and a small section to the south failed in November when voters rejected the idea.

Saying no meant the city would not gain the $1.9 million in annual tax revenue the area produced.

It is only the second time in recent history that an area municipality lost in its efforts to bring land into the city. Beebe tried to nearly double its size about five years ago, and the residents said no.

In the Jacksonville effort, voters said no to annexing the two areas by a 5-point margin, 52 to 47 percent.

Vote totals showed 2,656 votes against the annexation and 2,392 for it. Residents of both the city and the proposed annexed areas were allowed to vote on the issue.

“The people have spoken,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said. “We were going to spend a half-million dollars a year in that community, but the people spoke and said they didn’t want it.”

The city tried to not only annex the income-producing businesses and commercial land along Hwy.67/167, but also tried to take in a number of residential properties, particularly to the western side of the highway.

That brought waves of objections, multiple town-hall style meetings, a committee of aldermen and officials to work out a solution, one arrest and a lawsuit.

The city plans a more narrow approach later this year. “We’ll come back and annex just the commercial property. We have to grow and go forward and bring in the businesses and retail that the people want,” the mayor said after the vote.

The northern section includes 297 separate parcels of land—2,454 acres or about 3.84 square miles.

The southern section that the city wanted to annex includes 79 parcels of land on 232 acres, or about 0.36 square mile.


Politics makes the list because of the number of incumbents who stepped down or lost. Both Democratic Reps. Vic Snyder and Marion Berry opted to retire. Republicans won both of those congressional seats in the November election. Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln fought off a number of opponents in the primary and beat back a challenge from Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a run-off. She lost in the general election to Rep. John Boozman.

The only Democrat to retain his congressional seat was Rep. Mike Ross. Sen. Mark Pryor was not up for re-election this go-around.

Locally, the Republicans reclaimed Lonoke on the council and quorum-court level.

Both Cabot and Sherwood mayoral elections went into overtime with runoffs. Incumbent Mayor Virginia Hillman held on to her seat defeating Alderman Sheila Sulcer in a runoff. In Cabot, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams opted out of the race and instead ran for and won a state Senate seat.

Bill Cypert defeated former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh in a runoff.

Sherwood, Cabot and Jack-sonville all saw new people win seats on the city councils. For Jacksonville, the two new aldermen taking office is the most change the council has seen at one time in about a decade.

Golf courses

Two area golf courses made the news in 2010: The old North Hills Country Club in Sherwood and Foxwood Country Club in Jacksonville.

Sherwood spent $5.5 million to buy the 106 North Hills acreage, and then put in another $1-million plus on repairs and renovations –in all $7 million to be paid over 30 years to the city’s public facilities board–to reopen the private course as a public facility.

The course, renamed The Greens at North Hills, was expected to bring in $500,000 in revenue in 2010 with its April opening. By the end of December, it had brought in $600,000 and Alderman Charlie Harmon, chairman of the parks and recreation commission, called the golf course a success. Both the golf superintendent and golf pro were given substantial raises in efforts to make sure they would stay and continue the great work. The irrigation system and ponds are currently being reworked on the golf course.

After numerous attempts to get Jacksonville to step in and save the Foxwood Country Club, the longtime owner, Ted Belden, closed down the facility Dec. 20.

The move put about 20 employees out of work.

The closing also put a hold, at least temporarily, on the formation of a Foxwood property owner’s association geared toward keeping the facility open.

“I think the city benefits from having a golf course, but I’ve put several hundred-thousand dollars for improvements into the facility and it’s time for others to step up,” Belden said on the eve of the course’s closing.

Belden bought the 165-acre club and golf course outright in 1989.

Belden called the facilities—the clubhouse, golf course and parkland—a community asset, but with annual expenses hitting $1.2 million, it has “not been a financial success.”

“Our expenses are fixed,” Belden said. “But we need to increase the revenue. That’s where the city money comes in,” he told the council in November 2009.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said that Belden made different offers to sell the club to the city, all much better than the millions Sherwood paid for the old North Hills Country Club. “But it’s just not a priority for us. It’s a nicety, but not a necessity,” Fletcher said.

Late in 2009, Belden suggested the city become a partner, providing the club with at least $200,000 a year. The council formed a committee, held numerous meetings, but in the end had too many legal concerns, plus felt it was just not the best use of taxpayer’s money.

The city set a meeting this week to discuss options for the golf course.


Just as snow arrived this week and cancelled school for two days for most students, snow and ice struck the area in early 2010, and for some students it meant up to five days off. The days were made up at the end of the year and some districts turned scheduled days off during the year into school days.

Central Arkansas was hit with about five inches of snow in late February and temperatures for the month were about seven degrees below the average. The year saw the snowiest January in 10 years.

Overall, the year was hot and dry. It was one of the hottest summers on record and the year was the warmest since 2007 and it was the driest since 2005. The area saw 95 days with temperatures of more than 90 degrees, the highest amount since 1998. Forty-two of those hot days were consecutive and that hadn’t happen since 1980. There were also 21 days over 100 degrees.

Even though it was a dry year, the rain seemed to come in chunks. The area got 2.7 inches of rain on May 1 and 2.97 inches of rain on July 12. A strong thunderstorm brought 50-mile-an-hour winds through the area in early August causing damage. The state was hit with 32 tornadoes during the year with at least two of them hitting the local area.

But the big weather news, luckily, did not hit the local area but the tragic effects were felt across the state.

A flash flood roared through the Camp Albert Pike campground near Hot Springs in the predawn hours of June 11 killing close to 20 people.

New schools

Another new school in Cabot, continued expansion of the Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy off First Street and the charter school’s efforts to open a middle school on the air base were all top news stories in 2010.

Mountain Springs Ele-mentary School, a 32-room facility, opened in the fall and was the first elementary school in Cabot to teach without textbooks.

The 78,641-square-feet building cost about $7.5 million to build.

The school was needed because the district’s student population, kindergarten through fourth grade, had grown by an average of 176 students each of the past five school years including 2008-09. The school serves the Hwy. 5 and Magness Creek neighborhoods, where the fastest growth has occurred in recent years.

“We’ve looked at the infrastructure of the building and, we’ve really looked to make sure this building is prepared for 2015, 2020, 2025,” said Superintendent Tony Thurman.

The Cabot School District officials said most textbooks are usually obsolete within a year of publishing and offer limited resources. The digital network, they say, will allow instructors to stay on top of the latest information.

“This allowed teachers the opportunity to use Smartboard lessons, PowerPoints, video, other digital resources in the classrooms that our textbooks may not make available,” said Harold Jeffcoat, director of curriculum.

Jeffcoat says the network will also allow teachers to share their lesson plans across classrooms, while allowing students to work on projects with classmates across state lines or even other countries.

The digital initiative is expected to save roughly a quarter million dollars off the district’s budget.

Meanwhile in Jacksonville, the Lighthouse Charter School continued to add a grade level and get solid reviews for its efforts. A new principal came in to add to the enthusiasm. The school now teaches kindergarten through seventh grade. But besides the expansion, the school is working with the state board of education and the air base to convert the old officers club on the base into a middle school to open later this year.

Plans also call for building a new facility to house 500 students in grades 7-12, adjacent to the existing campus on North First Street in Jacksonville.

Construction, design and furnishing the old officers club for use as a school is projected to cost $950,000, but the charter school already has received commitments of gifts and loans totaling $875,000.

State fair

The state fair board continued looking for a new location for the state fair and Jacksonville’s offer to give the board about 450 acres of land near Hwy. 161 and I-440, if it would bring the fair out to the area, stayed in the running all year.

The current site, off Roosevelt Road, is considered too small, too old, and in need of too much repair to continue much longer, plus the traffic problems get worse and worse each year.

There were a number of meetings during 2010, but no action was taken. Even if the fair board does something soon, it’ll be about five years or more before the new site is operational.

The city is going ahead with plans to get the site ready and obtain all the land. The mayor has said if the state fair doesn’t use it, the land is still great for retail and commercial growth.

The fair board looked at up to 17 proposals and locations and the Jacksonville plan remained at the top or near it.

“We’ve been waiting on a financial-feasibility study and economic-impact study,” said Ralph Shoptaw, general manager of the Arkansas Livestock Show Association. “We can’t really move forward until we have that feasibility study.”

Shoptaw said the focus of the study was the Interstate 40 and 440 corridors near Jacksonville to see if it would be better economically to relocate the state fair or leave it at its current location and try to expand to adjacent properties.


Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife were back in the news early in the year, and then it was the Cabot man with Mafia connections, and also a Sherwood coach gone bad.

Campbell, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison on a laundry list of drug-related and other charges in 2009, had the charges dropped and was retried in 2010. A deal was struck and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he pleaded no contest to four felony counts, including two counts of residential burglary, one count of theft of property and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

But a few months later, he became a free man but is still on parole. His wife dropped an appeal on her charges and was granted parole and freed during the summer.

The Cabot man connected to the New York Mafia, who was indicted for a multitude of crimes more than a year ago was convicted in federal court in October, along with a Colombo Family street boss on three of those charges.

George Wylie Thompson, 65, of Cabot and Ralph Francis DeLeo, 67, of Somerville, Mass., near Boston, face sentences of up to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $2 million for conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver, and faced sentences of up to 40 years and fines of up to $2 million for possession with intent to deliver.

They also face sentences of up to four years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for using a communication device in a drug crime.

But that wasn’t the only trial for Thompson. Later in the year he was in court again in North Little Rock where North Little Rock Alderman Cary Gaines faced charges of public corruption for attempting to fix bids on public-works projects. Thompson faced charges of illegal-weapon possession, and former North Little Rock Alderman Sam Baggett faced charges of selling a weapon to a known felon (Thompson) and then lying about it to federal agents. Gaines also was charged with lying to federal agents.

Thompson will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Thompson fled to Thailand after federal law-enforcement officers searched his home in Cabot on May 12, 2009, and found 147 firearms, five silencers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition. He was arrested in Bangkok about five months later and brought back to stand trial.

Tim Ballard, former coach of the girls basketball team at Abundant Life High School, was charged with five counts of sexual assault involving at least two students from the school.

His trial was supposed to start in 2010, but a number of delays, the latest being a mental evaluation, have pushed it to at least March.


About the only good news from the Pulaski County School District was Arnold Drive Elementary on the base. The school was recognized by the University of Arkansas for its great benchmark-exam scores and was honored as a blue-ribbon school during the year.

Other than that, it was turmoil, infighting and accusations for the district.

Early in the year the school board almost settled on interim superintendent Rob McGill to lead the district, but balked and reopened the search. McGill went elsewhere for secure employment and the district hired former Arkansan Dr. Charles Hopson to lead the district.

He took over in July and was met with infighting on the board and between the board and the teacher’s union, a scathing state financial audit and poor test scores from most schools.

In November, two anti-teacher union board members were voted out and two pro-union candidates seated, and the new board reinstated the union, but one of the new board members got testy and possibly even racial over the actions of the new superintendent.

Executive sessions late in the year looked at the superintendent’s employment, but any effort to dismiss him was quelled, at least temporarily.

TOP STORY > >Communities dig out after record snow

Leader staff writer

The first snow of 2011 turned out to be not so bad for most of the cities in The Leader’s coverage area that were ready even before the snow started falling to make sure those who wouldn’t or couldn’t stay home were able to get where they were going.

Highway Department crews sprayed overpasses before the snow started to fall Sunday afternoon with a chemical that helped keep ice from forming and some cities sanded the streets.

The snow started falling in earnest Sunday afternoon and when it quit Monday morning most of the area had three to four inches of snow cover.

The National Weather Service officially recorded four inches of snow in North Little Rock, 3.5 in Cabot and two inches in Searcy.

All area school districts cancelled school Monday because of the heavy snow and again on Tuesday as a precaution because of icy roads in many areas. At this point, days will be made up at the end of the year.

Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for the state Highway Department, said the chemical was magnesium chloride, which goes on as a liquid. When it dries, it helps keep ice from forming and allows what does form to be more easily bladed off.

It’s a preventative that isn’t often used in Arkansas, Bolick said, because most winter precipitation doesn’t start as snow. It starts as rain which turns to freezing rain and then to snow. But the forecast late last week was for snow alone, not for the rain that would have washed the magnesium chloride away.

The Highway Department’s efforts were focused on U.S. Hwy. 67/167 and the bridges and overpasses associated with that highway, he said.

By midday Tuesday, all the major streets were clear and the side streets were well on the way.

Sherwood reported six minor weather-related accidents. “Most were two-car accidents, but one involved five or six cars. But all were drivable and there were no injuries,” said Police Officer Josh Adams.

Cabot police reported eight traffic accidents all across the city, all of them minor. “Traffic never stopped here,” said Jerrel Maxwell, Cabot’s public works director. “It’s like New York City,” he said.

This was the first bout of bad weather since Bill Cypert took over as mayor on Jan. 1.

On Friday afternoon, Cypert and Eddie Cook, Cypert’s director of operations, met with public works about sanding the streets and with the fire and police departments about emergency plans.

Maxwell said Cypert rode with him as he checked the condition of the streets during the morning hours on both Monday and Tuesday.

In Jacksonville, Public Works Director Jim Oakley said his department started sanding streets Sunday afternoon and didn’t stop until Tuesday morning. “We ran two-man crews on 12 hour shifts,” he said, adding that at the peak of the snowfall it seemed like there wasn’t much progress.

“We’d run a plow through and the snow would cover up right behind us. But that didn’t last long. Overall, it went well for us,” he said.

Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew reported two traffic accidents, neither of them major.

“It surprised me, but most people stayed home and stayed inside,” Ballew said Tuesday afternoon. “It was a slow day (on Monday). I’d like to see more of them.”

Milton McCullar, the director of Beebe’s Street Department, said the city doesn’t have a budget for large amounts of sand and salt or the equipment and workers to spread it. But workers did spread salt on the parking lots and sidewalks of the public buildings: city hall, police department, fire department, library and health department.

In Austin, Police Chief John Staley said a mix of sand and salt spread at intersections and on hills kept traffic flowing almost without incident.

“They put it down when the snow started to stick and our roads were pretty good; knock on wood,” he said.

Four cars slid off the roadway, he said, but no one was injured.

Eric Sims, a lieutenant with the Ward Police Department, said sand and salt on the streets in Ward kept them clear of ice and free of accidents related to the weather.

Little Rock Air Force Base’s work schedule was changed by the weather Monday and Tuesday. The base is now back to operating as normal, according to spokesman Bob Oldham.

“We adjusted to mission- essential only Monday, and Tuesday’s schedule was as directed by the commander, with others reporting to duty at 9 a.m.,” Oldham said.

Unless we get a ton of snow, we’ll be on the regular schedule going forward,” Oldham said.

The falling winter snow added up to a lot of green for many local businesses this week.

“It was like having a second Christmas. It was a great week. It happened to fall on the first of the month,” Price Cutter grocery store manager Jerry Davenport said.

He said there was a 25 percent increase in sales due to the snowy weather.

“It was a hectic but fun time. Most of the customers were in good spirits,” Davenport said.

“We ran out of milk late Sunday, but a shipment came in Monday morning,” he said.

Davenport said popular items were snacks, soft drinks, pizzas and the ingredients to make homemade chili and soups.

At ITE’s Family Enter-tainment, store clerk Skye Stricklin said over half of the Cabot store’s new movie releases were checked out Sunday. “It’s been a crazy few days,” he said.

Knight’s Super Foods was packed Sunday with Jacksonville customers loading up on milk and bread and on the fixings for nachos with cheese and ground beef and cheese dip.

Andy Isom, Hasting’s store manager in Jacksonville, said Friday and Saturday were busy and Sunday’s business went really well, despite closing early due to the snow.

The icy roads help Brad Hutslar who co-owns both Cabot Wrecker Service and Reflections Body Shop.

“From five o’clock Sunday night we ran until two in the morning non-stop,” Hutslar said.

Cabot Wrecker had 22 calls Sunday night helping tractor trailers, cars and pickups out of ditches. He said Hwy. 5 was pretty bad. Hutslar said there were three roll-overs. The Mountain Springs Volunteer Fire Department rolled over one of their big brush trucks. The wrecker company spent two hours helping them out.

Hutslar said the snow has its ups and downs. It helps pay the bills, but it is cold, wet work.

As for the body shop, Hutslar said the company has written a lot of estimates. “We expect to be covered up,” he said.

Cabot’s Home Depot store manager Kelly Ivey said the store saw an increase in business as residents prepared for the winter weather. She said the store made sure they had the supplies for customers to drive to work or to their homes safely.

She said customers bought sand, salt, faucet covers and other winterization products to protect their homes from the elements.

Ivey said a customer told them about an elderly couple who needed help clearing their driveway. He said a few Home Depot employees helped them by spreading salt on their driveway before the snow fell.

The couple called the store and said the salt helped melt the snow and ice so they could get to their mailbox.

James Patterson, manager of the Cabot Papa John’s Pizza, said it’s been a really good couple of days.

“When the kids are out of school, it’s crazy,” he said.

Patterson said it seemed that everyone in Cabot wanted pizza Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. He estimates a 70-percent increase in pizza sales with the winter weather.

He said the hardest part was getting his drivers out on the snow but he said safety is first. He told them not to take any risk.

“The drivers have a great attitude. They work hard. But I needed about seven more of them,” Patterson said.

He said the drivers received larger tips than usual from grateful customers.

At Domino’s Pizza in Jackson-ville, Georgiana Webber said business doubled at the store with 69 deliveries Sunday compared to 41 the previous Sunday.

Tommy Vanaman, manager of Synergy Gas in Beebe, said the winter weather prevented propane trucks from delivering on Monday. But they will work from sun up to sun down all week long and Saturday to catch up.

He said the business office was open on Monday. Vanaman said some customers stop in every day to refill their small propane bottles for heating.

Rick Kron, Jeffrey Smith and John Hofheimer contributed to this report.

SPORTS>>Lady Warriors top Lady Devils in runaway win

Leader sports editor

There is no substitute for speed.

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils learned that the hard way as Little Rock Hall took a 57-27, mercy-ruled victory in the 6A-East Conference opener at the Devils Den.

The Lady Warriors raced to an 18-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and outscored Jacksonville 20-4 in the second to go up 38-10 at halftime.

Jacksonville’s best quarter was the third, as Hall outscored the Lady Devils 15-12, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the mercy rule in which the clock runs almost continuously in the fourth quarter after a team takes a 30-point lead.

“We tried to simulate it this week but there really wasn’t any way to simulate what they do,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said.

Mimms said the tone was set in the one-sided first quarter.

“The bottom line is we had the shots first, too, we just didn’t hit them,” Mimms said.

“They come down and score, we come back and miss a shot. You can put yourself down early.”

Hall’s speed was clear on defense too as it caught Jacksonville flat-footed.

“They were running and jumping in a halfcourt set,” Mimms said. “They’re sending a backside girl at your guard and our people weren’t moving toward the basketball.”

Tyler Scaife led Hall with 18 points. Mimms credited Scaife for being a genuine threat, but said the Lady Devils helped her out at times.

“You always have to account for No. 10 and if you don’t, she’s going to hurt you,” Mimms said. “Overall most of her shots were coming off of us making mistakes.”

Nicole Bennett was Jacksonville’s leading scorer with eight points and Jessica Jackson added six.

Jacksonville’s sophomore guard Tyronda Owens injured her ankle in the fourth quarter and Mimms wasn’t sure of the severity and would evaluate Owens day to day.

Jacksonville was off Tuesday night because of the weather-related postponement of the game with Little Rock Parkview, meaning Owens could rest her ankle and the Lady Red Devils could take in the lessons they learned Friday.

“We’ve got to get to where we’re playing full speed like they are,” Mimms said of Hall’s hustle.

“If you’re standing and they’re moving, the mover is going to get the ball. Until they decide they want to go 100 percent and all out on everything we do, then that is going to continue to happen.”

SPORTS>>Chickasaws thump Badgers in opener

Special to The Leader

The Blytheville Chickasaws welcomed the Beebe Badgers to the 5A-East Conference by beating the Badgers 62-46 on Friday night.

Blytheville (7-3, 1-0) had leads of 10 or more throughout the game only to see the Badgers (10-3, 0-1) crawl back into it before the Chickasaws finally put them away late in the fourth quarter.

“I wasn’t pleased with how we let them back into the gametonight,” Chickasaw coach David Hixson said. “But then I thought we overcame that. A couple of good talking to’s during timeouts and they responded well.”

Blytheville led 12-10 after one quarter with Badger sharpshooter Devonte Young scoring all of Beebe’s points in the period.

The Chicks picked up the fullcourt pressure moments into the second quarter as they extended their lead to seven points.

Kyle Walker hit two consecutive shots to put the Chicks up 25-18 and Lavester Stone’s putback at the buzzer made it 27-20 at halftime.

Walker led the Chicks with 17 points and most came on mid-range jumpers, as Blytheville was able to break down the Beebe defense and find the open man.

“I think that’s one of our strengths right now,” Hixson said. “We do a good job of finding the open man and we were hitting our shots or getting them on the offensive rebounds.”

Blytheville came out with more full-court pressure to start the third period and expanded its lead. Walker’s free throws with 5:52 left in the period gave the Chicks a 35-22 lead.

Beebe’s Dayton Scott hit a three-pointer and Austin Benton converted a three-point play to cut Blytheville’s lead to 39-34 with under two minutes left in the period.

Jimmy Aldridge made another buzzer-beater at the end of the period to give the Chicks a 43-36 lead heading into the final quarter.

Beebe cut the lead to 50-44 early in the fourth on Young’s layup off of a steal with 4:43 left in the game.

Blytheville did not allow the Badgers another significant basket the rest of the way as Beebe’s shooters were off the mark and Blytheville corralled most of the rebounds.

“We wanted to just brush their shooters,” Hixson said.

“Contest the shots and then get the rebounds. I thought we did a good job of that tonight. We worked on that over the past few days of practice on just how important rebounding is because we’re usually not the biggest team out there.”

Blytheville scored the next 12 points and did not allow a Beebe basket until the closing moments.

Walker led the Chicks with 17 points, Stone added 12, Keandre Diamond scored 10 and Aldridge chipped in nine.

Young led all scores with 20 for Beebe and Scott added 12.

SPORTS>>Beebe denied at buzzer

Special to The Leader

Blytheville survived a last-second scare and knocked off Beebe 45-43 in the 5A-East opener at Blytheville on Friday.

“We’ve got a tough conference this year and it’s good to get that first one out of the way,” Blytheville coach Melissa Young said.

With four seconds left in the game, Blytheville’s Sharmaine Selvy missed a free throw and Beebe’s Jamie Jackson got the rebound. Jackson dribbled upcourt and made a three-point shot as time expired, but the shot was waved off because officials ruled it came after the buzzer had sounded.

“I looked at the clock and I knew it was going to be close,” Young said. “I just waved my arms and hoped we would get the call.”

Beebe led 12-10 after one period and extended its lead to 20-12 midway through the second quarter before the Lady Chicks came to life.

Alicia Stone hit consecutive three pointers as Blytheville (5-6, 1-0) started an 8-0 run to tie it 20-20 with two minutes left in the half. It was tied 22-22 at halftime.

Stone continued with the hot hand in the second half hitting back-to-back three-pointers midway through the period to give the Lady Chicks a 36-28 lead with 3:25 left in the third period.

Beebe scored the last six points of the quarter, highlighted by a three pointer from Whitney Emison, to cut the lead to 36-34.

Beebe continued its runinto the final quarter. The Lady Badgers, coming off their holiday tournament, scored six of the first seven points to take a 40-37 lead with 3:05 left in the game.

Andrea Robinson tied it 40-40 with 2:20 left.

Stone scored the next five points for the Lady Chicks to make it 45-40 Blytheville with 1:43 remaining.

Shaylyn Young and Sarah White each hit a free throw over the final minute.

Blytheville went 2 for 7 from the line in the fourth quarter.

“Alicia played really well tonight,” Young said.

“She’s been hitting her threes more consistently and she really did well tonight. We just need to get more production from everyone else.”

Stone led all scorers with 23 as she made five three-pointers and Sharmaine Selvy added 17 points.

Jackson, a sophomore and Beebe’s scoring leader, led the Lady Badgers with 14 points and Young had 11.

SPORTS>>Misses at line curtail Comets as Falcons win

Leader sportswriter

0Missed free throws were the deciding factor in the second half of North Pulaski’s 64-54 victory over Mills at the Falcons Nest on Friday.

The Falcons (5-11, 1-0 5A-Southeast) won their conference opener despite hitting only 13 of 25 free throws in the second half. The Comets (7-5, 0-1) wasted even more opportunities in a 9-of-27 performance that included a dreadful 4-of-16 effort in the third quarter.

Both teams reached the double bonus before the fourth quarter in a game that exceeded two hours thanks to a combined 36 trips to the free-throw line.

“It wasn’t easy, because we didn’t make it easy,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “We missed a lot of free throws down the stretch that could have made that thing a lot easier. And then we rushed shots.

“We had four-second possessions with a big lead, and I was like, ‘Guys, we don’t have to do that; we’re playing into their hands.’ ”

Sophomore point guard Dayshawn Watkins showed continued growth for the Falcons with a game-high19 points and seven rebounds. Junior Shyheim Barron added 15 points for North Pulaski.

Watkins, aside from some typical sophomore mistakes, led the Falcons’ offense with confidence, and came away with a pair of early steals that helped North Pulaski take control in the first half.

“He is continuing to develop,” Cooper said. “And as he develops, we develop. He’s our guy — he’s our point guard, and he’s a sophomore. When you’ve got a sophomore point guard, sometimes it’s ups and downs, but he’s way ahead of the curve.

“That’s what I’m pleased with the most is that he’s trying to learn the game and not just depend on his athleticism.”

Kyle Jackson kept the Comets in the game in the third quarter with six of his 12 points before Davion Walton came off the bench to lead the fourth-quarter comeback charge with eight of his nine points. Walton made a three-point basket with 3:18 left to play that cut the Falcons’ lead to single digits, 55-46, for the first time in the second half.

Walton pulled Mills closer with 2:33 left when he hit a pair of free throws to make it 57-51. Watkins answered with a running jumper in the lane, and junior Braylon Spicer hit two free throws with 1:05 remaining that extended the margin to 61-51.

“We fouled them, and we gave them plenty of opportunities,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to shore that up. Just thank goodness tonight that we shot it a little better than they did, and that’s basically what it amounted to.”

Barron helped North Pulaski to its first lead when he took a steal for a layup with 2:10 left in the first quarter and made a three pointer with 32 seconds left to put the Falcons up 16-12.

Williams also added a three-point basket in the rally that ended the first period, and Barron finished the quarter with another steal and layup.

The Falcons held the lead through the second quarter and started to pull away late in the third when Marcus Williams scored to give them a 45-32 lead with 3:21 left.

Watkins then hit free throws to extend it to 48-32, North Pulaski’s biggest advantage before the Comets came creeping back.

Senior Bryan Colson had his hands full with Mills 6-10 post player Denzel Anthony. Colson battled for every one of his eight points and was limited to three rebounds.

Jeremiah Hollis fared better in the rebounding for the Falcons with seven, but Mills held him to four points.

Spicer finished with seven points for North Pulaski and Michael Cross scored six.

The Falcons, who earned at least a share of the 5A-Southeast championship the past two seasons, have struggled in non-conference play. Half of their roster is made up of juniors, many lacking significant varsity experience.

But Cooper said his group is beginning to show maturity when it counts.

“When you lose that first game, it’s like you’re always fighting uphill,” Cooper said. “At first, you get behind that eight ball, and you’re just playing catch-up. Right now, tonight, four teams will be 1-0 and four teams will be 0-1, and it’s good to be in that top four.” 

SPORTS>>Jacksonville falls to Hall in first loss

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville cut too-tall Little Rock Hall down to size Friday night.

It just couldn’t cut the lead when it counted.

Defending state champion Hall escaped the Devils Den with a 45-43 victory in the 6A-East Conference opener, surviving a furious final minute in which Jacksonville missed a shot, a free throw and, ultimately, a desperation attempt from beyond halfcourt.

“The ball ultimately bounced our way but our guys played hard, I thought, all night,” Hall coach Jon Coleman said. “And I thought we were deserving of a break somewhere in there and it happened right at the end.”

It was the first loss for Jacksonville (11-1, 0-1).

“We had a chance, that’s basically all you want,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “If Hall’s supposed to be the crème de la crème ofthe state, we’re right there with a chance and that’s all you want from your ballclub.”

The Red Devils tied it at 41 when Raheem Appleby made a jumper from the high post with 3:29 left.

The teams traded turnovers, and then Myles Taylor made a layup to give Hall the lead. Terrell Brown missed a hook shot for Jacksonville and Taylor scored from the low post to make it 45-41 with 1:32 to go.

After a Jacksonville timeout, Brown laid it in to pull the Red Devils within 45-43 with 1:04 remaining.

David Berete couldn’t get the ball over the center line against Jacksonville’s press as Hall turned it over on a 10-second violation.

Justin McCleary missed a bank shot but Jacksonville had possession when Berete fouled Appleby, knocking him down while going for the ball with 12.8 seconds left.

Appleby missed his first free throw and David Rivers rebounded for Hall. Jacksonville fouled twice to stop the clock and Berete missed a free throw with 8.5 seconds left.

McCleary got the rebound but Berete stole it away, drawing a foul from Jacksonville’s Xavier Huskey.

Berete missed again with 3.9 seconds left but the Red Devils only had time for McCleary’s missed shot from beyond the center line as time expired.

“It was a game of runs and I think our best run came going down the stretch,” Coleman said.

Jacksonville’s tallest everyday players are 6-3 while Hall had four starters over 6-4. Rivers is 6-7 and Taylor is 6-6, and the Warriors had Bobby Portis, 6-10, in reserve.

“We just challenged our kids to get out there and play,” Joyner said. “If they shoot a couple over your head or rebound a couple, it’s just a couple. Just box them out, that’s all we wanted to do, box them out.

“For the most part we just gave them one or two shots; they didn’t kill us on the boards like we thought they were going to do.”

Taylor had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead Hall and Rivers scored 10 points. Appleby had 19 points to lead Jacksonville.

Hall made a push in the first half, going ahead 9-2 in the first quarter and 23-14 when Javan Perry made a three-pointer from the left wing with 3:42 left in the second.

Joyner called timeout, and then Jacksonville began to fight back.

The Red Devils closed within 26-21 when James Aikens got a steal and passed to Jamison Williams, who was trailing on the play and slammed in a two-handed dunk with 1:03 left.

“I called a timeout and made sure they understood to get that ball down inside,” Joyner said of the adjustment. “And they had to make something happen, not just throw it in there.”

Jacksonville got its first lead of the second half, 27-26, when Appleby made a jumper with 6:05 to go in the third quarter as part of a 12-2 Red Devils’ run.

It was no more than a five-point game the rest of the way, and Jacksonville’s last lead was 37-36 when Appleby opened the fourth quarter with a hook shot.

Berete made a reverse layup to give Hall a 38-37 lead with 6:40 remaining and the best Jacksonville could manage was to tie the score at 39 and 41.

“Playing here, this is one of the hardest venues to play in,” Coleman said.

“When you add coaching and basketball atmosphere and them coming in with a lot of confidence, there’s no way that you would think you’re going to come in and blow somebody else or anything like that.”

Jacksonville’s Tuesday night game with Little Rock Parkview, another contender in the 6A-East, was postponed and will be made up Feb. 1.