Friday, January 13, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Griffin gets his wish

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) has told constituents there are no sacred cows in the federal budget, and we believed him, until he started saying some of the cuts are going too far.

A fiscal conservative, he has proposed cutting social services, military spending, corporate welfare and other wasteful programs. He has said we must reduce spending without tax increases. But now that the first wave of cuts have been announced, Griffin is not too happy. Although he campaigned as a deficit hawk and a budget cutter in 2010, perhaps he was hoping the budget ax would bypass Arkansas.

Our freshman congressman is upset that the Air Force is canceling a $4.4 billion avionics contract for aging C-130s at Little Rock Air Force Base and elsewhere. He’s also unhappy that some 45 civilians are losing their jobs at the base. Sure it hurts, but where did he think the cuts would come from? From nutrition programs for poor mothers? From fuel subsidies in the Northeast? From cutting defense projects pushed by special interests in Washington? Who is and isn’t a special interest?

You can eliminate only so many fighter planes and nutrition programs before you have to start cutting across the board and going after sacred cows, including farm interests and rural post offices.

Members of the Arkansas congressional delegation have lashed out at the U.S. Agriculture Department for shutting down 16 Farm Services Agency offices in the state, including those in Pulaski and White counties, which happen to be in Griffin’s district. Arkansas will lose more of these farm offices than any other state.

The delegation also opposes closing up to one-third of Arkansas’ rural post offices, especially those in their districts. They’re quaint, all right, but when the postal service is losing $23 million day, post offices in Prim, Tilly, Ida and Fox can’t stay open much longer.

Griffin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, can’t have it both ways. You can’t get rid of programs everywhere but spare Arkansas. Sen. John McClellan might have prevented the worst of these cuts. But how much clout does a freshman congressman have in Washington? The state’s delegation can’t even keep the farm offices open. Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who lost her re-election bid, chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee and might have spared some of those offices, but Sen. John Boozman, her successor, has no more influence than Griffin.

Griffin has told chamber of commerce banquets, tea party meetings and other forums that the cuts will hurt, but he says they’re a necessary first step toward economic recovery. At last year’s Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce dinner, he called for dramatic spending cuts to reduce the nation’s $1.5 trillion deficit.

Ruling out tax increases to close the deficit and reduce the national debt, he told The Leader several times he would look for waste in the Pentagon budget and elsewhere. Be careful what you wish for: A shrinking military means fewer jobs and planes for Little Rock Air Force Base.

Even one cut hurts, Col. Mike Minihan, the outgoing commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, noted in an interview with The Leader this week. It’s not easy telling civilian workers on base they’re no longer needed, especially after they’ve devoted 20 years or more to serving their country.

When Griffin tells his constituents that the federal budget is out of control and must be reduced dramatically, you can’t overlook the obvious: People will lose their jobs. Boeing and Lockheed will lay people off if the avionics modernization program for older C-130s is axed. The same will happen when fighter jets and battleships are eliminated, or road and bridge work is halted for lack of money.

Earlier this month, Boeing announced it would close its plant in Wichita, Kan., where it has produced planes for the military for 80 years. Boeing officials said Pentagon cuts make it impossible to keep the sprawling plant open as military contracts dry up. Some 2,000 people could lose their jobs.

Sure, we’re in a crisis, but it’s foolish to think this was going to be painless. The economy is still sputtering, and there will be more plant closings and layoffs.

So far we’ve been spared the worst cuts here: The air base has received four of the five upgraded C-130s, and another is scheduled for delivery. In these difficult times, five upgraded C-130s are better than none.

In addition, more modern C-130Js will arrive in the coming years, but don’t be surprised if those deliveries are slowed. President Obama said Friday that all defense contracts are under review.

Deficit reductions are serious business. To save a trillion dollars for defense in the next decade — that’s a thousand billion dollars, if you want to do the math — our military will shrink dramatically.

When Rep. Griffin says there are no sacred cows, even if he’s having second thoughts, we know exactly what he means.

TOP STORY >> Carlisle farmer dies in grain silo

Leader staff writer

A Carlisle man died Friday in a farming accident after falling into a grain silo nearly full of rice at Parker Farms on Miller Road near Hwy. 381 five miles east of Lonoke.

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call around 11 a.m. Deputies and the Lonoke Fire Department responded to the accident.

Rescue workers found Jacques Parker, 56, at 12:16 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the sheriff’s office Parker’s death was an accident. He was inside the silo attempting to clear a blockage when he fell into the rice.

Marty Perkins, a close friend of the victim, said Parker was a hard worker who never married.

He graduated from college and re-joined his father’s and brothers’ farming operation.

“They are business people,” Perkins said.

Perkins said Parker was a Lonoke County Co-Op board member.

TOP STORY >> Relatives glad killer given life sentence

Leader staff writer

Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon before they convicted Alonzo Watson Jr., 21, for the capital murder of Daniel Dewayne Harris, 23.

Watson will be behind bars for life without the possibility of parole.

Harris was beaten with a 15-pound rock at least 24 times on Sept. 3, 2010, and his body was found next to his car behind Wild West Auction Services on South Redmond Road in Jacksonville.

The Harris family seemed awash with relief.

“We waited so long, over a year for this, and justice is finally served.We want to thank our friends and family for all their support,” said the victim’s mother, Bernita Laster. She cried and hugged the prosecutors after court adjourned.

Harris’ father, Daniel Lewis, said, “I’m glad justice has prevailed in this case. Wrong is wrong, and God knows the truth. I’d like to thank the jurors, the prosecutors and the justice system.”

The family’s pastor, Walter Harris, who said he was at the trial to provide them moral support, said, “I think its very sad and tragic when a young life is taken away.”

Several other relatives gasped, “Thank you, Jesus,” after hearing the verdict.

But Watson’s mother said after the verdict, “He’s not guilty.”

Prosecutor Barbara Mariani told the jury during the closing arguments, “He (Watson) went to other people’s houses and opened his mouth to so many people. He ripped that cloak of innocence off his own body,” as she recounted the fact that four witnesses heard him confess to killing someone the night of the murder.

There were no other homicides in Jacksonville on the day Harris was killed.

The prosecution said the motive for the murder was jealousy and implied that the two might have had a homosexual relationship.

Harris’ “shorts were around his ankles. There was gravel on his knees. He was with someone he trusted. He was allowing himself to be intimate with (Watson) and vulnerable. He didn’t know what was about to happen to him,” the prosecutor said.

The defense rebutted the insinuation, saying there were no rectal swabs and Watson had even dated the victim’s sister for a number of years. They argued the two were like brothers and that the prosecution did not provide a motive for the slaying.

According to the prosecution, the victim’s younger brother, O’Tarvarious Sekeeno Harris, saw Watson with the victim at 2 a.m. Watson and Harris had been close friends but had become estranged over the victim’s friendship with another man.

They say Watson showed up in bloodied clothes at the Jacksonville home of Sarah Whipple, his then-girlfriend, around 3 a.m. and told her he had killed someone.

According to Mariani, Watson changed his story after he saw how Sarah reacted to the statement. He then said he was just joking and had been in a fight with someone, but the other man was alive when he left.

The prosecutor said Whipple fled to Texas after the homicide because she didn’t want to be caught up in the case, and she has no reason to lie because she is not connected to any of the other witnesses.

Watson then went to the Jacksonville home of Vicki Jones, knocked on her door asking to use the restroom. She didn’t let him in, and a bicycle was left in her yard.

Marcus Deshone Hildreth gave Watson a ride at 4 a.m. and he heard Watson say, “I burned someone,” according to Mariani. She said burned was a term that means murdered.

Hildreth and one of the other four people who heard Watson confess are convicted felons. Hildreth also said Watson talked to him about the murder when they were in jail together later that month.

Mariani told the jury that to find Watson guilty of capital murder they needed to be sure the act was premeditated, but premeditated does not mean he sat down and planned it out. There is no length of time prescribed to premeditation, Mariani said.

She said he was thinking about killing Harris each time he picked up that heavy rock, which was in the courtroom wrapped with thick yellow evidence paper and labeled with the biohazard symbol.

“It’s easy to forget the victim,” the prosecutor said as she showed the jurors crime scene and autopsy photos.

Defense attorney Tom Devine compared the confessions to campfire stories that occur in small towns. He also said the state wanted them to be inflamed by the photos, but he pleaded with them to consider facts.

The defense emphasized that there was no DNA evidence from Watson at the scene and police never investigated other suspects.

Devine said the only evidence the prosecution had connected to Watson was his palm print on the car’s window, but that could have happened at anytime.

He argued that witnesses had everything to gain by pointing a finger at his client. He said Hildreth kept adding pieces to his story in order to help himself out with the criminal cases that were pending against him.

Devine also said Whipple left town because she didn’t want to be associated with the reputation Watson had gotten from the campfire stories about the homicide.

Police went to her and she decided they were going to bring her back to Jacksonville anyway, so she’d better tell them something, Devine claimed during closing arguments.

The defense also said she lied about Watson having scratches on his arms because police didn’t notice any injuries when he came in to talk to them as the last person who saw Harris, not as a suspect.

“There are holes there. There are gaps. Without a doubt there is no physical evidence against my client,” Devine said.

He ended his statements with a quote from John Adams, “Better that many guilty go free than an innocent man suffer.”

Mariani responded that some people leave DNA, while others don’t. She said the handprint was on the outside of the window, and there was blood near it.

“Before DNA, all we had were fingerprints, and that was fantastic evidence. It is still fantastic evidence,” Mariani said.

She then picked up the rock and swung it downward, counting out the 24 blows.

The prosecution ran through the timeline again and reminded the jury that there were multiple, consistent accounts from witnesses to Watson’s confession.

“This murder is about his (Watson’s) horrible anger and rage. To top it all off, he left him humiliated in death,” Mariani said.

Harris was found with his shorts pulled down around his ankles and his genitals exposed.

“You must hold (Watson) accountable,” she concluded.

TOP STORY >> Avionics testing on hold at base

Leader senior staff writer

The Air Force has postponed tests of the first updated C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) planes, set to have begun Tuesday at Little Rock Air Force Base, a Boeing spokesman confirmed Thursday. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

Postponement of the initial evaluation is the first concrete indication — in advance of the 2013 defense budget — that the Pentagon plans to postpone or scrap the $4.4 billion modernization of the nation’s aging 222-plane C-130H fleet.


The test cancellation occurs just days after Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia delivered the fourth such plane to the LRAFB, and with delivery of the fifth C-130 AMP due next month.

“The U.S. Air Force also notified Boeing that after the fifth C-130 AMP is delivered from Warner Robins to Little Rock in February 2012, future inductions are on hold,” said Boeing spokesman Jennifer Hogan. “We have been told that additional information will be shared after the President’s 2013 budget is published.”

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg News broke the story earlier this week that the program will be one of the larger cuts in the Air Force budget, accounting for about $2.2 billion by 2016. With successful testing, the Defense Department had been expected to award contracts for 26 planes under an initial production contract.


“We have so far seen the notice from the Air Mobility Command, which says that pending the release of the president’s budget and subsequent congressional action, the current training and evaluation is suspended,” Lt. Col. Keith Moore said Friday. Moore is spokesman for the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas National Guard, which is known as the C-130 schoolhouse.

“Until later this month or in February, we won’t know where we stand or the status of the (AMP) program for next year,” he said.

LRAFB is the premiere C-130 center in the world, training virtually all C-130 pilots, crews and maintainers for the United States armed forces and allies.

The Pentagon had ordered six avionics modernization program kits for older model C-130 H aircraft, dating back to the mid-1970s that would extend their lives and make them more compatible with the state-of-the-art C-130Js. But amidst a move to downsize the armed forces and the Defense Department budget, the program is reportedly headed for the chopping block.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has proposed a leaner, more modern rapid response armed forces, but proponents of the AMP program say that’s precisely why the C-130 AMP should be a high priority, able to deliver war fighters, weapons and material quickly around the world even to short, dirt landing strips.


The AMP modifications replace analog controls and displays with digital, standardize the 30 different C-130 cockpit configurations and upgrade and standardize communication, navigation and air-traffic management, have a glass cockpit including so-called heads-up displays, night-vision imaging and will meet operational conditions.

They also reduce the size of the flight crew from five to four and make the cockpit compatible with that of the the state-of-the-art C-130J.

But C-130Js cost about $68 million each, while the AMP upgrade to the C-130H was expected to start at about $14 million and be reduced to about $7.5 million by the time the program reached full stride.

The Air Force moved to drop the troubled program in 2009, but was overruled by the Pentagon. This time around, the Pentagon apparently supports slowing or stopping the program.


“I oppose the cancellation of the C-130 AMP upgrades and will fight to ensure the men and women at LRAFB have the equipment they need to complete their mission,” Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) said Friday.

Griffin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional C-130 Modernization Caucus.

“LRAFB and its more than 80 C-130s provide our nation with critical combat and humanitarian airlift capabilities.,” Griffin said.

He said any decision to cancel future C-130 AMP upgrades was “shortsighted and ill-advised because these upgrades will extend the life of the C-130 fleet and save taxpayers money.”

SPORTS >> Bison earn road win at Augusta

Leader sportswriter

AUGUSTA – What appeared to be an early rout for Carlisle turned into a down-to-the-wire finish in a thrilling 59-58 road victory over Augusta to give the Bison their second 2A-6 Conference win of the season, and the week on Thursday at Red Devil Arena.

Carlisle senior guard Zac King scored on a putback of his own miss in the final five seconds for half of his points in the game as the Bison (4-6, 2-5) barely held on to win after leading 25-5 mid way through the second quarter.

But that was before Augusta forward Jordan Brown stunned the Bison in the final two minutes of the third quarter with a barrage of steals, dunks and dishes to teammates that quickly evaporated Carlisle’s lead from 42-29 to 43-38 heading into the final period.

“We’re a very young basketball team,” Bison coach William Rountree said. “I thought we played real well in the first half. I thought we missed some opportunities to continue to push that out in the third quarter. We weren’t quite as sharp. Give Augusta credit – they played real well in the fourth quarter. They had some guys hit some shots that we really hadn’t anticipated.”

Brown made it a three-point game to start the fourth quarter with a floater in the lane, but Braden Reed answered for Carlisle with a lay up to make it 45-40. Austin Reed then hit a lay up and drew a foul from L.J. Driver. He made the free throw to extend the Bison lead to 48-40 with 7:05 left to play.

The Bison extended their advantage back to 11, but a pair of three pointers by Anfernee Neal and another from Lorenzo Pryor that followed an inside basket by Carlisle post player Deron Ricks made it 57-55 with 42 seconds remaining.

“When we weren’t scoring and giving them some easies off turnovers, and then they hit some threes,” Rountree said. “And that’s what the three will do for you. And you can look back and say we have to get better at this and better at that, but thankfully, we got a win. I think anytime you come to Augusta Arkansas and win a ballgame, you’ve done something to be proud of.”

Jeremy Metcalf missed a jumper for Carlisle and Neal pulled down the rebound for Augusta. He took it to the other end and hit another three that gave the Red Devils their first and only lead of the game at 58-57 at the 20-second mark. Point guard Chris Hart brought the ball down for Carlisle and dished to Metcalf inside. That pulled the defense over to Metcalf, who lobbed it across the key to King. King went up and missed, but was able to fight for the rebound and go up again, this time finding net.

Neal launched one final desperate shot from midcourt as time expired but did not have enough on it as the Bison escaped by the narrowest of margins.

“The first half, we just couldn’t get a bucket to go in and missed a lot of free throws,” Augusta coach Ricky Edwards said. “The guys didn’t give up. They came out in the second half and just kept at it and fought their way back in the game.

“If we would have had a better first half, I think the outcome would have been different, but you can point to a number of things we could have been better at.”

In the first half, the Red Devils (8-8, 4-3) looked miles away from the dynamic they ultimately proved to be as Carlisle held them to five points from the 1:35 mark of the first quarter until the 3:46 mark of the second quarter when Neal hit the first of his five three-point baskets for the game. In that time, Braden Reed and post player Chris Edwards led the Bison to a 19-5 lead at the end of one, and early second-quarter baskets by Metcalf and Dathan Hill pushed the advantage to 21-5 with 7:10 left to go in the first half.

That led to a drought of over two minutes by both teams until Hill converted a transition lay up at the 4:51 mark, followed by a basket by King to make it 25-5. Hill converted an easy wide-open lay up with 4:05 remaining to give the Bison their biggest lead of the game at 27-5 before the Red Devils closed the gap to 33-16 at the break.

Edwards led the Bison with 12 points and eight rebounds while Ricks, Bo Weddle and Austin Reed each finished with eight points. For Augusta, Brown led with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven steals, six of which came in the final four minutes of the third quarter. Neal had 17 points including five three pointers while Pryor had 12 points.

“It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be a dog fight,” Edwards said of the 2A-6 Conference race. You look at Carlisle, look at Des Arc, look at Hughes – we’re going to be in the mix. But every night, we’ve got to come out ready to play.”

SPORTS >> Lady Bears use press to get first league win

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills pressed its way to a decisive 55-18 victory over Helena West-Helena Central at home on Tuesday to capture its first 5A-Southeast Conference triumph of the season.

The Lady Bears (3-9, 1-2) forced 20 turnovers by the Lady Cougars in the first half and 34 for the game, as senior guard Kashima Wright broke loose for a season-high 19 points, most of which came on easy transition baskets.

“The press was effective,” Lady Bears coach Shelly Davis said. “They didn’t have many ball handlers, so the press worked with them weaker in the guard division. Tonight, we put away all the stats. I have no idea who did what as far as assists or anything other than our rebounds.

“That’s cost us several games, because we’re not blocking out, not rebounding, so we just tried to emphasize one at a time tonight. We have to concentrate maybe in one area instead of the whole ball game.”

The Lady Cougars struggled immensely against the full-court defense of Sylvan Hills. Wright and Junior Val Jarrett led the assault, as Wright took it away from HWHC seven times and converted most of those while Jarrett had six steals, many of which led to more points for Wright. Sophomore forward Kali Milton and classmate K.K. Fulton each had two picks, as the Lady Bears rushed out to a 10-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and put the game away in the second quarter boasting an insurmountable 27-6 lead.

“They’re playing very unselfish,” Davis said. “We looked down the floor, and Kashima is one of the first down the floor. She can handle the ball, and we made our lay ups tonight. The girls have been wanting to win and playing hard enough to win, but they were wanting it bad tonight, and played very well.”

Junior Jalmedal Byrd-Hudson made it 12-3 to start the second quarter with a putback at the 7:29 mark before junior Naomi Gregory hit a three-point basket to increase the margin to 15-3 with 6:29 left to play in the first half. Wright then followed with a three pointer and converted a steal with a lay up to give the Lady Bears a 20-4 lead with 5:21 remaining in the first half.

Wright’s next transition score was set up by a steal and dish from Gregory, and Milton followed with a 15-foot jumper to make it 25-6. The Lady Cougars went on a brief 6-0 run before junior Michaela Pinegar closed out the half for Sylvan Hills by hitting both ends of a two-shot foul to set the halftime margin.

It was much of the same in the second half as the Lady Bears started the third quarter with an 8-0 run, and two straight lay ups by Wright midway through the period gave Sylvan Hills the necessary margin to enjoy a continuous clock for the final eight minutes.

“That’s what you play all season for is right now,” Davis said. “And the games we need to win, we have to win. We’re probably going to be that team that’s iffy. If we keep improving and doing little things better, then we should be one of the top teams.”

Gregory added 15 points for Sylvan Hills while Byrd-Hudson finished with six points and a game high nine rebounds, along with three steals. Jarrett also had six points for the Lady Bears.

For the Lady Cougars, Chaterian Dillard and Delana Bedford each had four points to lead the way.

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills runs over Cougars

Leader sportswriter

Archie Goodwin’s 42-foot basket from half court at the first-quarter buzzer was a strong indicator that it was going to be a good night for the Sylvan Hills senior guard as he poured in 33 points to lead the Bears in a runaway 88-53 victory over Helena-West Helena Central at the Sylvan Hills High School gymnasium on Tuesday night.

Goodwin also dominated the boards with 13 rebounds and had five steals, all but one of which led to a patented show-stopping dunk for the University of Kentucky signee, as the Bears improved their season record to 10-3 and stayed unbeaten in 5A-Southeast Conference play at 3-0.

Sylvan Hills went 44 percent from the field (35 for 79), as Goodwin shook off his recent shooting woes by going 4 for 7 from three-point range in the first half. The Cougars (4-5, 0-2) had fewer opportunities due largely to a stifling Bears’ defensive attack that gave up just 19 buckets in 41 attempts for 46 percent from the floor for the entire game.

“We’ve had a tough schedule,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “And we’ve been right there and played well in a lot of big ballgames. So we really challenged our guys to bring something to the position they’re playing, and that’s why I was so proud of them, because everyone who came into the ballgame had positive moments and made things happen from their position.

“You really saw a collaborative effort tonight all the way up and down that lineup.”

Goodwin’s strong night was backed up by a number of good supporting performances, most notably senior point guard Deon Patten, who added 16 points and three first-half steals. Senior transfer Daylon Jones had nine points and added a few highlight-reel moves of his own in the paint against a HWHC defense which seemed completely overwhelmed at times.

“I think more than anything tonight, you have to say they didn’t let their foot off the accelerator,” Davis said. “The depth that came off the bench was adding to the pressure, and that’s what I was hoping we would see from this team earlier in the year. I knew it was going to take a while to get them going, but I felt like they could really contribute.”

The Bears have been successful early this season, but have not shown the domination many expected to see from the defending 5A state runner-up until now. Goodwin’s performance on Tuesday was one of his best this year for one of the nation’s top college prospects.

“Archie’s a teammate,” Davis said. “And he can elevate his game just as well as the 11th guy down there on the bench. I was not worried about the offensive end tonight, I really wasn’t. I called that timeout because we missed some early shots, and they were ugly, and I told them that’s okay, but there was going to be no excuses down there on the defensive end.”

Goodwin did not score until the 3:40 mark of the first quarter when he hit the front end of a two-shot foul, but he quickly made up for lost time with a three-pointer, three dunks and his buzzer-beater from midcourt for 13 points heading into the second quarter.

“This is one of the best games we’ve had this year,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit early on. We’ve still been getting wins, but we haven’t been playing basketball like we did last year. It feels like we’re getting back into the groove of things now.”

Juwan Williams scored for the Cougars to make it 21-13 with 1.6 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, but Goodwin got the last word when he ran down the left side and launched just as he crossed midcourt. His rush to get the shot off before the buzzer caused him to stumble, but as Goodwin went down, the shot went through.

“It felt good when I let it go,” Goodwin said. “It’s one of those things that I actually practice with my uncle when we go to the court. After my workout, I’ll take some half-court shots just in case something like that happens, and I swished it.”

The only thing that stood in the way of a near-perfect night for Goodwin was a 3-of-9 performance at the foul line.

“That was just one of those games,” Goodwin said. “Good shooting night, just a bad free-throw night. It happens to the best of them, so I’m not too much worried about it. I feel like when it’s crunch time, I can knock them down.”

Plenty of Bears saw ample playing time, including Kaylon Tappin and David Johnson, as well as soccer standout Jeremiah Persson, who set the final margin with a lay-in in the final 30 seconds to the delight of the home crowd.

Tappin finished with six points for the Bears while Anthony Lewis led Helena-West Helena Central with 14 points. Williams added 12 points and Ade Jones had 10 points for the Cougars.

SPORTS >> Cabot splits with Catholic, Mount

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s start to the season was unexpected as the Panthers went 9-0 in non conference play, but the 7A-Central Conference is proving to be tougher than expected.

The Panthers started league play with two-straight close losses, the most recent a 55-52 heartbreaker at Little Rock Catholic on Tuesday. It was just Catholic’s second win of the season.

Cabot (9-2, 0-2) shot 50 percent from the free-throw line, going 10 of 20, while the Rockets shot 49 free throws, making 29 of them.

“It’s hard to get in a flow when they’re taking that many trips to the free-throw line,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “It’s hard to wear a team down. We started the fourth quarter one for two, and then they get us on the other end, but I’m pleased with the kids’ effort.”

The Panthers had a chance to tie in the closing seconds when Arthur West found Clayton Vaught open from three-point range. Vaught had a good look, but the shot fell just short. Cabot scrambled for the rebound as the clock wound down, but it went out to Catholic.

“We had to make our free throws,” Bridges said. “If we do that, we win. We’ve played great, we just need to get out of that rut.”

After starting the year 9-0 and winning their own pre-holiday tournament at the new Panther Arena, Cabot is trying to cope with the disappointment of two close losses to start its league campaign. The Panthers opened Central play last Friday with a 45-43 home loss to Conway.

“We’re fragile right now – I’m not going to lie,” Bridges said. “We’ve got to put it behind us. If we had shot just 65 percent from the free-throw line in the first two games, we would be 2-0 in conference right now.

“We’ll get this thing; there’s lots of ball left to be played. They’re a fun group to watch, and they give great effort in the games and in our practices, we just have to learn to deal with these peaks and valleys.”

Vaught led the Panthers with 13 points while West finished with 10. Sophomore post player Josiah Wymer finished with eight points. J.D. Brunett and senior guard Adam Rock each had seven points for Cabot.

Given the tough competition the Panthers faced early on to go unbeaten through the non-conference portion of their schedule, Bridges acknowledged the 7A-Central could be a tougher conference than it is given credit. But with the state tournament coming to Cabot in early March, it will mark a change from recent years where the playoffs have been set in northwest Arkansas, which is welcomed news to the head Panther.

“I think maybe a little bit right now,” Bridges said of the Central conference being underestimated. “But let’s let them come down here. One good thing is the tournament’s here this year, and it makes a difference when you get to rest in your own bed.

“I think what you see out of our conference is not a lot of size, but maybe a little more athleticism and great guard play.”

The Lady Panthers got a 58-36 win at Catholic’s sister school Mount Saint Mary’s. Cabot (14-4, 2-0) enjoyed a size advantage in the game, and did most of its damage offensively with its post players. Melissa Wolff led the way with 17 points while Lacy Boyett added 15.

The Cabot boys and girls played at North Little Rock on Friday and will be at home on Tuesday against Little Rock Central.

SPORTS >> Devils take down No. 1

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils were chastised by their coach for being too passive after their conference opening loss to Little Rock Hall. They were anything but passive in game two of league play, beating previously undefeated Little Rock Parkview 74-63 Tuesday in Little Rock.

Parkview entered the game 13-0, ranked No. 1 overall in the state, as well as sixth in the Southeast and 25th in the nation by ESPN.

The Patriots earned the national recognition by winning the hugely famous and nationwide Whattaburger Classic in Dallas, Texas, over the Christmas break.

Jacksonville apparently didn’t notice. The Red Devils took the floor and went after Parkview, who also beat the Red Devils in last year’s state championship, like a team unrecognizable from the one that played against Hall.

“They dug down and found something inside themselves,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “This was not the same timid team that played last week. They were aggressive and they battled. Things got tight later on. I think we got a little tired. But they dug down and found some inner strength. This was big for us.”

The win was all the more impressive given the fact that Jacksonville’s two leading scorers so far this season, post player Tirrell Brown and guard Justin McCleary, were in foul trouble throughout the game and saw limited playing time. Both ended up fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

James Aikens and Dewayne Waller picked up the scoring slack in the first half. Waller had 10 of his game-high 18 in the first quarter. Aikens scored 11 of his 18 in the second. It was only Aikens’ second game this season, but he played like the seasoned senior he is, hitting three consecutive, progressively longer three pointers in the second quarter to lead the Red Devils to a 40-23 halftime lead.

Aikens was also a major menace to Parkview’s ability to get the ball up the floor. Five of his 11 second-quarter points came on the heels of thievery by Aikens.

Jacksonville led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter and led 23-16 with about six minutes left until halftime. That’s when the run started that put the Red Devils in control of the game.

Aikens hit two consecutive three pointers, then got a steal and reverse layup to quickly make it 31-16 and force a Parkview timeout.

The Patriots began fronting Jacksonville’s post players after the timeout and got two steals off entry passes into the lane, but the Red Devils defense didn’t allow Parkview to get back into the game.

Brown got a dunk after corralling a loose ball under the basket. Aikens then hit a 30-foot shot to make it 36-19. Each team added four more points to set the halftime score.

Jacksonville came out of the half ready for a Parkview run, and never let it happen in the ever-important first few minutes of the third quarter. In fact, Jacksonville’s lead maxed at 57-34 with 1:24 left in the third. But Parkview did finally make a furious rally.

The Patriots scored the final four points of the third quarter, then continued to rally until the margin was down to just eight at 59-51 with 4:44 left in the game.

Parkview sophomore Daryl Macon hit two three pointers. Senior Anton Macon got two layups and a free throw, and Imara Ready got a steal and layup to complete the 17-2 run before Joyner called timeout.

After the break, Jacksonville answered with an 8-1 to take a 68-52 lead with 2:12 left that all but ended the game.

Parkview made another run to get within 70-61, but was too spent from the energy involved in the previous comeback.

“We got tired but I think we got them a little tired too,” Joyner said. “They used up a lot of energy just to get back in it.”

Parkview had three chances to get closer by forcing turnovers before Jacksonville could get across the timeline. But the Devil defense didn’t give up a point after any of the turnovers.

“They were tired turnovers, but they overcame that fatigue on defense and got some stops when they had to,” Joyner said.

Aikens and Waller led Jacksonville (10-4, 1-1) with 18 points apiece. McCleary scored 11 and Brown 10 for the Red Devils. Xavier Huskey led Jacksonville in rebounding with eight and Aikens had five steals.

Beard led all scorers with 21 points. Ready, a senior who is bound for the University of Nebraska, added 14 for the Patriots. Post player Emmanuel Adoyi had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Parkview won the rebounding battle, but just barely. The Patriots had 32 boards while Jacksonville pulled down 31.

Jacksonville hit 22 of 31 free throws, including 11 of 15 in the fourth quarter when Parkview was forced to foul. The Patriots made 13 of 22 attempts.

The stat of the game was three-point shooting. The Red Devils made a remarkable 75 percent from three-point range, hitting six of eight attempts. Parkview made just three of 20 three point shots.

Jacksonville faced Searcy last night at home, and will take on Jonesboro at home on Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Evaluating skills test

Here’s a salute to area students who did well on the recent Iowa Basic Test of Skills. The top schools here include Mountain Springs Elementary in Cabot and Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base, where students scored in the 74th percentile, higher than about three-fourths of the nation’s students.

Also scoring well were Lonoke Primary School in the 72nd percentile, Cabot’s Eastside Elementary was in the 71st percentile and Magness Creek Elementary scored in the 70th percentile.

According to the University of Arkansas, which recently released the report, Arkansas students from kindergarten through the ninth grade who took the Iowa Basic Test of Skills were in the 55th national percentile ranking, meaning they scored better than 54 percent of the students across the nation who took the test.

The overall percentile is based on what the students scored in the reading, math, language and science portions of the skills test. Only certain grades took the science portion.

A percentile score of 50 is considered average, with half the nation scoring worse than that and half scoring better. The tests are not easy and students who get encouragement at home do better. It’s worth noting that children of military dependents score well above average, which reinforces the importance of education to Air Force families serving at the base.

Among Cabot elementary schools, Stagecoach scored in the 68th percentile, Central Elementary was in the 66th percentile, Northside and Westside were in the 64th percentile and Ward Central was at 60.

At the secondary level, Cabot Middle School South scored in the 63rd percentile, Cabot Junior High North was at 61, followed by Cabot Junior High South and Cabot Middle School North, both at the 59th percentile. The Academic Center for Excellence scored in the 51st percentile.

While the state average was in the 57th percentile, most Pulaski County Special School District students scored substantially lower, while those in Cabot and Beebe did much better.

Besides Arnold Drive on base, three other PCSSD schools beat the state average and two tied the average. Clinton Elementary was in the 60th percentile, while Tolleson and Oakbrooke elementary schools were at the 58th percentile and Sherwood and Cato elementary schools matched the state at the 55th percentile.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Academy, a charter school, was also in the 54th percentile.

All Beebe schools scored higher than the state average, except for Beebe Middle School, which missed the mark by one. Beebe’s early childhood center scored in the 62nd percentile. Badger Elementary was in the 58th percentile, Beebe Elementary and Beebe Junior High were at the 57th percentile, Beebe High School was at 56 and Beebe Middle School came in with a percentile ranking of 54.

While the Lonoke primary school had an overall percentile of 72 and 77 in language (tops in the region), the other Lonoke schools fell below the state average.

Schools that did well are determined to stay on course, while those who fell behind must do better.

Unfortunately those that need to do better number close to a dozen and fall mostly around and in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

While Arnold Drive continues to perform well, imagine what it could do in a district that was also solidly focused on its kids like the school is.

Other schools in the district were in the 30 to 40th percentile range and that spells economic trouble for our future. If our kids are scoring below average in the state how can they compete nationwide or globally?

Let’s salute Arnold Drive and Mountain Springs and our other bright spots, but remember we must bring up the others, or pay for not doing so.

TOP STORY >> Drop-off recycling planned in Ward

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council on Monday discussed recycling, a permit to get rid of an eyesore in town and efforts to buy a portable building from the Cabot School District.

The city has been offering electronic recycling through Central Arkansas Waste Management for things like computers and cell phones, but soon it will get bins for other recyclables at no cost to taxpayers.

Mayor Art Brooke said Ward would be getting a container where residents can drop off plastics, paper, cardboard and aluminum cans. The city has not decided where the container will be placed yet.

Because Ward will not be requesting curbside service, Waste Management will only get whatever revenue is generated by what is recycled, Brooke said. He said the city could look into curbside service in a few years if growth continues, but he won’t consider instituting it until it is an affordable option for residents.

Brooke explained that the city is in the process of trying to remove a decrepit building without having to condemn it under the nuisance-abatement ordinance. He is asking state representatives and the city attorney about the best way to move forward on that project.

“The big thing is safety. We have kids playing all around this city,” Brooke said.

The parks and recreation commission submitted a bid on a portable building that is more than 1,000 square foot. The building is being sold by the Cabot School District.

It would be used as a concession stand and for bathrooms. The commission will find out next Wednesday if its bid was accepted.

Parks and recreation also reported to the council that the poles are set for dugouts and the spectators’ awning; 35 yards of concrete has been poured for the little field; a fence where spectators sit was extended by four inches; nine loads of commercial base has been hauled; poles and a cable were painted orange, and the awning should be done by the end of the month.

The commission has $7,657 in available funds and they are also submitting bids for two 8-by-28-foot job trailers, a 1994 Chevrolet pickup and a 2006 Kubota ZD21 60-inch cut diesel mower.

In other business:

• Improvements to the Peyton Street Fire Station driveway are complete, but there are a few items requiring the contractor’s attention. Final payment has been withheld for that reason.

• The city has not received formal approval to begin the Safe-Route-to-schools project from the right-of-way division at the state Highway and Transportation Department. Everything has been submitted and verbal approval was granted.

Until the formal approval is received, the Federal Highway Administration will not give its final release. This takes two to three weeks, and the project will advertise when the city gets that release.

Safe Routes to Schools is a federal program that makes funding available for things like safer street crossings and establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle to school. The program’s purpose is to help communities make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity.

• Additional information requested for a grant to fund Hwy. 367 improvements was submitted, and the city is awaiting a final decision on its application.

• Circle P Welding is supposed to be back on site within the next several days to continue the construction of the new water tank. The delay was caused by the contractor’s discovery that several steel and cast-iron items were stolen from the site. Those have been reordered and the contractor is waiting for them to be delivered.

• Lemons Engineering has begun developing plans for a disaster relief grants project, and those will be provided to the city this month.

• An application has been submitted to Delta Dental for funding to fluoridate the city’s water. The project is subject to receiving that grant, and Delta Dental will meet later this month to review the application. The mayor acknowledged that Ward may be further down in the pecking order, and it could be a while before the project gets under way.

TOP STORY >> Student has big heart for military

Leader staff writer

Magness Creek Elementary fourth-grader Zach Wilmoth of Cabot has a big heart for the military. He hopes to become a naval officer one day.

Last month, the 10 year old visited several wounded servicemen recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., while he was in Washington to attend the Army Navy football game.

Wilmoth’s parents, Emily, who works in human resources for Snap-On Tools in Conway, and Tech Sgt. Scott Wilmoth, with the 19th Airlift Wing’s maintenance group at Little Rock Air Force Base, surprised their son with a weekend trip to Washington to see the military academies compete in the annual rivalry game.

His father returned in October from a six-month deployment in Southwest Asia.

While planning for the trip, Wilmoth said he wanted to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I wanted to let the soldiers know they are appreciated, and thank them for the sacrifices they make. They serve our county and help make us free. They do so much for us,” Wilmoth said.

Before leaving on his trip, Wilmoth asked his teacher, Joni Coats, and his classmates if they would get involved. They made Christmas cards for the service members in the hospital.

At the medical center, Wilmoth visited 15 wounded warriors in the trauma ward.

“A bunch of people did not have legs. They were badly hurt and could not get out of bed or anything. Most were hit by IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” he said.

Wilmoth gave the injured servicemen the handmade Christmas cards and gifts of soap, shampoo and lotion.

“They were very nice to me and thankful. They said they didn’t get very much from people,” Wilmoth said.

“I felt really good after giving the soldiers the gifts,” Wilmoth said.

Wilmoth plans to donate money to the Wounded Warrior Project. He said many of the injured soldiers have just come back from the war and didn’t have any clothes with them.

Wilmoth said the Wounded Warrior Project gives them clothes and helps them rehabilitate. It provides money for prosthetics and housing.

The other part of Wilmoth’s trip was going to the Army Navy football game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., a dream of his. Wilmoth and his parents watched the game on the first row near the goal line close to the midshipmen’s cannon.

“It was cold and crowded but fun,” Wilmoth said.

Before kick-off, several fighter jets and four Apache helicopters flew over.

He said cadets marched into the stadium and formed squadrons. After each touchdown, they would shoot the cannon.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus were at the game and were seen on the big screen, Wilmoth said

Wilmoth saw his favorite football player on Navy’s team, co-captain and fullback Alexander Teich, play in his last game going into Navy SEALs training.

Navy won the game 21-27. Last spring break, Wilmoth and his parents went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. They toured the campus and sat in on a leadership class. Wilmoth met Teich and had pictures taken with him.

Wilmoth said he is keeping his grades up in school to be able to go to the Naval Academy. Last year he made a PowerPoint presentation about the Naval Academy.

In 2008, Wilmoth went on a summer trip to the Pentagon with his grandparents, Kaye and Jerry Burt of Brandon, Miss. Wilmoth met Mabus, the Navy secretary. Wilmoth’s grandmother had worked for Mabus when he was governor of Mississippi. Wilmoth said he made the Navy sound interesting.

During another summer vacation, Wilmoth, then 8 years old, visited San Diego and toured a Navy ship.

TOP STORY >> Fewer accidents with traffic lights

Leader staff writer

Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis reported to the city council’s fire and police committee last week that vehicle accidents decreased 9 percent in 2011 from the average of the three years before.

“The coordination of the (traffic) lights has helped us a lot,” Davis told the committee.

But 3,044 incident calls for 2011 were a 6 percent increase over the average for the three previous years, and the 19,397 calls for service were a 19 percent increase.

His department arrested 1,355 adult offenders in 2011 and 143 juveniles.

Of that number, 531 did time in the city lockup, an average of 3.4 a day.

Mayor Bill Cypert and Davis hope to work out an agreement with Lonoke County this year to house city prisoners in the new county jail. Doing so would eliminate the city’s liability for housing prisoners and free the dispatchers to do that job alone without also tending the prisoners as jailers.

Davis also reported 84 arrests in 2011 for driving while intoxicated and 88 felony and misdemeanor drug arrests.

To free up space in the state prisons, changes in drug laws now make some former felony offenses misdemeanors. For that reason, Davis said an accurate breakdown of last year’s drug arrests would be very difficult.

Those drug arrests also netted $6,804.95 in cash and three vehicles.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson reported an overall decrease in calls including calls to assist the police with traffic accidents. Like Davis, he said the coordination of traffic lights has helped.

Incidents were down from 2,523 in 2012 to 2,463 in 2011.

The total for 2011 included 18 building fires compared to 21 in 2010. And forget what you’ve heard about firefighters getting cats out of trees. They were called out for one animal rescue in 2010 and none in 2011.

But they did extricate three people from vehicles in 2011, down two from 2010. And during all the rain last year, they rescued three people from swift water.

They answered 27 unintentional false fire alarms. They worked 111 vehicle accidents with injuries and 56 without injuries as well as seven accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians.

Robinson gave committee members a handout showing 75 different categories of incidents that firefighters respond to. Only 11 were blank for 2011. For example, there were no collapsed structures, no fires in motor homes and no fires caused by lightning.

What kept the Cabot firefighters busier than anything else in 2011 was assisting with medical calls. In 2011, that number was 1,732 compared to 1,725 in 2010.

TOP STORY >> Minihan: Mission is never done

Leader executive editor

Much has changed since Col. Mike Minihan, the outgoing commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, arrived at Little Rock Air Force Base in August 2010.

The U.S. was fighting two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where C-130s from LRAFB were making deliveries day and night. The wing had not had a break since 9/11.

American combat forces have left Iraq, and the war is winding down in Afghanistan. Yet Minihan says even if the tempo of overseas operations has slowed, C-130s continue to fly into Afghanistan as well as into the Middle East in support of troops in forward operations near Iraq.

“Tonight we’re sending some folks off to war,” he said in an interview in his office Tuesday afternoon. “The tempo has slowed, but it’s still significant.”

“The tempo has lightened up a bit, but we’re changing focus on operations in Afghanistan,” Minihan explained.

About a dozen C-130s and 500 airmen are in combat operations right now, he said. At the height of Iraq and Afghan operations, up to half of the wing’s 50 combat-ready planes and several hundred more airmen were going into war.

Minihan is getting ready to clear out his office — his personal belongings are spread out all around his desk — on Jan. 31 to make way for Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson as the new 19th Airlift Wing commander.

Robinson is executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill.

Minihan will assume command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., from Brig. Gen. (Select) Jacqueline D. Van Ovost. She’s the officer who escorts President Obama to Air Force One.

The wing’s responsibilities include flying Air Force One and other planes assigned to top officials.

But in Tuesday’s interview, Minihan stayed focused on the 19th Airlift Wing, which he says is successful because of the character of its airmen and the community that supports them.

“The change of command is about the men and women of the 19th Airlift Wing,” Minihan said. “It’s a chance to say thanks to the airmen and their families and the community to celebrate the mission and the successes of the entire team. I can’t take credit for that.”


Pressured by Congress, the Obama administration has announced dramatic reductions in defense spending, yet the Air Force and Navy have been spared the worst cuts, which will amount to $1 trillion in the next decade.

The Air Force, like other services, will have to work under “fiscal constraints for the next couple of years” and make “manpower and monetary adjustments,” he said.

The Army and Marines have taken the brunt of the cuts as Pentagon officials plan on relying more on reaching global targets with the Air Force and Navy.

“The new strategy is more Air Force and Navy-centric,” Minihan said.

“The President and Congress have determined that the Defense Department must downsize. It’s very painful on the local level.”

The Air Force enlistment could drop to just over 300,000, about half of what it was two decades ago. But that will make the C-130 more essential than ever, the commander said.

“The base is relevant in the current fighting and future fights that might emerge,” he said.

For Minihan, any cuts are painful. “Compared with the Army and Navy, we’re less affected,” he said.

But the base has started laying off dozens of civilian workers, and more layoffs are likely.

“When we start cutting back, it doesn’t matter if it’s one or 40. It’s still a big deal,” Minihan said.


Minihan said the damage from last April’s tornado will take several years to repair.

He estimated 60 buildings, five planes, a hangar and other infrastructure suffered about $85 million in damage.

In addition, some 250 homes were also damaged.

He said the fire station still needs a new roof. One plane needs a new wing.

“It will be a long process,” he said of the repairs, which will take several years to complete. “Two planes will never fly again. Complete repairs are years away.”

The Pentagon has accepted a bid for $16.9 million for the first phase of the repairs, which will mean jobs for hundreds of local workers.


Minihan had hoped to stay here longer than 18 months.

His daughter, Adair, is a junior honors student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs. He had hoped she would finish her year in the spring.

“To leave Team Little Rock six months earlier is devastating,” he said.

He said what makes it difficult to leave is the team work between the Air Force and the community.

“I understand the importance of the job,” he said. “It’s an absolute honor to command airmen and their families.”

“The challenges have been absolutely incredible,” Minihan continued. “We were promised a break in December 2010.”

But that didn’t last long. Two horrific snowstorms followed, then the tornado in April, and yet the base carried out thousands of combat sorties with thousands of airmen who were proud to call Little Rock Air Force Base their home.

Minihan was often 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.

The weekend before the tornado hit, he sent off 40 airmen and a couple of C-130s into combat.

“On Jan. 31, when I’m riding out of here, I’ll turn my attention to the 89th Airlift Wing,” he said of his new assignment.

“It’s an absolute honor to be offered a chance to lead again. Till then, I’m a Black Knight,” the 19th Airlift Wing’s insignia.

“It’s going to be hard to leave,” Minihan said. “My focus will be on Col. Robinson to make sure this wing goes on motoring.

“He’ll find out this place is amazing.”

SPORTS >> Beebe stifles Chicks in East opener

Leader sportswriter

The 5A-East Conference race became clearer after just one game as Beebe clobbered Blytheville 48-26 in a lopsided battle between two projected league frontrunners at Badger Sports Arena on Friday.

The Badgers (10-3, 1-0) dominated in all phases and held the Chickasaws (8-7, 0-1) to four points through the second and third quarters combined. Beebe led 35-13 after three quarters before easing up on defensive chokehold that kept the normally sharp-shooting Chicks mostly paralyzed.

Junior Austin Burroughs led the Badgers with 18 points after an offensive performance that seemed effortless, while guards Brandon Fuller and Tanner Chapman kept the ball out of Blytheville’s hands for the most part in the second half.

“I just thought we played with great focus tonight,” Badgers coach Ryan Marshall said. “I thought we really focused in on their personnel, and their execution offensively. I don’t know the rebounding stats right now, but I don’t remember them getting any offensive rebounds. I thought we did a good job of checking them off the boards and then taking care of the ball for the most part.”

Beebe won the rebounding battle just as decisively at 29-16 and forced 15 Chickasaw turnovers while committing just six of its own. Senior forward Dayton Scott led on the boards with eight rebounds, five of which were defensive, and also added nine points.

“To be honest, they have a great ball club, but any time you’ve got that many athletes, you never really know what’s going to happen with them,” Marshall said. “We scouted them on Tuesday night, and I honestly felt like if we could take care of the ball and keep them off the boards, we had a chance to beat them. I never thought it would be that comfortable at the end, and they had one of their post players who didn’t play until the second half. He’ll make a difference when he’s healthy, and they’re going to shoot the ball a little bit better at times, but I thought we just really had a great game as far as overall basketball.”

Burroughs hit from all points on the floor with a number of shots that barely touched cord on their way through, while senior Zach May proved he could score with more than just three pointers as he drove into the paint for the majority of his 14 points.

“His confidence is just at another level,” Marshall said of Burroughs. “I watched tape on him from last year, and it’s funny to see the improvement he’s made since then, and I thought he showed leadership tonight from the standpoint that he was ready to take shots and knock them down.”

Burroughs did not get on the scoreboard until the 2:14 mark of the first quarter when he hit both ends of a two-shot foul to give the Badgers a 9-6 lead, but he owned the second quarter with 10 of Beebe’s 16 points.

The Badgers were working a second-quarter shutout on the Chickasaws until their sub point-guard made a jumper in the paint with 17 seconds left until halftime to make the margin 25-11.

Beebe hit Blytheville with an all out Zach attack to start the second half as May scored on a lay in before Zach Baker hit a jumper in the paint to give the Badgers a 29-11 lead with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter. May then scored again on another lay in off the glass to make it 31-11, and Burroughs finished the period with a basket and free throw that put Beebe’s advantage at 35-13 with 3:41 still left on the clock.

Chapman and Fuller played keep away from the Chickasaws defense the rest of the way while demonstrating their ball-handling skills, as Chapman also led defensively for Beebe with three steals. For Blytheville, Keandre Diamond led with eight points.

The Badgers were off on Tuesday and will return to 5A-East play at Paragould on Friday.

SPORTS >> Madden becomes go-to guy

By Nate Allen

For some teams, one basketball court might not be big enough for two freshman guards used to scoring like Arkansas’ B.J. Young of St. Louis and Ky Madden of Lepanto.

Turns out, not only is the court big enough for both, but so is the bench.

Their latest off the bench venture, last Saturday night’s 98-88 SEC opening upset over No. 15 Mississippi State, former East Poinsett County star Madden, scored 11 points in 21 minutes and grabbed a team-leading six rebounds.

Young surged off the bench to tie starting junior point guard Julysses Nobles with a team-high 24 points, including 18 in the second half after Nobles sparked the first half with 15.

For his 24 points against Mississippi State and his 17-point outing Jan. 3 in the 83-66 victory over Savannah State, Young was named the SEC Freshman of the Week by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.

Young doled out more thanks than an Academy Award winner.

“I was just notified about SEC Freshman of the Week,” Young said before the Razorbacks’ Monday afternoon practice. “I’m very thankful for that. I want to thank all my coaches and teammates for putting me in a good position to make plays for my team against Mississippi State. I want to thank everybody in the Arkansas fan base for helping me get here.”

Madden was thankful for his fellow freshman.

“I am very excited for him,” Madden said. “He works hard every day and it’s something he deserves.”

First-year coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks are 12-3 and 1-0 despite losing their best and most experienced player, junior two-year letterman Marshawn Powell, to a season-ending knee injury back in November.

Powell’s absence would have been all the more reason for any of the four touted freshmen, Young, Madden and big men Hunter Mickelson and Devonta Abron, to become spotlight hogs more than basketball Hogs, but none have.

All the rookies and all the upperclassmen have done things other than score.

“You know that’s something we have got to do,” Madden said. “Everybody can’t go out there and score. Somebody has got to go out there and play defense. Somebody has got to rebound. There are some things we have to do in order to win. And the main goal is to win.”

And for Arkansas to win, it often has meant Young scoring most and doing some other things. It’s meant Abron, 6-8, 250 banging inside and doing some other things, and Mickelson blocking shots and doing some other things, and Madden, maybe more than all, doing a little bit of everything.

His 6-5 height and skill makes him that tweener big guard/small forward who can rebound, handle the ball, defend and shoot. He maybe doesn’t do any one of these better than the rest, but none are better than him at doing all of them.

“I think guys are understanding the roles they’re going to play,” Anderson said. “Let’s say a guy like Ky Madden, a guy that’ s got to come off the bench and give us a big lift. His versatility is important for our basketball team.”

Never playing off the bench at East Poinsett County or in AAU ball for the vaunted Arkansas Wings, Madden said he’s learned to observe from the bench what’s most needed when summoned.

“That’s what Coach A has been on me to do, a little bit of everything,” Madden said. “And that would do a lot to help our team win. So that’s what I feel I need to bring into the game.”

SPORTS >> Bears lose overtime game at Lexington

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills got everything it wanted out of its trip to Lexington, Ky., except a victory. The Bears traveled to the town of senior Archie Goodwin’s future college home to take on the host team Lexington-Catholic in the Dunkin Donuts National Shootout.

The Bears took the 13-3 Knights to overtime on their home floor, but were outscored in the extra period 14-10 and fell 75-71 despite a 37-point performance by Goodwin.

“We certainly enjoyed it,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “It would’ve been a lot more enjoyable if we’d have come out of there with a win. But it was a great experience.”

The Bears played a night game in the eight-team event, so they, along with Clarksville-Northeast of Clarksville, Tenn., got to take in the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game that afternoon at Rupp Arena. Clarksville-Northeast features Goodwin’s future teammate at Kentucky, Alex Poythress.

Once in Catholic’s gym, the visiting team was surprised by the reception.

“It’s not often you’re the opposing team and you get cheered when they announce you,” Davis said. That was a neat experience. They definitely wanted to see their recruit and he answered the call for sure.”

The Bears played one of their better games of the season. Davis said of Lexington-Catholic, “besides probably Southwind out of Memphis, that’s the best team we’ve played this year.”

Davis’ squad dominated the stat sheet, but couldn’t overcome an extraordinary shooting night by the Knights. Catholic hit 10 three pointers, including six by Vanderbilt signee Jack Whitman, who finished with 25 points.

“We played really hard,” Davis said. “We out-rebounded them and we had a major size disadvantage. They had a 6-foot-9 and two at 6-6, and we beat them on the boards. We forced some turnovers and shot a higher percentage than they did at the free-throw line, which is something we’ve been waiting to happen.”

The Bears hit 15 of 17 foul shots, which is what Davis was used to.

“You look at our percentages this year and you’re thinking, this is not us,” Davis said. “We’re a 75-percent team and you just know that we’re not doing something right to be shooting that poorly from the line. We’ve worked hard on it. To come in here and shoot it like that is encouraging and hopefully we’ll keep that up.”

Free throws proved the difference in overtime. After four quarters, The Bears had taken 13 foul shots while the Knights had taken seven. In just the four minute overtime, the Knights’ free-throw total had tripled to 21.

“They cheered us but we were the visiting team,” Davis said. “That was a little odd for them to suddenly start getting to the line every trip, but you expect the home team to get most of the close calls in a game like that. We had some opportunities to put it away before the overtime.”

The Bears are now 10-4 overall and 2-0 in conference play. They take one more break from in-state play to travel to Springfield, Mo., this weekend to play in the 28th annual Bass Pro Shop Tournament of Champions. The Bears begin play in that tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday against Christ the King Academy of Queens, NY.

SPORTS >> Buzzer beater sinks Panthers

Leader sports editor

No matter what happens the rest of the season, Cabot’s home conference opener against Conway on Friday will be remembered as the one, and hopefully for Cabot the only one, that got away. The Panthers blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead and fell 45-43 to the Wampus Cats for their first loss of the season.

“We missed the little bunnies (Cabot coach Jerry Bridges’ term for layups) and we missed free throws down the stretch,” Bridges said. “We gave this one away.”

While Cabot certainly played a role in giving up a double-digit lead, it wasn’t entirely a giveaway. Conway guard Tim Boyd, who nearly single-handedly kept his team in the game, swished a double-teamed three pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining that set the final margin. It was Conway’s first lead since 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.

“It was a very good player making a great play,” Bridges said of Boyd’s shot. “That was good defense. We knew they were probably going to him and we were on him. He just made a great play. But we’ve got to do a better job of putting teams away and not letting them be in position to win it when we have them down like that.”

Cabot made just one field goal in the fourth quarter and missed three of four free-throw attempts in the final 1:50 of the game. Leading 43-39, Sam Howe made one of two at the line. Seconds later, Conway’s Garan Davis nailed a three pointer to make it a one-point game. Conway fouled Adam Rock with 53 seconds to go and he missed both free throws. Conway lost it out of bounds on its next possession and Cabot called timeout with 14.7 seconds remaining.

On the inbounds play from underneath Conway’s basket, Cabot got Jordan Brunett loose on the runout, but Brunett missed a wide-open layup and Cabot knocked the ball out of bounds going for the rebound. The clock did not start on the play, and after the officials conferred, they put 14.3 seconds on the clock for Conway, setting up Boyd’s game winner.

Cabot got one final shot, and Arthur West barely missed a 30-plus-foot three pointer at the buzzer.

“They messed up on the clock,” Bridges said. “There’s no way that play only took four-tenths of a second, but there’s no excuses for this one. Like I said, we gave it away.”

Cabot (9-1, 0-1) got eight points from Howe and Josiah Wymer. Wymer also led the team in rebounds with nine. Boyd was the only player in the game to score in double figures. He finished with 21 points, including five three pointers in eight attempts.

Cabot was bad from the free-throw line. Conway was worse. The Panthers made six of 14 attempts while the Wampus Cats hit seven of 21. The Panthers won the rebounding battle 28-21.

Conway was better from three-point land than from two-point range. The Wampus Cats hit 41 percent of their three-point attempts (7 of 17), and were below 30 percent elsewhere (8 of 27).

Cabot was 18 of 44 from the field, including one of eight from three-point range.

The Panthers were at Catholic on Tuesday and travel to North Little Rock on Friday.

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers control Conway

Leader sports editor

Conway jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead on the Cabot Lady Panthers early in Friday’s 7A Central conference matchup, but the Lady Wampus Cats couldn’t handle Cabot’s early pressure and couldn’t contain their outside shooting as the Lady Panthers won 70-58 at Panther Arena.

With senior post player and leading scorer Melissa Wolff on the bench early with foul trouble, Cabot’s guards picked up the slack. Cabot forced eight Conway turnovers in the first quarter, including three steals by point guard Jaylin Bridges. Bridges also hit two three-pointers while guard Micah Odom came off the bench to nail another one as the Lady Panthers finished the first quarter with a 13-2 run and took a 17-10 lead into the second frame.

“We’ve had players step up all year when we’ve needed them to,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “I thought we played really good defense and played pretty well overall tonight.”

Conway’s Claire Hobbs led the early assault that gave her squad the brief lead. She got back-to-back steals and layups and added a three pointer for a 7-0 streak on her own. McCall Wilkins scored the Lady Wampus Cats other three points in the quarter, but from that point, it was Enjonae Chambers that kept Conway in the game.

Chambers led a brief rally in the second quarter that gave the Wampus Cats a 26-24 lead with barely more than two minutes left in the half, but Cabot closed the half with another run and was in control the rest of the way.

Cabot got 10 of its 17 second-quarter points from the bench. Maddie Smith and Alexandra VanEnk contributed three pointers while Sarah Fowler and Smith added a basket apiece to the run. Elliot Taylor scored five, including an and-one play that gave Cabot back the lead for good at 29-26 with 1:50 left in the half.

VanEnk’s three pointer closed a 12-0 Cabot run at 36-26 with a minute left. Conway’s Madison Foster hit two free throws to make it 36-28 at halftime.

The pace dipped slightly in the third quarter, but three pointers from both teams kept it exciting. Bridges ripped off three more from behind the arc as Cabot’s lead grew to 49-36 by quarter’s end.

The Lady Panthers’ lead peaked at 55-39 with 5:02 remaining and Cabot threatened to run away with the win, but Chambers and Hobbs rallied again to keep the score respectable.

Bridges led Cabot (13-4, 1-0) with 17 points and seven steals and also had five rebounds. Wolff got back into the flow in the fourth quarter to finish with 13. She scored nine of those in the final frame. Taylor was a free throw away from a double-double. She finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Conway got all of its point production from the starting five, and all but 10 from Chambers, Hobbs and Foster. Chambers had a game-high 24 points while Hobbs scored 13 and Foster 11.

Cabot played at Mount St. Mary’s last night and go on the road again on Friday to face North Little Rock.

Monday, January 09, 2012

TOP STORY >> Skating rink owner faces felony charges

Leader staff writer

Skateworld in Jacksonville will try to salvage its reputation after its owner was arrested last weekend for the second-degree assault of a 5-year-old girl.

Robert Allen Borders, 47, of Lonoke, who owns the business but not the property, was arrested at 9:05 p.m. Dec. 30 after police responded to a report of an incident at Skateworld, 521 J.P. Wright Loop Road.

Borders did not respond to a phone call from The Leader.

The business has a new sign promoting its new management.  Borders’ 22-year-old son, Robert “Bob” Borders, is now in charge. The son said he did not want to talk  about the incident or about taking over the business.

According to the police report, the victim told officers, “Robert tried to get me to go to the bathroom with him. He rubbed my butt and touched my neck. I climbed under the table when he touched my neck.”

One of several witnesses said, “He was standing by the bathroom trying to get her to go with him. When she said no, he shook his head yes,” according to the report.

Another witness said he saw Borders touch the girl, and he moved her away from him.

Borders said the night of his arrest that he didn’t know why the police were at the business. When police asked if he had been alone with any small children within the past hour, he told them he had been with a black girl inside the DJ booth, which is not fully enclosed. When asked if it was secluded from the rest of the rink, Borders said, “There were people around.”

Borders was released at 1 p.m. Dec. 31 on a $5,000 bond. The rink still held its annual New Year’s Eve lock-in from 6 p.m. that day to 7 a.m. Jan. 1. Admission to the lock-in was $20 and that included drinks and pizza.

If he is convicted of the felony charge, Borders could be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in prison, unless he receives a plea bargain.

According to the Jacksonville District Court, the Pulaski County District Court and the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Borders has not been on trial for any offenses other than traffic violations since 1993. Capt. Kenny Boyd of the Jacksonville Police Department said they have heard similar complaints about Borders, but he could not comment on whether he had been arrested before on similar charges.

Whether he is convicted or not, the business has been suffering financially, and the incident has not helped its image.

Fights have been a common occurrence at the hangout.

Robert Vogel of Vogel Enterprises in Little Rock, the owner of the property rented to run Skateworld, is out of town for the next four weeks, according to his office.
Borders will be in district court at the Jacksonville police station at 9 a.m Thursday.

Boyd added that police would like any other possible victims  or witnesses to come forward.

“It tends to be a pattern. Most cases, the first time they’re caught is not the first time it’s occurred,” he said.

Reactions to the accusations against Borders are mixed.

“I know a different side of Mr. Borders. The man I met wouldn't harm a child in any way, form or fashion. You know that creepy feeling you get around creeps? I never felt that way around him, ever. I have been going to that rink since he has owned it, and I have had nothing but good things to say about the way things were done. I was shocked when I heard of his arrest. Flabbergasted,” said a frequent customer.

“I can't for sure tell you that he is innocent, but I can share the fact that every time that I was in there we found some way to talk about God or church or how drinking and smoking was bad. I have never even heard this man cuss now that I think about it. I have heard that he has been accused of this before and that the person that called the complaint this time was the same as the last. Personal vendetta?” she continued.

Others say that the accusation doesn’t surprise them.

Another frequent Skateworld customer said, “Anytime I have ever been around him I would watch him when he was around kids because I saw how he looked at them, and the way he would touch them was very inappropriate.”

The customer said, when asked what she would like to see happen with the  business, “I would like it if he had nothing to do with it. New owners definitely!”

TOP STORY >> Middle school welcomes Crawford

Leader staff writer

First District Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) toured Cabot Middle School North on Wednesday with state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot).

They discussed plans to hold roundtable discussions with school districts on ways to help struggling schools in the congressional district.

Crawford said there is dissatisfaction with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is having an opposite effect of what it was supposed to do. Later this year legislators will be voting on re-authorization of the education bill.

The proposed meetings with school district administrators will be held at six to eight locations, including one in Cabot. Crawford said the discussions will allow for sharing ideas, voluntarily paring up schools that are achieving with struggling schools.

Last year Cabot Middle School North was re-designated as a Diamond School to Watch, a 19-state program developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.

As part of the Diamond School distinction, CMSN administrators were invited to Washington, visit Congress and tour the Capitol. While there, they invited Crawford to visit Cabot Middle School North.

The middle school was also honored last year with the Shannon Wright Award for the “Outstanding Middle Level Program in Arkansas.”

The award is presented to one middle school in the state each year during the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Educators Conference.

“The school is beautiful and state-of-the-art. What sticks in my mind the most is the enthusiasm of the students,” Crawford said.

The congressman said he noticed most of the children raised their hands when the teachers asked them questions.

Crawford said the classroom environments were soothing, not over-stimulating and did not let students’ attention wander.

CMSN Principal Tanya Spillane remarked that Crawford’s visit was very nice. She said the congressman appeared relaxed and comfortable while visiting the classrooms and meeting the students.

Spillane said Crawford displayed his human side when he played Nintendo Wii Tennis with the youngsters.

She said she was impressed on how Crawford listened to the students, making them view him as more approachable.

“I’m impressed with his concern with AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) status for our building. He seemed aware of the challenges we’re facing with the No Child Left Behind requirements,” Spillane said.

Superintendent Tony Thur-man said, “Congressman Craw-ford understands that there are concerns with the current accountability system and how schools are being labeled as “needing improvement” based on unreasonable criteria.

“Congressman Crawford has always been willing to listen when I've contacted him about concerns about education policy at the federal level and how it is impacting our local schools.

“We are appreciative that he took time from his busy schedule to visit with teachers and administrators and his willingness to consider options that we believe still provide the necessary accountability for every school in our state and nation,” Thurman said.

“I’m excited about the plan for roundtable discussions. It is a great honor for our building and the district,” Spillane added.

“Of all the schools in his district, (the congressman) chose us. It is an honor,” Assistant Principal Adam Koehler said.

TOP STORY >> LRAFB backs up traffic

Leader staff writer

It wasn’t the billboard moratorium that took up most of the Jacksonville City Council’s time Thursday night. It was all the complaints the council and city received Wednesday morning when the air base initiated a new security-check system and had traffic blocked, stopped and parked from the front gate, down Vandenberg Boulevard, up the frontage road, back up Toneyville Road and Hwy. 67/167 almost to Cabot.

Delays for the same reason at the back gate had Hwy. 107 blocked north and south for most of the morning.

I live just a mile from work,” lamented Alderman Aaron Robinson, “and it took me an hour to get to work that morning.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the first complaint call came from his brother, who was stuck in the middle, and the mayor was inundated with calls once he got to the office.

He said the city’s director of administration, Jim Durham, took pictures of the stack up. “I wish we had a helicopter available to get a good aerial view of the backup,” the mayor said.

He plans to use the pictures and list of complaints when he meets with the Highway Department soon in his efforts to get an interchange at the nearby Coffelt Crossing.

“Even if we had just the exits and entrance ramps a lot of people would have been able to get on Hwy. 67/167 and bypass the base delays,” the mayor said.

Robinson asked for more communication and coordination and asked why more police weren’t out there. He was told they were there, but the traffic backed up so quickly and so densely that there wasn’t much they could do.

Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, apologized to the mayor for the problems and modified the implementation of the system. The colonel also put a letter on the air base’s Facebook page.

“On Wednesday,” the colonel wrote, “we implemented a mandatory new security measure for entry onto the base. Despite our best efforts to make this as painless as possible, enormous delays occurred…please accept my apologies.”

He went on to write, “Please know my team has the best interests of the base and the community in mind. The last thing we want to do is cause delays. My priorities are to ensure the mission and security of the base, ensure the safety of those traveling onto and around the base, be a good neighbor to our community and expedite travel onto the base without compromising security.”

The mayor said he had a telephone conference call Friday afternoon with Police Chief Gary Sipes and base officials. “I believe all the kinks have been worked out, and there might be some minor delays and backups, but the worst is over,” Fletcher said.

Minihan, the mayor said, will be writing a letter for the mayor to take to the Highway Department explaining the backup issues and pushing for the Coffelt Crossing or other help.

TOP STORY >> Air base gets set for new commander

 Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson will soon assume command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike Minihan at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Robinson is executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill.

Minihan, who has been commander here since August 2010, will assume command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., whose responsibilities include Air Force One and other planes assigned to top officials.

Minihan’s new assignment will include worldwide special airlift missions, logistics and communications support for the president, vice president, cabinet members, combat commanders and other senior military and elected leaders.

Robinson was previously assigned to the Pentagon and was vice commander at the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston, S.C.

He graduated from Philadelphia University in 1987 with a bachelor’s of science degree in computer science and re- received his commission from Air Force Officer Training School in December 1987 at Lackland AFB, Texas.

His career as a pilot began in 1989 after earning his Air Force pilot wings at Vance AFB, Okla., followed by a position as a T-38B instructor pilot.

At LRAFB, Minihan leads the world’s largest fleet of C-130 aircraft and is responsible for providing worldwide deployable C-130 aircraft, aircrews, support personnel and equipment for Air Mobility Command and Air Expeditionary Force missions.

He ensures support for combat, contingency and humanitarian requirements with 12,000 personnel and families at LRAFB.

Minihan entered the Air Force in June 1989 after receiving his commission through the ROTC program at Auburn University. He completed undergraduate pilot training in 1991 and served as an aircraft commander, instructor pilot and evaluator pilot in the C-130 Hercules.

Minihan commanded an airlift squadron and four deployed expeditionary airlift squadrons. Most recently, Minihan served as vice commander, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, Calif.
Minihan is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flying hours in the C-130 and KC-10.

EDITORIAL >> Tamales for a new year

Like most American adults, my New Year’s resolution will be to eat lighter and move more. But as I have for years, I don’t make that resolution for about two weeks, which is about how long the New Year’s tamales last. 

Josh, my youngest son, gave me a galvanized tamale pot for Christmas about 10 years ago. Inside was a sack of masa, a package of corn shucks and a bag of large, dried peppers. Apparently, he wanted tamales and I was the one who would make them for him whether I had any idea how to do it or not.

Lucky for me, the recipe was on the sack of masa. So on New Year’s Day, I made tamales for the first time. I’d always heard they were time consuming and a lot of work. But as it turned out, they were only multi-stepped.

Boil the meat until it’s falling off the bone; mix the masa with lard, baking powder and salt and meat broth according to the recipe on the bag; take the seeds out of the peppers; fry them in hot oil and blend them with meat broth into a sauce; shred the meat; mix with the pepper; spread the masa dough on corn shucks that have been soaked to make them pliable; put dollops of meat on top of the dough; roll them up; place the tamales in the pot and steam them for about two hours until the dough is set.

Josh helped me the first few years. My kitchen was small and there was barely room for the two of us. But I looked forward to the time with him.

After a couple of years, we added other dishes – salsa, guacamole, rice, refried beans, white cheese dip with chips, enchiladas… Our menu can’t compete with the local Mexican restaurant, but it’s pretty adventurous for a family of Delta transplants who are much more accustomed to the traditional New Year’s fare of black-eyed peas and hog jowl.

In 2010, we made tamales in the new kitchen that is three times larger than the original because we knocked out walls and took in two more rooms. And for the first time, there was room for everyone to help make the tamales.

My niece Jenny Holmes and her husband, Jeremy, helped roll, while Josh and my oldest son Jim alternated between rolling and trying to perfect dipping sauces made from the leftover peppers. My son Jason breezed in and out, helping a little, making suggestions and, as always, looking good. Those who love him say Jason’s motto is, “It’s not how good you do it, but how good you look doing it.”

They talked about their jobs, movies I had never heard of and childhood adventures that I had been blessedly unaware of until then.

When we were done, we had filled the galvanized pot and the new larger aluminum pot that was a gift from my husband.

We had tamales to eat, give away and freeze. And they were good. But it should be obvious if you’ve stayed with me this long; it’s really not the tamales I like as much as making them with the 30-year-old-plus adults that I still call the kids.

New Year’s Day 2011 was a little different. My mother-in-law died on Christmas Day and was buried on New Year’s Eve. But tradition is called tradition because you keep it up. So on New Year’s Day, we rolled tamales with the help of relatives from Pennsylvania, down for the funeral.

For us, 2010 was a hard year from beginning to end. There was a cancer scare with my husband, the death of my daughter-in-law’s dad from cancer and Rosemary McCoy, my favorite sister-in-law, had surgery for a brain tumor on her 58th birthday just days before Christmas.

The Pennsylvania relatives seemed to really enjoy helping out with the tamales but for most of us, there was a sense of carrying on because it needed to be done.

In our family, 2011 rivaled 2010 in difficulty. My mother and Rosemary’s dad died, and our oldest children divorced.

But on New Year’s Day, Rosemary was standing at my kitchen island wearing a hat to keep her regrown hair out of the masa. And my son’s half-Mexican girlfriend, who speaks little Spanish and cooks no Mexican, was trying to make tamales for the first time.

As usual, many hands produced tamales of varying sizes while Josh chopped meat, chicken and shrimp for tacos. Jim worked on fajitas and Jason looked good while making his fruit salsa.

It felt right. It looks like 2012 might be the good year we all hope it will be.                              

—Joan McCoy

SPORTS >> Pressure lifts Cabot to win

Leader sportswriter

Pressure and patience were the key ingredients in Cabot’s 52-32 victory over Greene County Tech at Panther Arena on Tuesday.

The Panthers (9-0) finished their non conference schedule with a perfect record and made a statement to 7A-Central competitors with a stout defensive performance that kept the visiting Golden Eagles on the run to try and avoid the pressure. Offensively, Cabot worked the ball thoroughly and waited for the perfect shot, resulting in good scoring nights for several Panther players, including senior guard Sam Howe, who had game-leading 13 points.

“I thought in the second half, we played much better,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “That’s why we put this game here with our break like it was to try and get this one before we start off for real Friday. To be 9-0, I don’t know who we’ve played, but they work hard for us every day.”

Tech kept things close in the first half with a series of well-timed three-point baskets, but when the outside dried up for the Eagles in the second half, the hard-nosed play of scrappy senior guard Andrew Ferguson was all they seemed to have left for Cabot. Ferguson led the Eagles with 12 points.

Cabot held the ball nearly two minutes on some possessions in the second half, which opened up lanes inside for dumps into the post. Sophomore Josiah Wymer was the biggest beneficiary for the Panthers, scoring eight of his 10 points in the second half.

“One thing we do well is executing our high-low,” Bridges said. “First half, I thought we did a poor job of hitting our big men on the block. They were open, and we weren’t getting it to them. I looked up there in the second half. We were up 20, and I didn’t know where it came from.”

Arthur West added 10 points for Cabot, though two of those points were disputed most of the first half. West stole the ball from Tony Valdez in the closing seconds of the first quarter and made his way to the basket for a lay-in at the buzzer. One official called for the basket and a foul while another referee waved off the shot.

That was the start of a five-minute debate at the scorers table, which resulted in the basket not being counted to leave the score at 6-4. The basket was eventually counted, however, as the halftime margin of 17-14 mysteriously went to 19-14 just before the start of the third quarter.

Wymer’s only first-half points came with 2:04 remaining until the break with an assist from West to give the Panthers a 15-9 lead. He scored again inside at the 2:39 mark of the third quarter to make it 32-20 in favor of Cabot. He then scored on a put back following a missed free throw by Clayton Vaught for a 35-21 Cabot lead.

“We keep telling him, ‘Josiah, if you catch the ball down on the block, make them stop you,’” Bridges said. “As big as he is, when he gets that momentum going one direction, you can’t stop the kid, but man, he’s a good lift for us. We feel like we’ve got 10 guys that we can play.”
Ferguson never quit battling for Tech, though sometimes it appeared as if he was in the fight alone.

He converted a basket and free throw with 4:24 left to play in the first half to cut Cabot’s lead to 28-20, only to watch as the Panthers picked up a turnover and scored on a lay up by Howe to begin a 7-1 run that put Cabot at a comfortable 35-23 margin heading into the final period.
Junior guard Kyle Thielemier showed little signs of rust in his first game back from injury as he added eight points for the Panthers.

“I don’t know; we didn’t expect this – they work hard,” Bridges said of his team’s early success. “There’s a lot of basketball left, but I never thought we would be 9-0 now. They’re very unselfish. I think we’ve had four or five different leading scorers in every game.

What I like about tonight’s win is, we can shoot the ball a lot better than what we did tonight.”
The Panthers began league play at home against Conway last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s Leader.