Friday, January 27, 2012

TOP STORY >> Change of command is slated for 19th AW

Leader executive editor

Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson will assume command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike Minihan at Little Rock Air Force Base at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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 Aug. 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.

In an open letter to the air base community, Minihan wrote in Friday’s Combat Air-lifter newspaper, “It has been an honor to watch you in action. You make magic happen both at home and abroad.

“You dominate our nation’s enemies in combat. You train daily to a standard worthy of the title ‘C-130 Center of Excellence.’ You execute a state mission to a level that leaves 49 other states extremely envious. And you provide meaningful support to our most important assets…airmen and families.

“On April 25, 2011, I watched you fight for each other on ‘Miracle Monday.’ I’ve seen some powerful things in my life…but never to the level of what I witnessed after the tornado struck.

“You perform under pressure. Your combat, crisis and inspection record proves it.

“You define resiliency. You define community.”

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., air base.

Robinson graduated from Philadelphia University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in computer science and 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.

Before he took over the 19th Airlift Wing, 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 >> Military cuts loom large

Little Rock Air Force Base will get new leadership next week as Col. Brian Robinson succeeds Col. Mike Minihan, just days after Thursday’s announcement of huge cuts in military spending.

For many in the military, it was Black Thursday, because the cuts include a reduction in personnel, smaller pay raises, as well as lower retirement and health benefits. There was much more:

Other cuts include eliminating seven Air Force squadrons, retiring 65 older C-130s, eliminating fighter planes and reducing the number of battleships. Many of those cuts will affect Little Rock Air Force Base and veterans who live here.

Defense Secretary Leon Penatta has proposed a $525 billion military budget, down from $531 billion. Another $487 billion will be cut over the next decade, in addition to some $500 billion in cuts that are required under Congressional spending guidelines.

The Air Force budget of $119.6 billion is down $4.5 billion from the year before as more cuts were announced Thursday.

The Pentagon has also called for another round of base closings, which are unpopular with members of Congress whose districts might be affected.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) supports cutting military spending but opposes canceling a $4.4 billion avionics contract to upgrade aging C-130s at Little Rock Air Force Base and elsewhere. The Air Force announced the end of the avionics modernization program earlier this month, although Griffin thinks supporters in Congress could get it back on track.

He thinks the avionics program saves money in the long run because it would keep hundreds of C-130s in the air. He’s also unhappy that some 45 civilians are losing their jobs at the base.

At an appearance at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday, Griffin said President Obama’s budget proposal is only “the first step” before negotiations start in Congress, which will decide the size of the defense budget.

Griffin said Obama’s military budget didn’t get far last year, and he predicted smaller cuts this year. Will Congress split the difference with the Obama administration? Perhaps. The military shouldn’t have to bear the biggest cuts in the federal budget. But even if half the proposed cuts are restored, a $500 billion reduction over the next decade will be widely felt.

TOP STORY >> Griffin applauds base community

Leader staff writer

Rep. Tim Griffin (R.-Ark.) told a packed house at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Thursday night that the community had set the standard when it came to having a positive relationship with a military base.

“I know you would think all communities are that way, but they are not. The standard is here and we want the country to know it,” the freshman Republican representative said.

Besides talking about how well Jacksonville and central Arkansas embraces Little Rock Air Force Base, Griffin also brought up some budget concerns and his reasoning why the big problems aren’t being resolved.

Griffin, the chamber’s guest speaker for a second year in a row, said he and his staff recently sat down and came up with a list of what set Jacksonville and its relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base apart from other military communities.

“We came up with five major points. First, here the air base is a generational priority. It’s been important for decades. Your relationship is rooted in history, and the community has been involved from the beginning,” he said.

The second point, the congressman said, was how well the civilian and military population work together. “There is a seamless transition.”

Thirdly, he pointed out that there is a shared standard. He said both the base and the city live up to the Air Force’s high expectations and pursuit of excellence.

Next, he said was the city’s tireless advocacy for the base and the military, and finally, the extended family feelings. “The community’s warm embrace of the base and its members bring a lot of members back when they get out or retire,” Griffin said.

Earlier in the day, information was released about major military budget cuts that President Obama had announced. “The thing we have to remember is the President’s budget is the first word, not the final,” Griffin said.

He said the President got no Democratic votes in the Senate on his last budget. “The president’s budget is a starting point for discussion. Should we be concerned? Yes, but there’s no need to hyperventilate. I caution people and remind people that the President’s budget is not the final word, only his vision. If he wants a program killed, it doesn’t mean we are killing it.”

Griffin did say his efforts to purchase more flight-training simulators in the last budget did fail.

“Those were not earmarks because they weren’t specifically for LRAFB, but were for the Air Force in general. I still think spending a few million on simulators can save a lot on wear and tear of aircraft. Making more training available is a good thing—better then buying gas flying around,” he bemoaned.

The Pentagon is looking at cutting the avionics modernization program that updates the technology on older C-130s. “I’m an advocate for it because it ultimately saves money,” Griffin said. “It gets rid f the navigator position and extends the life of an aircraft you already own. It’s a good use of our taxpayers’ money.”

So far four C-130s have been upgraded through the program and all those aircraft are at LRAFB.

While Griffin was the main speaker, the banquet was also the time for the outgoing chairman of the board to pass the gavel to the new chamber leaders.

Jason Wilkinson, after holding down the chairmanship for two years, passed the team over to the new chairman, Joey Urquhart.

Other new officers for 2012 include Larry Biernacki, vice chairman; Daniel Gray, treasurer, and new board members David Copeland, Lauren Fowler, Carol Langston, Andy Patel, Jay Quebedeaux, Terry Ray, Matt Robinson, Roger Sundermeier, Val Yagos and Larry Wilson.

TOP STORY >> Study reveals road dangers for area cities

Leader senior staff writer

The high incidence of pedestrian and bicycle crashes with motor vehicles on South First Street in Jacksonville and on Main Street in Cabot between Hwy. 67/167 and the public school complex at Polk Street requires further study, according to a Metroplan draft report released to its board Wednesday.

In Little Rock and North Little Rock, eight other corridors are recommended for further study, according to the report.

“The next step is to get police reports, review them, then deliver them to the cities and make recommendations,” according to Metroplan’s Casey Covington.

The study, which mapped hundreds of crashes by GIS location, found clusters of accidents at various intersections and corridors throughout Pulaski, Lonoke, Saline and Faulkner counties from 2001 through 2010.

Including Sherwood — with Gravel Ridge — Jacksonville, Cabot, Austin and Ward, the four-county study found an average of 140 pedestrians and 50 cyclists are involved each year, averaging 100 serious injuries and 11 fatalities.


The intersection of Hwy. 38 and South Polk Street in Cabot has been the site of four pedestrian crashes over those years, putting it in a five-way tie for the eighth most dangerous pedestrian intersection in the four-county area.

As far as dangerous corridors, a two-mile stretch of West Main Street in Cabot has seen 22 crashes, including the four at Hwy. 38 and South Polk Street.

On the stretch of Hwy. 67/167 including the area from Sherwood through Cabot, seven deaths were recorded during that period, as well as 25 other pedestrian accidents.

Most of these involve pedestrians trying to cross the highway; most of the rest were walking along the side.

Among about 20 Cabot pedestrian accidents, one was a fatality in September 2008 when a motorcyclist struck two pedestrians leaving a Cabot football game.

In the general area east of Hwy. 67/167, north of Richie Road, the study locates 18 pedestrian accidents and 14 bike accidents from 2001 through 2010. They include seven pedestrian and two bike crashes on that area of Hwy. 89 (Main Street) alone, with another four pedestrian and three bike crashes on that section of Hwy. 367 and six pedestrian and three bike crashes on North Lincoln, including the fatality.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, who is also vice president of the Metroplan board of directors, says the city now has sidewalks along about two blocks of Main, with grants confirmed for another two or three blocks. He hopes eventually to have sidewalks from the schools all the way to Hwy. 67/167.

A new traffic signal at the intersection of Locust and Lincoln streets may also increase pedestrian safety.

Between 1995 and 2010, 103 pedestrian crashes in Lonoke County accounted for nine deaths, while in Pulaski County, 1,939 pedestrians were hit and 118 died.

During that same period, one bicyclist was killed among 45 bike accidents in Lonoke County, and eight of 612 bicycle/vehicle crashes resulted in death.

Of about 45 pedestrian accidents in Jacksonville, four were fatal.

“While this is a small percent of the total number of vehicle crashes, it represents 10 percent of the total number of fatalities and is a major concern for pedestrians and in the bicycle community,” according to the report.

North Little Rock had the highest pedestrian crash rate in the four counties, with about 32.5 per 100,000 population. By comparison, the pedestrian crash rate per 100,000 in Jacksonville was 15; unincorporated Pulaski County, 13; Cabot 11; Sherwood 8, and unincorporated Lonoke County 5.


The report identified six pedestrian crashes on Hwy. 67/167 or frontage roads and another six pedestrian and six bicycle crashes on Kiehl Avenue.

In Gravel Ridge, there have been eight pedestrian and four bicycle crashes between 2001 and 2010. Those include three pedestrians and one bicycle crash on Hwy. 107 with an equal number on Jacksonville Cutoff.

Maumelle had the lowest pedestrian/bicycle crash rate, perhaps because the pedestrian/bike system is separated from the motorized traffic, the Metroplan study postulated.

North Little Rock led the fatality rate with 2 per 100,000 population, compared to Jacksonville, the second deadliest, with 1.6 deaths per 100,000. Both Cabot and Sherwood had about 0.3 deaths per 100,000.

Lonoke County recorded 103 pedestrian crashes between 1995 and 2010, with nine fatalities, while Pulaski County recorded 1,939 crashes with 118 fatalities.

During that same period,45 bicycle crashes were recorded in Lonoke County with one fatality, and 612 bicycle crashes in Pulaski County with eight fatalities.


In Jacksonville, there were 15 pedestrian crashes on Hwy. 67/167 from 2001-2010, with six fatalities. During the same time, on South First Street, there were seven pedestrian crashes with one death and seven bicycle crashes with no fatalities.

In the Sunnyside area, there were six pedestrian crashes and seven bicycle crashes.

Overall, the study found that minorities and young people are disproportionate affected, according to the study.

The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate pedestrian/bicyclist safety within the Central Arkansas Regional Transportation Study (CARTS) area and provide a comparative assessment to the baseline initially established in the previous study.

Building on the previous study, this update seeks to identify specific intersections and roadway segments with the highest number of crashes and greatest levels of safety concern.

Black males under 16 had the highest pedestrian and bicyclist crash rate. However, black males 16 and over had the highest pedestrian fatality rate. Nearly 64 percent of pedestrian crashes were not at intersections, contrasting with the nearly 65 percent of bicycle crashes occurring at intersections.

Central Arkansas’ 15-year pedestrian fatality rate is lower than the national rate and the state’s rate. Nearly 80 percent of pedestrian fatalities were not at the intersection and 57 percent of bicycle fatalities occurred at the intersection. Twenty-two percent of the pedestrians were crossing the roadway when killed. About 60 percent of pedestrian crashes occurred during dark, dawn or dusk conditions.

Sidewalks were present in only 47 percent of pedestrian crashes mapped. Crosswalks were present in 22 percent of pedestrian incidents.

Speed was identified as a contributing factor in both the likelihood of a crash and its severity, according to the report.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits get two conference wins at Stuttgart

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits needed overtime to take a huge 56-55 victory over Stuttgart in a 4A-2 Conference road game on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits (14-6, 7-2) came back from an eight-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter, and actually took a two-point lead in the final minute of regulation before Stuttgart scored on a lay up just before the buzzer to force overtime.

“You could tell our guys were a little disappointed after that happened,” Lonoke

coach Dean Campbell said. “But I told them that they needed to understand, we were the ones who came back and were down – we’re the ones with momentum. I think that helped us take that momentum into overtime.”

The Ricebirds took the lead early in the extra period before Lonoke senior guard Tarrale Watson led the ’Rabbits back. The game was tied with 10.7 seconds left to play when Stuttgart hit the front end of a two-shot foul. Watson pulled down the rebound on the missed second shot and quickly got the ball out to Darius McCall. McCall moved to the middle of the court and found sophomore Blake Mack, who went up for the winning shot but was off. Watson powered his way up for the offensive rebound and dropped it in for a putback just before the buzzer.

“We were more or less down the whole game,” Campbell said. “It’s big – I don’t think we’ve won over there since the ’08 season. That’s a three-year drought, but it’s a tough place to play.”

Watson led the Jackrabbits with 17 points, including 6 for 6 from the free-throw line, while junior post player Reid McKenzie added 14 points and Mack had 12 points despite sitting out most of the second quarter after getting into early foul trouble.

The Lady Jackrabbits also came up big on the road when they defeated Stuttgart 51-43 on Tuesday. Freshman guard Kerasha Johnson led Lonoke with 14 points and eight steals, while senior Kaitlyn Tate added 10 points for the Lady ’Rabbits (13-9, 7-2).

“Playing in a place like Stuttgart is always tough,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “So it was a great win for us from that standpoint, and it was good for us to get out of there with a win to help us in the conference race.”

Johnson went on a 4-0 run for Lonoke to start the fourth quarter, giving the Lady Jackrabbits a 40-29 lead.

The Lady Ricebirds inched their way back, and took advantage of Lonoke’s struggle at the foul line to stay within striking distance most of the way. The Lady ’Rabbits went 12 of 36 from the stripe.

But they made up for some of that on the boards, out-rebounding the Lady Ricebirds 35-20.

The conference race remains close at the halfway point with Marianna up top at 8-1, while Lonoke, Heber Springs and Southside Batesville clog up the second spot all at 7-2.

Heber Springs defeated Southside on Tuesday to make a close race even closer, while the Lady Jackrabbits hosted the Lady Southerners Friday night in a game with big implications.

SPORTS >> Mustangs put away Badgers in overtime

Forrest City Times-Herald

It would be hard to imagine a state championship game being any better than Tuesday’s 5A-East conference game played at Mustang Arena.

Tre Hutchieson’s running jumper with 1.1 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 48-48.

Mekyiel Harris scored the game’s final four points in overtime to give Forrest City a 58-56 heart-stopping win over the Beebe Badgers.

The win keeps the Mustangs unbeaten in conference play and in sole possession of first place. With the loss, and coupled with Greene County Tech’s win over Paragould, Beebe fell to third.

Tuesday’s win marked the first Forrest City victory over Beebe since the school moved from the 5A-Southeast conference into the East last season. Beebe swept the Mustangs last year, winning 54-50 and 45-44.

Forrest City and Beebe played a first-round game in the 2008-09 Class 5A state tournament in Alma with the Mustangs winning that matchup 56-53 in overtime.

“They (Beebe) are a championship caliber team,” said Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton. “I wasn’t surprised at all at the way the game played out. They wanted it as badly as we did. The fans saw two championship teams go head-to-head. They weren’t going nowhere. We weren’t going nowhere. All the big players played big for both teams. But right at the end, no one stepped up bigger than Hutchieson.”

Forrest City sophomore Trey Thompson led four players in double figures with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.

Hutchieson finished with four points as well as the biggest shot of the game.

Beebe led 18-14 after one period and 29-28 at the half, getting 14 first half points from Dayton Scott, who finished with 20. Zack May was the only other Beebe player to reach double figures – finishing with 10.

“I knew at the end of the first half, they were playing a much faster game than they wanted to play,” said Lofton. “I was happy with that.”

Forrest City, 10-7 overall, forced a 32-32 tie in the third period when Chatters converted a layup off a feed from Harris with 5:19 to play.

Martin Clanton’s three pushed the Mustang lead to 37-32 with three minutes showing before Beebe battled back by hitting six consecutive free throws to get within one point, 39-38 to start the fourth period.

Beebe regained the lead to start the fourth period and never trailed, surviving two ties at 40-40 with 5:41 to play and 46-46 with 52 seconds left.

Beebe used two free throws to break the 46-all tie to lead 48-46 with 12 seconds left, before Hutchieson’s basket sent the game into overtime.

Harris put the Mustangs in front 50-48 with a short bank shot before Beebe’s Brandon Fuller tied the game at 50-50 with 2:18 remaining in overtime.

Chatters rebounded a Thompson miss with 1:46 to play and got the putback for a 52-50 Forrest City lead. A long three by Beebe put the Badgers in front 53-52 with 1:13 showing before Lee sank two free throws for a 54-53 Mustang advantage with 53 seconds left.

Harris hit one of two free throws for a 55-53 lead, converted a layup with 18 seconds left and dropped in his final free throw with 13 seconds to play for a 58-55 lead.

A long three pointer by Beebe that caught nothing but net with 2.5 seconds showing was waved off after the officials ruled Beebe head coach Ryan Marshall had called for a time out just before the shot.

Beebe inbounded following the time out and drew a quick foul from Lee, but made only one of two free throws with .2 seconds left.

The Beebe Lady Badgers remained in third place in the 5A-East with a 69-43 win.

Jamie Jackson led Beebe with 25 points, while Kalela Miller added 18 and Angelina Williams had 11 points. Alexis Miguel added seven points for Beebe, 13-5 overall.

Forrest City junior guard Mary Burks finished with 18 points – hitting five, three-pointers – four in the first half. Nikima Chatters finished with eight points, while Deja Collins, Keyma Thompson and Marina Ford had five points each.

Forrest City falls to 1-4 in the conference and 4-14 overall.

Beebe led 18-13 after one period and 40-26 at the half, bolstered by Johnson’s 17 first-half points.

The Lady Badgers led 58-37 to begin the fourth period and invoked the 30-point “mercy rule” with 3:36 to play in the game when they pushed the lead to 68-38.

SPORTS >> Lady Falcons beat Cougars

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons got their first conference win of the season and just their second win overall Tuesday night in Jacksonville, beating Helena-West Helena Central 55-49 in overtime. Lady Falcon guard Haley Hudson scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period.

North Pulaski led 10-4 after one quarter and 20-14 at halftime, but the Lady Cougars rallied for a 31-29 lead at the end of the third quarter. With four minutes remaining regulation, HWHC had stretched its lead to 40-32, but North Pulaski mounted a furious comeback.

It started with a three pointer by North Pulaski’s Neddy Fuller with 3:45 left that made it 40-35. That’s when Hudson took over. She scored North Pulaski’s final 10 points in the fourth quarter to rally her team into an extra period that began with the two teams tied at 45.

Hudson’s first basket of the rally came with 2:55 remaining and made it 41-37. She scored again 30 seconds later to make it a two-point game. The Falcons sent Shadashia Baker to the line. Baker missed both free throws, but got her own rebound and scored to make it 43-39 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Hudson drove the length of the floor and into the lane for another bucket just 10 seconds later. She then got a steal, was fouled and made both free throws to tie the game with 1:17 remaining.

Hudson rebounded a missed three pointer by Baker and was fouled again. This time she missed both free throws. Helena-West Helena’s Delana Bedford scored with 38 seconds remaining, but Hudson answered with 22 seconds to go.

NP fouled Helena-West Helena’s Lakwonta Harvey with 11 seconds left, but Harvey missed the front end of the one-and-one. NP got the ball down the court and the Lady Cougars knocked it out of bounds with two seconds remaining. North Pulaski got it in bounds, but couldn’t get a shot, sending the game into an extra four-minute period.

Khalea Rhodes got North Pulaski’s first points of overtime. She made both ends of a one-and-one trip to the free-throw line for a 47-45 North Pulaski lead. Talia Nation then got the rebound off a Helena miss. She passed to Hudson who was fouled and made one of two foul shots for a 48-45 NP lead with 3:09 left.

Lady Cougar Kymberlee Collier made it a one-point game with two free throws, but Lady Falcon post player Cathy Waylan scored inside to make it 50-47 with 2:34 remaining.

Fuller then got a steal and was fouled. She hit one of two at the line for a 51-47 North Pulaski lead. Fuller got another steal on Helena-West Helena’s next possession. She passed to Jolisha Baker for a layup and a 53-47 North Pulaski lead with 2:00 left in the game.

The two teams then traded trips to the line. Hudson made two free throws with 1:09 on the clock that set the final margin. Fuller got her third steal in two minutes, but the Falcons turned it back over. The two teams combined for four missed free throws in the final minute.

North Pulaski (2-10, 1-5)won the rebounding battle 48-41.

Waylan finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Baker came off the bench to score 10 points and grab 13 rebounds. Rhodes had two points and eight rebounds while Nation finished with five points and six rebounds.

Bedford led Helena-West Helena Central (1-11, 0-6) with 15 points. Baker finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds. Bri’ana Meriweather came off the bench for 10 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Cougars.

SPORTS >> Devils sweep West Memphis

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville won its fifth consecutive game Tuesday night, picking up a big conference road victory over always-tough West Memphis 54-44. The Lady Red Devils also got an important win to run their winning streak to four games, running over the West Memphis ladies 66-40 in an impressive road performance.

The Red Devils (15-3, 5-1) took complete control of the game in the first quarter and raced out to a 21-6 lead. They were only able to add a point to that lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Blue Devils 13-12 and taking a 34-18 lead into the locker room.

After the break, the home team rallied.

“They changed defenses on us a couple of times and it took us a minute to get adjusted to it,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “We never panicked or anything like that. They just did a good job of making some changes they had to make to try and get back into the ball game.”

The Blue Devils stayed in a 2-3 zone for most of the first half, but Jacksonville’s outside shooting forced a change of strategy. Guards Dustin House, Dwayne Waller and Justin McCleary each hit three pointers in the first half.

In the second half, West Memphis went to a matchup zone and ran some man defense. Once the Red Devils made the proper adjustments, they began to work the ball inside for points in the paint or trips to the free-throw line.

Free-throw shooting was one area that wasn’t impressive for Jacksonvlle. The Red Devils made just 11 of 21 attempts, but Joyner didn’t seem too worried about the one bad night.

“We’ve been pretty good at the line most of the year,” Joyner said.

House led Jacksonville with 12 points while post player Tirrell Brown added 11.

“House did a good job staying within his game,” Joyner said. “He’s not quick enough to get to the rim, but he’s tall and has a good jump shot. He went as far as he could and when someone came out to get him, he pulled up and shot.”

Jacksonville was back at home against Mountain Home last night after The Leader deadlines.

The game against the Bombers closes the first round-robin in 6A East Conference play.

The Red Devils will take a break Tuesday before resuming conference play on Friday against first-place Little Rock Hall.

The Warriors handed the Red Devils their last loss on Jan. 6. in Little Rock. Hall controlled every aspect of that game and won 65-52. The Warriors entered last night’s action still unbeaten in league play.

Behind Jacksonville in third place is Jonesboro. Little Rock Parkview is fourth with losses to each of the top three teams.

Parkview leads the girls standings while Hall is second and Jacksonville third.

SPORTS >> Panthers pull away late, beat Van Buren

Leader sportswriter

Good second-half shooting helped Cabot pull away from Van Buren in a 65-36 victory over the Pointerettes at Panther Arena on Tuesday to remain unbeaten at home in 7A-Central Conference play.

The Lady Panthers (16-5, 5-1) built a 38-24 halftime lead despite shooting just 25 percent from the floor (3 of 12) in the second quarter, but were lights during a third-quarter performance in which they shot 10 of 11 from the field. Cabot went 20 of 38 for the game for nearly 53 percent while Van Buren was 11 of 29 for just under 40 percent.

“If we could figure out what that was and put it in a bottle, we could make a million dollars,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “There weren’t many bad shots, and some of them were threes. Getting in the flow – that’s the real key, it makes your defense better, and your offense better. That kept us pumped up even when we switched and had other players come in.”

The Pointerettes (15-5, 3-3) fought to a 16-16 tie at the end of the first quarter but could not keep pace beyond that as Cabot used its full-court defensive pressure to generate 24 turnovers, including three steals for senior forward Sydney Wacker, who also finished with eight points.

Wacker was a big part of the third-quarter push that doubled the Lady Panthers’ lead. But the run started from the outside as senior Melissa Wolff hit a three-point basket at the 7:50 mark to give Cabot a 40-24 lead. Laci Boyett then hit a three for her only shot from the floor for part of her nine points. Boyett also went 6 for 6 from the free-throw line.

Wacker then scored the first of three inside baskets with 5:48 left to play in the third just before junior Jaylin Bridges hit a three-pointer to give the Lady Panthers a 48-27 lead.

Wacker scored again off a steal and dish from Wolff, and the duo repeated on Van Buren’s ensuing possession with a steal at midcourt for Wolff and an uncontested shot under the goal for Wacker with 4:15 left to play in the third quarter to give the Lady Panthers a 52-27 margin.

Steals that led to easy points were part of the key to Cabot’s high-percentage third quarter as Bridges stole the ball and got it to Wolff in transition to make it 54-27, and Ally Van Enk took a steal from Micah Odom and scored with 2:04 left to play in the third quarter for a 56-29 Cabot lead.

Senior reserve Sarah Fowler then put the game at mercy-rule status with a minute still left to play in the third quarter when she hit both ends of a two-shot foul to make it 59-29.

Free throws were the key to Cabot establishing a lead in the second quarter after the two teams battled to a stalemate through one.

Wolff hit two foul shots to give the Lady Panthers an 18-16 lead with 7:37 left to play in the half, followed by a three pointer for Bridges and an inside shot by Elliot Taylor to give Cabot a 23-16 lead. Taylor also hit two free throws at the 4:38 mark before Wolff scored the last goal from the floor of the half on an inside basket assisted by Boyett to put the Lady Panthers up 28-19. Boyett then clicked off four straight free throws to put Cabot up by double digits for the first time at 33-21.

Wolff led the Lady Panthers with 16 points and three steals. Bridges added 12 points after going 4 for 4 from three-point range for the game. Taylor and Odom each finished with six points for Cabot.

For Van Buren, Britney Campbell led with eight points.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Air base rebuilds

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, will depart next Tuesday for Andrews Air Force Base, where he will oversee the presidential and VIP fleet of jets. He will leave his successor, Col. Brian Robinson, an air base that ranks with the best in the world.

The tempo may slow down at times, but the mission continues. Even when LRAFB took a terrible hit during last spring’s tornado, the air base continued to train and make deliveries around the world.

The base has started to rebuild some of the worst-damaged structures with a $16 million contract issued recently to AECOM, the giant architecture and engineering firm based in Los Angeles.

The tornado caused about $85 million in damage to about 60 buildings, five planes and other infrastructure on base.

Two of the C-130s that were hit will never fly again, but those two were scheduled to retire last year anyway. Two others have been fixed and another one is undergoing repairs.

AECOM will design and repair three hangars, the fire station, a training building and two other structures. The roof and all the doors at the fire station have to be replaced.

Two buildings should be finished in February. Construction on two others will start next month. Five others are in the design phase. The company plans to be complete repairs on all seven buildings by March 2013.

To complete the projects, AECOM is getting help from CDI Contractors, a Little Rock construction company; HDMS Architects and Interior Designers of North Little Rock, and Tecta America, a Texas-based roofing company. They could hire several hundred workers before the first phase of the repairs are done.

Hunt Building Services, which owns base housing, has rebuilt much of the damaged homes after several were badly damaged in the tornado. The company demolished 19 homes and is rebuilding them. Hunt has finished work on all but 34 houses.

Much work remains to be done and it could take several years before all rebuilding contracts are issued and completed. Thanks go out to Col. Minihan for making sure that adequate funds became available before taking on his new assignment at Andrews AFB.

TOP STORY >> China troupe thrills crowd at a big show

Leader staff writer

More than 400 people gasped in awe and offered several rounds of robust clapping to the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe on Friday night at its first visit to Jacksonville, where they celebrated the Chinese New Year and helped raise money for a city arts center.

The center could be housed at the closed Jacksonville Elementary School, 108 S. Oak St., off Main Street.

Jacksonville is trying to work out a lease agreement for the property with the Pulaski County Special School District. The plan is to have classrooms, a museum and an exhibition hall for the performing arts. The center would bring visual, musical, literary arts and drama to youth and adult residents.

The driving force behind the effort is the new Jacksonville Arts Council, which met for the first time last month and spearheaded Friday’s event.

Angie Mitchell of Costume Corner, coordinator of the Patriotic Spectacular and one of the Chinese New Year celebration organizers, told the crowd Friday that the council has applied tobe a corporation and is working toward achieving nonprofit status.

Sherwood resident Jean Hill, who has two adopted Chinese granddaughters who live in New York, said Friday evening, “I’ve enjoyed it so far,” after she finished a plate of favorites from the Asian Pacific Resource and Cultural Center.

Hill also remarked on how wonderful it was to see REAL Entertaining. They performed for the crowd from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and wrapped up the show with “It’s a Small World.”

REAL Entertaining is sisters Rebecca, Emily, Abigale and Lydia Vandervate. They play the accordion, flute, violin and harmonica. The youngest of the sister is 8 and the oldest recently become a teenager.

Jacksonville High School coach Marvin Lindley, who teaches art, stood near the doorway to the hallway filled with paintings and drawings his students created. “We put a lot of planning into it. A lot of hard work went into it. Our goal is to have a center for the arts. That’s our goal and this is our dream,” he said.

One of the drawings was of a person’s body curled into a larger hand, but the lines and texture blended together so well that a viewer had to look closely to see the vulnerable creature.

Another attraction was the silent auction, which included decorated cakes that earned their creators a little change for their wallets. Prizes were $100 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place.

The cake in the shape of red dragon captivated everyone. Its baker was 10-year-old Aurora Johnson, who was sitting next to it nonchalantly. She won first place in the child category.

Other winners, in the adult category, were Elizabeth Johnson with first place, Angie Grant with second and Jennie Stewart with third.

Sam Parsley, owner of Cakes by Sam at 1212 John Harden Drive in Jacksonville, said about the delicious works of art, “There’s a lot of talent here. You can tell their hearts were into it.”

She pulled Johnson aside to ask questions in order to figure out if the girl had help with her tasty treat. Parsley said her conclusion was that the child is very gifted and creative as well as a jokester.

“She said she could be my kitchen slave,” Parsley said with a laugh, but nodded yes when asked if she would consider hiring Johnson when she gets older.

Parsley said she told Johnson’s mother to have her enter something in the Tulsa Sugar Show, which is held the first week in October.

Another star of the evening was Consul General Xu Erwen for the People’s Republic of China in Houston. “The people (in Jacksonville) are so friendly. The year of the dragon is a very auspicious sign. It is luck and bravery,” she said to The Leader before the show. Erwen met Gov. Mike Beebe and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark) during her visit.

“I would like to take the opportunity to express our deep appreciation for your support. Over the past three decades, progress has been made.

It (China and America) is the important, the most dynamic relationship. My job is to promote good relationships. I look forward to the future building a stronger relationship. We wish all of you good luck and the best in the New Year,” she told the audience.

Jacksonville Mayor Fletcher presented Erwen, Consulate-general Wang Dong, Consulate-general Cai Lian, their staff and the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe with honorary citizenship certificates. Erwen also received an ornate key to the city.

Sue Khoo, owner of Unique Furniture, greeted the audience that was patiently waiting for more than two hours of entertainment to begin. The show included live commercials promoting the sponsors of the celebration.

People wearing outfits, one of which was a monkey suit, walked the runway advertising Costume Corner and another ad featured a bank robber and a teller who had a candid conversation related to which bank would be best for him to try the crime at.

Khoo said, in an excited tone, “Are you ready for something different? We’re going to have some fun,” then translated that into Chinese.

Peppered throughout the local acts were performances by the acrobatic troupe, which always earned a standing ovation for twisting their bodies in unimaginable ways.

“It was awesome. I loved the stunts they pulled off,” said Marbe Meneses.

Trish Winer said, “I thought it was pretty amazing how they could balance and their strength.”

JHS English teacher Elizabeth Lanius, said, “It was beyond amazing. I loved to see the culture that this brought to our city.”

Christina Vaughn said, “This was my first time at a Chinese New Year and it won’t be my last.”

Tao Chen with the troupe said, “The show was very nice. The whole performance with the local people was very special. It is a beautiful city. The local people, their enthusiasm is very good.”

Fletcher said to the audience and the city’s guests, “America is such a special place. We celebrate diversity. In Jacksonville, we have the opportunity to embrace diverse and great people like Sue in our community. It is America where you can plant your dreams and see them to fruition.”

Khoo joked with the crowd, “I worry we have no more than 20 people show up.”

Mitchell added, “The arts aren’t just a painting out there (gesturing toward the hallway). Aren’t those amazing? Those are high school kids. The arts are visual, drama, literal. You are an artist in yourself and you don’t even realize it. Your penmanship is art.”

The Jacksonville High School color guard presented the flags gracefully before the school’s drumline stole the spotlight with their faster and faster movements that were in perfect sync.

Dr. Alan Storyguard, a local physician and concert pianist, played jazz selections “Wade in the Water” and “Baby you don’t have to go” with Dave Rogers and Brian Wolverton. Colorful spotlights on both sides of the stage seemed to dance with their music.

Storyguard performed at Carnegie Hall in 2003 and the trio play there in April.

The Jacksonville High School Jazz Choir gathered on the stage twice to sing “Luck be a Lady” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it ain’t got that Swing.”

Lisa Kirkpatrick and Darral Pogue swept across the floor with their ballroom dancing before a preview of the high school’s upcoming production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” a Broadway play.

Hannah Shelleto’s powerful voice reached the back of the packed room in “Somewhere that’s green,” during a nasal monologue that imitated her character, Audrey. Audrey is a sweet, quiet, ditsy and insecure coworker of and the object of protagonist Seymour’s affections. But she is dating an abusive and sadistic dentist.

Then Shelleto performed the duet “Suddenly, Seymour” with Chase Smiley, who will be playing the role of Seymour, the good-hearted protagonist and a nerdy florist who loves strange and interesting plants.

TOP STORY >> Austin is seeking vote on sales tax

Leader staff writer

The Austin City Council on Monday passed a $1.4 million budget and decided to ask voters for a one-cent sales tax to generate $1.2 million that would help fix roads.

Mayor Bernie Chamberlain told aldermen that Crew and Associates said the city needed the tax before it could issue bonds for the loan. The sales tax could have been put on the November ballot, but the council voted to look into having a special election for it.

“The problem I have waiting until November is I want some of these roads done now. I hate sales tax. I hate ’em. But I can’t do anything about (the bank’s requirement),” Chamberlain explained.

Sales taxes are collected on residents’ water, sewer and cell phone bills and other items, she said.

Alderman Matt Sheets said, “I think the No. 1 thing I hear is ‘fix the streets.’”

Alderman Rusty Eisenhower agreed, saying he’d had about 40 calls to complain about roads.

One of the projects the sales tax would help get under way is the widening of Austin’s section of Old Austin Road to 22 feet and replacing culverts on several streets that flood when it rains, Chamberlain said.

A resident told the council, “Whet their (voters’) appetite. Lay it right out there for them and they’ll get behind (the sales tax).”

The council also approved the city’s 2012 budget.

Last month, Chamberlain told The Leader that the city planned to use $65,000 from the general fund in the 2012 budget for street improvements.

The council decided to let that money be until the voters say yes or no to the sales tax increase.

The $65,000 could come from the $200,000 carryover the city has from last year’s budget.

Projected revenues for 2012 are $1.4 million. That is up about $500,000 from last year’s $894,650.

Chamberlain said the increase is the result of the city’s growth in population, from 600 in 2000 to 2,038 now.

Expenses are expected to be about $1.2 million.

The water and sewer budget, which separated from the city’s general fund budget, is $1.2 million.

Expenses for that budget are projected to be about $1.5 million.

Some of the major changes to Austin’s budget involve salaries and pay for city employees.

Alderman this month began receiving $150 per monthly meeting attended.

Chamberlain explained that she wants to motivate the council to meet quorum every month and this was a way to do that.

Only one council member was absent at Monday’s meeting.

Previously, aldermen had not been paid for their services.

The city is also giving merit raises, in addition to cost-of-living adjustments, to its employees who have worked there for several years.

Department directors, who have been paid on an hourly basis in the past, will now be paid salaries.

Those salaries are $896.45 per week for public works director John Ryan, $730.01 per week for police chief John Staley and $600 for city office manager Randy McKenzie.

The raises for the five workers who received merit raises range from $1.03 to 26 cents more per hour.

Chamberlain also received a merit raise of $500 per month. She was being paid $1,243. Her new salary is $1,805 per month and that includes a cost-of-living adjustment.

Full-time employees got a one-time bonus of $150 and part-time employees got a $50 one-time bonus.

Those who have worked for the city less than a year will get a cost-of-living adjustment raise on their one-year anniversary.

The budget also includes:

Hiring a part-time office person to accept water and fine payments

Doubling payments of $398 toward a police car

Hiring a probation officer and part-time clerk for the police department

Aside from the $65,000, the only other change from the preliminary budget is that the city will not double up payments of $1,363 toward the new city hall building.

TOP STORY >> Stalker leaves jail, kills woman

Leader staff writer

A man charged in Lonoke County in December with rape, terroristic threatening and false imprisonment has killed himself and the woman who accused him of those crimes.

Ronnie Odell Stewart Jr. 38, of Maumelle was held for a week in the Lonoke County Jail and released on a $50,000 bond after charges were brought against him on behalf of Jenny Marie Cavender, 39, who lived near Austin.

He was in court in Lonoke County on Jan. 9, and he was set to return to court on Feb. 13 for plea and arraignment.

The murder-suicide happened at about 8:15 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of the Saline Memorial Hospice in Bryant where Cavender worked.

Sgt. Todd Crowson, spokesman for Bryant Police Department, said his agency is trying to get security tapes from Lowe’s next-door to Cavender’s workplace to determine if he waited there for her to show up.

What is known is that Stewart jumped out of his car while it was still running and it rolled into a parked ambulance so hard that the car’s airbag deployed.

Crowson said Stewart jumped out on the passenger side of Cavender’s car firing a semiautomatic 40-caliber pistol and continued to fire as he made his way around to the driver’s side.

“He just got out shooting, and this poor lady didn’t stand a chance,” Crowson said.

Cavender had lived in Bryant for 11 days when she was killed and had not alerted the Bryant police to the order of protection against Stewart.

“We had no idea this was going on in her life,” Crowson said.

Reports filed by the sheriff’s departments in Pulaski and Lonoke counties indicate that Stewart’s violent behavior escalated from mid-September until he killed Cavender.

Stewart was arrested Dec. 9 for rape and the other associated charges.

Cavender lived near Austin at that time. On the same day Stewart was arrested, the sheriff’s department gave Cavender an order of protection from him.

On Dec. 14, Cavender contacted the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department about an incident that happened Sept. 22, near Maumelle in the mobile home park where Stewart lived.

Cavender said in that report that she and Steward argued over money she spent on children from a previous relationship. Specifically, he was angry about money she sent her daughter who didn’t live with her.

Cavender said he grabbed her cell phone, pushed her and told her to leave. But she stayed and tried to sleep on the couch but she was awakened several times by his yelling.

Eventually he pulled her off the couch and kicked her in the back. Then he held a gun on her and said, “I’m not going to shoot you.”

She left a short time later without further incident.

Asked why she waited almost two months to report the incident, Cavender said she loved Stewart and didn’t want to get him into trouble.

Stewart was freed on bond on Dec. 15, the day after Cavender reported the Sept. 22 incident to Pulaski County.

After Stewart was released from jail, Dean White, chief deputy for Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson, said his department received information about a disturbance at the state revenue office in Maumelle when Cavender tried to get a license for her car. Apparently, Stewart had the title to it and did not want to relinquish it, White said.

Although the order of protection didn’t stop Stewart from killing Cavender on Monday, the Lonoke County prosecutor said Tuesday that domestic violence is a huge problem and that protection orders help keep abusers at bay because they are backed up by the threat of arrest.

And Sgt. Crowson in Bryant has this advice: “If you’ve got an order of protection against someone, go by the local police department and give them all the information they should have.”

TOP STORY >> City to sell hospital for $10M

Leader staff writer

The firm that has managed North Metro Medical Center for the past three years is finalizing the paperwork on a $10 million local loan to purchase the facility from the city.

Allegiance Medical has worked out the loan with First Arkansas Bank and Trust, but the city had to put up the medical clinic near the hospital that it owns as added collateral.

Attorney Mike Wilson, chairman of the hospital board, told the council Thursday night the sale would include only the hospital building. The city retains ownership of the nearby medical clinic, medical offices at Crestview Plaza and the clinic in Cabot. The city will also have what Wilson called right of first refusal for the next five years in case Allegiance decides to sell the hospital.

But Jay Quebedeaux, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said that was doubtful. “The hospital is celebrating its 50th year here, and we expect to be around with it for the next 50,” Quebedeaux said.

The city council actually approved the sale of the hospital in November 2010. City leaders thought everything would have been ready six months ago, but it has taken longer to secure the financing and get the paperwork in order.

“We expect to close on this deal by the end of the month,” said Wilson. “The sale is going to happen soon—finally,” he added.

Wilson called Allegiance a first-class management team and said the only thing residents, patients and patrons will notice after the sale is “continued improvements. It should be seamless to the public.”

The approximate $10 million price tag would cover the bond the city has on the hospital and other related debts and lines of credit.

According to the mayor’s 2012 State of the City report, the hospital employees about 400 people and has a $17 million economic impact on Jacksonville and the surrounding area.

In the past fiscal year, the hospital had 19,661 emergency room visits, 1,688 outpatient surgeries (an increase of 30 percent), 1,741 admissions and 38,893 outpatient visits.

In September, the hospital opened a surgical inpatient wing — a specialty unit that houses patients in private spacious suites after they have undergone surgery and require inpatient stay.

The hospital also opened an inpatient medical unit with 26 beds, and in November it reopened its heart catheterization and interventional radiology lab.

Mayor Gary Fletcher complimented Allegiance for making improvements at the hospital.

The mayor called the hospital a great asset to the city and that it has come a long way over the last few years. “It’s very important to us and to the air base,” the mayor said.

Under the management of Allegiance the hospital turned a profit in 2010. Before 2010, the last time the hospital operated in the black was 2003-04, when it closed the fiscal year June 30, 2004 with a $652,000 positive income.

The next year, net income slipped to the other side of the ledger with a $98,000 loss. In 2005-06, losses totaled $804,000, and then jumped to $3 million in 2006-07. The 2007-08 fiscal year closed out with a net loss income of $2.38 million.

SPORTS >> Aggressive defense gets ’Rabbits win

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke girls did not play one of their better games, but they got away with a conference road win. That’s good enough for coach Nathan Morris as his Lady Jackrabbits beat Clinton 36-24 Friday in Van Buren County.

Morris’ bunch didn’t shoot well from the floor, and shot horribly from the free-throw line, but played strong defense and made points for the Lady Yellowjackets extremely difficult to come by.

“It wasn’t pretty, not at all,” Morris said. “At the same time, we’re not giving it back. It’s a road win in a tough place to play. Clinton doesn’t have the record that maybe its used to, but it’s not easy going over there. Those rims are tight. They have a good student section right there behind your basket. The play hard, they have tradition. We’ll take a win in that place no matter how we get it.”

The Lonoke ladies shot 30 free throws in the game and made just eight of them. Kaitlyn Tate made five of her eight attempts. The rest of the team combined to go three of 22.

“Take Tate’s out of the formula and then do the math,” Morris said. “That’s really unbelievable because we’ve been a pretty good free-throw shooting team. I told them they better get their act together because that’s not going to fly most of the time.”

The game wasn’t all bad for Lonoke. Morris was pleased with the defensive effort and also felt his team did a good job with its offensive execution, right up to the part where you shoot the ball.

“We did a great job of taking care of the ball,” Morris said. “They couldn’t get to us. They chase out of their zone. They never play man, but when they come out of their 2-3 zone, they go to a 1-2-2 zone and chase with their top three. They just couldn’t get to us. We got to the middle and had some 3 on 2 matchups. We just didn’t convert as often as we should have. But we did get some easy baskets out of it so they started fouling.”

Despite the low score and Clinton’s intentions of playing a slow-paced game, the pace wasn’t a slow one. Lonoke forced several turnovers, but usually in the half-court setting. Very few of the steals turned into transition opportunities.

Lonoke led 6-4 at the end of the first quarter, but a Clinton three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer gave the home team a 14-13 lead at intermission.

Lonoke took control of the game after the break.

Lonoke got a backside layup by Kerashsa Johnson to start the second half. Johnson added another bucket before Mary Davis hit a three pointer to make it 20-14 halfway through the third quarter. Freshman post player Eboni Willis scored on lob pass into the lane and Davis hit a driving shot at the buzzer to give Lonoke a 26-16 lead at the end of the third quarter.

“We executed offensively pretty well, but to hold them to two points, we did a really good job defensively in the third quarter,” Morris said. “We had a pretty good defensive effort all night.”

Tate, Johnson and Mary Davis each scored seven points to lead Lonoke.

Lonoke played its second game against Stuttgart on Tuesday at Stuttgart. The Lady Jackrabbits will face Southside-Batesville on Friday.

SPORTS >> Lady Bears impressive in victory over Mills

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears turned in one of the best performances of their season on Friday, beating the Mills Lady Comets 53-32 at Mills to improve to 3-2 in 5A Southeast Conference play.

The Lady Bears dominated in the rebounding category and showed tremendous improvement in many aspects of the game.

Sylvan Hills jumped out to a small, early lead and never trailed. The Lady Bears led 12-7 at the end of the first quarter and scored first in the second to make it a seven-point game. Mills stormed back with six straight points to cut the margin to one with 5:32 left in the half, but scored just one more basket the rest of the quarter and never took the lead.

After taking a 23-15 lead into halftime, the Lady Bears broke the game open in the third quarter. Mills (7-10, 2-3) called timeout after Sylvan Hills scored four quick points to open the third quarter.

It didn’t help. The Lady Bears displayed some nice interior passing when post player Jamedal Byrd-Hudson found fellow post Val Jarratt underneath the basket for a layup. Senior guard Kashima Wright then scored four straight, the second off a steal and assist by sophomore Calyn Fulton.

Wright got her own steal and layup to make it 38-18 with 50 seconds left in the quarter. Each team added another bucket to make it 40-20 heading into the fourth.

“I thought they really played hard and played good defense,” Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis said. “We rebounded very well. Mills is a quality team.”

Jarratt finished with six points and 14 rebounds. Ten of those rebounds were in the second half.”

“I talked to her because offensively she’s struggled a little bit,” Davis said. “We have some players that do certain things well. She got some height and she’s very athletic, can jump really well. I talked to her and just said we need you to rebound. That’s one thing you can do with no excuses. She’s really stepped up and done that for us.”

Sophomore guard Naomi Gregory led Sylvan Hills in scoring with 15 points. She also had nine rebounds. She’s been a consistent scorer for Davis’ squad all season.

“If I had to name a player that’s been the most consistent all year long, it’s been Naomi,” Davis said.

Sylvan Hills handled Mills’ pressure well throughout the game, and forced several turnovers with its own pressure. Byrd-Hudson had the task of stopping Mills’ top scorer, Jasmine Perkins, when she would get the ball on the wing after a press break.

Hudson, Wright and Jarratt pressured the ball well and ended with 10 combined steals. Wright and Jarratt led the way with four apiece.

Wright finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Byrd-Hudson had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Lady Bears are 5-5 since opening the season with six-straight losses. Now at 3-2 in conference play, the Lady Bears are serious contenders for a playoff spot from the 5A Southeast Conference.

“That’s been our goal from the beginning, even when we were 0-6,” Davis said. “We played some very stiff competition at the beginning. What I could see against those teams is that they played very hard. We took the effort from those games. We’ve focused in more on the little things that were hurting us and I think that’s sharpened us up. Good teams are what makes you better.”

The Lady Bears (5-11, 3-2) traveled to Watson Chapel on Tuesday and will be on the road again Friday at Crossett.

SPORTS >> Bears win wild one at the Galaxy

Leader sports editor

Those expecting high drama got what they came for when Sylvan Hills battled Mills on Friday in the Galaxy Gymnasium in Little Rock. The two teams sitting undefeated atop the 5A Southeast standings provided excitement, some good, some not. When the dust cleared, the Bears remained unbeaten in league play with a 59-53 win over the Comets.

Sylvan Hills spent the third quarter taking control of the game and extending a small halftime lead, but Mills cut the lead to just two at 51-49 with 1:28 remaining.

Sylvan Hills shot about 50 percent from the free-throw line for most of the game, but hit 11 of 14 in the final three minutes, including its final eight in a row down the stretch to seal the victory.

Goodwin hit two with 1:03 left to make it 53-49. Mills’ Braylon Spicer missed a three. Goodwin got the rebound and was fouled again. Again he hit both shots to make it a six-point margin with 47 seconds remaining.

Mills didn’t quit. Spicer was fouled while shooting and hit both free throws with 40 seconds left. Comet senior Shyheim Barron then got a steal, dished to Spicer who missed a three-pointer, but Shaquan Fletcher got the offensive rebound and putback to make it 55-53 with 21 seconds remaining.

Mills fouled Larry Ziegler with 17 seconds remaining and Ziegler nailed both shots. Trailing by four, Barron got the ball on the left wing and traveled. Junior Daylon Jones, who provided a lift off the bench for Sylvan Hills with11 points, seven in the second half, made two more free throws with three seconds remaining to set the final margin.

Sylvan Hills was in the bonus three minutes into the game. Mills had eight fouls at the 5:00 minute mark and the Bears shot 11 free throws in the first quarter. The Bears made only six of them and weren’t able to get the lead until late in the frame.

Sylvan Hills senior and University of Kentucky bound guard Archie Goodwin hit two long three pointers.

The second one, from beyond 30 feet, gave the Bears their first lead at 14-12 with 1:03 left in the opening period. Sylvan Hills added two free throws and took a 16-12 lead into the second quarter.

After a break in the action following Goodwin’s second three-pointer, he caused the first of two disturbances in the stands by taunting the Mills student section with shouts and gesticulations.

Goodwin’s father was escorted out of the gym for coming out of the stands and onto the court, although it appeared he was only trying to calm Goodwin down. The incident started with two other players underneath the Mills basket jawing at each other. Goodwin reacted first to the on-floor spat, then directly to the Mills student section, intensifying the longer he went unchecked by coaches and officials.

After a lengthy delay and long discussion among officials, no personal or technical fouls were called on anyone and play resumed.

Goodwin hit another 30-foot three pointer in the second quarter and was hit with a technical for taunting when he ran back down the court with his mouth directly in his defenders ear.

Players were more composed in the second half and Sylvan Hills controlled much of the action. Another incident in the stands unrelated to the game caused another stoppage of play, but the delay was brief and cooler heads prevailed the rest of the way.

The Bears took a 27-22 lead into halftime and steadily grew the lead in the third quarter.

The Bears dominated the glass and got several second-chance points, especially in the third quarter. Sylvan Hills scored seven straight to start the third, four by Goodwin and three by Devin Pearson, five of which came after offensive rebounds.

For the game, Sylvan Hills won the rebounding battle 37-21. Pearson led all players with 14 boards.

Goodwin led all scorers with 27 points and added eight rebounds. He hit 10 of 11 free-throw attempts and was three of six from three-point range.

Barron led the Comets (14-3, 4-1) with 13 points. Spicer added 12 and Flecther 10.

The Bears (15-5, 5-0) traveled to Watson Chapel on Tuesday, and go to Crossett on Friday.

SPORTS >> Red Devils grind out victory

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville used its depth and athleticism to lead most of the way during the 6A-East Conference matchup, but Marion used its hard-nosed work ethic to make things downright messy for the Red Devils as they ground their way to a 74-58 victory over the Patriots at the Devils Den on Friday.

The Patriots matched the Red Devils nearly shot for shot in the first quarter before Jacksonville (14-3, 4-1) separated itself slightly with a strong second quarter to lead 38-27 at the break. Marion (8-8, 1-4) let the margin slip further in the third quarter, but bogged the Red Devils down in the fourth quarter with a slower tempo and physical play inside that forced Jacksonville to maintain its advantage at the foul line.

“It’s difficult to play them,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “Man, they’re so scrappy. And they play hard. Nobody’s just dominated them all year, I mean, they’ve been in every game. They forced 19 turnovers on us and weren’t even pressing.

“They’re just in your face playing solid man to man. What’s that, a 16-point win? I’ll take that any day of the week – this is conference.”

Marion’s Warren Boyd gave the Red Devils fits with his repeated inside drives that led to a game-high 23 points for the 6-2 forward. Given Boyd’s performance, the last 3:27 of the third quarter proved to be the biggest difference for Jacksonville as they ended the period on a 16-2 run in Boyd’s absence after Marion had cut the lead to 40-32.

“He’s a man,” Joyner said of Boyd. “It’s like I told the kids at halftime. That dude played mostly every minute of that game, and was knifing through them like they weren’t there. That was a man out there – he’s got a big heart, played tough. I don’t know how many he had out there, but it felt like 50.”

Jacksonville had two players finish in double figures as senior post player Tirrell Brown finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds while point guard Justin McCleary added 11 points. Keith Charleston and Xavier Husky both scored nine points for the Red Devils while Aaron Smith and Dewayne Waller both added eight points.

Waller gave an indication of things to come in the middle of the third quarter when he went 4 for 4 on two straight trips to the free-throw line to give the Red Devils a 44-32 lead with 2:42 left to play in the period. Waller then got a steal and dished to McCleary for an easy lay up, and Smith made it 48-32 with an inside shot at the 1:32 mark.

Husky scored on a putback before Boyd reentered for the Patriots and broke their scoring drought with another inside driver that made it 50-34. Charleston answered right back for the Red Devils while Husky scored again in the final 15 seconds, but Boyd got the final word for the Patriots with an inside shot that made it 54-36.

Jacksonville maintained that margin for the most part in the fourth quarter despite a combined 16 trips to the foul line for both teams.

“When you play a team that scraps and plays as hard as they do, it’s going to make it an ugly game,” Joyner said. “They challenge every shot, every little thing. It’s a 16-point win, that’s the main thing. The kids adjusted to the way they played when they had to make the big plays regardless.

“I told my kids at halftime that it was going to be a backyard fight, because that’s what was going on. There was a lot of pushing and a lot of grabbing, so y’all need to push and y’all need to grab too.”

SPORTS >> Cabot takes two at Bryant

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers got back on the winning side of things last week after dropping three straight games to begin their 7A-Central Conference schedule and picked up their first league road victory on Friday with a 49-45 decision over Bryant.

The Panthers (11-3, 2-3) had been hampered recently with poor free-throw shooting in close losses to Conway and Little Rock Catholic, but went 8 for 8 from the stripe in the fourth quarter against the Hornets to secure the victory.

“We know we stumbled out of the blocks,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said of opening conference play. “That 0-3 start really hurt us. But last week, we were able to get some wins that hopefully we can build on. From here on out, we know you have to protect home court and get any win you can on the road, but that was big for us, I’m not going to lie.”

Sam Howe led the Panthers with 14 points while J.D. Brunett added eight points. Ryan Stafford, Adam Rock and Arthur West all finished with six points for Cabot.

West hit four straight free throws in the final minute while point guard Bryan Shrum added two more in the final eight seconds to keep the Panthers at a two-score advantage.

“We didn’t shoot well against Catholic, but we made our free-throws down the stretch up at Bryant,” Bridges said. “You take them any way you can get them in this conference. We won in a hostile environment, and we needed it.”

The Lady Panthers continued their hot hand in the 7A-Central with a 52-37 victory over Bryant on Friday. Cabot (15-5, 4-1) jumped out to a 28-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and rode the early momentum the rest of the way in a homecoming of sorts for coach Carla Crowder, who led the Lady Hornets to four state championships during a 16-year tenure there in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“For an away game, there was a lot of emotion,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “After the game, there were former players and dads of former players who came up to coach Crowder. I’d bet there was about 50 people who waited around to talk to her. It was unbelievable.”

Senior and University of Arkansas signee Melissa Wolff led the Lady Panthers with 16 points while junior guard Elliot Taylor added 15 points. Post player Sydney Wacker finished with seven points and led an inside defensive stand that denied Bryant of points in the paint.

Ruple also noted guard play, as Jaylin Bridges, Micah Odom and Maddie Smith all finished with strong performances. Smith’s outside shooting served as an effective distraction against the Lady Hornets, who gave up several easy inside shots in attempt to stop her.

“She had a lot of playing time in the second half,” Ruple said. “With her being a long-range shooter, it gave her teammates some opportunities to drive it into the post.”

The Cabot teams hosted Van Buren last night after The Leader deadlines, and will travel to Russellville on Friday.