Tuesday, December 04, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Thanksgiving MVP players

Dane and Heather Moore, who organize the annual Cabot Community Thanksgiving Feast, visited The Leader last week to thank us for our support of the event that served free meals to more than 300 people this year.

They presented this newspaper and dozens of donors and other supporters with plaques in recognition of our coverage of their event. We look forward to their efforts in the years to come.

The Moores’ community-mindedness is admirable. They have provided thousands of Thanksgiving meals in only three years since they started the annual holiday meal.

Cabot Community Thanksgiving Feast is held at a new church each year, which allows different denominations to come together and collectively serve those in need. This year, the dinner was held at Cabot United Methodist Church.

“We want everybody to be fed and not alone during the holiday,” Dane Moore recently told us. To make it happen, the couple rely on the generosity of donors to provide money, food and utensils, as well as numerous volunteers who cook, clean and serve meals.

It’s never too late — or too early for next year — to donate. Visit www.cabotfeast.com or call 501-259-3799 and help support a valuable community service. Beebe First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Jacksonville also serve annual Thanksgiving dinners that are open to everyone. They too are appreciated for their enduring support of the community and for remembering the needy when it matters most.

EDITORIAL >> Christmas memories

When I was young, my mother spent all day on Dec. 23 baking cakes and pies. The aroma of mincemeat, coconut and chocolate filled the house and when she was finished the table in the dining room was filled with her creations.

It was my favorite day of the year partly because of those aromas but mostly because it was the official start of Christmas.

She baked the ham and turkey the next day, and on Christmas she rested, at least from cooking.

Christmas presents came out of a box from Aldens, a Chicago-based mail order house. Just taking care of a family with at least eight kids in the house at any given time was a full-time job. Town was at least 25 miles away and even if she could have found what she was looking for in the stores, finding time to go was difficult.

My mother never worked outside of her home. And I would have loved to have followed in her footsteps, but since I don’t live on a farm like she did and my kids are grown, staying home would have been a little more than self-indulgent.

So, I work and my holiday prep time is limited. Except for cheesecakes, which are in my opinion a hybrid of cake and pie, I don’t bake much. I usually buy frozen pies and I save the cake baking for birthdays.

I’ve replaced the traditional Christmas ham and turkey with Christmas lasagna and homemade French bread. But just like my mother’s turkey and ham, there’s enough left over to keep me from cooking for a day or two afterwards.

Also like my mother, I don’t have time to shop. So just like when I was young, I eagerly wait for those packages in the mail.

Aldens closed in 1982, but the Internet has made it possible for countless businesses to take its place. I’ve known since I first went online more than 15 years ago that you can literally find anything you need from some company somewhere in the world.

So while my mother searched the Aldens catalog for dolls, flannel-lined dungarees and knit shirts, I log on to eBay, Amazon, Sportsman’s Guide, Barnes and Noble, a variety of western supply stores and this year a log home supply house that sells electric chainsaws for carving.

But the big picture really hasn’t changed all that much.

My mother cooked enough to have leftovers and therefore time off just like I do. She got one big box in the mail; I get several, big and small. She hoped she was buying the right gifts and I hope I am.

To paraphrase a long-dead French journalist, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And if it sounds like I’m looking too hard for a connection, I probably am. Christmas traditions are important even if they are only kept in your mind.

— Joan McCoy

TOP STORY >> Cabot Christmas Alliance needs volunteers

Cabot Christmas Alliance, a charity group that has been providing local children and their families with food for Christmas since the 1960s, is seeking volunteers and donations to help fulfill the group’s mission again this year. Members include several churches, schools, businesses and individuals.

It is not too late to get involved. Cabot Christmas Alliance accepts donations year-round. Individuals or groups can also sponsor families until Dec. 19.

Volunteers can help pack food boxes on Dec. 15 beginning at 8 a.m. at the old Larry’s Pizza location. The food will be distributed starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. The group will also work at the old Larry’s Pizza in Cabot, First Baptist Church of Ward and the Austin City Complex.

To donate, send checks to Cabot Christmas Alliance, P.O. Box 821, Cabot, Ark. 72023.

Some people also choose to “adopt” a family and purchase gifts for the children. Those individuals may call Terena Woodruff at 501-843-3363 (ext. 1007) or contact any Cabot school counselor.

All children in the Cabot School District who are in need are eligible for help from the Cabot Christmas Alliance and an affiliated charity, Christmas for Kids, which provides toys to area children.

The Christmas Alliance expects to receive 800 applications for assistance this holiday season.

Last year, more than 730 families received food from the Cabot Christmas Alliance.

Community support has increased tremendously each year. Five years ago, a few churches, a bank and a few individuals provided gifts for about 70 to 80 families.

In the last five years, several churches, school clubs, civic groups and many individuals have sponsored more than 300 families. Superintendent Tony Thurman encourages school groups to sponsor food and toy drives as well.

Families without children in school are eligible, but they must live in the Cabot School District.

TOP STORY >> Cabot shelter director named

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Animal Shelter has a new director, but a familiar face. Animal control interim director Mike Wheeler was named director by the city last month. He has worked at the shelter for three years.

He replaces former director Jason Ellerbee, who was fired last month after a city investigation discovered that donation money was missing from a safe at the shelter. Ellerbee admitted to the theft, according to a Cabot police report. The funds, $192, were returned but not before an audit showed it was missing.

A new animal shelter donation account is managed by the city treasurer and city clerk’s office. All donations are set aside and used solely for the animal shelter. The funds roll over year after year.

“We’re focused on tightening the ship here and providing better customer service and support to the community. We have a great rescue coordinator who’s helping to reach out to animal rescue groups throughout the county,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler wants to revitalize the shelter’s volunteer program and provide more training for staff and animal handling. He said the animal shelter will be more involved in city events and working with more of the schools to get students involved.

“The more we educate people, the easier it will be to do our job here,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler was raised in Ward and is a 1990 Cabot High School graduate. He served four years in the Army as a military intelligence analyst in Colorado. He later became an insurance salesman in Denver for 15 years. Wheeler and his wife wanted to raise their four children in a better school district and moved to Cabot, where he began his career as an animal control officer.

“We always had animals at the farm (in Ward). It was the public service aspect of animal control that made me take the job over the others,” Wheeler said.

According to Wheeler, the shelter’s euthanasia rate in the past four years has dropped from 55-percent in 2008 to 19-percent this year.

“Our goal is to keep that moving down, while offering more services for the community,” he said.

The animal shelter has a mobile adoption unit, a public spay and neuter clinic and a food bank with pet foods for financially struggling pet owners.

Wheeler said there is a misconception about the animal shelter. He said it has two different functions.

The shelter finds animals new homes by arranging adoptions. Animal possum control provides trapping services for opossum, raccoons, skunks and feral cats.

“We clean up road kill, pick up stray and injured animals and enforce city ordinances pertaining to animals,” Wheeler said.

Residents can talk with animal control officers about problems with wild or domestic animals, instances of abuse or neglect and other concerns about animals.

The shelter phased out a shelter technician position and will have three animal control officers, a kennel technician and a director. The shelter tech was responsible for adoptions, the front desk, reception and filing paperwork. The shelter will instead have a three-person rotation to prevent officers who are on call 24 hours a day from becoming burned-out.

Wheeler said a dog park next to the shelter is still in the three-year plan as time and money allows.

“We are one of the nicest managed shelters in the state and have one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the state. Through public education and employee training we’re working to provide the best services for citizens and the city of Cabot,” Wheeler said.

TOP STORY >> Road rage ends with trip to jail

Leader staff writer

A Ward man was arrested on Nov. 27 after beating a man into unconsciousness, sending him to the hospital after a vicious road rage fight in Cabot.

Police were called at 1:57 p.m. to the Sinclair gas station on 3001 South Hwy. 89.

They found a 60-year-old Cabot man in the parking lot on his hands and knees. His face and head were covered in blood. He appeared to be suffering from several facial injuries and an injury to the back of his head. The victim did not know what happened and did not know where he was.

Witnesses reported seeing Gary Stotts, 41, driving a black 1994 Ford pickup westbound on Mount Carmel Road. It appeared Stotts was trying to avoid the red light at Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 321 and cut through the gas station parking lot. Stotts drove through the lot and almost struck two men near the gas pumps. It is believed the victim said something to Stotts as the truck passed them.

Security footage from the gas station showed Stotts stopped his truck. He and the victim approached each other. Stotts punched the victim in the face, knocked him to the ground and began hitting him. Then Stotts’ girlfriend approached Stotts.

The victim got up and picked up a piece of his cell phone or car keys. He walked toward Stotts to pick up another item off the ground. Stotts hit the victim again, wrestled him to ground and hit him in the head several more times until the victim appeared to be unconscious. Stotts fled in the truck with his girlfriend.

Witnesses reported the woman told Stotts to quit hitting the victim.

One witness told police he believed Stotts was “trying to kill the man” and hit the victim “while he was unconscious with three of the hardest blows he had ever seen.”

The victim was transported by MEMS to University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for treatment. According to the victim’s wife, the man had several facial fractures, a broken nose and was waiting to see a doctor about his vision. She thought he would have to have surgery due to the attack.

A witness followed Stotts’ truck to an address on Harris Road in Lonoke County and called Cabot police. The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office located the truck at 33 Harris Road.

Authorities tried to make contact with the residents, but no one would open the door. Police towed the truck from the scene.

After 50 minutes, Stotts’ girlfriend came outside and said she lived at the home. She allowed authorities to search inside the house. She said Stotts was in a back bedroom and told her not to leave. She said she did not know why Stotts attacked the victim.

Police entered the back bedroom and found Stotts hiding between the mattress and the box spring. He was arrested without incident and transported to the Cabot Police Department.

While being transported to the police department, Stotts said he was defending himself and said “the old man hit him first.” He said he did not know the victim. Stotts declined to make a written statement but requested information on filing charges against the victim.

Stotts was charged with felony second-degree battery.

Sgt. Keith Graham said in his nine years of working in Cabot he has never seen road rage elevate to the severity of the attack.

His advice for people who might encounter a road rage incident. “...call 911. Try to get a description and the license plate number. Do not confront them if they are following you. We’ll go talk to the people. Go to a well-lit safe place or drive to the local police department,” Graham said.

TOP STORY >> Dangerous overpass

Leader staff writers

Yet another accident occur-red on the aging and troublesome Main Street overpass on Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville early Tuesday morning when northbound truck driver Kenneth O’Conner lost control of his 18-wheeler.

From 2001 through 2010, the State Police worked 249 crashes on the bridge or its approach, according to statistics provided by the State Police.

According to State Police Trooper Adrian Ray, O’Conner’s right front tire blew out while he was crossing the bridge. The truck took out about eight concrete guard rail posts before plunging down the grassy embankment. Ray said the driver attempted to pull off the freeway safely.

O’Conner said, “I tried to save the truck,” but could not.

He was not injured.

“That’s my saving grace,” O’Conner said.

The overpass has a long history of accidents and death. In tandem with the Redmond Road overpass just to the south, it is slated for replacement with bids to be let next summer, according to Highway Department spokesman Randy Ort.

It should take at least 18 months for construction after bids are accepted, according to Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher. He and his predecessor, Mayor Tommy Swaim, have long lobbied for a bridge fix.

Ort said the state highway engineers visited the accident site Tuesday and repairs would begin soon. State highway workers will do the repairs, Ort said.

Most accidents on the Hwy. 67/167 Main Street overpass occur in the southbound lane, where centrifugal force helps errant vehicles to—and sometimes through—the guardrails 20 feet above Main.

In late October, a local man was killed in an accident on or near the bridge, the mayor said.

Of Tuesday’s accident, Fletcher said, “My concern is the safety and design of the bridge.” He said someone below could have been killed by the dislodged pillars and guardrails.

Fletcher said there had been a public hearing on the bridge replacement and that he hoped the Highway Department would include incentives to get the eventual construction contractor to finish early.

Ort said that was both possible and likely.

Fletcher estimated the bridges would be replaced by the end of 2014 at the earliest.

Both those projects have been in the pipelines for years, although only recently were the Redmond Road and Main Street bridges combined into a single project, by way of addressing the Main Street project sooner than planned. Local residents and commuters have become used to accidents, orange barrels and bridge guardrail repairs on the outside southbound lane of the overpass.

From January 2003 through December 2006, the State Police worked 118 accidents resulting in 71 injuries on the Main Street overpass or within a quarter mile, according to data supplied by the state.

At times only the barrels, good fortune and careful driving have kept other vehicles from plunging unimpeded to Main Street below until repairs were completed.

In February 2006, Jerry Justice, 34, of Ward was crushed and pronounced dead at the scene after the gravel truck driven by Donald Ray Watkins, 35, slammed two pickup trucks through the overpass guardrail and plunged after them onto Main Street, about 20 feet below, dumping the gravel on the other vehicles, according to the State Police account.

The new structures will have three lanes in each direction and generous shoulders, according to Ort and the 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan estimates the replacement cost at $17.3 million.

Fletcher, who has advocated for quick and effective replacement of those bridges since taking office, admits that traffic will be a nightmare for commuters during the construction, which he said could take 12 to 18 months.

The new Main Street bridge will have a gentler curve than the current bridge, will have barriers that meet modern standards and will be banked, according to Jacksonville City Engineer Jay Whisker.

The old barriers were concrete posts supporting guard rails, and the outside barrier on the southbound structure seemed at times to be perpetually broken and under repair.

“The city wanted the curve taken out for obvious reasons, but the highway department said we can’t take it completely out,” Whisker said.

The new overpasses are the next step in the widening of Hwy. 67/167 from I-40 to Cabot.

SPORTS STORY >> Free throws help Bryant beat Falcons

Leader sports editor

Missed layups, a big rebounding deficit and an even bigger free-throw deficit was more than North Pulaski could overcome Monday in a 74-51 loss to Bryant at the Conway Invitational Tournament.

The Hornets outrebounded the Falcons 31-23, and North Pulaski made just 21 of 58 shot attempts. But the telling statistic was the free-throw disparity. Bryant hit 26 of 46 attempts from the line while the Falcons made just 7 of 14.

“I’m just going to leave that alone,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. The head Falcon took a diplomatic approach to being on the wrong side of the strange statistic. “We didn’t play well, that is true. We were being aggressive but weren’t being smart. They were being pretty aggressive too, but we were fouling. I don’t know; that’s about all I can think of to say about that.”

Bryant shot nearly as many free throws in the first quarter as North Pulaski shot in the game. The Hornets went 8 of 12 from the line in the opening frame, but the Falcons made 7 of 11 shots from the floor and held a 14-12 lead after the first quarter. Then came the turning point in the game.

Bryant (5-0) scored the first 20 points of the second quarter in just more than four minutes. The Hornets were in the double bonus with 6:47 left in the half and shot 14 more free throws in the second quarter. North Pulaski played its role in the collapse by turning the ball over seven times in the quarter, and going cold from the floor. North Pulaski made just four of 15 shot attempts in the second quarter. The Falcons missed their first seven shots of the frame, including two layups.

“That’s something we’ve struggled with a lot this season,” Jackson said. “We have to start doing a better job of finishing around the basket.”

Bryant’s lead grew to as much as 22 points in the second quarter, but North Pulaski (3-2) battled back to cut the margin to 39-26 by halftime. The Falcons continued to chip away early in the third quarter, getting the score to 41-31 and had three possessions to get it to less than 10 points, but never converted.

Bryant then went on another tear, led by senior guard C.J. Rainey. Rainey scored just three points in the first half, but dropped in 11 in the third quarter, including eight in a row after North Pulaski cut it to 10.

Rainey scored six points in a 20-second span that made it 47-31 and erased most of what North Pulaski spent a whole quarter trying to make up.

Rainey’s sudden burst sparked a 17-2 run that gave the Hornets a 58-33 lead and left little doubt about the outcome. North Pulaski fell behind by as much as 28 in the fourth quarter as Jackson cleared his bench, but the Falcons battled back with a small run at the end as Bryant also began to go deep into the lineup.

In the strange tournament format, Bryant and North Pulaski will face bye teams in the next round. North Pulaski faces tournament host Conway at 8:30 p.m. Thursday while Bryant will play Jacksonville at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

In the other tournament game, Pine Bluff beat Harrison on Tuesday, sending Pine Bluff to the winner’s bracket to play Conway on Friday, while Harrison falls to the losers’ bracket to play Jacksonville at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Saturday’s championship game will pit the Conway-Pine Bluff winner against the Jacksonville-Bryant winner at 8:30 p.m.

The losers of those two games will play for third place at 5:30. North Pulaski will play Harrison for fifth place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Fast start is enough for Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

A second-half slowdown did not stop Lonoke in the big scheme of things as the Jackrabbits went on to defeat Hot Springs 72-56 in the third-place game of the Hot Springs invitational basketball tournament on Saturday.

The Jackrabbits (3-1) had a chance to reach the championship finals, leading Mills University Studies by seven points late in the second half of the semifinal game before losing by five. They almost had a repeat letdown against the host Trojans in Saturday’s game. Lonoke held a commanding 35-10 lead at halftime, but gave up 21 points to Hot Springs in the third quarter while only scoring 10. The Trojans cut the deficit as close as seven early in the fourth quarter before the ’Rabbits regained their composure for a final run.

“It was a tale of two halves for us,” Jackrabbits coach Dean Campbell said. “We played really well early, had intensity, and did everything we talk about every day. Third quarter, we’re up 25, and they got a little relaxed. We stopped guarding, started taking quick shots.

“Hot Springs didn’t quit. They could’ve easily given up, but they were able to cut it to seven on us.”

Blake Mack and Darian Young led the way offensively for Lonoke with 14 points each. Reid McKenzie added 12 points, Jamel Rankin added 11 and Zack Risner had eight points.

McKenzie, Lonoke’s senior post player, scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter and went a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in that time.

“Reid played really well,” Campbell said. “We really didn’t go to him, but they tried to extend it so much, it left him one on one inside. People don’t expect post players to hit free throws like that, so we’re real proud of him.”

The late letdown against Mills prevented the Jack-rabbits from finishing the first full week of play unbeaten, but with important 4A-2 Conference home games against Dollarway and Southside Batesville over the course of the next week, Campbell said his group is in better shape heading into league play compared to a year ago.

“We’re defending extremely hard, and that makes me happy,” Campbell said. “We’re doing some things we were not able to do last year like guard continually, and we’ve got more people on the bench to contribute. We’re keeping up our defensive intensity, and the guys are understanding their roles and what’s expected of them. Once you get those roles defined, it helps everything else go smoother.”

Campbell also said the Hot Springs tourney served as a great tune up for conference.

“We played some teams real similar to what we’ll see in conference,” Campbell said. “We needed to see teams like Mills and Hot Springs that can get up and down the floor. It was a good tournament for us, and there were a lot of lessons to learn that I think will help us out down the road.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bielema: He’s huge success

Leader sports editor

Jeff Long knew he needed a big hire to appease Arkansas fans, and he got it in shocking fashion. Of all the wild rumors that have circulated in the past two weeks, none were about Bret Bielema, the coach of the Wisconsin Badgers for the last seven seasons, whose appointment was confirmed Tuesday evening.

It came out of nowhere. For the past week, most believed Boise State coach Greg Petersen had finally accepted one of the many offers he’s gotten from major schools at the end of every season, and would be Arkansas’ new coach. At about noon Tuesday, news spread like wildfire that Arkansas had actually hired Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.

Other coaches reportedly on the short list for the job ranged from Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn to ESPN analyst John Gruden to TCU’s Gary Patterson to Washington’s Steve Sarkisian. No one ever mentioned Bielema.

Long has been under pressure since April from the crazies who felt he should’ve kept Bobby Petrino. But even those who supported his decision to fire Petrino after he hired his mistress to his football staff were beginning to grow more and more unhappy that Long had been unable to snag a big hire by now.

Many other schools fired their coaches in the last couple of weeks of the season. That meant more competition on the market, and Hog fans everywhere began to blame Long as the prospects of landing that big-name hire seemed to grow smaller by the hour.

But that was just uninformed fans’ perception. Long played this one very close to the vest and landed that big fish Hog fans were hoping for.

Of course, many fans aren’t happy with Bielema as the new head Hog. Most of those fans just aren’t yet aware of how successful he’s been at Wisconsin.

It’s true Barry Alvarez first took Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten when he won back-to-back conference championships in the mid-90s. But Alvarez never reached that pinnacle again in his last 10 years and handpicked a then- 35-year-old Bielema to be his successor.

Bielema just got the Badgers into their third-straight Rose Bowl. Four of his seven seasons have been 10 wins or more, but this year is not one of them. It helped that undefeated Ohio State is not eligible for a bowl this season, but getting to the Rose Bowl during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year is a sign of a great coach.

Bielema emphasizes defense, which is a must after four years of bad defenses under Petrino.

Bielema’s offenses at Wisconsin have consistently been among the best in the nation, though he does it differently than the pass-happy teams like Oklahoma State and Arkansas, or the spread teams like Oregon and Boise State that have consistently been at the top of yardage and scoring statistics.

Bielema’s Wisconsin teams had crushing ground games. There are three former Bielema running backs in the NFL, and none are as good as Montee Ball, who is still at Wisconsin. There are also 12 former Wisconsin offensive linemen in the NFL.

There are some things to dislike about Bielema, but most of them are personal. He’s not all that likable, according to those near the Wisconsin program.

He’s arrogant and says things that later make him seem disingenuous. For example, when asked about former Florida and current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics, he said, “At the Big Ten, we don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form.”

But he does, apparently, want to be part of the SEC.

Bielema also has a reputation for running up the score. That doesn’t mean continuing to score with backups on the field running the base offense.

Most famously, in 2010 while leading Indiana 76-20, Bielema, with his starters still on the field, called for a play-action pass that resulted in a 35-yard touchdown reception and an 83-20 final score. But that kind of thing doesn’t seem to upset fans anymore.

It would also be important for Arkansas fans who aren’t happy with the hire to remember how successful coaches with Big Ten backgrounds have been in the SEC. Nick Saban, Les Miles, the two most recent SEC coaches to win national championship, both have deep roots in the Big Ten.

Miles played at Michigan and was an assistant coach there before becoming head coach at Oklahoma State. He left that job to replace Saban at LSU.

Saban was head coach at Michigan State for five seasons, going an underwhelming 34-24. He finished fifth twice and sixth twice before parlaying his second-place finish into the LSU job in 2000. By comparison, Bielema is 68-24 in seven Big Ten seasons with three conference championships and one second-place finish.

The offense will continue to excite, and the defense won’t be disgraceful. Winning will soon return to The Hill.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls roll over Cabot in big way

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s surprisingly rough start against Jacksonville put the Lady Panthers down 28 points by the end of the first half, and the margin didn’t get any thinner in the final two quarters as the Lady Red Devils left Panther Arena with a 56-28 blowout win on Friday.

It wasn’t just the home crowd that was in shock by the lopsided numbers on the scoreboard. Even Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms was surprised that her team was up by such a large margin at halftime.

“No,” said Mimms when asked if she could’ve imagined the score being what it was after two quarters of play. “You kind of watch scores, and we lost to North Little Rock by 10, and they beat North Little Rock handily. But give credit to our kids. They deserve this.

“To come in here, one thing that I preach to them is ‘beat some teams that are elite.’ I treat Cabot as one of the elite teams in the state. For us to come in here and beat them on their own floor, that’s big for our program and for these kids.”

Jacksonville began the game with an 8-0 scoring run, which forced Cabot coach Carla Crowder to call timeout and regroup. Abbey Allgood scored Cabot’s first basket inside the paint to make the score 8-2, but after that it was all Jacksonville as the Lady Red Devils scored the next 14 points to lead 22-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The Lady Panthers turned the ball over seven times in the opening quarter and had no luck moving the ball inside the perimeter on offense because of the presence of Jacksonville’s 6-foot-2 senior standout, Jessica Jackson. A University of Arkansas verbal commit, Jackson scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter.

“They’re a very good team,” said Crowder of Jacksonville. “I have no excuses. I give them all the credit. I can’t have excuses when we play like that. We have to be more focused, be ready to play, and be more alert. We need to forget about this and worry about the future, because you can’t worry about the past.”

Cabot used a different rotation of players in the second quarter. Sophomore guard Danielle McWilliams gave the Lady Panthers a spark offensively as she scored six of her team’s 10 points in the quarter.

But Cabot still had no luck slowing down the Lady Devils. Jacksonville outscored Cabot 18-10 in the quarter to take a commanding 40-12 lead at the break.

Senior point guard Jaylin Bridges hit two three-pointers early in the third quarter that lifted the home crowd’s spirits, but unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, they could only manage one other field goal in the quarter. By the end of the third, Jacksonville led 52-21 and invoked the sportsmanship rule.

The Lady Devil starters sat the majority of the fourth quarter, and with 22 seconds left to play, Lady Panther sophomore Alyssa Hamilton scored three points on an and-one play to make the score 56-28.

The rebounding numbers were 20-19 in Jacksonville’s favor, and the Lady Devils forced 25 Cabot turnovers while committing 10 fewer. Jacksonville also shot well at the free throw line, shooting 86.6 percent on 15 attempts.

The Lady Panthers made 60 percent of their free throws on 10 attempts. Neither team lit up the scoreboard from three-point range, but Jacksonville shot 37.5 percent, bettering Cabot’s 15.3 percent.

Jackson added seven rebounds, two steals and one block to go with her 19 points. Markela Bryles also had a solid game for Jacksonville as she totaled 13 points, seven rebounds, three steals and one block.

McWilliams and Elliot Taylor led Cabot with seven points. Bridges scored six points and had four steals and two blocks.

The Lady Panthers (4-2) played Pulaski Academy yesterday in the first round of the second annual Cabot Pre-Holiday tournament. Jacksonville (3-2) hosted Mount St. Mary Academy yesterday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORT STORY >> Red Devils solid at Border Battle

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils did their part to give Arkansas a victory in the Battle of the Border event at Little Rock Hall on Saturday. The Red Devils beat Olive Branch, Miss. 75-61 to bounce back in a big way from a season-opening loss last Tuesday.

In five games pitting teams from the Little Rock area against teams from the Memphis area, Arkansas teams won three. Parkview beat Memphis-Hamilton 81-80 while North Little Rock trounced Memphis-East 74-42. Memphis Lusuanne beat McClellan 72-59 and Memphis White Station beat Hall 59-53 to close the event.

“That’s one of the premier teams in the state of Mississippi,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said.

Jacksonville guard Justin McCleary stole the show. Though his career-high 30 points wasn’t the game’s highest total, McCleary was the most impressive player on the floor. Conquistador Sam Craft led all scorers with 34 points, but most of his damage from the three-point and free-throw lines. McCleary penetrated and created.

“I said before the season people were going to see a different Justin McCleary,” Joyner said. “We want him to score. He’s a three-year starter, and he’s sacrificed his shot to create for other people. Now it’s his time to score and show he’s got that part to his game too. He hasn’t had a whole lot of Division I attention so far, but he’s going to get it playing like that. He’s a special player.”

Craft single-handedly kept Olive Branch in the game. He scored 24 of his team’s 38 points in the second half. He only scored five points in the second quarter, but all five came just when the Red Devils were threatening to blow the game open.

Jacksonville led 15-13 when it went on a 21-2 run while Craft grabbed a breather on the bench. Craft re-entered the game and nailed a three-pointer to spark a Conquistador run that closed the margin to 14 by halftime. Olive Branch also won the third quarter 19-15, but Jacksonville answered with a run early in the fourth to grab control and seal the win.

Jacksonville dominated the rebounding category. The Red Devils had a 39-18 advantage, led by guard Aaron Smith’s 10. Smith also had 12 points for his first double-double of the season.

“Aaron is one of the few kids that got significant minutes last year,” Joyner said. “He’s ready to stroll onto the scene also. We have some kids that hadn’t really been introduced to the public yet. These kids aren’t bad ball players and it’s time for them to step up and shine.”

The only statistic Jacksonville didn’t win was turnovers. The Red Devils committed 19 turnovers while OBHS gave it up 16 times. That follows 21 turnovers Jacksonville committed in its season opener. Joyner expects that to get better as the season progresses.

“We need games,” Joyner said. “Decision making is always a concern. But when you’re playing 15 kids like I’ve been playing, you’re playing some kids that are just now getting their time. Just like with rebounding. We watched the tape, they saw what they were doing and what they weren’t doing, and they went out and corrected it. They just need games.”

Jacksonville (1-1) will face Harrison at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Conway Invitational, then will play Bryant at 5:30 Friday also at Conway.