Friday, March 20, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Badger baseball team annihilates McClellan

By GRAHAM POWELL 
Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers’ baseball team absolutely dominated McClellan on Tuesday in the first pair of 5A-Central Conference games of the season, as the host Badgers won both games by scores of 28-0 and 24-0.

Beebe junior Angus Denton threw a perfect game in game one, throwing all three innings of the game. He recorded eight strikeouts in that game, which was ended in three innings because of the mercy rule, which is invoked when one team’s lead reaches at least 15 runs after three innings of play.

The Badgers (2-1, 2-0) wasted little time setting the tone of the game, as they scored 12 runs in the bottom of the first inning, 11 in the second and five more in the third to set the final score.

In that game, Beebe racked up 17 hits and 20 of the Badgers’ 28 runs scored were earned. Jeffrey Ashley led all hitters in game one, going 3 for 3 at the plate, and he also had four RBIs and two runs scored.

Hunter Naramore also had four RBIs in that game, and was one of four Beebe batters with two hits. Aaron Decker, Denton and Dawson Burge also had two hits. Denton, Decker and Naramore also led the way with a game-high four runs scored.

“We’re 2-0 going into spring break,” said Beebe coach Mark Crafton of his team’s conference record.

“The negative side of that is we got Jacksonville at their place when we come back from spring break, and they’re going to be a totally different competition level,” he added.

“Some of the things we were able to get away with tonight, we’re not going to be able to get away with against those upper-tier teams. Of course we got some junior varsity guys off the bench that may not ever see the light of day in a varsity game. It gave them an opportunity to get in a varsity game, get an at-bat, play some defense and help score some runs.”

Despite facing less than stellar competition, Crafton was pleased overall with his team’s performance at the plate Tuesday.

“Some guys put the bat on the ball,” Crafton said. “It’s tough when you go against a team that has a little velocity on the mound to one that doesn’t have a lot of velocity and is kind of sporadic in location.

“When we did get that pitch when it was somewhere in the zone, we hit it pretty hard, and that’s tough to make that change in high school when they’re seeing 82-plus (miles per hour) and they go lower 70s. It’s like seeing a change-up every time.

“We did a good job of adjusting and driving the baseball. So we got some things accomplished, but you like for your ballclub to be able to see some better competition.”

Crafton played the bulk of his reserves in the second game, but Beebe still held a 3-0 lead in the early goings. As the game progressed, though, McClellan’s inability to find the strike zone, as well as its miscues in the field, led to a plethora of Badger runs and another shortened game and blowout victory for the host team.

Beebe is on spring break next week, and the Badgers’ next game won’t be until Tuesday, March 31 at Jacksonville. That game will be another 5A-Central doubleheader, and the first of those two conference games is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS boys win two in league

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys’ soccer team improved to 3-0 with a pair of 5A-Central victories this week. The Red Devils cruised past J.A. Fair 7-2 on Tuesday, then continued great defensive play by beating the upstart Beebe Badgers 2-0 Thursday at Bro Erwin Stadium.

Thursday’s game was supposed to be at Jacksonville’s Jan Crow Stadium, but field conditions weren’t conducive, so the game was moved to Beebe’s artificial turf.

Jacksonville lost two players to red cards in the second half, but managed to not only hold on to the lead, but score a goal with just nine players with two minutes remaining.

“We were able to pull it out,” said Jacksonville coach Adam Thrash. “We played the last eight minutes with nine players against their 11, and I have no idea why they were red-carded, but we were able to get another goal and get the win.”

Cortez Jordan scored first to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead going into halftime at Beebe. Anthony Anderson then got a red card with20 minutes remaining in the game, putting Jacksonville a man down. With eight minutes remaining, Ben Foshee was red-carded as well.

“The only explanation I got was that he made too aggressive of a play on the ball,” Thrash said. “And I had never heard of that before in my life.”

With two minutes remaining in the game and despite being so shorthanded, the Red Devils made a nice team play for the final goal.

Jacob Alcorn passed to R.J. Moore as Gerald Walton moved into position for the shot. Moore then delivered a perfect pass to Walton who scored to set the final margin.

“Those were two key passes to set up that final goal,” Thrash said. “Brady Delp, John Hermann and Jeremy Wilson were key to getting that win as well. They all played really well.”

Jordan and Walton each scored three goals in the win over the War Eagles. The Red Devils opened the season with 2-1 win over Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter last week. They’ll be off until March 31 when they’ll play playoff mainstay Sylvan Hills, likely without Foshee and Anderson.

“I’d like to appeal (the red cards and subsequent one-game suspensions) because if it’s on film I’d win it,” Thrash said. “But we weren’t filming it and I don’t know if anyone else was. If not, we’ll put two more in and go play Sylvan Hills. It’ll be tough because they’ve got a good program. But we’re 3-0 and we’re excited about that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears cruise past Comets in double dip

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears swept Mills University Studies by a combined 41 runs Tuesday in a 5A-Central doubleheader on Dixon Road in Little Rock. The Lady Bears took advantage of eight base hits and 17 walks to win game one 26-0. They got five base hits and walked just eight times in a 15-0 win in game two.

“You can’t really gauge where you stand with the other good teams, but there’s some positives to come from games like these,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson. “You learn you have to stay focused no matter what, and it gives you a chance to work on some of those things that may need a little work. I thought we did alright.”

Callie Cavender went 3 for 3 at the plate and threw a no-hitter on the mound in game one. She also drove in two runs and scored four times. Leadoff hitter Cara Pozza went 2 for 2 with four RBIs and four runs scored.

The Lady Bears did most of the damage early, scoring 19 runs in the top of the first inning, and adding seven more in the second to set the final margin. Except for Cavender on the mound, Anderson played his junior varsity squad the third inning. Cavender threw just 42 pitches, walked two and struck out six.

Anderson shuffled his lineup in game two but it wasn’t much more competitive. Pozza, Cavender, Doma’Nique Hunt and Tristen Goodson each drove in two runs. Lynlee Broadway didn’t get a hit, but walked all three trips to the plate and scored each time she got on base. Goodson’s two RBIs came on a bases-clearing triple in the seven-run first inning.

The Lady Bears added seven more runs in the second and one run in the bottom of the third to end the game on the mercy rule. Taylor Yoeman also hit a triple to lead off the second inning.

Broadway got the win on the mound in game two. She gave up three hits while striking out four and walking no one in three innings of work.

After opening the season with a loss to North Little Rock, Sylvan Hills has won three-straight, improving to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. The Lady Bears are off for spring break until March 31 when they host J.A. Fair in another 5A-Central doubleheader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls second at Bryant

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther outdoor track team hasn’t competed at full strength yet, but still managed a second-place finish at the cold and breezy Bryant Relays on Thursday. The hosting Hornets won the girls’ meet with 131 points while the Lady Panthers finished with 103, but Cabot still managed wins in several individual events.

Senior distance runner Micah Huckabee set a personal best time of 5:09.61 in blowing away the field in the mile. She eclipsed her previous best time of 5:10.40, and beat second place by more than 19 seconds.

Huckabee has battled various illnesses and injuries for more than a year, but says she finally feels 100 percent healthy as she sets her sights on the school record in the 1,600-meters.

“I’d say for about two weeks I’ve felt really good,” said Huckabee. “It’s been hard dealing with everything but I’ve also learned that you never know when your last race will be, so when I’m healthy I really want to go for it and go for some fast times.”

Huckabee missed about two weeks last year dealing with problems with her sartorius muscle. She also ran into a steeplechase hurdle during cross-country season last year, which left a nagging hip injury for the rest of the year. She then had an appendectomy in January that has slowed her down for the past two months.

But Thursday’s time in the mile, combined with her win in the two-mile, has her feeling confident and setting her sights on some lofty goals. She is five seconds off the school record in the mile set by Emkay Myers three years ago, but has even bigger goals than that.

“I have the Texas relays coming up next week and I want to break five minutes in the mile,” Huckabee said. “Coming back right after having my appendix removed, it took me a while to get back into it. I wasn’t really sure what kind of shape I was in, but after tonight I just have that confidence. I really feel like that could be a really good meet to do it, and if not, there are plenty more left in the season.”

Huckabee also won the 3,200-meter race on Thursday, finishing in 11:47.47. Her teammate, Samantha Nickell, took fifth with a time of 12:33.20.

Pole vault prodigies Lexi and Tori Weeks didn’t have their best performances, but still finished tied for first, each clearing 13 feet, but both failed to clear 13-7, which would have placed them in this year’s national rankings. Both sisters have cleared more than 14 feet in indoor competition, with Lexi Weeks holding the national indoor record at 14-3 1/4.

Each sister won two other events as well. Lexi took first place in the long jump with a leap of 17-11, and won the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.27. Tori won the triple jump with a jump of 36-9, and took first in the 300-meter hurdles, posting a 46.29.

They also ran two legs of Cabot’s second-place 4x400 team and the third-place 4x100 team. Alyssa Hamilton started the 4x400 and Caytee Wright finished it for a time of 4:19.81. Madison Barnhill took Wright’s spot for the 4x100 for the third-place showing.

Wright also took second in the high jump for Cabot.

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears also performed well in a few events. The 4x800 team of Dallyn Stubbs, Justis Jakes, Erykah Sanders and Chloe George took third overall. The 4x100 team of Mya Graham, Charnae Cannon, Jahnay Duncan and Brielle Hayes took sixth place for three points.

Hayes also finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 18.02. Duncan tied for seventh in the high jump and Sa‘maya Farmer finished seventh in the shot put.

Two Cabot boys took second place. Brandon Jones flung the discus 136-06, just three feet behind the winner. Braxton Burton took second in the pole vault with a 12-6 jump. The Panthers’ 4x100 relay team of Austin Morris, Connor Daigle, Britton Alley and Rocky Burke finished fourth. Alley also scored one point in the 200, as did Nick Davis in the two-mile race.

For Sylvan Hills, Knoa Smith finished fifth in the shot put and Anthony Duncan took sixth in the 110 hurdles.

TOP STORY >> JHS student will go to West Point

John Kees Herrmann of Jacksonville, son of Lisa Dicus, was notified March 13 of his appointment to the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

He received a congratulatory message from Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.). Herrmann will graduate with honors from Jacksonville High School with the Class of 2015 before heading to West Point to begin basic training at the end of June.

He plans on studying civil engineering while attending college there. Kees, a field-goal kicker for the Jacksonville Red Devils, hopes to play football for the Army.

Herrmann will be a third generation military man from his family. He said his grandfather, Gary Herrmann, inspired him to pursue civil engineering because that was what his grandfather did while in the Army.

John’s older brother, Ryan, also attended West Point and graduated with the Class of 2013.

Herrmann will receive a full scholarship and will commit to serve at least five years in the Army. Herrmann was also appointed to the Air Force Academy.

Principal Jerry Bell said, “This is a prestigious honor, and Jacksonville High School wishes you much success in your future endeavors at West Point. We know that you will succeed in all you set out to do.”

TOP STORY >> Millage vote to affect schools

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff write

The Pulaski County Special School District will build three new high schools, two new elementary schools add gymnasiums and make significant upgrades or additions all around if voters approve a 5.6-mill property-tax increase at a special election May 12.

Voters within the PCSSD boundaries — excluding those in the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District — are eligible to vote at their usual polling places. If the increase passes, it will not affect property owners in the emerging JNP district.

Those not currently registered to vote have until April 10 to register, according to information on the PCSSD website.

Early voting begins May 5 at the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood, the Jess Odom Community Center in Maumelle, the Roosevelt Thompson Library off Chenal Parkway and the County Regional Building at Markham and Broadway in Little Rock, according to Brian Poe, Pulaski County director of elections.

PCSSD will pay for the special election, which could cost as much as $30,000, according to Bill Goff, its chief financial officer.

The newest wrinkle in facilities plans calls for a new elementary school off Hwy. 440 near the Fourche Dam Pike exit to replace Scott, Harris and College Station elementary schools.

Scott Elementary is being closed at the end of this school year, over the objection of many Scott residents. The other two are old facilities with many needs.

The millage increase, which would bring the district’s annual construction millage to 46.3 mills, would be expected to raise about $12 million a year for 30 years — enough to fund the $213 million building program.

SYLVAN HILLS FEEDERS


A large addition to Sylvan Hills High School will make it “basically a new school,” PCSSD Director of Operations Derek Scott said. The school doesn’t have a space large enough for a student assembly.

The addition will include new classroom space and a new gymnasium. The space currently behind the school will become the approach to, essentially, a whole new high school. The existing auditorium could be repurposed into a seminar room, Scott said.

Two years ago, the school had about 770 students. After the Jacksonville-North Pulaski district starts classes, it will grow to about 1,420 students.

Sylvan Hills Middle school, although recently built, still needs restrooms, practice and play fields.

Sherwood Elementary will get a gym, a cafeteria and new parking.

Sylvan Hills Elementary is slated for additional classrooms, air conditioning in the gym and paved parking.

Cato Elementary, with open-space classrooms, could be moved about year three into the building that currently houses Northwood Middle School, Scott said.

MILLS FEEDERS

The following is what’s planned for Mills High School and its feeder schools.

A new Mills High School will be built for about $52 million, according to Scott, with the current high school remodeled and converted to a middle school. Fuller, the existing middle school, would be demolished.

The district would build the proposed new elementary school to replace Harris, Scott and College Station elementary schools — roughly equidistant from each. That school is not currently on the state Facilities Masterplan, but the state only matches about one-half of one percent of approved construction for PCSSD, Scott said. The district could afford the additional new school, assuming the millage increase is approved.

Landmark and Daisy Bates elementary schools would be gussied up and would each get a gymnasium/multipurpose room.

“We’re trying to ensure we can get rid of open-space classes, like those at Landmark, where possible,” Scott said.

ROBINSON FEEDERS

The district will build a new Robinson High School, converting the current high school to the middle school and demolishing the current middle school.

Robinson Elementary School, an open-space facility, will be demolished and replaced.

Chenal Elementary needs increased parking, and both Baker and Lawson elementary schools need gymnasiums and facility improvements.

MAUMELLE FEEDERS

Maumelle High School, the most recently built in the district, still needs a track, visitors’ bleachers, restrooms, lights on the softball and baseball fields and the conversion of practice fields into game fields, according to Scott.

Maumelle Middle School, also recently constructed, needs restrooms at the athletic fields and air conditioning in the gym.

Crystal Hill and Oak Grove elementary schools each need a gym and general improvements.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

EDITORIAL >> French lessons on the air base

Freshman Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) visited Little Rock Air Force Base last week and warned about tough times ahead for the military as spending cuts — or sequestration in government jargon — could hit our base with reduction in personnel and airplanes.

Deficit hawks in Washington are determined to reduce the federal budget across the board, including defense spending. Hill appears to be part of the House faction that wants to cut spending in all departments. “I believe the Congress should have the ability to spend money more appropriately, including the military,” he said.

Hill’s visit came days after approximately 90 members from the 19th Maintenance Squadron, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron left in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

Our representatives continue to send our military into harm’s way — LRAFB airmen have been deployed overseas nonstop since 9/11 — but the Pentagon has been told to cut spending and reduce personnel to the lowest level since the Second World War.

Budget cutbacks and another round of sequestration could slow modernization and infrastructure replacement at the base. Fortunately, three major projects worth $133.6 million are underway here and due for completion by 2017.

The projects include rebuilding a 50-year-old runway and adjacent landing strip at a cost of $108 million, replacing the fuel maintenance hangar for $21.4 million and construction of a fifth C-130J simulator for $4.2 million.

Sequestration will hit our base hard, as Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, has warned. No multi-million projects appear on the horizon. Rep. Hill should listen to the commanders at the air base and reach out to the men and women who are in Afghanistan and Iraq before voting to cut the Air Force budget.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke extends school hours

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

The Lonoke School Board on Monday approved extending the school day by an hour in the afternoon to make up for eight snow days.

Students will also go to school on March 20 and April 3, which were snow days built into the calendar. The longer school days will be March 30 through May 18. Going an extra hour for six weeks will make up for six snow days.

District coordinator Amanda Rather said June 8, instead of May 29, would have been the last day of school if the missed snow days were added to the end of the year.

Rather said some people asked why not start the school days a few minutes earlier.

“We felt it was best for our parents to not mess up their schedules twice. They would have get up earlier and pick up their kids later,” Rather said.

Rather said class periods for middle school and high school students would be extended, too.

“How will that impact the Primary school kids? Will they have a snack in the afternoon since it is an extended time in the afternoon?,” school board president Karen James asked.

Student services director Nathan Morris said he and food service director Elen Smith are working on providing snacks.

Another concern for James was school dismissal.

Superintendent Suzanne Bailey said, when all the students are safely off the campus on cars and buses, the staff will be dismissed.

In other business, the board approved paying Arkansas State University-Searcy $30,062 for 37 students to take college courses and career and technical training.

The district also recognized Primary and Elementary School students and staff of the month that were voted on by their peers.

Primary students of the month were second graders Tamyah VanBuren and Will Lassiter.

Students and teachers commented that VanBuren was helpful to her classmates and teachers. She shows respect and uses her manners daily. She is bubbly and always has a smile on her face. She has read over 200,000 words this year.

Lassiter is smart and always enjoys a challenge. He strives to do his best while also having fun. He has also read over 200,000 words this year.

Primary staff members of the month were second grade teacher Alisha Inman and secretary Deanie Sherrell.

It was said that Inman is always cheerful. She is a caring teacher. Her main focus is to help each child achieve success. She pushes her students to do their best.

Sherrell always gives an encouraging word to the students. She goes out of her way to help.

 Elementary students of the month were fifth graders Kennedy Williams and Spencer Pepper.

Williams is friendly, smiling, and respectful to all teachers and adults. She is eager to learn, helpful to others and is a great student, according to her peers.

Pepper is humble and a hard worker. He is a leader and helpful to others.

Elementary staff members of the month were fourth grade literacy teacher Lauren Landers and assistant secretary Karon Booe.

Booe was described as a hard worker. She is willing to help out and take on anything.

It was said that Landers is an encouraging, positive and innovative teacher. She is eager to help other staff members with technology and teaching strategies. Landers is giving of her time, resources and classroom. She is a team player.

TOP STORY >> More hours for students


By RICK KRON
Leader staff write

The wintry weather forced area schools to close six to seven days. Those days have to be made up.

Two area school districts are taking advantage of a new law allowing missed days to be made up by extending the school day.

One district plans to just attach the days to the end of the school calendar, while another is still mulling over options.

In Beebe, Superintendent Belinda Shook said, “Our school board approved the extended-day option for Beebe at the meeting last Monday.

“As you know, this just became available with the passing of Act 286,” Shook explained. “It has been an interesting process, since it is the first time this option has been available. To be honest, it is probably more difficult to accomplish than just adding days or going spring break, but we think the additional instructional time before the end of the year will be beneficial.”

The superintendent said, “Our schedule will be eight hours, with the starting and ending times varying, building to building, because of transportation schedules. We stated the official time as 7:42 to 3:42, but, because of the staggered time when students are picked up and dropped off, that time changes by a few minutes. Most of our bus-transported students are at school by 7:30, so this gave us a good opportunity to utilize time in the mornings that was already available.”

The Beebe district has sent specific times to parents from each building administrator. “We will run this schedule through May 1 to make up five days. We will make up another day on April 24, which we had scheduled in the calendar as a snow day and one at the end, on May 29, for a total of seven days.” Shook said.

Lonoke will also take advantage of the new law.

Monday night the Lonoke school board accepted one of three options to make up snow days. The option they picked was the one that received the most teacher and staff votes.

“We will begin on March 30 (the Monday after spring break) adding one additional hour to the end of the day for 36 days (through May 18) to make up the June snow days. School will dismiss on May 29,” said Amanda Rather with the district.

She said that many asked why “we didn’t elect to start school earlier, and the administration team decided in a meeting last week that we would prefer to only alter students’ and parents’ schedules one time per day instead of two. Also, many students already struggle with getting here by 8, so starting earlier would not be a good option for them.”

Cabot had seven inclement weather closing days, and Superintendent Tony Thurman said the district is adding the days to the end of the calendar.

“Our last day of school will be June 5. We will not consider adding time to the school day unless we have additional closings and are forced into the second week of June,” he said.

The Pulaski County Special School District has not decided whether to extend the school day, the school year or a combination of both.

Deb Roush, spokesman for the district said the district, has built-in snow days set for June 1-4 plus Good Friday “Right now, we don’t know if we will have school on Good Friday. It’s all up in the air right now, but we will have a plan in place by the end of the week,” Roush said.

TOP STORY >> Newspaper wins 18 awards for its advertisements

The Leader won 18 awards last week in the Arkansas Press Association’s advertising design contest. The honors were presented during a banquet on Friday at Petit Jean Mountain.

In all, the family-owned independent community newspaper won five first places, seven second places, four third places and one honorable mention, which earned it the grand prize sweepstakes award.

John Henderson, the paper’s general manager, said, “It’s always a real honor to receive the awards from the APA, especially the sweepstakes award. It is a tangible acknowledgement of the pride and care we take in our work as a team here at The Leader. It’s also proof again that we are the best large non-daily newspaper in Arkansas.”

Clay Knupp and Lisa Tigue produced the award-winning ads.

“It is really rewarding knowing that we have designed ads worthy of awards from APA. Lisa and I try to come up with interesting ad designs that will emphasize advertisers’ products and services and bring in more customers to their business,” Knupp said.

Advertising account executive Susan Swift, whose customers’ ads received awards, said, “the awards highlight the best work created among all APA newspapers in the state. It was such an honor for us to be awarded 18 awards this year.”

Matt Robinson, The Leader’s publications manager, said, “It’s the highest honor to win sweepstakes from the Arkansas Press Association and being part of The Leader management staff. I couldn’t be prouder of our staff. We always try to go one step higher for our advertising customers to make sure they get the results needed to make their businesses a success.”

In the category for single ad 10 inches and under, Sandy’s Pet Grooming (see page 9A) won first place, and another one for Southern Oaks won second place.

A special page reminding readers not to drink and drive for New Year’s won third place in the multiple-advertiser category.

An Easter advertisement for Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke won first place for its use of color. Another for Iron Skillet restaurant won second place. The Leader’s special football section won first place, and our basketball section won third place.

The annual football section also won second place for best cover design.

The home-improvement section took home an honorable mention.

The paper also won a second place for original photo for a missing dog ad for Lonoke resident Will Simpson.

The elves in a Christmas ad for Crafton’s Furniture won first place for clip art. One for Jacksonville Community Center’s underwater Easter egg hunt won third place.

For most original idea, an Easter ad for Greystone Nursing won third place.

The single-supplement design for Gwatney Chevrolet won first place, and Windows and More grabbed second.

For best real estate ad, one for Doug Wilkinson took second place.

In the employment category, Harps Grocery in Cabot won second.

Managing editor Eileen Feldman, said, “We are proud of our advertising staff and graphic artists and glad that their creative commitment to The Leader ideal has been recognized.”

TOP STORY >> Crafton’s marks 60th anniversary

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Crafton’s Furniture and Appliance store is celebrating its 60th year in business this month.

To mark the occasion, Crafton’s will be having sales from now until April 1 at their two stores — 2126 N. First St. in Jacksonville and 215 W. Race Ave. in Searcy.

The business, owned by Ken and Mary Beth Crafton, has always been in the family.

As a teenager in 1955, Ken and his brother, Derwayne, helped their father, David, and their uncle, Ulman Cooper, start the furniture store on Hwy. 161 South across from The Hook restaurant in Jacksonville.

Crafton’s was at the Hwy. 161 location for 40 years until moving in 1995 to the Jacksonville Shopping Center off West Main Street.

The store moved again in 2009 to their current location near the old Walmart.

Mary Beth Crafton said customers used to purchase a couch or chair that would be displayed in a room for years.

But now “people are replacing their furniture more often. Our customers are becoming more interested in American-made products and staying in touch with new trends,” she said.

“The trends right now are more colors and clean lines,” Crafton said.

She added, “We have quality products and service after the sale.”

The showroom has sofas, chairs, dining room sets, bedroom sets, mattresses, paintings, lamps and table d├ęcor. The brands include Sealy, Ashley, Bassett and England.

Crafton’s also sells washers, dryers, dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators from brands General Electric, Hotpoint and Crosley.

The store has sponsored many city baseball teams over the years, Crafton continued.

And salesman Mike Evans added, “We have lots of loyal repeat customers. We have served three generations of families.

“We will go the extra mile for the customer, and we stand behind the products we sell. We offer free setup and delivery. Crafton’s has a good relationship with the people of Jacksonville,” Evans said.

He also said they continue that level of customer service by following up if there is an issue.

Crafton’s is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Arkansas back in the big dance

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

The Arkansas men’s and women’s basketball teams made the NCAA tournament for the first time in many years. It’s only been since 2012 for the women, but the men have waited since 2008 to dance on the big stage.

The Razorback men were a staple in the tournament for 20 years.

Starting in the mid-70s when Eddie Sutton took over the program, and running through the first 10 years of Nolan Richardson’s tenure, (minus a brief stint after the transition) Arkansas was among the very best, the elite of the elite, appearing in five final fours, two national championship games and winning one national title.

Hog coach Mike Anderson was Richardson’s top assistant throughout his stint at Arkansas, but the program has only made it to the big dance three times in the 14 years since his and Richardson’s departure.

So it’s fitting in his fourth year back, rebuilding a program run aground by John Pelphrey. Pelphrey took the team to the NCAA tournament his first year, when he had a team loaded with seniors who had made it the previous two years under Stan Heath. Since then, it got worse and worse until Anderson arrived four seasons ago.

Now, as a dreaded five seed, the Hogs draw Wofford, that often makes the tournament, but never wins there.

Hailing from a city with one of the best names in the country, the Spartanburg, S.C. squad has made the tournament four of the last six years, but hasn’t yet won.

The Terriers are 28-6 and won the Southern Conference championship. Guard Karl Cochran averages 15 points per game and has taken more than 25 percent of Wofford’s shot attempts by himself this season.

Arkansas’ big advantage will be in size, a welcome change from being dwarfed by Kentucky in the SEC championship game on Sunday. No Terrier is taller than 6-foot-7. SEC Player of the Year, 6-10 Bobby Portis, could dominate in Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday. That is if he breaks out of the 4 for 21 funk he’s been in the last two games.

Wofford plays at a snail’s pace compared to Arkansas. The Terriers are next-to-last in scoring in the Southern Conference, while the Hogs led the SEC in scoring offense. But to be next-to-last in scoring and still be 28-6, means Wofford plays good defense. It has held opponents to 30.8 percent shooting this year and led the league in steals and defensive rebounding. Second-chance points don’t come often against the Terriers, but few teams in their league are as big as the Razorbacks, who haven’t been a great rebounding team, but did battle hard on the boards with Kentucky on Sunday.

If the Razorbacks crash the glass on Thursday as hard as they did on Sunday, and get just a decent offensive effort from Portis, they will dominate the Terriers, and move on to face the winner of the North Carolina vs. Harvard matchup.

The Arkansas Women face power conference team in the Big 10’s Northwestern at 11 a.m. Friday. The seventh-seeded Wildcats have not been to the NCAA tournament since 1997. That team was knocked out of the tournament by George Washington University. The GWU coach in that game was Joe McKeown, who now leads Northwestern back to the dance.

The 10 seed Arkansas Women have a heavy local presence in junior forward Melissa Wolff of Cabot, and sophomore guard/forward Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville.

Jackson has led the team in scoring since arriving in Fayetteville, though she hasn’t had to carry as much of the load this year. She averages 14.9 points per game while Kelsey Brooks is right behind at 14.1. Wolff is fourth on the team at 8.1 points per game, but leads the team in double doubles.

First-year Razorback coach Jimmy Dykes calls Wolff the heart and soul of the team for her unmatched hustle and locker room presence.

Arkansas is unranked with a 17-13 record while Northwestern is 23-8 and ranked 22nd in the country. The Razorbacks won two more games last year and didn’t get into the tournament, but didn’t play as tough of a schedule, had fewer wins against Top-50 RPI teams and didn’t win a game in the SEC tournament like they did this year in avenging an earlier loss to Ole Miss.

If the Arkansas Women can pull the upset, it could count as vindication for the controversial decision to hire Dykes, who is a popular figure in northwest Arkansas as a former Razorback walk-on and ESPN analyst, but had never coached a basketball game.

If the Arkansas men beat Wofford, that in itself will be a dramatic step in the right direction. If it can pull off a second-round win and advance to the Sweet 16, it could begin to lift the program back into national relevance. Longtime SEC follower and CBS sports analyst Tim Brando is fond of saying, and everyone agrees, “College basketball is better when Arkansas is relevant.”

SPORTS STORY >> Benton blanks Cabot Panthers

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team couldn’t get anything going in its home game against Benton on Monday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field, as the visiting Panthers beat the host Panthers 10-0 in six innings.

Cabot (0-2) managed just one hit in the game, while Benton (3-1) racked up 13 base hits in the six innings played. Each team went three up, three down in the first inning, but Benton got on the board for the first time in the top of the second with a solo home run by clean-up hitter Brinson Williams.

The host Panthers’ clean-up hitter, senior first baseman Tristan Bulice, led off the bottom of the second with a hard-hit, stand-up double to deep right center, but Cabot couldn’t capitalize on the hit, as three-straight outs followed.

Benton added another run in the top of the third to take a 2-0 lead, and after each team went scoreless in the fourth, the visiting Panthers put five runs on their side of the board in the fifth to up their lead to 7-0. All five runs came with two outs.

Leadoff hitter Drew Harris walked to start Benton’s two-out rally in the fifth inning. He stole second base with two-hole hitter Chase Nix at the plate, and Nix drove in Harris with a single to right field, which gave Benton a 3-0 lead.

With Colton Nix at the plate, Chase Nix stole second before Colton Nix hit a ground ball to third base. Colton Nix’s grounder should’ve ended the inning, but the throw to first was too high for Bulice, and that allowed Chase Nix to score and Colton Nix to end up at second base.

The next at-bat, Williams hit his second home run of the game, this one a two-run bomb that gave the visiting Panthers a 6-0 cushion. Consecutive singles by Drew Dyer and Colby Johnson followed Williams’ home run, and Jared Baker drove in Benton’s seventh run with a single up the middle of the diamond.

The rally finally came to an end the next at-bat, when Jack Jumper hit into a force out at third base. After another scoreless at-bat for Cabot, Benton pushed its lead to 10 in the top of the sixth.

Nine-hitter Cameron Spivey led off the inning with a single to right field and Harris followed with another single to right field. Chase Nix then came to the plate and drove in Spivey with a stand-up double to deep right field.

With runners at second and third with no outs, Colton Nix set the final score with a two-RBI single up the middle. Cabot failed to put a run on the board in the bottom part of the inning, and as a result, the game ended because of the mercy rule, which is invoked when a team’s lead reaches at least 10 runs after five innings of play.

Four different Benton batters had multiple hits Monday. Those batters were Harris, Chase Nix, Williams and Johnson. Harris earned the win on the hill. He threw all six innings and finished the game with two strikeouts and one walk, while giving up just one hit.

Cabot’s next scheduled game will be a 7A/6A-East doubleheader at Searcy on Friday. The first game Friday will begin at 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears capitalize on 10 base hits

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears scored at least three runs in each of the first four innings to earn a 13-7, five-inning victory over Malvern on Saturday at the Sherwood Sports Complex. The Bears (2-0) got 10 base hits, but struggled with mistakes for the second game, committing four errors and giving up five unearned runs.

Blake Maddox and Jacob Franco each went 3 for 3 to lead the way offensively while Hunter Heslep threw three innings for the win on the mound.

Leadoff hitter Mackenzie Seats scored the first run on an RBI single to left field by Franco. Seats was hit by the first pitch of the game. Maddox was then hit on a 2-2 pitch, and Heslep walked to load the bases.

That set up Franco’s RBI single. Maddox then scored on a wild pitch before Ryan Lumpkin walked to load the bases again.

Joe Craft walked to drive in the third run of the inning and Franco scored on a wild pitch to cap the four-run first.

Seats began the second inning just like the first, drawing a leadoff walk. Maddox then singled to put runners on the corners. Heslep sacrificed to right field to score Seats and Maddox held at first. Franco then walked and Lumpkin singled to load the bases. Craft then singled to right field to score Maddox and Lumpkin and made it 7-0.

Malvern got three runs in the top of the third, but just one earned thanks to two Sylvan Hills errors.

Lukas Burrow got an infield single to start the bottom of the third and moved to third on an errant pick-off throw. Seats then reached on a fielder’s choice back to the pitcher, but the throw home wasn’t in time to get Burrow. Seats stole second and scored on a single by Maddox to make it 9-3. Heslep lined out to center field for the first out of the inning. Franco then hit a line-drive double to left that advanced Maddox to third.

Lumpkin then singled to score Maddox, but the rally ended with back-to-back strikeouts.

Malvern got two more runs in the top of the fourth on one hit and two errors. Sylvan Hills then got three more in the bottom of the fourth, its final at-bat.

Haden Hawkins took a 3-0 pitch off the hip to start the inning, and Bryce Allen took his place on the base paths. Barrow was also hit before Seats got a sacrifice grounder to move runners into scoring position, but both runners ended up scoring due to a throwing error by Malvern. Maddox then singled to center field and Heslep walked. Franco then singled to score Maddox for a 13-5 lead.

Malvern set the final margin with two runs, including one earned, in the top of the fifth.

Sylvan Hills opened conference play with a doubleheader at Mills on Tuesday, and will play a nonconference game at home against Searcy on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Rabs rally past Robinson

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits scored four runs in the first inning, but had to rally for a run in the sixth to beat Joe T. Robinson 6-5 Monday in a nonconference baseball game at Lonoke Park.

With the scored tied at five runs apiece, one runner on base and two outs, Lonoke’s Casey Martin ripped a line-drive double to right field to score Ethan Holland, who had walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly by Elijah Seigrist. Holland then took the mound in the seventh inning and got the Senators in order to earn the win. Robinson speedster Dakotah Troutman reached on an error to lead off the top of the seventh. It was Lonoke’s seventh error of the game.

Troutman then stole second base. He went for more but was caught stealing third. Holland then got a groundout to second base and fanned got Kuan Kirby swinging in three pitches to end the game.

Robinson got on the board first with an unearned run thanks to two Lonoke errors. The Jackrabbits then posted their biggest inning of the day, posting four runs on three base hits.

Robinson pitcher Brennen Johnson walked Casey Martin to start the inning then plunked Haven Hunter to put two runners on with no outs. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, but Cody Martin struck out looking. Nick Graves then doubled to center field to score Casey Martin and advance Hunter to third.

Christian James then hit a deep fly ball for the second out, scoring Hunter from third while Graves held at second base. Todd Pool singled to score. Graves, and Pool scored two batters later on base hit by Caleb Horton to cap the inning.

Neither team scored in the second inning, but Robinson got two runs in the top of the third, both with two outs and both unearned. The Senators got just one base hit, but the Jackrabbits committed three errors to aid the visitors’ cause.

Lonoke was unable to score in the bottom half of the third, and Robinson tied the game with yet a fourth unearned run.

Lonoke got the lead back in the bottom of the fourth without a base hit. Seigrist drew a leadoff walk, and was replaced on the base paths by Lance Dugger. Casey Martin sacrificed Dugger to second with another deep fly ball, and Hunter hit a sacrifice grounder to second to move Dugger to third. The courtesy runner then scored on a passed ball before Cody Martin grounded out to second to end the inning.

Christian James took the mound in the fifth inning and struggled early. He walked the leadoff batter and balked to move him to second. He then walked the next batter and a wild pitch moved them into scoring position. But he worked out of the jam, only allowing one run to cross the plate.

He got a ground ball from Troutman that scored Markus Bracey and moved Hayden Bradberry to third. James then walked Brandon Hudson to put runners on the corners. James then got Kirby and Trenton Dunn swinging to shut down the potential rally.

Casey Martin went 2 for 2 with a run scored and a run batted in to lead Lonoke offensively.

Cody Martin started on the mound and pitched two innings. He gave up one hit while striking out three and walking one for the no decision. Horton threw two innings and James one before Holland threw the last two innings for the win.

The Jackrabbits hosted Conway Christian Tuesday in another nonconference game after Leader deadlines. They will open conference play at home Thursday against Southside-Batesville.