Friday, February 17, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Russian roulette

The American people deserve to know if our nation’s chain of command has been compromised by Russian intelligence operatives.

Arkansas’ congressional delegation should join Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and others in their condemnation of Donald Trump’s admiration of Russia.

Arkansas’ congressmen should convince President Trump to release his tax returns to ease worries that his fondness for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is not due to any financial ties with that country.

Every president since Richard Nixon, except Gerald Ford, has released his tax returns. It is just part of the job. None of them brought with them any suspicion of foreign espionage and interference that has shaken our democracy so dramatically.

The National Security Agency, the CIA and the FBI have determined that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee officials to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign in order to promote Moscow’s favored candidate, Donald Trump, a political novice who has taken positions that undermine traditional American foreign policy.

This week, it was reported that several top Trump campaign officials were frequently in contact with Russian spies. The communications were captured by NSA surveillance. Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, resigned after lying to the vice president, and perhaps the FBI, about the nature of his discussions with the Russian ambassador in Washington, who is a high-level intelligence agent operating with official cover and full diplomatic immunity.

The National Security Council remains in turmoil after retired Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward, Trump’s choice to succeed Flynn, said Friday he wasn’t intrested in the job.

In the campaign and since taking office, Trump has advocated cutting back our military operations in Europe by telling NATO allies to pay more for their security or the U.S. will do less for them. Putin couldn’t have written that policy position better himself.

Trump’s vitriol toward U.S. intelligence agencies and attacks on the press are also reminiscent of Kremlin-style propaganda.

Russia is on the rise. We must prepare for a military confrontation. A Russian spy boat has been cruising the eastern seaboard this week. It was spotted just 30 miles off the Connecticut coast. Russian fighter jets continue to buzz U.S. Navy ships to show Moscow’s brazen contempt for international security, but the close encounters are also mock attacks.

The U.S. must prepare for the worst with Russia. We should not be planning to team up to defeat ISIS in Syria.

Russia’s barbaric military operations in Syria have only helped ISIS grow stronger by butchering the democratic opposition while allowing Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad to hold on to power.

Few, if any, of Russia’s bombing targets have focused on ISIS terrorists. Mostly, they’ve targeted civilians who have fled to Europe, creating political divisions that in turn play into Putin’s bloody hands.

Russia’s activities in Syria are war crimes by any measure. Moscow is as much to blame for the rise of ISIS as it is for the world’s refugee crisis.

Russia is every bit as brutal and repressive today as it was under communism. It’s willingness to indiscriminately kill civilians in Syria, invade Ukraine, murder journalists, imprison Putin’s political opponents and business rivals must not be mistaken for strength.

Mississippi-native Shepard Smith of Fox News said of the President on Thursday, “He keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we’re some kind of fools for asking the question. Really? Your opposition was hacked, and the Russians were responsible for it, and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it was happening, and we’re fools for asking the questions?”

Former Republican Congressman Joe Scar-borough from Florida, now on MSNBC, in a column last week in The Washington Post blasted Trump’s glowing reviews of Putin.

“Despite what Trump would have the world believe, the historical record is unambiguous. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia. That much is clear. What is not is why Trump would so gleefully continue to spread this dangerous lie,” Scarborough said.

Putin can only re-establish Russia as a world power by compromising, blackmailing and coercing politicians around the world. That must not happen in the United States.

TOP STORY >> ‘Taste of New Orleans’ dinner Thursday

By JEFFREY SMITH 
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center is bringing back the “Taste of New Orleans” fundraiser dinner for Mardi Gras.

Dinner and music will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center Banquet Hall. Tickets are $20.

Advanced purchase is requested to know how much food to cook. Tickets can be purchased at the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center, 100 Victory Circle or by calling Connie Evans at 501-982-7531.

All proceeds benefit the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center, which helps seniors with home delivered meals, transportation to doctors appointments, shopping, activities and daytrips.

The center has exercise and educational programs. It serves community meals at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Assistant director Connie Evans is cooking all the food using her family’s recipes. Evans is originally from New Orleans.

She and her family moved to Jacksonville days before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005.

The menu includes red beans and rice with smoked sausage, chicken and sausage gumbo with rice and jambalaya. They are the three main dishes of New Orleans cuisine.

Evans is making mild and spicy versions of all the dishes.

“My favorite is jambalaya, because it has shrimp, and I love seafood,” she said.

Senior center chef Frances Travis is baking the king cakes.

Live jazz music will be performed by Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School High School band and Randy McDonald.

“Last year was a success. We sold 200 tickets and raised $3,000 for the senior center. People could not wait for this year,” Evans said.

TOP STORY >> Base takes award in campaign

During a ceremony Tuesday the Combined Federal Campaign of Greater Arkansas awarded the 2016 third place trophy for the largest campaign category to Little Rock Air Force Base for the base’s total donations given during 2016.

Col. Frank Marconi, 19th Airlift Wing acting vice commander, accepted the trophy on behalf of LRAFB.

The annual Combined Federal Campaign officially kicked off Oct. 7, 2016, at the base. The fundraising drive conducted by federal employees in their workplace each autumn supports and promotes generosity through a voluntary program that’s employee-focused, cost-efficient and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.

In addition to workplace support, CFC hosts fundraising booths at local base events. One such event was the Chiefs’ Fun-Run. The run helped kick off the event, setting aside $500 from the entry fees for the CFC, making the CFC’S total donations during the event more than $1,500.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the CFC is the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, raising millions of dollars each year. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors during the campaign season support eligible nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

Fundraising for charitable organizations in the federal workplace can be traced to the late 1940’s. Formal authority to permit fundraising in the federal workplace was not established until 1961. In signing Executive Order 10927, President John F. Kennedy authorized the U.S. Civil Service Commission to develop guidelines and regulate fund-raising in the federal service.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD pushes bold Sylvan Hills campus

By JOHN HOFHEIMER 
Leader senior staff writer

Sylvan Hills High School would get a new campus if voters in the Pulaski County Special School District extend the current millage rate for another 13 years in a special election May 9.

Under the proposal, the campus would be redrawn with an extensive new classroom and administration offices near the entry from Dee Jay Hudson Drive and would include a new auditorium, arena and multipurpose facility.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a 5.6-mill property tax increase in November.

The school board Tuesday night voted unanimously to put the 14.8-mill debt service extension before those voters to raise $65 million to expand the existing Sylvan Hills High School in the face of rapidly increasing enrollment.

If voters approve the extension, the district will retire that bonded debt with annual payments of about $2.5 million over the next $30 years.

The district has built $100 million Maumelle Middle School/High School and is currently building new high schools or middle schools at Robinson in the west and Mills/Fuller in the southeast.

The language on the ballot will not tie it to any particular project, but it is clearly intended for Sylvan Hills expansion.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess showed the board his proposed budget, which must cut $20.7 million from last year’s $154.5 million budget because 2016-2017 is the last for the state to send the district desegregation funds. It will make one final payment for 2017-2018 stipulated for facilities building or improvement.

Guess said the district had been downsizing for several years to allow for the end of desegregation funds and also for Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District to claim about 25 percent of the students for its own district.

He said he still must find about $52,000 in cuts. Much of the savings has come from staff and payroll reduction over the years, since the state declared PCSSD to be in fiscal distress and took it over in 2011.

Among savings going forward, the district will significantly cut back on its much-lauded Scholars Program, which has apparently lost effectiveness over the past few years, according to Dr. Janice Walker.

Many parents and teachers came to support the existing Scholars Program, the block schedule that has supported it and transportation needed. Cutting the transportation alone would reduce the budget by about $400,000.

PCSSD’s 2017-18 budget is projected to be $123,166,515 with a legal-fund balance of $16,015,711, which is about 13 percent of the budget.

The declining legal-fund balance–that used to be called carryover–was high among the reasons PCSSD was declared to be in fiscal distress and taken over by the state. At that time it had a legal fund balance of about $4 million and was projected to be in the red the following year.

Proposed cuts from the 2016-17 budget include 49 central office staff and extra principal payment on bonds, $10.8 million; JNPSD’s share of desegregation revenue, $4.7 million; balance transfers to JNPSD, $2.9 million; Donaldson Scholars program, $3.33 million; magnet school tuition, $1 million; transportation charges, $831,000; defer new bus purchases, $1.2 million; ALC staffing, $637,706; cut instructional facilitators by half, $1 million; secondary school staff reduction, $800,000; redistribution in school improvement specialists, $305,500; reduction in support staff, $841,986; maintenance of effort, $300,000.

The debt payment would increase by $1.032 million.

SPORTS STORY >> Badger win streak ends at five

By ANN THARPSpecial to The Leader

The Beebe basketball teams got a split on the road Tuesday at Morrilton. The Lady Badgers dominated early and picked up a 55-44 win, while the boys’ saw their five-game winning streak snapped by the conference champion Devil Dogs, 52-48.

The Badgers boys couldn’t quite make it six straight wins. Beebe is still in second place, tied with Greenbrier, with a conference record of 7-4. The Badgers are 13-11 overall.

Beebe started well, and led by nine at one point in the first quarter, but Morrilton came back to tie the game at the end of the period. The Devil Dogs then led by three at the half, by five at the end of three, and held on for the four point final margin.

“It was a hard fought game,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall. “I thought we came out really sluggish, kind of not very focused coming out at half. But, we fought back. I thought we competed very well. Morrilton’s obviously got a very good ball club. For the most part, I was proud of our effort, and proud of the way we competed. We just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be at this time of year.”

Brad Worthington scored first to give Beebe the 2-0 lead, but Keiondre Jefferson tied the game for Morrilton. K.J. O’Neill hit a three and a 2-point basket, Worthington scored twice from inside, and the Badgers had an 11-2 lead.

Oshae Erby answered with a 3-pointer and an offensive rebound put back, and Xavier Wright two layups to tie the score at 11-11. Grant Jackson scored from the lane for Beebe, but Wright hit a 2-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game again at the quarters’ end.

Grant Brown hit two 3-point baskets for the Badgers at the beginning of the second frame, but the Devil Dogs went ahead by two on a layup by Jefferson. Worthington had a couple of baskets for Beebe, but a free throw by Morrilton ended the scoring in the second quarter and gave them a 28-25 advantage.

It was almost halfway through the third period before either team could score. It was Juwan Moore with a tip-in for the Devil Dogs to start a six point run for a nine-point spread. After a free throw by Jackson, Morrilton scored four more for a 38-26 lead.

Worthington scored from the lane for the Badgers, and then Jefferson was fouled and went to the line for Morrilton. However, he was called for a technical foul on the play, and as he missed both of his free throws, O’Neill sank the two technical free throws for Beebe. Then on the ensuing possession for the Badgers, O’Neill nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 38-33 with three quarters in the book.

A Devil Dog layup scored two to start the final period, but a drive and floater in the lane by O’Neill, and both ends of a one and one by Jackson brought the lead back to three points.

Morrilton went ahead 46-40, but Worthington hit a pair of free throws. The Devil Dogs went 2 of 6 from the line, and then Zeke Reddig scored a two for Beebe. Two free throws by D’Andre Butler cut the lead to two with 0:40.7 on the clock.

The Badgers were forced to foul, and one of the double bonus free throws went in. Beebe’s shot on the other end was blocked, and another free throw was scored for Morrilton.

O’Neill hit a 2-point basket to cut the lead to 50-48 with 6.8 seconds remaining. On the inbounds, a technical foul was called on Beebe for touching the ball out of bounds as opposed to a delay of game for a Devil Dog stepping over the line. The resulting two made free throws set the final at 52-48.

O’Neill and Worthington each had 16 points for Beebe, Jackson scored seven points, and Brown six. Wright led Morrilton with 14 points.

The Lady Badgers were in control from the opening tip of their 55-44 win. They didn’t allow a single point as they built a 15-0 lead in the first quarter.

They took a 27-6 lead into halftime before head coach Greg Richey let his bench do most of the work in the second half.

Scoring was very balanced for Beebe. Katie Turner led the way with 13 points while Marianna Richey added 12. Libbie Hill and Hannah Camp each scored 11.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville gets shafted with 5 seed

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville basketball teams begin play in the 6A-East District tournament today. By the wisdom of the state’s bi-yearly rule makers, the tournament will consist of only one team the Titans have played in a conference game all year.

And with the dizzying intellect of Vizzini, those same rule makers put no rules - at all - in place for how to seed a conference tournament made up of teams from four different conferences.

That left Wednesday’s meeting of 6A-East athletic directors looking more like a marketplace bargaining squabble in a Monty Python film than typical tournament planning.

The Jacksonville teams, especially the boys, lost that squabble.

The Lady Titans settle for a seven seed and will play at Marion at 2 p.m. today. The Jacksonville boys, who entered the meeting believing a three seed would be in order, ended up with a five seed, behind two teams it beat twice, and will have to play at four seeded Hall at 4 p.m. today.

Pine Bluff, the other team Jacksonville defeated twice, got the three seed, and will host Mountain Home.

How and why did this happen?

Teams from every classification except 7A had to play its regular-season conference games against teams that would not necessarily be in their conference tournaments. That by itself is ridiculous enough. To make it worse is the fact that no statewide rules were put in place for how to seed the district tournaments once all these teams from different conferences came together.

It was Jacksonville’s impression going into Wednesday that only the games against the teams in the tournament would count towards seeding, Jacksonville and Hall played three times, twice in conference games. The Titans beat Hall in the Coke Classic by four points. They lost at Hall by one point, and then beat Hall by 14 at JHS last Friday.

Other conferences, like the 5A-Central, which contains four teams Jacksonville played in its regular-season conference, are only counting games against other 5A-Central teams when they meet to set their tournament seeds today.

But on Wednesday, JHS athletic director Jerry Wilson was confronted with the argument that since Hall had the better record in the regular-season conference games against six teams that aren’t even in this tournament, it should get the higher seed.

Wilson said the Arkansas Activities Association was contacted to settle the dispute, and the records were given first consideration.

The issue is further confused by the girls’ tournament, where records were apparently only a secondary consideration to, as yet, still unexplained criteria.

Case in point: the Searcy girls carried a conference record of 2-11 into the meeting and ended up with a higher seed than 4-9 Jacksonville.

But back to the boys. It was unclear going in whether or not the Jacksonville’s two-game sweep of Pine Bluff would warrant consideration, since they weren’t technically conference games. Jacksonville beat Pine Bluff 69-64 at PBHS, and again 61-51 at home.

It was decided those games did not matter. So the Titans are now seeded behind two teams they went a combined 4-1 against this season.

Instead of a single-site tournament, the 6A-East elected to play their tournament games at the home gym of the higher seed, which means the strange seeding cost the Titans a home game.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner, like every other coach questioned about the format for this cycle, does not like this system, and thinks his team got a raw deal.

“It’s a farce – a joke,” said Joyner. “It’s the worst thing the triple-A (Arkansas Activities Association, i.e. the rule makers) has ever come up with. It doesn’t make any sense to anybody in the state that I’ve talked to. We’re behind two teams we beat twice, and now we have to play on their home court.

“We just have to deal with it. The kids still have to come out and play. That’s all you can do. So it really doesn’t matter to me. But as far as injustice and fairness, it’s really not fair.”

Joyner is right. Furthermore, for an organization that call itself a “governing body”, it did not govern at all in this matter. Making up a farcical system and then offering no rules on how to organize that system for competition is, at best, incompetence, and at worst, plain laziness.

But all is not lost for the Titans, even if they lose today. Since six teams from each conference advance to state, a first-round loss would not mean the end of the season for Jacksonville. If they lose, they will likely host Searcy on Tuesday in an elimination game. Searcy plays 26-0 and nationally 14th ranked Jonesboro in the first round.

In the bottom half of the bracket, the winner of West Memphis (2) vs. Mountain Home (7) will play the winner between Pine Bluff (3) and Marion (6).

Jonesboro was also the top seed in the girls tournament and will host Hall. That winner will play either West Memphis (4) or Pine Bluff (5). Jacksonville (7) or Marion (2) will play Mountain Home (3) or Searcy (6) in the second round.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke vs. CAC in finals

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

STUTTGART – The Lady Jackrabbits won two games in the 4A-2 District Tournament in Stuttgart, and will play for the district championship at 4:30 p.m. today against No. 1 ranked Central Arkansas Christian.

Because of the blended conferences put in place this year by the Arkansas Activities Association, Lonoke had not played either Southside-Batesville or Heber Springs in the regular season.

On Tuesday, the Lady Jackrabbits beat Southside-Batesville 45-35 in a very slow-paced game. In Thursday’s semifinals, they defeated Heber Springs 50-46.

“I felt like we played a really strong three quarters against Heber,” said Lonoke coach Heath Swiney. “We didn’t play very well in the third quarter and got behind. But we made the plays in the fourth quarter to get us a win.”

Even though junior guard Keiunna Walker scored 33 of the team’s 50 points, other players made key plays down the stretch.

Kaley Woodruff hit a layup at the buzzer to end the third period that tied the game after the Lady Panthers had taken the lead. Lonoke fell behind again, this time by three points, late in the fourth period. Kennedy White stepped to the line with about a minute remaining and made two free throws that also tied the game.

Scoring was much more balanced on Tuesday. Walker led the way with 17, but Woodruff and Mickenzie Williams scored seven apiece, while White and Mia Brown scored six.

“The more people involved, the better it makes everybody,” Swiney said. “Everybody knows teams are going to key on her (Walker). So your other ones are getting wide-open looks. All our kids, I feel like, can hit wide-open looks.

“Against Southside, Keiunna was in foul trouble. I looked at Mia and said, ‘you’re going to have to shoot it. They’re leaving you open. She went back in and hit two 3-pointers in the next few possessions. Any given night, any of these kids can be the one to step up.”

Lonoke (19-7) will play CAC for the third time this year. The Lady Mustangs swept Lonoke in the regular season, but both games were very competitive.

CAC (26-2) has only lost to Class 7A North Little Rock, and a team from Sacramento, Calif. In the first game against Lonoke, the Lady Mustangs pulled out a 53-49 overtime win at CAC.

Two weeks ago at Lonoke, they opened the second half with a 13-0 run to turn a tie game into a 69-54 win.

CAC sophomore Christyn Williams is one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation. Knowing where she is will be key if Lonoke can reverse previous outcomes.

“We’re going to work these two days on what he (CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum) did a little different,” Swiney said. “He came out that second half in a 1-2-2 and extended it out. I hadn’t seen that from him, and it’s partly my fault for not making good enough adjustments. We have to do a better job of not being in a hurry, moving without the ball and knowing where Williams is. You get sped up and throw it in her direction, she can take it from you. We’re going to give it our best shot.”

The Lonoke boys beat Riverview 71-68 in overtime on Wednesday to qualify for regionals. They lost 67-36 in the semifinals to No. 1 ranked Baptist Prep. The Jackrabbits (11-14) will face eStem (12-17) at 3:00 p.m. today to determine the three and four seeds at next week’s Region 2 tournament in Cave City. Baptist Prep will face sixth-seeded Helena-West Helena Central (7-11) in the championship game tonight.

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves upset by WCC Bears

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

QUITMAN – The Jacksonville Lighthouse Wolves played one good game in the 2A-4 East District tournament in Quitman this week, and it wasn’t the last one. The Wolves lost the district championship game 66-55 to White County Central on Thursday at QHS.

In the first round, the Wolves suffered from having nearly two full weeks without a game, but still stumbled its way to a 68-59 win over a Bigelow team with an 11-14 record.

In the semifinals, they dominated the second half to beat England 74-56 in their best performance of the tournament. But on Thursday, the Bears were able to slow the pace with a 1-3-1 zone, and Lighthouse did not shoot well enough to bust it.

Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker felt the tight officiating benefited WCC, but didn’t believe that was the deciding factor.

“We just didn’t shoot like we usually do,” said Parker. “We can usually get teams out of that zone, but we just missed shots we usually make. It wasn’t just from outside. We missed floaters, layups, free throws. Even with the foul trouble we got into, if we make shots we normally make, we win that game.”

Lighthouse got off to a decent start; taking a 7-3 lead and getting the ball back after Devontae Davis took a charge. That’s when the proverbial lid was put on the rim. The Wolves went cold and the Bears went on an 11-2 run. WCC eventually took a 31-22 lead into halftime.

Lighthouse made several charges in the second half, but never could pull even. The first one came late in the third quarter. WCC led 38-29 when the Wolves scored six-straight to get to within three with 37 seconds left in the quarter. Lighthouse freshman Gerald Doakes hit a free throw to make it 38-35, and had one left. But he was called for a violation for starting his shooting motion, then stopping to reset.

JLC senior Zack Bobo got a steal that appeared clean and would have resulted in a wide-open dunk, but was called for a foul. That sent Austin Williams to the line for a 1-and-1, and he made both for a 40-35 lead.

Lighthouse turned it over on a mishandled interior pass with two seconds left. WCC’s subsequent inbound pass from underneath the JLC basket went to halfcourt, where Hunter Jackson made a 48-foot shot for a 43-35 lead going into the fourth.

After falling behind 50-40 midway through the fourth, the Wolves went on another spree and cut it to 52-48 after a steal and layup by Davis with 2:40 remaining. That forced a WCC timeout. The Wolves forced a 10-second backcourt violation after the timeout to regain possession.

Eric Childs then missed a shot from the elbow. Landon Swindle got the rebound for the Bears and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 for a 53-48 lead. Bobo got the rebound of a Davis miss and put it back in, but the basket was waived off and Davis was called for a foul. Williams made two free throws at the other end, and instead of 53-50, the score was now 55-48 with 1:46 to go.

A 3-pointer by Bobo cut it to 59-55 with 49 seconds remaining, but the Wolves missed their last five shots and didn’t score again.

Williams led all scorers with 23 for the Bears (32-3). Jackson added 14 and Martin Carder added 13 for WCC.

Davis led Lighthouse (24-6) with 19 points while Bobo and Doakes each added 12.

Lighthouse went 11 of 19 from the foul line while WCC made 26 of 34.

In the win over England, Lighthouse outscored the Lions 23-9 in the third quarter to turn a 35-31-halftime advantage into an insurmountable 58-40 lead.

Davis also led the Wolves in that game with 22 points, but Bobo and Chris Mims each added 19. Mims went 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Celebrating job creators

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce announced at its annual banquet last week that SIG Sauer, the arms manufacturer, will soon open with 150 employees, three times the number of jobs that were originally planned for last year when the plant decided to relocate here.

The company will manufacture ammunition at its new facility at 357 SIG Sauer Drive off Swift Drive near the air base, but maybe someday it will manufacture its top-of-the-line guns popular with law enforcement and private citizens.

We’re glad SIG Sauer’s grand opening is on target for next month, and here’s hoping that before too long, it will triple its workforce, which is among the best in the nation. So welcome, SIG Sauer, and may you prosper along with our community.

Congratulations also to the Jacksonville chamber’s longtime members who are marking anniversaries this year. Several local businesses trace back their roots 50 years or more: Tommy and Pat Bond, marked their 50th anniversary as owners of Bond Consulting Engineers. Over the years, Bond Engineers have directed major construction projects across Arkansas, including the Lonoke-White water project, and the company is now overseeing the new Jacksonville school district’s construction of a $60 million high school near Hwy. 67/167 and a $20 million elementary school near the air base.

Other anniversaries should also be acknowledged: Jacksonville Animal Hospital and Gwatney Chevrolet are marking 45 years in business this year. Jacksonville Medical Care, Versatile, Inc. and Days Inn celebrate 40 years. The Leader turns 30 in March, while Waste Management of Arkansas and United Abstract and Title Co., Inc. are also commemorating 30th anniversaries; Subway, Super 8 and Dr. Joe Collins, 25 years.

Attorney Will Bond of the McMath, Woods law firm, Pulaski Technical College, Quality Inn and Main Gate Storage have been with the chamber 20 years.

Marking 15 years, Cabot Office Machines and Supplies, Hope Lutheran Church, Aaron’s Sales and Lease, Huff N Puff, Woodland Hills of Jacksonville, Susan Davitt and Nephrology Physicians and Dialysis.

And marking 10 years are AllFam Bowling and Entertainment Center, Marleen Eddlemon, Ryno Towing and Recovery, Jay Whisker, American Student International, Baptist Health Center, Crain Ford Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, AR Workforce Center, City Motors, Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, McDonald’s, Tropical Smoothie CafĂ©, Pre-Paid Legal and Identity Theft Shield, dental surgeon Dr. Ted M. Pinney and Lawrence Dupree Consulting.

Triple C Auto Clinic, Insurance Advantage, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Lynetta Kirk are marking five years with the chamber. Thank you for all you do in our community. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

TOP STORY >> ‘Taste of New Orleans’ fundraiser Feb. 23

By JEFFREY SMITH 
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center is bringing back the “Taste of New Orleans” fundraiser dinner for Mardi Gras.

Dinner and music will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Jacksonville Community Center Banquet Hall. Tickets are $20. Advanced purchase is requested to know how much food to cook. Tickets can be purchased at the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center, 100 Victory Circle or by calling Connie Evans at 501-982-7531.

All proceeds benefit the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center, which helps seniors with home delivered meals, transportation to doctors appointments, shopping, activities and daytrips. The center has exercise and educational programs. It serves community meals at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Assistant director Connie Evans is cooking all the food using her family’s recipes. Evans is originally from New Orleans. She and her family moved to Jacksonville days before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005.

The menu includes red beans and rice with smoked sausage, chicken and sausage gumbo with rice and jambalaya. They are the three main dishes of New Orleans cuisine. Evans is making mild and spicy versions of all the dishes.

“My favorite is jambalaya, because it has shrimp, and I love seafood,” she said.

Senior center chef Frances Travis is baking the king cakes.

Live jazz music will be performed by Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School High School band and Randy McDonald.

“Last year was a success. We sold 200 tickets and raised $3,000 for the senior center. People could not wait for this year,” Evans said.

TOP STORY >> Welding school to grow

By CHRISTY HENDRICKS
Leader staff writer

The average age of welders in the United States is 58, according to Alice Obenshain, director of Arkansas Welding Academy in Jacksonville.

“Within the next eight, 10, 12 years, when they reach 65 and retire, we stand to lose half of our welding workforce in the United States,” she said.

“That’s a huge tsunami coming for the career field. We need to get on board and train as many welders as we can to get out there and learn from these older welders before the new generation comes on board,” Obenshain explained.

In May 2013, Obenshain and her husband, Quan Tran, opened Arkansas Welding Academy with four students. The program now has an average of 26 students and three instructors – with a maximum enrollment capability of 32 students. In a few months that capability will jump to 60 enrollment slots with the school adding two new buildings for administration and training. Two more instructors will be brought in when the school opens the new buildings.

The school was granted a building permit Jan. 24 for $823,000 for the additions. Obenshain, her husband and instructor Bradley Rogers are doing the welding on the new structures themselves. The administration building will be more than 6,000 square feet. Footing for the building is set to be poured next week.

“It’s my baby,” Obenshain said of the trade school. “My husband and I opened it. My husband is a longtime welder, and I’m a CWI (certified welding inspector).”

The school came about “overnight, but it was a progression of events” that lead to the development of the school, according to Obenshain. “I ran a lot of labs at test facilities out in the field,” she said. “I followed more and more welders coming in and, what we call out in the field, busting a test. I started asking questions like ‘where did you learn how to weld?’”

She traveled around the country and toured the most frequently mentioned welding schools and programs.

Obenshain said she ignored it for a couple years. “I was thinking this is going to be a huge project, and it kind of scared me honestly,” she said. “But it just kept getting progressively worse. I saw no end in sight.”

“I found why it’s not working,” she said. “This isn’t really rocket science. It’s a trade skill. It’s an art. You’re not going to learn it sitting in a classroom. You’re not going to learn it by watching a video or having a Ph.D. come in and talk about it. That’s what the majority were doing. The average was 50 percent classroom and 50 percent hands on training. There’s one school in the United States that does not have a welding machine. They virtually train.”

When she asked what their theory behind virtual training was, they gave her the analogy that “when you have a pilot, you train them in flight simulators.”

“I would not knowingly get on a plane that my pilot has been simulated and that’s it, no hours behind the wheel. Taking off and landing those are kind of important aspects. It’s not an Xbox game,” she said.

Obenshain believes that an important component of training is the employer. “They’re the user of your graduates. You have to make sure what you’re training is important and useful out in the field so that they can get jobs,” she said. “We have to collaborate with our employers so that we understand their processes, the types of metal they use and what their weld tests are and mimic those here.”

The school uses real world conditions to train their students.

“At a lot of schools you can find seats in the booths or that they can move the weld and make it ergonomically comfortable for them. That’s not real world,” Obenshain said. “It’s air conditioned or heated spaces. Their job as a training facility is to make the students comfortable. That’s wrong. They’re going to be too shocked and awed. You’ve got to train as you expect to go on. You’ve got to subject them to as close to the same environment as they’re going to see out in the field.”

The training buildings at Arkansas Welding Academy have no heat or air conditioning.

“We teach them to layer up. We teach them that even if it’s 110 degrees you’ve got to cover up or you’re going to be damaged,” she said. “There’s no sitting in welding. There’s no rolling. It is in place, and it’s restricted positions typically. Just imagine two inches away from the wall and putting a green hard hat on and a welding hood on, what are you going to do with that? You’ve got to train for that. Those were the components that were missing.”

The curriculum consists of four classroom and 36 hours of welding per week. Students will earn a diploma and certifications such as the American Welding Society certification. The program can take anywhere from three to seven months. The average student takes about five months to complete the program.

Four welding processes are taught: Mig, tig, stick and flex core.

“They are used in 90 percent of the industry,” she said. The school uses stainless and carbon steel metals that are industry grades. Obenshain hopes to be able to add in other metals and alloys in the future.

“There’s a lot more that we can teach and learn that we can show them to make them even more eligible for a variety of projects, which will then enhance our job placement, which is at this time 92 percent,” she said. “Our completion rate is 88 percent.”

The school is working on Title 4 accreditation. “Once we have the accreditation, then we can partner with other Title 4 schools,” Obenshain said. “We’re contact hour, they’re credit hour, so we will have to do the conversion for the credit hours. At this point, it’s going to look like 29 credit hours.”

She hopes to eventually be able to partner with a university and offer a certified welding engineer program. “It’s very rare, and very needed,” she said. “There’s only one state, one college that offers the program and that’s Ohio State. My hope is to be the second to offer that program.”

For more information about Arkansas Welding Academy, visit arkansasweldingacademy.com.

TOP STORY >> Flynn’s rookie errors

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

An embattled White House is looking for a permanent replacement for its ousted national security adviser who lasted just three weeks on the job after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador in Washington in December.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who lost his job as White House national security adviser late Monday night, was caught in a lie you’d expect from a rookie spy, not an experienced intelligence operative like Flynn, who called and texted the Russian ambassador before Christmas to reassure him the incoming Trump administration would drop sanctions against the Kremlin despite evidence it interfered with the election.

He first tried to deny that sanctions were brought up with the ambassador and told Pence they were exchanging holiday greetings, but when the FBI produced the transcripts, Flynn knew he was through. He should have been fired on the spot.

Flynn’s rookie mistake was not realizing the FBI was tapping into the ambassador’s cell phone and recording Flynn’s conversations with the ambassador, which were in violation of the Logan Act, which made it a crime for civilians to meddle in diplomacy.

The Russians were also taping Flynn, which was an-other rookie mistake for a top national security adviser.

Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, was smart enough to use an intermediary before the 1968 election to send word to the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal from Nixon than Hubert Humphrey, his Democratic opponent.

Kissinger left no trail, which is why he wasn’t prosecuted under the Logan Act. But those with long memories still remember, and Kissinger knows it. You could trace his nervous tick to that dirty trick he pulled in 1968.

Flynn’s career ended after the FBI revealed the wiretaps made him susceptible to Russian blackmail. The White House said Tuesday the president knew three weeks ago Flynn was lying, but Pence didn’t find out till Thursday.

Imagine that: A national security adviser suspected of being a Russian plant, along with a team of advisers that the FBI and CIA said they could not trust with state secrets. K.T. McFarland, one of Flynn’s aides, is said to be on her way out. Expect other resignations to follow.

Congressional investigators should look into Flynn’s contacts with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a high-ranking member of the Russian Federal Security Service, the KGB’s notorious successor once headed by Vladimir Putin.

Flynn’s dramatic fall has not only cost him his career, but he faces criminal charges that could lead to a reduction in rank and pension.

This must be a first: A national security adviser who is considered a security risk.

Intelligence agents leaked word that Flynn couldn’t be trusted with state secrets because of his close ties to Putin, who paid for Flynn’s trip to Russia in 2015 to celebrate the anniversary of Russia Today, a notorious government TV channel that lies constantly, especially about the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. (RT on Tuesday announced Flynn’s “retirement.”)

Flynn, who did not clear his Moscow trip with the military beforehand, faces prosecution not only over the Logan Act but for taking money from the Russians in violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause passed by our founders, who feared foreign bribes could influence the young nation’s politics. We ignore the founders’ wisdom at our peril.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers rally in defensive standoff

By ANN THARP 
Special to The Leader

The Beebe Badgers made it five straight wins on Friday night at Badger Arena on senior night by defeating the Mountain Home Bombers 37-33. The win puts the Badgers tied for second place in the conference with a conference record of 7-3 and an overall record of 13-10.

The low scoring game was tied 14-14 at the half, and the Bombers led by two at the end of the third quarter, but Beebe outscored the visitors 12-6 in the final period to take the victory.

“We’re still in the process of we want to get better each day, get better each game, and get ready for our district tournament,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall commented. “We had a great rhythm going into this week. It was good to see the way they grinded it out. Our defense the second half and rebounds are what won that ballgame. They’ve got to understand, too, the more you win, the bigger the game gets. Each one down the stretch here just keeps getting bigger and bigger for them.”

Beebe jumped out to an early lead. A free throw by Senior Brad Worthington and a 3-point basket by senior K.J. O’Neill started the scoring. Worthington then went the length of the floor for a driving lay-up, and senior Grant Jackson scored from under the basket. The Badgers thenforced a 5-second count with 2:39 on the first quarter clock and leading 8-0. The Bombers answered with four points, and the lead at the end of the period had been cut to 8-4.

Four points by Mountain Homes’ big man down low, David Wehmeyer, tied the game to start the second frame. Senior Tyler Long scored on a layup for Beebe, but again the Bombers tied the game.

D’andre Butler sank both ends of a one and one, but once more Mountain Home came back to tie and then take the lead on another bucket by Wehmeyer. E.J. Smith then had an offensive rebound put back for the Badgers to tie the game at 14 all at intermission.

After a free throw by the Bombers to take the lead in the third, Worthington had a steal and layup. Mountain Home answered with a two by Luke Kruse. For Beebe, it was Butler with a score and then, after a turnover by the Bombers, O’Neill scored under the basket for a three point Badger edge.

Kruse hit a pair of free throws, Garrett Dietsche an offensive rebound put back, and the Bombers were up by one. O’Neill turned a steal at one end into two made free throws at the other for Beebe. Mountain Home scored six more points, O’Neill scored the last two of the quarter, and the Bombers led 27-25 when the third quarter expired.

Senior Grant Brown sank a 3-point basket from the corner to give the Badgers the lead back to start the final frame. The lead went back and forth three times before senior Landon Davis gave Beebe the lead with a 3-pointer.

An offensive rebound put back by Kruse tied the game at 33-33 with 3:00 remaining in the contest.

Another steal and layup by Worthington gave Beebe the lead for good at 35-33 and after the defense forced a 5-second count on Mountain Home, O’Neill iced the game by sinking both ends of a one and one setting the final score of 37-33 Beebe.

O’Neill led the Badgers in scoring with 13 points, and Worthington was next with seven. Wehmeyer led Mountain Home with 15, and Dietsche had ten points.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears lose game, composure

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

Lady Bear head coach Shelley Davis had said Friday morning that she was worried about her team’s ability to keep its composure. That came to fruition Friday night, when, with a chance to beat one of the highest-ranked teams in the state, two team members were goaded into a fourth-quarter altercation that got them both ejected, and helped lead to a 56-51 loss to Parkview.

Mallory Kimble and Diamond Flanders, as well as two Parkview players, were ejected from the game, which also comes with a mandatory one-game suspension. Sylvan Hills’ Andrea Dolphin was also ejected and not allowed to finish the game, but a later review by the Arkansas Activities Association revealed Dolphin was not involved in the altercation. She was reinstated and will be eligible for all remaining games.

“When that girl punched Mallory,” began Davis, “if she doesn’t retaliate, or if Diamond just grabs her teammate and walks her back to her bench and tries to de-escalate the whole thing, we probably win that game. They would have gotten two technicals, which would’ve given us four free throws and the ball back. Then they have to play the rest of the game without two starters. But we just couldn’t do it.”

Davis was careful not to try to defend her players’ behavior, but did believe the officials were partly responsible for the flare up.

“The referees let it get extremely, way too rough,” Davis said. “They lost control of the game by not taking any action when things got a little touchy several times earlier.”

Sylvan Hills (15-9, 7-5) trailed 39-31 going into the fourth quarter, and were within five points with five minutes left when the ejections took place.

The Lady Bears pulled to within one point with 90 seconds remaining, but could never take the lead.

Another key factor in the game was rebounding. The Lady Patriots (20-3, 11-1) dominated that area, pulling down 37 rebounds to just 19 for Sylvan Hills.

Alana Canady led Sylvan Hills with 21 points and six rebounds. Jayla Bell added 15 points for the Lady Bears.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans’ late run leads to victory

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans have suffered a few late collapses, but they managed to stave one off on Friday in a 62-48 victory over Little Rock Hall. Friday’s meeting at JHS was the third this season between the two teams, and served as the rubber match after each team won previously.

Jacksonville beat Hall 69-65 at the Coke Classic in Fort Smith, then lost to the Warriors 46-45 at Hall High after leading the entire game.

The Titans led the whole way on Friday as well, but saw a 35-23 third-quarter lead reduced to 42-39 by the start of the fourth. That was down to 50-48 with 2:33 left in the game, and Hall appeared to have all the momentum when Jacksonville blew a transition alley-oop to give the Warriors possession with 2:20 left. But they would not score again the rest of the way.

Jacksonville reserve guard Antoine Davis came up with a huge defensive steal on the ensuing possession. He passed to Tyree Appleby, who had beat the defense back for a dunk and a 52-48 lead. It was the first of 12-straight Titan points to close the game.

“We got a win,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “I don’t care how we got there at this point. We got a win, and it was an important one. It should give us the higher seed when we have to play this tournament.”

Appleby led all scorers with 22 points while senior guard DaJuan Ridgeway added 17 for the Titans.

Jacksonville is now 16-12 overall and 6-6 in the 5A/6A-Central Conference, but that conference mark means nothing in this new era of blended conferences. Hall is the only team Jacksonville played in a conference game this year that will be in the conference tournament they play in that begins on Saturday.

The Titans move to the 6A-East Conference tournament, and will most likely be the three seed. The athletic directors for 6A-East schools meet on Wednesday to sort it all out, but preliminary seedings have Jonesboro as the top seed, West Memphis second and Jacksonville third. Pine Bluff is fourth, then Hall, Marion, Mountain Home and Searcy respectively.

There is no tournament site, all games will be played at the higher seed’s home gym. As it stands, Jacksonville will host Marion on Saturday, then either play at West Memphis or hosts Mountain Home on Tuesday.

The Lady Titans (12-17, 4-8) suffered a miserable shooting performance in a 60-51 loss. The Jacksonville ladies beat Hall 50-47 on Jan. 13 in Little Rock. On Friday, they made just 21 of a whopping 76 shot attempts. Even worse than that, they made only 7 of 25 free throws.

The Lady Warriors (5-17, 3-9) didn’t light it up from the floor, making 19 of 52 shot attempts, but they did shoot relatively well from the line, hitting 20 of 31.

The abundance of missed shots led to a lot of rebounds, where Jacksonville won that battle 47-42. Sharonda Perry and Shy Christopher both finished with nine points and 11 rebounds for Jacksonville. Allison Seats led all scorers with 18 points, despite going 0 for 9 from 3-point range.

Alaysia Kelly led Hall with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Allexis Burns had 16 points and six rebounds. Amber Brooks had 15 points and seven boards and Allexias Adams had 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Lady Titans preliminary seeding is seven, with Hall eighth, but that could change at today’s meeting.

SPORTS STORY >> LADY PANTHERS SIX-TIME CHAMPIONS

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

Another state championship will be coming home with the Cabot bowling team, but also some disappointment. The Lady Panthers won their third-straight and sixth overall state title Tuesday in Lowell, while the boys saw their phenomenal streak of consecutive state championships end at five.

“The girls were pretty much in control most of the time,” said Cabot coach Clark Bing. “Three girls bowled well enough to make All-State, so that’s a pretty good day.”

Olivia New, Haley Baugh and Lauren Bunting all made All-State for the champion Lady Panthers, who beat runner-up Mountain Home by 194 pins. Final scores were 3,664 for Cabot to 3,470 for Mountain Home.

In the boys’ meet, Cabot’s Chase Imhoff was the Gold Medalist, but the team score was not good enough to beat Lake Hamilton or Fort Smith Southside.

The Cabot boys finished third after entering the event as favorites. The Panthers’ score in last week’s conference meet at Allfam Bowling Center in Cabot was, by far, the best of any team in either conference, but they didn’t match that effort.

“A lot of things play into it,” Bing said. “Completely different lanes, just different things. Main thing is, we didn’t bowl well enough early to put the pressure on them. We kind of had the pressure on us the whole way.”

In one of the closest state meets since the sport began in Arkansas high schools, only 50 pins separated the top three teams.

Lake Hamilton won with a score of 4,271. Fort Smith Southside took second with 4,253 and Cabot was third with a 4,221.

Cabot led going into the bakers rounds, but dropped to third after two rounds.

They got back to second in the third round, but Southside passed them in the final few frames.

“It’s hard going for number six in a row,” Bing said. “It was a photo finish. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

For the girls, it marks the first time they have won three in a row. Their first three state championships took place in alternating years.

“Neither team bowled as well as they did last week, as far as total scores,” Bing said. “But being on unfamiliar lanes, and lanes the other teams are familiar with, the girls did really well.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot plows over Mavs with defense

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

Cabot had little trouble with Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday at Panther Arena. After the first quarter, they had none as they skated to a 66-32 victory. It was the last of three-straight games against the bottom two teams in the conference, and kicks off a brutal five-game run to end the regular season.

Before playing winless Catholic twice, and Southside (6-13, 2-7) Cabot had lost two of its previous three games in controversial fashion. Coach Jerry Bridges was glad for a bit of a respite before hitting the season-ending grind.

“We needed this stretch,” said Bridges. “We’re in the playoffs so that feels good to be over that hurdle. Now we hit these last five games to try and get as good a position as we can. And we better be ready because these are five really good teams.”

The Mavericks scored first when Will Smith made a 3-pointer from the corner just seconds into the game. Defensively, Southside was intent on keeping Cabot from scoring inside. Early on, the Panthers were settling for outside shots and not hitting them. That led to a 10-6 Southside lead with three minutes left in the first quarter.

At that point, the Panthers had taken only one shot from inside the 3-point line, and were 2 for 7 from 3-point range.

Even though the inside game never opened up much, when the Panthers began throwing the ball into the paint, the defensive collapses opened things up for outside shooters. That’s when Cabot started hitting, and hitting often.

“Teams are working so hard to stop our big men,” Bridges said. “Our guards have been taking advantage of that, but we still have to execute. I don’t think we were running our offense like we’re supposed to early. When we started doing that, our guards got open shots and shot the ball well.”

Bridges felt the same way about his defense.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers repeat league bowling

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

If records counted in conference meets, the Cabot girls’ bowling team would have broken their own Wednesday in the 7A/6A-Central meet at AllFam Bowling Center in Cabot.

The Panther boys didn’t beat any records, but they dominated nonetheless as the Cabot teams made it a championship sweep.

Both Cabot teams now look forward to next Wednesday’s state meet in Lowell, where the boys and girls will be vying for state championship number six. The boys have won the last five in a row. The girls will be going for their third-straight, and sixth overall.

Panther bowling coach Clark Bing was pleased with how both teams bowled on Wednesday, but still thinks they could do better.

“They bowled very well,” said Bing. “I don’t want to sound like I think they didn’t. I’m just saying the promising thing is, I think they could do better. There were some frames or pins left out there. But they did very well any way you look at it.”

Since state records only count in state meets, the Lady Panthers’ score of 3,817 won’t go down as the new record, but it beat the 3,724 they set last year at the state meet.

The Lady Panthers held a 314-pin lead (3,099-2,785) over Mountain Home going into the Baker’s round. That’s a comfortable lead, but not insurmountable.

“You want to start well and stay consistent,” Bing said. “The goal is to put the pressure on them going into the Baker’s. We were able to do that.”

But the Lady Panthers didn’t let up. They outscored Mountain Home 718-559 to increase the final margin.

Lauren Bunting was the only medalist, taking third place in the individual scoring for the Bronze Medal. The top nine make All-Conference, and Emily Tripp and Allison Hicks scored high enough to earn that honor.

“We had some girls bowl above their average and that’s what you need this time of year,” Bing said.

The Cabot boys only beat Lake Hamilton in the Baker’s round by five pins, 817-812, but they took a whopping 707-pin lead into it. The Panthers swept all three medalist positions and was the only team in the tournament to break 4,000 pins. They beat Lake Hamilton’s score of 3,945 with a 4,657.

Keaton Hayes won Gold with 701 pins. He averaged 233.7 with a high round of 279. Josh Imhoff started with a 185, but got better with each round. He bowled a 227 and then a 258 to earn Silver. Cole Stillman, who was the state medalist last year, also got better with each round. He started with a 195, then 226 and finished with a 238.

The Panther teams scored better on Wednesday in their conference meet than the winning teams in the 7A/6A-West did, but Bing is not hanging his hat that a sixth state championship is a given.

“We still have to bowl well,” Bing said. “We can’t be worried about what other people are doing. You never know what played into certain scores. Most of those teams had probably not bowled in Conway before that, and they bowl up in Bentonville all the time. Little things can make a difference. We just have to focus on being our best.”

SPORTS STORY >> Fort Smith Southside struggles to find shots in big loss.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot had little trouble with Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday at Panther Arena. After the first quarter, they had none as they skated to a 66-32 victory. It was the last of three-straight games against the bottom two teams in the conference, and kicks off a brutal five-game run to end the regular season. 

Before playing winless Catholic twice, and Southside (6-13, 2-7) Cabot had lost two of its previous three games in controversial fashion. Coach Jerry Bridges was glad for a bit of a respite before hitting the season-ending grind. 


“We needed this stretch,” said Bridges. “We’re in the playoffs so that feels good to be over that hurdle. Now we hit these last five games to try and get as good a position as we can. And we better be ready because these are five really good teams.”


The Mavericks scored first when Will Smith made a 3-pointer from the corner just seconds into the game. Defensively, Southside was intent on keeping Cabot from scoring inside. Early on, the Panthers were settling for outside shots and not hitting them. That led to a 10-6 Southside lead with three minutes left in the first quarter. 


At that point, the Panthers had taken only one shot from inside the 3-point line, and were 2 for 7 from 3-point range. 


Even though the inside game never opened up much, when the Panthers began throwing the ball into the paint, the defensive collapses opened things up for outside shooters. That’s when Cabot started hitting, and hitting often. 


“Teams are working so hard to stop our big men,” Bridges said. “Our guards have been taking advantage of that, but we still have to execute. I don’t think we were running our offense like we’re supposed to early. When we started doing that, our guards got open shots and shot the ball well.”
Bridges felt the same way about his defense. 


“I think after the first few minutes of the game, we played really good defense. Their first shot was totally uncontested and I can’t stand that. But after that I don’t think we gave up anything easy.”
 

From being down 10-6, Cabot went on a 10-0 run. Though not involved in the scoring, post player Matt Stanley’s rebounding efforts kept balls alive after missed shots, and the Panthers scored five-straight on second-chance baskets. All five were by reserve guard Jared Vance.
 

Southside’s Taye Gatewood scored the last basket of the quarter, and Cabot took a 16-12 lead into the second period. The Mavericks then scored first in the second, but Cabot quickly made another big run.
 

Jalen Brown and Bobby Joe Duncan hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Zion Releford answered to make the score 22-16. Jarrod Barnes then drove the baseline for a lay in, and Stanley made 3 of 4 free throws to force a Southside timeout.
 

After the break, Christian Weir got a steal and passed to Duncan for another 3-pointer and a 30-16 Cabot lead with 2:20 left in the half.
 

The Panthers took a 35-21 lead into the locker room, and then blew the game wide open in the third.
 

Southside actually scored the first four points of the second half, but the Panthers answered with 14 in a row. Barnes hit a 3-pointer before Stanley completed a 3-point play. After a defensive stop, Stanley scored again, and Duncan then turned a turnover into a Cabot 3-pointer that made the score 46-25 and forced a Maverick timeout with 4:12 left in the third.
 

After the timeout, the Mavericks turned it over for the fourth-straight possession, and another 3-point play by Stanley completed the 14-0 run with 3:34 on the clock.
 

The run didn’t come without cost. Stanley and Barnes each picked up their fourth foul, but the bench came through to keep the run going.
 

Vance made a 3-pointer later that made it 55-27, and Noah Allgood put the Panthers up by 30 with a basket with 58 seconds left in the third. Releford made a 3-pointer to get the margin back under the mercy-rule invoking margin before the fourth quarter began, but that burden was met again by Allgood just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.
 

With the clock running continuously from that point, Cabot outscored Southside 6-2 to set the final margin.
 

Cabot (17-3, 7-2) shot almost 50 percent from 3-point range after missing five of their first six. The Panthers finished 11 for 23 from outside. Duncan made 5 of 6 and led all scorers with 15 points. Stanley, who only had one basket in the first half, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. He also, under frequent double teams, dished out five assists.
 

“Matt’s an unselfish player,” Bridges said. “If it’s not there for him, he gets other people involved.”
 

Allgood came off the bench for considerable playing time because of Stanley’s foul trouble, and also contributed 13 points and eight rebounds.
 

Releford led Southside with 14 points.