Saturday, March 01, 2008



The Hershey Track and Field Games will take place in Jacksonville on April 24 at Jacksonville High School.
The deadline for entry is April 17.

Winners in the Jacksonville meet will advance to the state meet on June 21. State meet winners do not automatically advance to the North American Final. They are entered into a pool and become eligible for selection to a Regional Team, which will travel to Hershey, Pa. for the Final.

For more information and to find out how to register your child, contact Kristen Griggs at (501) 982-4171 or e-mail to


Greystone Country Club in Cabot will host a charity golf tournament benefitting Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

The tourney is set for April 24 and will be a 4 Man Scramble. Registration is 11 a.m. the day of the tournament with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Lunch will be provided by Outback Steakhouse. BMW of Little Rock will sponsor a Hole-in-One contest.

The entry fee is $400 per team. Interested people may sponsor a hole for $150 or a team and a hole for $500.
For more information, contact Denise Goforth at (501) 533-2251.


The Annual Cabot Ducks Unlimited membership dinner will be held April 17 at 7 p.m. at the Old Alford’s Furniture building, located at 909 West Main Street in Cabot.

Ticket prices are $40 per single, $60 per couple, or $20 per Green Wing.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Dinner, provided by Outback Steakhouse, will be at 7, with an auction to follow at 8.

Corportate tables are available starting at $250 for two tickets, $500 for six tickets, and $1,000 for 12 tickets. To purchase tickets, call Arkansas Ducks Unlimited District 10 Zone Chairman Matt Robinson at (501) 412-8055, Arkansas Ducks Unlimited District 10 Chairman Allen Higginbotham at (501) 554-5734, or Arkansas Ducks Unlimited Regional Director Bob Butler at (501) 837-1530.


The Sherwood Sharks Swim Team is holding registration on April 12-13 and April 19-20 at the Harmon Recreation Center at 51 Shelby Road from 2-4 p.m.

The cost for the season is $65 for the first swimmer, $55 for the second, and $50 for the third in each family.

If you need more information, contact Joy Scott at 758-8895 or Mary Jo Heye at 834-2086, or visit the Web site at

SPORTS >> Owls post first-ever state win by beating West Fork

Leader sportswriter

CAVE CITY — It may not have been as pretty as Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard may have wanted, but the Owls advanced through the opening round of the 3A state tournament with a 43-34 win over West Fork at Caveman Arena on Thursday night.

The Owls took on Bergman last night in the quarterfinals in a game played after Leader deadlines.
As expected, much of West Fork’s defensive attention focused on guards Colby Woolverton and Dane Lottner. The high-octane duo was held to 16 points combined, but the AL post players were able to contribute 20 points. Nelson Boren, Garrett Southerland and Dustin Keathley may not have been able to dominate against the bigger Tigers, but more aggressive play from the Owls in the secondhalf allowed them to control the tempo.

“They played a jump man-to-man on Dane and Colby,” Ballard said, “and a zone on the other three. They overplayed them and tried to contain them some. They were a humongous team; they had tall guards and big, thick post players. They played really physical in the first half, but we were able to get in there and be more aggressive in the second half and outrebound them.”

The defensive struggle led to a 23-18 lead for Abundant Life at halftime. Rather than push the issue in the second half, the Owls were content to work on clock management, which went a long way towards preventing a West Fork run in the closing stages.

“It’s hard for your posts to respond when they pack three guys under the goal,” Ballard said. “They started fouling, so we were getting most of our points from lay-ups or free throws.”

The trips to the line for the Owls could have put the game away a bit earlier, but five straight misses at the stripe kept West Fork in the game until the final minutes.

Lottner led the Owls with 10 points. Boren added eight points, with seven points from Southerland. Woolverton finished with six points, and Keathley rounded it out with five points. The win improved the Owls’ to 33-8 on the season/

Bergman entered State as the No. 1 seed out of Region 3, and came into the tourney on a 20-plus game winning streak.
Ballard says it will be a tough, but winnable game.

“They have two great scorers at guard — we have two great scorers at guard,” Ballard said. “They also have a big kid inside that is a good defender. It’s going to be interesting; they haven’t lost a game since the first week of December. They are playing some really good basketball right now.”

It was the Owls’ first-ever state playoff game, making Thursday’s win a historic one for Abundant Life Schools. Ballard likes his team’s chances the rest of the way, but also says the week has been a good reward for a year of hard work, and half a decade of near misses.

“All those teams that put us out in regionals every year were always top-three teams,” Ballard said. “Every time, we had to go up against one of the hottest teams in the state. We always felt like if we could catch a break during regionals, that we could make some noise once we got to state.”

SPORTS >> Lonoke girls extend year with OT win

Leader sportswriter

DUMAS — It took much longer than expected, but Lonoke finally came up victorious in the quarterfinals of the 4A State tournament with a 56-49 double overtime win over Prairie Grove on Friday night.

The Lady Jackrabbits improved to 25-8 on the season, and played the winner of last night’s game between Dumas and Dardenelle in the semifinals. Prairie Grove finished with a final record of 23-8.

“It was exciting; it’s what state tournament basketball is all about,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “It’s supposed to be this way. We struggled in the firsthalf, because Prairie Grove is such a tenacious team, but all of us did a better job in the second half.”

Hayley O’Cain and Prairie Grove’s Ashton Abahier traded three-pointers to start the second overtime, but it was Asiah Scribner’s put-back at the 2:34 mark that gave the Lady ‘Rabbits the lead for the final time.

Strong free throw shooting by sophomores Michaela Brown and Ashiegh Himstedt down the stretch kept Lonoke out front, as the Lady Tigers finally ran out of rallies.

The Lady Jackrabbits appeared to have the game in hand with 3:51 left in regulation. A free throw by Michaela Brown lifted Lonoke to a 40-32 lead, but the Lady Tigers got it to a one-possession game with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter.

The pivotal moment for Prairie Grove came with 10 seconds left in regulation, when post player Carrie Mitchell blocked a shot by Kendra Koyle, but was called for a foul. Koyle went down on the play, and senior sub Tara Cate came in to shoot the foul shots. She hit both ends, and a last-second attempt for Lonoke by Neighbors was well off the mark.

The Lady Jackrabbits came out a bit sluggish offensively to start the game, but freshman Cara Neighbors provided the initial spark at the 1:21 mark when she took a steal the length of the court for a layup, also drawing the foul from Elysia Clement. She missed the free throw, but Asiah Scribner was there for the rebound and putback, giving Lonoke a 12-8 lead.

Chelsea Glasscock narrowed it back to two for the Lady Tigers before the end of the period with a pair of free throws, but the Lady ‘Rabbits went on to own the next frame.

How tough was Lonoke’s defense in the second quarter? That question was best left to Prairie Grove sophomore post Julie Rutherford, who had to be taken out of the game due to hyperventalition with 3:28 left to go in the first half. Scribner had just handed the Lady ‘Rabbits their biggest lead of the first half at 23-14 off an inside shot assisted by Lauren Harper, which capped off an 11-2 run for Lonoke. Senior guard Hayley O’Cain started the run at the 7:03 mark with a three-point basket.

Rutherford did not return in the first half, but the Lady Tigers were able to control furhter damage. Jessie Van Wyhe hit two free throws that made it 23-16, but Carrie Mitchell began to find decent looks from the inside for Lonoke.

Her first goal was set up by an assist from O’Cain at the 2:28 mark, and she followed a three pointer for Prairie Grove with another jumper in the lane, this time assisted by Michaela Brown. It was 27-19 at the half.

Scribner led Lonoke with 16 points, with 14 points for Neighbors. Brown added 10 points for the Lady ‘Rabbits. For Prairie Grove, Ashton Abshier led all scorers with 24 points, 18 of which came off three-point baskets.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits head into semifinals

Leader sportswriter

DUMAS — A fan of slow-paced defensive struggles may have found it difficult to enjoy Friday night’s quarterfinal game between Lonoke and McGehee. The Jackrabbits held on for a 72-63 win in the high-octane contest to advance to today’s semifinals.

Lonoke improved to 28-5 on the year with the win, and moved into today’s semifinal round against the winner of last night’s late game between Arkansas Baptist and Newport.

Both halves were parallels, as Lonoke jumped out to sizeable leads in the first and third quarters, only to watch them dissapate during big Owl rallies in the second and fourth quarters.

Both teams’ high profiles players managed to cancel each other out for the most part, as Lonoke’s Bradley Spencer and McGehee’s Jesse Barnes went toe to toe for almost the duration. Each managed to contain the other fairly well, until the Owls were forced to foul Spencer late in the game to stop the clock.

Spencer finished with only two field goals, but went 10-of-15 at the foul line in the fourth quarter, and went 12-of-17 overall at the line to finish with 16 points.

“If anyone paid attention to that game, they would know that when Bradley was on number 30 (Barnes), he couldn’t score at all,” Lonoke coach Wes Swift said. “It’s been a week since we’ve played, but I thought we did a much better job offensively than defensively. We missed 22 free throws, which I’m not thrilled about, and we didn’t block out for rebounds well. I’m happy to win, and happy to be moving on to tomorrow.”

A basket by Clarence Harris at with 3:49 left to play gave the ’Rabbits their biggest lead of the game at 57-44, but the Owls renewed the three-point assault they seemed to have lost at intermission. Back-to-back goals by by Michael Curry cut the lead to seven by the 3:15 mark, and three pointers for Wille Hansburg and Josh Cheney in between trips to the line for Spencer kept it close until the final 15 seconds.

“We may have shot well in the first quarter,” Swift said, “but we have good guards, juniors and seniors. I will attribute some of our defensive breakdowns to being off for a week.”

Juniors Michael Nelson and Harris got the Jackrabbits off to a roaring start. The two combined for 14 points in the first quarter alone, including a pair of threes for Nelson, with three pointers by Harris and Tony Jackson to start the game.

Nelson’s trey at the 1:48 mark put Lonoke up 19-8, but The Owls took over to start the second quarter.

McGehee Sophomore Michael Curry almost single-handedly took the early momentum away from Lonoke starting at the 5:34 mark of the second quarter. Harris had just put in a third-try basket for the ‘Rabbits to make it 22-13 when Curry began his run. It started with a basket and free throw, followed by a steal that he took all the way for a layup at the 4:30 mark that cut Lonoke’s lead to four.

The Jackrabbits went nearly three minutes without a score during the middle stages of the second frame. In that time, Glenn Marshall pulled the Owls to within a single score, taking advantage of a backcourt violation by Spencer to score in the lane to make it a 22-20 game.

Myles Taylor finally broke the drought for Lonoke with a basket and free throw, and Spencer got his first points of the game at the 2:25 mark on a putback of his own miss to extend the lead back to five.

The Owls actually pulled back to within one, but a 32-footer by Howard in the final minute gave the ‘Rabbits a 30-26 lead at the half.

Howard led the Jackrabbits with 18 points. Spencer and Harris each added 16 points for Lonoke.

SPORTS >> Panthers march on

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY — It took them 31 years just to get an invitation. Now that they’ve gotten through the door, they aren’t in any hurry to leave.

The Cabot Panthers picked up their biggest win ever on Friday night with a 64-50 win over Little Rock Central at Conway High School to reach the 7A state semifinals for the first time in school history. Adam Sterrenberg scored 30 points to lead the Panthers.

Cabot was last in the state tournament in 1977.

“I told the guys, in case it takes us another 30 years to get back, let’s dance a while this week,” said exuberant and emotional Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges afterward. “I’m so proud of these kids. They play with a lot of grit and heart.”

Cabot will take on Friday night’s Forth Smith Northside-Conway winner tonight at 7:30 for a chance to play for the state title next weekend at Hot Springs.

Cabot won the season series from Central, which captured the 7A Central regular season and entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed. The Panthers beat Central at Panther Pavilion, but lost 66-65 to the Tigers on the road earlierthis month. That loss came in the middle of a remarkable seven-game streak for Cabot during which every contest was decided by two points or less.

Unlike in the last meeting between the two teams, Cabot took care of business at the free-throw line on Friday night, and controlled the flow of the game. The Panthers made 26-of-32 from the line, including 17-of-20 by Sterrenberg.

“When they beat us by one point at their place, we went 10-of-21 at the line, and we gave up a lot of breakaway baskets,” Bridges said. “I thought if we could take care of those two things, and control the tempo, we had a chance to win.”

Cabot never trailed in the second half after taking a 24-23 lead into the locker room. Austin Johnson got the second half started with runner in the lane, and the Panthers opened up their biggest lead to that point when Sam Bates’ spin move in the lane put Cabot up 30-24. That was as close as the Tigers would be the rest of the way.

Though the Tigers dominated the offensive glass, the Panthers got a couple of big second-chance buckets themselves in the third period. Derek Clarkson chased down an errant three-pointer in the right corner and hit a 12-footer on the baseline to push the lead to 10 at the 2:13 mark. As time expired in the third quarter, Mile Monroe collected a wild miss in the left corner and drilled a 14-footer to give Cabot a 42-30 lead heading into the final period.

The Tigers stayed in the game by getting four rebound baskets in the second half. Cabot hit 6-of-10 free throws over the first three minute of the final period to eventually push the lead to 13, but Central scored six straight to narrow the margin to 48-41, still with 4:00 remaining.

But Cabot all but put it away when Sterrenberg hit a pair of free throws, Monroe made a circle drive from the top of the circle for a lay-up, and Bates added a lay-up to open up a 54-41 lead at the 2:20 mark. The Tigers got as close to nine with 51 seconds left.

“That last quarter lasted forever,” said Bridges. “Even with a minute to go and up 10, I said, guys, this ain’t over. Just keep playing. And that’s what they did.”

The Tigers came out firing from the perimeter, knocking down three threes in the first quarter, including Erick Brooks’ buzzer-beating 30-foot runner. But Central made just one more three-pointer the rest of the way.

“I thought if we came out in the third quarter and get a bit of a run, we’d be OK, because the quick shot,” Bridges said. “If you’re hitting that, that’s fine. But if you’re not, you have a chance to build on that lead.

“And we’re long in our 1-3-1 zone,” he added. “We push people farther out on their threes than they’re used to shooting it.”
Central was decidedly not hitting their perimeter shots on Friday, making only 4-of-20, and only 16-of-52 shots overall.

Cabot, meanwhile, took good care of the basketball and showed great patience on offense. The Panthers took only seven three-pointers, and made 18-of-38 shots overall.

“One thing we wanted to do was control the tempo,” Bridges said. “We didn’t do that at their place. I told our guys, if the break is there, push. If not, let’s control the tempo and work the clock.”

Monroe added 13 points, while Johnson scored 10 and Bates six. Sterrenberg led Cabot with six rebounds, while Monroe pulled down five.

Central out-rebounded Cabot by only six, but pulled down 24 offensive boards. Erick Brooks led Central with 17 points.

“We’ve been in close games all year,” Bridges said. “The key is to remain calm under fire. The other night against Southside [an overtime win for Cabot on Thursday], we could have folded our tent when they took the lead. But we remained calm and pulled it out.

“It was a total team effort tonight.”

SPORTS >> Cabot girls fall flat in quarterfinals

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY — The only thing more tenacious than the Lady Bulldogs’ offense was their stifling defense.

In what was up to that point a letdown for the West Conference in both boys and girls brackets during the opening round of the 7A state tournament, Fayetteville backed up its No. 1 seeding with a 68-36 blowout win over Cabot in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at Wampus Cat Arena. The Lady Bulldogs finished with three players in double figures, while containing Cabot’s offense both inside and out.

The Lady Panthers shot 45 percent from the floor, but converted only 1-of-11 three-point attempts, tried everything in the book to find an advantage. That included a post-heavy lineup featuring juniors Shelby Ashcraft and Stephanie Glover, along with 6-2 sophomore center Sara Moore midway through the opening period.

What Fayetteville lacked in height, however, it made up for in hustle and aggressiveness. It was speed, not size, that made the difference on the boards, as the Lady ’Dogs outrebounded Cabot 34-23.

“The kids played hard, we just couldn’t do anything,” said Cabot head coach Carla Crowder. “They kicked our butts, basically. We didn’t play any kind of defense; we were really out of sync, and couldn’t get it back.”

The game stayed reasonably close through the first half, but cold hands for senior shooters Lauren Walker and Leah Watts was a bad omen early. Watts had shot the lights out of Conway’s new state-of-the-art facility the day before during a 12-point win over Bentonville, but that magic had disappeared by Thursday afternoon.

Watts did convert the only three-pointer of the game for Cabot with 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but by that time, the Lady Bulldogs had built themselves a comfortable 41-28 lead. Fayetteville senior post Chantlee Nash added two of her game-high 20 points before the third quarter buzzer to push the score to 43-28 entering the final frame.

“Our inside players played well and shot well,” Fayetteville coach Bobby Smith said. “For them, it wasn’t one of their best shooting nights. It’s amazing to beat one of Carla’s teams like this; she’s a historical figure. I mean that in terms of how many games she’s won and titles she has — not her age.”

It ended up as a swan song for Walker, Watts and Morgan Verkler, but juniors Stephanie Glover and Jenna Bailey willbe back to help lead the Lady Panthers during their ’08-’09 campaign.

“When you get in a rhythm like we’ve been in, you start thinking you can go all the way,” Bailey said. “We just need more focus if we get the chance to come back next year.” Glover all but stated that the tough loss added fuel to the fire.

“For me, it just makes me want to go out and start practicing for next year tomorrow,” Glover said.

Walker led the Lady Panthers with 10 points and seven rebounds, with nine points and seven rebounds for Ashcraft. Watts ended her career as a Lady Panther with seven points, and Glover finished with six points. Cabot finished 18-11.

For Fayetteville, Nash led all scorers with 20 points and 17 rebounds, along with two blocks. The Lady Bulldogs improved to 24-4 on the season, and will play Fort Smith Northside in the semifinals today at noon.

SPORTS >>Devils in a rout

Leader sports editor

Even after Jacksonville followed up its impressive win over defending champion Jonesboro last Friday with a nearly flawless performance in the opening round of the 6A state tournament on Thursday, head coach Vic Joyner wasn’t ready to say whether or not his team was peaking at the right time.

“You can hope so,” Joyner said after the Red Devils turned a remarkably balanced performance into a 73-44 romp over Texarkana in the state quarterfinals at Little Rock Hall on Thursday. “It’s not in my hands, it’s in God’s hands. These kids just have to get out and play hard and if they win, they win. We just want them to go out there and have fun playing basketball and representing the city of Jacksonville.”

It had to be plenty of fun on Thursday when the Razorbacks, the six seed out of the 6A South, offered little resistance on the defensive end, while making it easy on the Jacksonville defense by firing up quick, perimeter shots most of the afternoon.

The Red Devils made 9-of-10 shots in the third quarter to put away any lingering doubt by expanding a 15-point halftime lead into a 58-32 margin after three. Jacksonville found its way inside against the Razorback 3-2 zone time and again for easy buckets on the blocks, led by LaQuinton Miles’ 14 points. Eight players scored five or more points for the Red Devils.

“We needed a game like that, because we’re going to be playing a very good team that’s rested,” Joyner said of last night’s quarterfinal matchup with Benton in a game played after Leader deadlines. “It was good to be able to keep those guys on the bench and not have them burn a whole lot of energy.”

Even on the court, the Red Devils were never forced to expend much energy as the Razorbacks allowed Jacksonville to have its way on the offensive end from the midway point of the first quarter on. Texarkana’s only highlight — other than senior James Parker’s 24-point performance— was a 7-0 run that gave them their only lead of the game at 7-5 at the 3:35 mark of the first quarter.

That sparked a 14-0 Jackson-ville run, capped off by three-pointers from reserves Darius Morant and Stan Appleby that put the Red Devils comfortably ahead 19-7 after one.

Parker’s reverse lay-up narrowed the gap to single digits briefly before the Red Devils closed out the half with an 8-2 run to push the lead to 15 at halftime. Miles closed out that run with a fast break lay-up off a feed from Terrell Eskridge, followed by an end-to-end drive for a scoop bucket.

Eskridge didn’t score in the game, but dished out five of Jacksonville’s 20 assists. Antonio Roy, Miles and Deshone McClure each handed out three assists as well.

“We’ve been that way all year,” Joyner said of his team’s unselfish play. “Nobody’s out there worrying about points. They get out there and play together. That’s kind of based on all that stuff we went through earlier in the year [when Jacksonville lost nine of its first 12 games].

“We had a lock-in and had them stay all night together. They bonded together, and all those things have paid off.”

In addition to torrid shooting (28-of-52, 4-of-9 from three) and the unselfish play, Jacksonville dominated on the boards, out-rebounding the Razorbacks, 44-24. Demetrius Harris turned in yet another sterling rebounding performance, grabbing nine boards to go along with his eight points. Cortrell Eskridge added seven boards, and Lockhart had six.

“They couldn’t box us out in the 3-2 zone,” Joyner said. “That zone is really designed to stop guards. And one of our strengths is inside. So [Texarkana] kind of did what we needed them to do.”

Lockhart had 10 points, while McClure and Cortrell Eskridge added nine, Harris and Morant eight, Roy six and Appleby five.

The Red Devil defense limited Texarkana to 18-of-52 shooting, including 4-of-16 from beyond the arc.

“That first one’s the hardest one,” Joyner said of the opening round games at the state tournament. “Especially when you’ve only got one kid back that has any kind of experience.

“They’ve been pretty laid back. We haven’t overly emphasized anything in practice; the routine has stayed the same. They weren’t overly excited. They were just ready to play.”

EDITORIAL >>Ledge must act on tax

Gov. Beebe is reported to be ready to summon the legislature to Little Rock to raise the severance tax on natural gas. It will be far harder to do than the weak arguments against it suggest. A handful of lawmakers in either house —nine in the Senate or 26 in the House of Representatives — can stop the legislation.

The opposition to the initiated proposal by former gasman Sheffield Nelson, a flat 7-percent tax based upon the market price of the gas, suggests what Beebe will face as well. There are two big objections, one that is simply ridiculous and the other requiring a suspension of disbelief.

Several Republican legislators warn that the gas producers would pass the tax on to consumers, which would raise your monthly gas bill. If you are a customer of Centerpoint Energy, the former Arkla Gas, you would see your heating bill shoot up a few dollars every month.

This is one that you need not worry about. It can’t happen. Natural gas is priced and sold like any other commodity. Centerpoint does not buy its gas from individual wells or from producers. It gets it from the pipeline, and whether gas produced in Arkansas is taxed at three-tenths of a penny per thousand cubic feet as the law now requires ,or at 7 percent of the wellhead value as Nelson proposes, makes not a whit of difference in the cost of gas to Centerpoint or to you. The exploration companies and their working partners will pay the higher tax and they will pass on part of the cost on to the state and federal governments by expensing the tax and thus lower their federal and state income tax liabilities.

The more serious objection, raised by Rep. Johnny Key in an op-ed article in The Leader and by others, is that the tax will kill the goose that laid the golden egg, to use the hoary phrase. The big Texas and Oklahoma exploration companies would just stop drilling if they have to pay a tax to Arkansas comparable to what they are paying in other states.

Businesses do not make decisions based upon whether they are sore about a particular government action, but upon questions of profitability. National demand for gas is rising and will rise as far into the future as anyone can calculate. Gas in the Fayetteville shale play across much of Arkansas is abundant and now easily accessible. There is almost no risk in the shale explorations. Unless there is a mechanical breakdown, like a shaft collapsing, every drilling exercise produces a working well. Last week, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission issued 26 drilling permits and reported another 26 wells completed, a ratio that suggests the minimal risk in shale drilling.

Profits from exploration are enormous, so fat that the little Arkansas tax would hardly be noticed in the dividend checks of gas stockholders. If you have any doubt, Southwestern Energy Corp. of Houston, the biggest player in the Arkansas shale, yesterday reported that its fourth-quarter profits doubled and it announced a 2-for-1 stock split. Fabulous profits from its booming Arkansas exploration accounted for much of it. Any severance tax that Arkansas is likely to levy, even if it were Texas’ base rate of 7.5 percent, would not slow the company’s activity or any other’s.

There is a third issue, even more trifling. Beebe plans to use the tax to pay for highway repair and construction. Instead of the almost continuous spiking of gas prices — the wellhead price reached $9 a thousand cubic feet this week — what if the market fell back to the levels of the 1990s and tax collections slumped, too? What in the world would happen to the highway program?
The same thing that happens now when highway-user taxes or general-fund taxes slump, as both are starting to do. You don’t build as many highways and you hold down expenditures on other services. The state has been doing that since 1948.

TOP STORY > >Officials find funds missing in Beebe audit

Leader staff writer

Missing money in the police drug-buy fund, unprepared budgets for special revenue funds and temporary checks not properly numbered were some of the problems uncovered in a state audit of Beebe’s 2006 city financial statements.

The nearly $5,000 in missing money is the subject of a state police investigation.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, received the highest ratings possible from the auditors of its 2006 financial statements and received an award for the 10th year in a row for its outstanding financial reporting.

State auditors found problems with Cabot’s financial statements, while Jacksonville and Sherwood passed without concerns.
A letter prepared by deputy legislative auditorJune Barron states that accounting records for the police drug-buy fund, maintained as a “cash” fund, indicated a balance of $3,292, but no cash was on hand.

Another $652 identified as seized by the Beebe Police Department was not on hand. Also a $150 rebate check, payable to the Beebe Police Department, was cashed by then Police Chief Don Inns, but not remitted to the city for deposit.

The letter states, “These missing funds, totaling $4,727 during the period January 1, 2006 through August 7, 2007, are under investigation by the Arkansas State Police.”

According to the auditors, “lack of management oversight involving cash transactions contributed to these unaccounted funds. We recommend management monitor cash transactions on a periodic basis.”

In the mayor’s office, the auditors said that the mayor did not prepare a budget for certain special revenue funds, including intoxi-meter, fire protection, radio equipment repair and replacement, drug control and court automation as required by state law.

Auditors also cited the clerk/treasurer’s office for issuing 59 temporary checks valued at a total of $47,715 that were not prenumbered as required by state law. Auditors also said that fixed assets records were not updated for the current year.

In another letter released by the legislative joint auditing committee, auditor Roger Norman said the city’s financial statements “do not present fairly…the financial position of the City of Beebe…or the changes in its financial position…or its cash flows.”

The auditors also said Beebe’s water and sewer fund statements did not disclose “all the required information concerning deposit risks.” The omissions, in the opinion of the auditors, are why the financial statements do not present a fair and proper picture of Beebe’s finances.

The auditors believe there was a deficiency in the city’s internal control of fund management.

A control deficiency exists, according to the audit, when the design or operations of a control does not allow management or employees to prevent or detect misstatements in a timely fashion.

Auditors said that to ensure the proper safeguarding of assets, financial accounting duties relating to initiating, receipting, depositing, disbursing and recording cash transactions should be distributed among appropriate employees. Auditors felt this was not being done in Beebe.

In an audit of Cabot’s 2006 financial statements, auditors found noncompliance with state law and accepted accounting practices in the office of the clerk/treasurer.

According to Barron, five items that were considered capitol expenditures were not listed on the city’s inventory record, and four items on the city’s fixed asset records had been sold, but were still on the city’s inventory list.

Auditors also found errors or omissions in the city’s financial records.

According to the letter issued by Barron, when the city converted to a new accounting system in July 2006, the beginning general fund account balances under the new system was different then the ending balances under the old system. “These differences in the financial records were not reconciled,” wrote Barron.

Also cash and investments in the amounts of $82,112 and $205,863, along with receipts and disbursements of $301,699 and $278,064 were not recorded “due to a failure of the city to record investment and loan activity.”

The city’s aggregate financials contained what Barron called “misstatements for receipts and disbursements in the amount of $220,807 and $2,164,236 due to the city not recording receipt and disbursement activity in the debt service construction funds.”

“Misstatements” for cash and investments in the amounts of $19,528 and $30,379 were discovered “primarily due to the lack of record-keeping for investments.”

Barron called these findings “a significant control deficiency in the process of preparing financialrecords.

TOP STORY > >Low-cost program provides loans for airmen

Leader senior staff writer

Since the beginning of the year, payday lenders have been prohibited from making high-interest loans to active members of the military, but beginning Monday, Little Rock Air Force Base airmen and spouses with power of attorney who are in need of quick, small, interest-free loans can go directly to the Air Force Aid Society, according to Phil Thierry, LRAFB Airman and Family Readiness flight chief.

“The Falcon loan program officially kicks off March 3,” Thierry said. Airmen can get a loan of as much as $500 without first getting approval from their first sergeant or commander, according to the Air Force. The loans can be used for emergency needs such as rent, utilities, food, car repairs, emergency travel or otherapproved needs, according tot he Air Force.

“We believe the Falcon Loan will help airmen in a critical financial bind with legitimate reason, without burdening them with interest rates which can potentially jeopardize their financial stability,” a base spokesman said. “We are excited to see how this program will work to help our hard-working airmen here at Team Little Rock.”

Airmen can apply for the loan at the Airman and Family Readiness Flight (A&FRF), Bldg. 668, from 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,” Thierry said.

“When applying, airmen need to inform us of the reason they need to use the loan,” the spokesman said. “They understand the loan must be paid back in monthly payments of $50, until it is paid off.”

Similar to Army and Navy loan programs already in place, this is yet another blow to the payday loan/check cashing industry, which has suffered recent setbacks in Arkansas courts, according to Hank Klein, speaking for Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending.

Twice since the beginning of the year, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that interest rates charged by payday lenders constitute deceptive trade practices and that the bonding companies that insure them are liable to pay fines and judgments when the payday companies don’t.

Klein says that as a result of these rulings, bonding companies are likely to stop insuring those lenders and by Arkansas law, they must be bonded.

Payday lenders typically charge more than 300 percent interest on their loans, while Arkansas has 17 percent interest cap. Anything over that is considered usurious. Klein said payday lenders are three times more likely to locate near a military base.
Because of changes in the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation regulations, Arkansas payday lenders can no longer “import” and operate under bank rules from other states.

Klein said he hoped the payday lenders and check cashers “see the handwriting on the wall and pull out of the state,” but he noted that they had proven formidable in reformulating their products to circumvent laws, decisions and regulations in the past.

Klein said that was because “they are making so much money by putting consumers in a debt trap, but it appears the attorney general is getting pretty serious about this.”

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, whose office in the past has represented the state Collection Agency Board—and thus the high-interest lenders-will instead now work to make these companies comply with the state’s17 percent interest cap. The collection agency board is the regulatory agency over payday lenders.

McDaniel said last week that this office would begin taking action against Arkansas payday lenders. He said he would first notify them in writing to notify them of the court’s decision. If necessary, he could file lawsuits, he said.

“Officials streamed lined the Falcon loan application process to ensure interested airmen can get immediate access to the money once they apply at the readiness center,” according to Jim Delaney, Air Force Aid Society’s chief operating officer.

All they need to do is to download an application from the Air Force Aid Society website, fill it out, get an ID and current leave and earnings statement and take them to the base Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Airmen can have as long as 10 months to repay the loan. Those eligible include active duty airmen and reservists and Air National Guardsmen activated on Title 10 orders at the time of application, Delaney said.

Getting a Falcon loan does not disqualify airmen from participating in the AFAS standard emergency loan/grant program, he said.

TOP STORY > >Baptist Health opens inside Ward City Hall

Leader staff writer

Ward area residents now have a health resource close to home with the grand opening of the Baptist Health Community Wellness Center located inside Ward City Hall.

The center held its open house Wednesday.

Open from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month beginning March 11, the center is designed to help area residents prevent common health problems through screenings and education for early detection and treatment.

Free health screenings, such as blood pressure and blood sugar, are also offered.

Mayor Art Brooke said it was a good thing for residents.

“The services they provide are at no cost. It feels good to be able to provide this here in Ward,” he said.

Brooke said as the program grows, the center, located adjacent to the city hall cafeteria, will move into a FEMA trailer the city purchased and will be located behind the gym.

“I hope it grows and more people take advantage of it,” Brooke said.

In the works since October of last year, Wednesday marked the third month residents have had access to the center.

“The first time there were only three people, the last time there were 17, and today there was probably 30 people,” Brooke said.

The Ward Wellness Center is one ofseveral in the surrounding area; Cabot also has one. Harrison Dean, senior vice-president and administrator of Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock, described the wellness centers as an investment.

“This is just another way that we are making an investment in the communities we serve by bringing the very best in quality healthcare to individuals and families where they live,” Dean said.

TOP STORY > >Prosecutor’s husband promoted in Iraq

Leader managing editor

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain is running for Second Division circuit judge against Judge Phil Whiteaker, so when she spoke to the Cabot Rotary Club on Tuesday at Colton’s Steakhouse, she wasn’t supposed to campaign at the meeting.
Instead, she spoke mostly about herself and her family, including her husband Bruce, a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard who is serving in Iraq as commander of the 871st Troop Command from North Little Rock’s Fisher Armory.

McCastlain said her husband had recently made the colonels’ list and will be pinned full bird in a ceremony soon.

The prosecutor became emotional when talking about her husband’s absence and cut that portion of her speech short. But in a telephone interview from Iraq, Col. McCastlain was happy to talk with The Leader about his experiences since he arrived in Iraq last summer.

Col. McCastlain is commander of an installation called COB (Contingency Operation Base) Adder in Tallil in southern Iraq. It’s an installation with a population of about 11,000, and McCastlain likens his duties to that of a small-town mayor.

“That’s to put it in a nutshell,” he said. “We do fire protection, police, infrastructure. We have road projects and building projects, zoning and planning. We coordinate and plan everything from sewage, to water to electricity services.”

Tallil doesn’t see a lot of combat. McCastlain’s command has not had to go out and engage the enemy. While that is a relief to the prosecutor and the couple’s 6-year-old son, it’s still difficult and worrisome back home.

“You can’t even imagine the feeling at that moment of separation,” Lona McCastlain told the Rotary Club. With a cracking voice she continued, “It’s absolutely excruciating.”

The colonel also talked with The Leader about his recent promotion.

“I guess if you get right down to it, it’s been in the works for about 22 years,” Col. McCastlain said of the time it took to make colonel.

He has been a lieutenant for four years, long enough to apply for consideration for colonel.

“You enter your packet after you’ve been a lieutenant colonel for so long. The board meets and they evaluate your packet against everyone else of the same date of rank and see how it stacks up.”
McCastlain found out a week ago he made the list.

“I’ve sort of been walking around on clouds since then,” he said. “I’m about to split my lip from grinning so much.”

Col. McCastlain credited others for his promotion and spoke openly about his faith, something his wife also did on Tuesday.

“God is everything to me,” Col. McCastlain said. “Our faith in God is first for me and my family. It’s first and foremost in everything I do. I understand where my blessings come from, and I understand there are trials and struggles in all of it, but we never stop being thankful to the Lord.”

He also gave credit to his team.

“I’ve been very fortunate with my team I’ve got over here with me,” he said. “We all work hard, put in some long hours and everybody has done a superb job. That’s just another area where God has blessed me. I can’t be successful at anything unless I’m surrounded by people who know what they’re doing and will work hard. And I’ve had an outstanding team. They make my job easy as commander, they really do.”

Col. McCastlain’s command received orders in May and mobilized to Camp Shelby, Miss., on June 9. After two months there, it went to Kuwait for a week before entering Iraq. He expects his command will be home sometime in late April.

“I can’t say for certain because how long it takes to get home once our deployment is complete is based on a number of factors,” Col. McCastlain said. “I suspect I’ll have a good month of campaigning to do once I get home though.”

Col. McCastlain said he couldn’t discuss his wife’s campaign for judge while he was on duty, but he added, “As soon as I get home and out of this uniform, I’ll be right back to being her biggest advocate and biggest fan. “

“I’m very proud of her and everything she has accomplished,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Petition drive falls short

Leader staff writer

A petition drive to recall the ordinance that allowed the city to take over the North Hills golf course through eminent domain has fallen short – for now.

The petition, which is asking that Sherwood set a vote for the people to decide whether or not the city should buy the golf course, was due in the city clerk’s office Tuesday with at least 1,250 signatures.

“We fell short on the signatures,” said Julann Carney, one of the Sherwood residents pushing to recall the ordinance. “But an attorney general’s decision allows us an extra 10 days. So we have until (next) Friday to reach our goal,” she said.

Back in January, the Sherwood City Council voted to condemn and take control of the defunct 106-acre North Hills County Club to prevent it from being developed into a subdivision, which could be costly to the city and to keep a green space presence.

In voting for the use of eminent domain, the council took over the acreage and will soon have to pay for its upkeep and maintenance, and later a jury will decide what is fair market price and the city will have to pay that amount. That amount could be as much as $3 million or more.

Whatever amount the court decides on will be funded through the city’s facilities board, which would go out and get the loan for the court determined cost, which may also include the current owner’s expenses and legal fees, and the city would make monthly mortgage payments on that amount.

“Our group of concerned citizens,” Carney said, “is attempting to allow the voters of Sherwood to decide the fate of the former North Hills property. A great many of us feel very strongly that the city council should have followed the leadership and advice of Mayor Hillman and allowed a public vote on this issue.”

In campaigning for the position of mayor last summer, Hillman said she would love for the city to have the acreage, but only if the citizens wanted it. She felt the residents should vote on the issue, but as a mayor she does not have veto power of the council vote, and in fact may only vote when there is a tie.

Carney said, “Since the condemnation action was voted on by the city council, the only avenue to affect change in this issue is to allow voters to approve or deny condemnation of the property.”

“We’ve had 30 to 45 canvassers who are Sherwood residents actively seeking registered voters’ signatures on this referendum petition drive and will continue to do so through Friday. Our canvassers are at the senior citizens center, nursing homes, area restaurants and businesses, the recreation center, library, and in many neighborhoods,” Carney said.

Alderman Charlie Harmon, who lives near the golf course, has made it clear that a vote was unnecessary and it even usurped the powers and duties of the council.

“We make these tough decisions and are elected by the people to make them. We would go broke if we held special elections all the time,” he said.

Alderman Becki Vassar, who lives near the golf course, called the condemnation vote great for the city. She said that using eminent domain and condemning the property was the “fastest, most economical and most beneficial for all of Sherwood if we were going to have to spend the money anyway.”

“This way we are not looking at 203 homes on the property, but probably not a golf course either, but desired green space. We just need to save it,” the council member said.

Carney and other residents had problems with Harmon, Vassar and others voting on the ordinance.

“The public should be given a voice on this volatile issue instead a handful of politicians whose votes left us with the perception that their motivations were not above board. Every single vote by any governing body should be above reproach and have unimpeachable motivations,” Carney said.

“As a businesswoman, a property owner and real estate investor, I respectfully disagree with usingeminent domain and condemnation proceedings in order to acquire this property. Our group is not attempting to do anything dishonorable or to create controversy. We are exercising our right to referendum afforded to us in Arkansas’ Constitution,” she added.

TOP STORY > >Inmates to build jail, JPs decide

Leader senior staff writer

In a special meeting Thursday, the Lonoke County Quorum Court voted unanimously to pursue a new, 140-bed, inmate-built jail and to put a one-year, one-penny sales tax increase before the voters on the May primary election ballot to pay for it.

The jail would be modeled on the one constructed by state prisoners in Fordyce several years ago for about $1.5 million, according to Larry Odom, chairman of Lonoke County’s building and jail committees.

“I want to build a twin to the Dallas County Jail,” he said.

Although he couldn’t promise that filling empty beds with inmates from other counties, the federal government and the Immigration Service would be a money maker, he noted that the Dallas County Jail last year netted nearly $500,000 from such activity.

Odom has been active for several years trying to solve the county’s jail problem and was the driving force behind the inmate-built jail and on deciding how to pay for it Thursday.

“I want to vote tonight,” he said.

“It was a very functional operation for (in today’s dollars) $3 million to $3.5 million,” said County Judge Charlie Troutman, who visited the Dallas County Jail. “It’s a bargain.”

“I like the simplicity and the idea of giving back to the taxpayers the sweat of these boys,” Odom said of the jail and the inmate labor.

Following a contentious debate over whether to raise property taxes or sales taxes, it was clear that there was not sufficient support for the property-tax increase, so all members present voted toput the sunset, sales tax increase before voters.

If the tax increase is approved, it is expected to raise about $3.5 million over its one-year life, which should be more than enough to build the jail with inmate help. The Dallas County Sheriff, himself a contractor, estimated that it would cost up to $2.5 million to replicate his jail, Odom said.

Court members said any money over what is needed should still be used for the jail.

“I’m voting for it, but I want you to know that I don’t have any warm fuzzies about this,” said JP Lynn Clarke.

The court will have to revisit the tax increase question at the March meeting in an ordinance that includes the formal ballot title. That would still allow the issue to be forwarded to the secretary of state’s office 50 days before the election, as required by law, Clarke figured.

Before voting to pursue the inmate-built jail, the quorum court rejected the stripped down, $499,000 version of a jail expansion, with most saying that was too much money to put into the decrepit, current jail.

In addition to rejecting the jail expansion, quorum court members also rejected the ideas of:

doing nothing;

adding 20 beds for $100,000 by expanding into the open space between two parallel wings of the existing jail;

a new turnkey, 92-bed contractor-built jail for $4.5 million;

buying four pre-constructed, modular jail units for $1.5 million to $2.5 million, then adding cooking facilities, concrete pads and renting a large crane.

The big problem is funding a new jail, said Troutman. “Give me $6 million and I’ll build you a jail,” he said. “Give me $3.5 million and I’ll build you a jail.”

Odom told the other justices that it would be their job between now and the May primary election to go to the people in their districts, explain the need for a new jail and encourage them to vote for it.

Justices also argued over whether to have a special election or put it on the primary ballot. Not only would a special election cost more, but it would also be more likely to pass.

“We need a new jail, but we don’t want to be perceived as sneaking and underhanded,” said JP Mark Edwards, objecting to a special election, where only a small number of people would turn out to vote.

“I’ve always said I’d never vote for a millage increase, said JP Richard Kyzer. He said that requires landowners to pay for the whole thing, which could be particularly hard on fixed income elderly, and lets renters off the hook.

The current jail is 30 to 40 years old, with a capacity of 62, but which has held as many as 110, with a recent high of 75, Odom said. There is no central control for cell doors, a “poor, poor” camera monitoring system and poor electrical and plumbing condition and fair heat and air conditioning.

In addition to getting a tax increase, the new jail would have to have a contractor to oversee the construction; blueprints that would pass the state Jail Standards Committee and a building permit from the city of Lonoke.

The new jail would require five additional jailer positions to cover it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Sheriff Jim Roberson, including benefits. That would total about $200,000 a year for additional staffing.

Roberson said he favored the type jail approved by the court Thursday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

EDITORIAL >>ADEQ friend of polluters

We confess to a vague uneasiness over the comments made by officials of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality when it comes to pollution in the state. The department is not concerned at all about the proposed expansion of the Two Pine Landfill in Jacksonville, which will encroach on the homes of hundreds of nearby residents and create an unsightly mess and a possible health hazard near Hwy. 67/167 and the North Belt Freeway.

If approved, the landfill would process almost twice as much garbage as the current dump and move within a few yards of Dupree Park, where children play every day. Ball games are played there every summer, and it would be a true disservice to children who will have to breathe the odor and polluted air that tons of additional trash will be sure to create.

Landfill drainage already gathers in Five Mile Creek and Bayou Meto, and ADEQ has found wastewater could become an even bigger problem. If the landfill grows, so will the drainage that enters Bayou Meto. That water floods Dupree Park often.

Members of the Jacksonville City Council expressed their outrage last week over plans to expand the landfill on the north side of the North Belt Freeway. Perhaps even more shocking, some council members were not even aware of the landfill operator’s plans to add more trash at Jacksonville’s entrance.

If not for a group of concerned citizens who care about Jacksonville and its surrounding communities, the expansion could have been pushed through ADEQ’s consideration process quietly and without notice.

The landfill has greeted drivers at Jacksonville’s north entrance since the 1970s, but much of it was hidden from view. It has only taken on such an overpowering, unsightly presence in the past few years, since trees blocking it from the highway were cut down to make way for the North Belt Loop. The landscaping ADEQ requires to block the landfill from the highway is nonexistent.

Every effort must be made to stop Waste Management, the landfill owner, from moving even closer into the city’s neighborhoods.

The bureaucrats who run the Department of Environmental Quality appear ready to give the green light to the trash hauler’s expansion plans. This is a pattern we see around the state, where industry has a license to pollute.

At a forum on coal power this week at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, ADEQ officials did not hide their sympathies for polluters. The department must soon make a monumental decision on whether to issue an air permit for a new 600-megawatt coal-fired generating plant near the poor communities of Fulton and McNab in Hempstead County.

Mike Bates, chief of the air division of the department, said whether burning coal to generate electricity was “the best thing or not so good” would not be a factor in the department’s decision. Rather, the department will simply determine whether American Electric Power Co. and its subsidiary, Southwestern Electric Power Co., met the regulatory requirements for a permit. If they did, the permit will be issued.

Meriting the public trust involves more than seeing that a company that could cause grave and permanent harm to the land and streams and to generations of Arkansans and people around the world crosses every “t” and dots every “i” in its application.

We are quite sure that Swepco’s legion of attorneys and technocrats has managed to do that, as have the attorneys for Waste Management. We are not so sure of the accuracy of scientific “studies” that they have submitted to the department. Swepco has also gone to the state Public Service Commission, which voted 2 to 1 to grant a permit for the company to build the big plant near one of the most environmentally valuable and sensitive habitats in the region.

Whether burning coal to generate power is good or not so good is the very heart of the public health issue that the Department of Environmental Quality should be evaluating. Everyone, even the company’s executives, lawyers and hired scientists, acknowledges that carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitric acid, mercury and coal dust are not good for the environment and the public health, but the advocates of the plant say the pollution would be within a tolerable range.

It is true that technology has dramatically reduced sulfur dioxide, the acid rain that was once thought to be the most dangerous particulate from coal plants, but now we know that the most sinister pollutant is carbon dioxide, the odorless and unseen gas that rises into the atmosphere, where it stays from 50 to 200 years. It is the principal cause of global warming.

The Turk plant at McNab will puff more than 5 million tons a year into the atmosphere, which will be added to some 30 million tons a year generated by the existing three coal plants in the state. Would it be appropriate for the Department of Environmental Quality to say that 30 million tons is all that Arkansas air should tolerate? If not, what is the point of regulation?
What’s more, how can a state agency claim it’s concerned about environmental quality and allow a landfill near a children’s playground?

The Department of Environmental Quality needs a director with backbone. Gov. Mike Beebe should find someone who will stand up for the people and not cater to the needs of industry. The agency continues to fill its historical role, serving the interests of industry. We thought it might be different once Mike Huckabee’s hack director was ousted, but it’s still protecting polluters and ignoring public safety.

TOP STORY > >City still has no answers about fee

Leader staff writer

A committee that will advise the Cabot City Council either to keep the impact fee on new construction and try to collect enough money for some of the city’s needs, or do away with the fee and perhaps reverse the building slump that could threaten the city’s growth, met for the second time Monday evening and decided on questions that must be answered before it makes its recommendation.

“How much do we think we need and where are we going to get it from? We’ve got to get our arms around that or otherwise we’re spitting in the wind,” banker Larry Biernacki told the other members of the committee.

How much the city needs to provide a quality of living that will make the city thrive is a question that Mayor Eddie Joe Williams is supposed to answer, or at least provide the committee with a ballpark figure.

The impact fee could be used to help pay for construction of a fire station somewhere in the vicinity of Greystone and Magness Creek, where the lack of a nearby station threatens to more than double some homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Traffic congestion is a problem and the impact fee can be used to add capacity to the streets. Within the next few years, the city could need at least $2 million for its share of the cost of building a north interchange, the mayor said. The impact fee could also be used to expand the library.

Realtor and developer Bill O’Brien told fellow committee members that since the city has grown to more than 22,000, the tax revenue from the businesses that are moving to Cabot will take the place of the impact fee.

“Chili’s wouldn’t be looking at Cabot if the city couldn’t support it,” O’Brien said.

To date, Chili’s has not applied for a building permit, so as far as the staff at public works is concerned, it is only a rumor.

However, Goody’s in the old Wal-Mart building will open soon, and Tuesday Morning, which will be located beside Goody’s, has applied for a building permit.

Such businesses could potentially keep Cabot diners and shoppers at home.

In November, the city council declared a six-month moratorium on the impact fee to see if not paying the fee would slow construction of houses in Ward and Austin. So far this year, only eight building permits have been sold in Cabot. But construction also is down in Ward and Austin. Builders say the weather is a contributing factor.

A portion of the impact fee goes to Cabot WaterWorks for sewer. But since the commission that runs that utility has said it can do without the money, the committee could recommend keeping the impact fee but dropping sewer.

O’Brien asked if the city council could change the ordinance that created the fee by itself, or would the experts who were paid about $150,000 to prepare the ordinance have to be called in again.

The mayor said he would ask City Attorney Jim Taylor to find the answer to that question for the committee, which will meet again at 6:30 p.m. March 24.

TOP STORY > >Ex-worker accused of theft from city parks

Leader staff writer

A former employee of Cabot Parks and Recreation has been arrested for embezzlement and the county prosecutor has called for a State Police investigation to determine if problems in that department run any deeper.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain said Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis initiated the investigation that led to the arrest of Sarah Michelle Rye, a bookkeeper who admitted to embezzling $8,063 over a two-year period by writing herself duplicate paychecks.

McCastlain said she asked the State Police to continue the investigation to avoid any conflict.

“Without an investigation, I don’t know if there is anything else,” McCastlain said. “If there is something else, city employees may have been witnesses.”

Rye, 26, of 144 Spring Valley Road, Cabot, turned herself in to Cabot Police on Jan. 21 and was released immediately on a $5,000 bond.

Questioned by Lt. Scott Steely on Jan. 17, Rye said she wrote herself 19 duplicate paychecks in 2005 totaling $3,987.22 and 12 duplicate paychecks in 2006 totaling $4,076.22. Those figures indicate that Rye’s take-home pay increased $120 a paycheck from 2005 to 2006. She left the parks department in 2007.

Sources say police began their investigation after an audit of the park books for 2006 showed the discrepancy in the payroll.The police report said the duplicate checks were either cashed or deposited at Community Bank and Bank of the Ozarks.

McCastlain said she asked for the State Police investigation about two weeks ago. Last week, the commission that runs Cabot
Parks and Recreation met in executive session to discuss personnel. At press time, a second meeting to discuss personnel was planned.

By state law, executive session may be used only to discuss hiring, firing or disciplinary action against an employee, and officials must make public their decisions on matters discussed in executive session.

Mike Brannon, commission chairman, said part of the time in executive session last week was used to update the members on the investigation.

“We’ve got seven members, and every one had heard a different story,” Brannon said.

The parks and recreation department was over budget $100,000 in 2007. Parks director Carroll Astin told the council that he underestimated the cost of operating the now year-old community center.

He also said the parks department paid too much for ball tournaments and full-time employees, such as the fitness instructor who was laid off in the middle of 2007.

Astin told the council that the department also employed too many young people with questionable work ethics and that in 2008 he would pay more for older, more reliable workers.

TOP STORY > >Telemarketer ends Sherwood calls

Leader staff writer

A telemarketing blitz that hit Sherwood residents Friday seems to have stopped as quickly as it started.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said she got the first “negative” call on annexing Gravel Ridge about 11:30 a.m., and the last call around 3 p.m. Hillman figures the word got out quickly that the city was not happy with the survey and was working rapidly to find out who was behind it.

“The questions were all very negative,” said Hillman, “and kept putting Sherwood in a bad light in regards to the annexation.”

The city, along with Gravel Ridge, votes on annexation March 11, and early voting starts Tuesday.

The company making the phone calls was ARM Services—Automated Research and Marketing—in Tulsa.

The firm’s president, Steve Baker, said he could not talk specifics about the survey or his client, but promised to ask his client to call The Leader. At press time, the paper had not received a call.

“These calls had to have cost somebody a lot of money,” Hillman said.

One flier, produced by ARM Services, said typical fees included technical setup at $500 minimum, plus $75 an hour. Outbound calling was $25 per hour.

The telemarketers questioned whether or not Sherwood residents would vote for annexing Gravel Ridge, a 2,500-acre rural community of about 3,500 people on the northern edge of Sherwood, if they considered the cost of the city to fund street repairs and that taxes would be raised.

“Everything they said was not true,” Hillman said. “We’ve been very upfront with Gravel Ridge residents and our residents about what will happen.”

Both Sherwood and Jacksonville want Gravel Ridge.

Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge residents voted Feb. 5 on the annexation, and in that vote, the majority said yes, annex Gravel Ridge into Jacksonville.

If the Sherwood and Gravel Ridge voters say yes to bringing the community into Sherwood, then a third election, set for April 1, will decide whether Gravel Ridge goes to Sherwood or to Jacksonville.

But, if the Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents say no to annexation, the community belongs to Jacksonville.

Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents may cast their early votes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday at Sherwood’s senior center, or at the Pulaski County clerk’s office in Little Rock from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and Monday,
March 10. Voting sites for the March 11 annexation issue include:

Kellogg Valley Baptist Church 9516 Bamboo Lane, North Little Rock

Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church, 9921 Sylvan Hills Hwy., Sherwood.

First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge, 14322 Hwy. 107.

Brockington Road Church of the Nazarene, 9860 Brockington Rd., Sherwood

Sylvan Hills Community Church, 8019 Hwy. 107, Sherwood

Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood

First Baptist Church of Sherwood, 701 Country Club, Sherwood

Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church, 7351 Warden Road, Sherwood

Indianhead Lake Baptist Church, 8601 Indianhead Drive, Sherwood

Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church, 7351 Warden Road, Sherwood

Sherwood Youth Center, 508 Sherwood Ave., Sherwood

Polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

TOP STORY > >Garbage in their front yard

Leader staff writer

Neighbors of a proposed landfill expansion say they don’t want it in their backyards—or in Jacksonville’s front yard. Concerns have been raised about potential hazards, flooding Dupree Park and noise pollution.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), which has to approve the expansion of the dump, received comments signed by about 40 complainants during a public-comment period that ended Tuesday.

“I am ashamed to be a resident of this area, having to explain to my friends and relatives from out of state who drive by Two Pine on Hwy. 440 why we have a trash heap along the main highway,” James Yoast of Jacksonville wrote in a blistering letter to ADEQ.

The expanded landfill would be in Jacksonville at the North Belt freeway and Hwy. 67/167 junction, between the highway and the railroad tracks. The landfill would bring in 35 million cubic yards of garbage over 24 years.

“We will go through all those comments,” ADEQ spokesman Doug Szenher said, “We are not prepared to make a comment-by-comment response.”

Szenher said ADEQ wants to make sure the laws and regulations are followed in the expansion of the permit, so “it’s something we can defend if it’s appealed.”

Waste Management, which operates the Two Pine Landfill, has been attempting to expand it since 2006.

Neighbors of the current landfill are concerned they would be living near a bigger, higher landfill than what they look at now.

The permit application states more than 100 people live within two miles of the trash yard.

With the Indian Head Lake and North Lake subdivisions, and Rixie and McAlmont near the land to be used for an expansion, more than 500 people may be affected by a larger landfill.

Brian Leamons’ ADEQ engineering team will consider the environmental impact of the landfill before director Teresa Marks acts on it. His staff of engineers will review the residents’ concerns, but they may be unable to stop an expansion.

ADEQ could hold a public hearing on the issue if Marks decides one is needed. Szenher said it could be a possibility.

“The department has issued a draft permit, which means the permit could be finalized,” Leamons said. He would not specify when the permit would be approved. “It’s hard to say. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to a month,” he said.

Joey Price, who owns 50 acres that border the railroad tracks, said he was concerned Jacksonville’s image will be tarnished by the sight of more trash on its highway.

“It would concern me if I lived in Foxwood,” Price said.

He turned in 38 signatures on a letter that stated concerns about a landfill. “Real estate values are of major concern,” he said. Price said traffic has increased with growth and development in the area.

“That doesn’t count what that will grow to with an addition to the North Belt,” he said. “Anywhere else in the country…traffic means money.”

Under ADEQ regulations, a landfill cannot be within 1,000 feet of the highway unless landscaping blocks it.

Residents are also concerned the landfill could flood Dupree Park.

Price told city council members at a meeting last Thursday that flooding at the park might get worse if the landfill is expanded. The park often floods during heavy rain.

Bayou Meto is about a half mile north of the landfill.

The dumpsite has been augmented so that drains channel water to the northwest, discharging into Brushy Island Creek and back into Bayou Meto.

“During the landfill process, the floodplain was considered,” Leamons said. “Necessary floodplain changes are considered before approval,” he said.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers has approved a review of the area.

Lee Jeffrey of the Brushy Island community wrote to ADEQ to state that community’s support of the planned expansion of the landfill.

“We look forward to sharing many more years with Waste Management as our neighbor,” he wrote.

Price, like Jeffrey, said he never had any complaint against Two Pine before this proposed expansion.

“I’m just against the landfill in our front yard,” Price said. “They do a good job as far as I can tell. I’m not opposed to what they’ve done in the past.”

The landfill is the only site in the state that converts waste to energy, generating electricity for 4,500 homes in North Little Rock. Waste Management maintains that it is an environmentally safe company.

David Conrad of Waste Management’s public relations staff was invited back to the city council to respond to questions regarding Dupree Park and further impact on the residents of Jacksonville.

TOP STORY > >Cabot schools cutting back

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District won’t be holding an extensive summer school this year as there isn’t enough money in the budget.
And, according to Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman, if voters don’t approve the 3.9 millage increase March 11, bringing Cabot to a total of 39.9 mills, construction projects in the seventh largest school district in the state will stall because of the lack of funds.

While speaking to the Cabot Lions Club last Thursday, Thurman said cutting summer school was one of many things the district did in order to retain an ending balance of nearly $2.7 million, money the district has left at the end of a fiscal year, but it isn’t nearly enough to cover another catastrophic event.

“We cut almost $800,000 to get back there and we’ve got to get back there – there are no negotiations,” he said. “There will be no summer school this year; secondary classes only and it will be tuition based – the students have to pay to make up a course,” he added.

Cabot schools have always offered an elaborate summer school program, Thurman said, but no more because of the extensive costs involved.

“We had to cut back on budgets.Almost every department budget was cut in half. Curriculum was cut in half, technology and maintenance was pulled back. It was all cut back to get us back to this point,” he told the club.

And with the current budget, once the new Junior High North is finished, still 18 months from completion, Thurman said the district doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

“The bottom line is we don’t have money hiding somewhere. It’d be nice to have a big pot of money to dig from, but we don’t,” he said.

He explained that the $10 million the district received from Great American Insurance Co. covered the cost to rebuild a replica campus, but standards, such as classroom size and the number of stairwells required per student, have been raised since the August 2006 electrical fire destroyed the eight-year-old campus.

“If it (the millage increase) doesn’t pass, all the growth things we need to take care of are off the table because we can’t allocate the money,” Thurman said. “It’s difficult to ask, and I hate to ask, but we have no options at this point,” he said.

Thurman told the Lions about some of the $50.5 million in construction projects the district has planned with the millage increase: a new roof for Eastside Elementary School, a new gym/cafeteria at the high school, science labs at Junior High South, air conditioning for all campus kitchens and additional classrooms at Westside Elementary School.

“The Eastside roof is pouring through right now. We need a new roof, but I can’t pull $200,000 out (of the budget) and put a roof on Eastside,” he said.

The high school gym is inadequate, and windows have been cut into the brick in the cafeteria to serve students through.
“We serve 2,800 students and it seats 300 – that’s not a good situation,” the superintendent said.

The plans for the new gym/cafeteria call for a 2,500-seat gym and a 900-seat cafeteria with a food-court style.

“If we take the (health, physical education and recreation) gym off, the state won’t help us pay for it because they don’t cover athletic facilities, but we added classrooms under the concourse level and now it’s an academic facility,” he said. “We really need this while the state will help pay for it.”

Thurman said if the millage increase passes, work will immediately start on the new HPER/cafeteria, taking about two years to complete.

Once it’s finished, a ninth-grade facility will move to the high school campus and open seats at the junior high level for future growth.

At Junior High South, one classroom was converted into a science lab. The proposed project would add six labs at JHS and give students there access to what Thurman called “great labs” available at the high school and the new JHN.

The only kitchens with air conditioning in the district are at Stagecoach and Magness Creek elementaries.

“What we do in the cafeteria when it’s hot is turn the dining room down low and put fans in the doors to keep the ladies from getting sick. The state said that wasn’t a good idea and they would help us fix it,” Thurman said.

Westside Elementary needs additional classrooms because it’s overcrowded.

“If (the millage) passes, we will immediately get some classrooms built on the far end going out into the open field,” he said.

Aside from the future projects, Thurman said there are items that need to be addressed now, but the funds aren’t available.
Stacking zones for student pickup and drop-off are needed at Southside and Westside Elementary schools, and Stage-coach Road needs to be paved from the school to Campground Road.

“It’s all potholes now,” Thur-man said, “but I can’t spend $50,000 to pave the road. That’s the handcuffs we’re dealing with right now.

“We’ve got to be very careful about any expenditures.”

SPORTS >>Lonoke boys add regional crown, look to state title next

Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB — Lonoke completed step three of a sweep of Class 4A basketball on Saturday with a 65-47 win over Newport during the 4A East Regional finals at Bulldog Arena. It was the Jackrabbits’ fourth win over the Greyhounds in five meetings this season.

The victory added the regional title to the ’Rabbits’ 2-4A regular season title and district title and earned them a No. 1 seed heading into this week’s 4A state tournament in Dumas.

Lonoke will await the winner of tonight’s first-round game between Prairie Grove and McGehee. The winner of that game will play the Jackrabbits (27-5) on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Much like the past two meetings between the squads, the Jackrabbits relied on a big scoring run during the middle stages of the second quarter to put Newport away for the most part. The score was a narrow 22-19 advantage for Lonoke with 5:19 left until halftime, but the Jackrabbits went on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes to build a 34-19 lead by the 1:58 mark.

The Greyhounds were able to cut the lead to 11 at halftime.

Lonoke’s defense has been strong since the start of the post season, and that trend continued on Saturday. The Jackrabbits held Newport to only six points in the third quarter, while building their lead to 16.

Depth appeared to play one of the biggest roles in the game for Lonoke. Shortly into the game, Pierre Smith, along withLance and Tony Jackson, began a heavy rotation of substitutions. Freshman Myles Taylor began the subbing process at the post just minutes into the contest, relieving starting junior post Juice Lambert on the low block beginning at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter.

The Jackson duo and Smith held their ground against the Greyhound starters, protecting Lonoke’s lead in the final minutes of the first half. Once Bradley Spencer, Tyrone Dob-bins and company returned at the start of the third quarter for the Jackrabbits, they were able to put the game out of reach.

“We’ve been talking about the importance of our bench since day one,” Lonoke head coach Wes Swift said. “You’re only a sub until your number is called. Whenever your number is called, it’s time to get out there and work. They brought a lot of intensity into the game tonight, and I’m proud of the job they did off the bench.”

A putback by Taylor to start the second quarter put the Jackrabbits up 17-12, but the Greyhounds pulled to within three before Lonoke extended its lead to double digits during the final minutes of the first half.

Taylor scored his third bucket of the period at the 3:42 mark with an inside shot to give the ’Rabbits a 24-19 lead, and followed a pair of free throws by Dobbins after that with another goal that put Lonoke ahead 28-19.

Spencer got a steal that he took all the way for two, and followed that with a shot in the paint assisted by Tony Jackson to put the ’Rabbits ahead 32-19 with 2:13 left until intermission.

Lonoke extended its lead during the third quarter with a pair of three-pointers by Spencer, along with a basket by Dobbins to start the quarter, and a goal and a free throw by Smith with a pair of foul shots by Michael Howard in between.

Newport struggled offensively in the third quarter, but its defense didn’t allow the game to get completely out of hand until the final period.

Spencer converted an old-school three-point play to start the final period, and Dobbins added a goal assisted by Howard shortly after that to extend Lonoke’s lead to 53-32 by the 6:24 mark.

Newport finally got a field goal on the scoreboard in the fourth with a shot by Quarmaine Dean with 4:26 left to play, but Spencer scored after that, and then picked up the outlet from Dobbins off a missed Newport shot.

Spencer drove in on the right side with Harris on the other side of the lane, and made a no-look bounce pass right in front of Newport defender Chavez Harris, and Harris chipped it off the glass for two.

The assist was a big hit with the Lonoke-partisan crowd.

Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 17 points, two steals, and three assists. Harris added 12 points and six rebounds, along with four steals and two assists. Dobbins added 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Taylor had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Howard finished with seven points, while Lance Jackson had five points, Smith had three points, and Michael Nelson rounded it all out with 1-of-2 free throw attempts for one point.

For Newport, Cylde Dean led with 10 points, five rebounds and a steal.

The Jackrabbits out-reb-ounded Newport 42-32, and shot 41 percent from the floor and 33 percent from the three-point line. Newport shot 36 percent from the floor and 13 percent from the arc, and had 12 turnovers in the game compared to 10 for Lonoke.

SPORTS >>Lady Devils’ coach looks to next year


Leader sports editorCount Jonesboro head coach David Daniel among those who see the progress.

“Jacksonville is much improved over last year,” said the Lady Hurricane head man after Jonesboro closed out the regular season with a 63-50 over the Lady Red Devils on Friday night at the Devil’s Den. “The little [Tyra] Terry girl canreally shot it. (Jessica) Lanier inside is going to be a force. [Kita] Walker is going to be a force.

“[Jacksonville] is going to be a force to reckon with.”

Though the Lady Devils managed just two wins in the 6A-East play this season, first-year head coach Katrina Mimms is using other measuring sticks for her young team’s progress.

“From the beginning [of the season] to the end, I don’t even think you can measure the success we’ve had, outside of wins and losses,” she said. “If you count wins and losses, it may not look like a success. But if you go and look at the team, then to now, it’s just unbelievable.”

If you were to just use the Lady Devils’ two games with Jonesboro as a gage, you’d probably come away with the same assessment. In their first meeting last month, the Lady Hurricane, who will be a No. 5 seed in the state tournament this week, jumped out to a 20-2 lead.

On Friday, Jacksonville was right with them, and trailed only 15-14 midway through the second period. Jonesboro’s 9-0 run at that point allowed the Lady Hurricane to gain a comfortable lead they never relinquished.

Crystal Washington hit a 16-footer, made 1-of-2 free throws and scored on a layup to keep Jacksonville within 28-19 at intermission.

But the Lady Hurricane opened the second half on a 14-4 run to push the lead to 19 with 2:53 left in the third. Jacksonville never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.

Terry hit three three-pointers to lead the Lady Devils with 11 points. She also had two assists and three steals. Lanier added 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Sherice Randell and Washington each added seven points, while Walker chipped in six points and six boards. Shanita Johnson, the team’s lone senior, had four points and three assists.

The Lady Devils, prone to turnovers this season, took much better care of the basketball and committed only 16 on Friday.

“This team never quit and that’s commendable, especially with a group of sophomores,” Mimms said. “I feel like they’re hungry for wins next year. They don’t want to repeat seven wins.”

Mimms said many of the girls would play AAU or attend camps in the summer. With Johnson graduating, Jacksonville will be looking to find a point guard. She said she has a freshman coming up who might fill the role.

“The measuring stick will come next year,” Mimms said. “If next year we come out and win 15 or 16 games, you can say they passed the test because now you’re moving forward.”

SPORTS >>Beebe girls season ends

Leader sports editor

PINE BLUFF – They had a starter on the bench with mononucleosis. But it was the No. 1 seeded Lady Badgers on the court who were exhibiting the symptoms.

Beebe turned in a surprisingly sluggish performance in the opening round of the 5A state tournament, falling to Vilonia, the four seed from the 5A-West Conference, 54-36 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Tuesday afternoon.

“We came out with intensity and played well the first four minutes of the game,” said Beebe coach Lora Jackson. “Then our intensity kind of dropped. They picked up their defense and we struggled to score. We just didn’t respond.”

Lady Eagle Amanda Curtis was mostly unstoppable, slithering her way through the Beebe zone and racing past the Beebe press to score 34 points. Junior Ty O’Neill led Beebe, which finished the season 22-4, with 17 points, but other than Neshia
Upchurch’s 10 points, the Lady Badgers got little else done offensively against Vilonia’s extended 2-1-2 zone.

Vilonia wound up dealing Beebe half of its four losses this season, and the one on Tuesday was a decisive one – at least after the first seven minutes of the contest. The Lady Eagles missed their first 11 shots over the opening 6:56, then missed only nine more the rest of the way.

That cold start allowed the Lady Badgers to jump to a 9-2 lead. But Curtis began to find her stride, and Bailey Sisson scored seven points in the second period to lead Vilonia on an 18-4 run over the final 10:35 of the half and a 20-13 lead.

The Lady Badgers led 9-6 after one period, but Sisson scored on a nifty baseline scoop shot to open the second quarter. Curtis added a spinning five-foot bank and Sisson dropped in a three-pointer from the top of the circle and, just like that, Vilonia had turned a 9-2 deficit into a 13-9 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the second period.

Upchurch finally ended Vilonia’s 11-0 run by knocking down a 15-footer. But that was just a finger in the dike. Courtney McEntire hit a 12-footer on the baseline for the Lady Eagles and Curtis added a three-pointer.

Sisson’s steal and fast break bucket had Vilonia up 20-11. O’Neill hit a pull-up jumper, then had two chances to narrow the gap further. But a three-point attempt with 29 seconds left in the half rimmed out, and she missed a lay-up after a steal with five seconds left.

“The Curtis girl is a ball player,” Jackson said. “We felt we wanted to contain her and make others score. We tried [to play man] early. But she scored eight or nine points in a row on us in the post. We didn’t do a good job of doubling her, which is what we had talked about.”

Mostly, the Lady Badgers kept the others from scoring, but Curtis was all over the place, especially in the second half, when she scored 25 of her points.

The Lady Badgers struggled to find any seams in the Vilonia zone, and their impatience cost them in 18 total turnovers.

“They got out and pressured the perimeter,” Jackson said. “And they did a good job of keeping the gaps closed up as far as penetration.”

The Vilonia lead grew to as many as 13 on two Curtis free throws with 32 seconds left in the third.

But Audre Renneker knocked down a 16-footer from the left baseline to spark an 8-0 run.

O’Neill hit a runner along the baseline. Upchurch got a breakaway bucket off an Emily Bass steal, and O’Neill hit a pull-up 14 footer and, suddenly, Beebe had closed to six with 5:47 left in the game.

But Curtis answered with a three and a layup after breaking the Beebe press. The Lady Badgers turned it over two straight times, then launched an air ball, and the Lady Eagles were on their way to becoming the second consecutive fourth seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in 5A state action. The Nettleton boys upset Little Rock Christian in the second game of the afternoon.

“We got some steals and got that run, but Vilonia came right back and scored,” Jackson said of Vilonia’s 14-4 run after the Lady Badgers had whittled the lead to five. “That was the nail there.”

Vilonia hit 17 of its final 26 shots to finish 17-of-37 overall. Beebe made only 13-of-34, and missed all seven of its three-point attempts. The Lady Badgers were also out-rebounded 27-22.

O’Neill had three assists, two steals and two blocks to go along with her 17 points. Upchurch grabbed 10 rebounds. Ashley Watkins had four points, three rebounds and three steals. Emily Bass, one of five seniors who said good-bye on Tuesday, had three steals and a block.

“I told them afterwards that we can’t hang our heads,” Jackson said. “We won 22 games this year. That’s the first time that’s happened at Beebe at the high school level.

“You hope your younger players get it etched in their brains that you’ve got to be ready to go. Hopefully, we’ll be right back here again next year.”

SPORTS >>Lady Rabbits hold on

Leader sportswriter

BALD KNOB — It was everything you would expect from a game that featured 13 lead changes.

Lonoke took the lead for the final time with 1:33 left in the third quarter to hand the Lady Bulldogs of Bald Knob only their second loss of the season, taking the 4A-East District title on Saturday with a 40-33 win in the championship finals.

The win gave the Lady Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed out of the East, and a first-round bye during this week’s 4A state playoffs in Dumas. Lonoke will play the winner of today’s meeting between Prairie Grove and Fordyce in the quarterfinals round on Friday at 4 p.m.

It was a reversal of fortune between the two camps, after Bald Knob held the Lady ’Rabbits to a single goal in the fourth quarter the previous week to take the district crown. This time, the Lady Bulldogs struggled to find a look in the final period, as Lonoke slowly extended its lead with strong play by point guard Michaela Brown.

Not only did the sophomore overcome the BK press, she also accounted for much of the Lady ’Rabs’ points down the stretch. Brown hit 6-of-10 attempts from the foul line from the 3:36 mark on, allowing Lonoke to stretch a 33-29 lead toseven by the final buzzer.

“We hang our hat on a lot of the things that Michaela can do,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “She can come up big when the situation calls for it. Whether it’s getting the ball up court, chasing down loose balls, or at the free-throw line, we depend on her to step up and do those big things.”

The Lady Bulldogs found themselves in an unfamiliar position on Saturday, especially in the second half. Foul trouble for All-Conference junior guard Phagen Altom and senior post Khali Garner had them on alert for most of the game, but the final nail in the coffin arrived with 2:32 left to play, when two-guard Chelsea Kyle went down with a high-ankle sprain after chasing down a loose ball.

Not only was it a vital loss for Bald Knob, it also resulted in a turnover, with the Lady Jackrabbits holding a 34-29 lead.

Free throw shooting ended up critical for both teams in the fourth quarter. In fact, Altom’s three pointer with six seconds left to play was the only field goal for either team in the period. It was not in time for the Lady Bulldogs to build any momentum, however, as Brown and Asheigh Himstedt hit two free throws each to extend a 34-30 lead with 47 seconds remaining to a 38-30 lead with just over 20 seconds left.

“Our kids can play tenacious defense,” Morris said. “I told the girls how they beat us in spots during the fourth quarter when we played last week for the district title, and that we didn’t want that to happen this time out. We blocked out better, and we made less shots available to them.”

Bald Knob held a slight lead through most of the first quarter until a pair of free throws by Brown tied the game at 6-6 at the 1:54 mark. Altom broke that tie just before the buzzer with foul shots to give the Lady Bulldogs an 8-6 lead.

Freshman Cara Neighbors tied it once again to start the second quarter with two shots at the stripe, but Altom’s 15-footer at the six-minute mark gave the lead back to Bald Knob once again. Garner added a free throw for the Lady ’Dogs on their next trip before Neighbors hit a three pointer with 4:21 left in the half that tied the score at 11-11.

Asiah Scribner gave Lonoke its first lead of the game at the 3:49 mark with two free throws, but Kyle gave the lead back to the Lady Bulldogs when she drew a foul from Neighbors while attempting a three-point shot. That sent her to the line for three free throw attempts, and she hit every one to give Bald Knob a 14-13 lead with 2:57 left.

Baskets by Brown and Neighbors put the Lady Jack-rabbits up by three at 17-14, followed by free throws by Altom that cut the lead to one, and foul shots by Neighbors after that to extend it back to three. Garner got the last word for Bald Knob before the half with a putback of her own miss to set the halftime score at 19-18.

Neighbors led the Lady Jackrabbits with 13 points and four rebounds, including 6-for-6 at the free-throw line. Brown added 10 points, six rebounds, four steals, and went 8-of-12 from the foul line. For Bald Knob, Altom led with 12 points.

Lonoke won the rebounding battle 25-16, and had 10 turnovers compared to 11 for Bald Knob.

The Lady Jackrabbits im-proved to 24-8 on the season, and took their second straight 4A East Regional championship. Bald Knob fell to 28-2 on the season.

SPORTS >>Devils drop Hurricane

Leader sports editor

There was no cake awaiting Barry Pruitt after this one.

The celebration on Friday night was all Jacksonville’s after the Red Devils got a huge momentum boost heading into the state tournament with a 59-52 win over defending state champion Jonesboro at the Devil’s Den.

“This ain’t my first rodeo, but it’s my last,” said Jacksonville assistant Jerry Wilson, who assumed the head coaching duties with Vic Joyner serving a mandatory one-game suspension for two technical fouls last Tuesday at Mountain Home. “But that’s just a reflection of the type of program we have here. I just executed what’s been here the whole year.

“We were 3-9, and everybody counted us out. We’re 0-0 again.”

The game meant nothing to either team in terms of tournament seedings — the Red Devils were locked in as a No. 3 seed, while Jonesboro (20-6, 12-2) had already won the 6A-East title. But, for Jacksonville (13-13, 10-4), it meant reversing course from a late-season swoon. The Red Devils had lost three of four entering the contest.

Jacksonville takes on Texarkana in the opening round of the 6A state tournament tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. at Little Rock Hall.
Pruitt, Jonesboro’s long-time head coach, won his 50oth career game when the Hurricane beat Jacksonville last month, and celebrated with a cake. Though he had plenty of praise for Jacksonville afterward on Friday, he also stressed that the game meant little to his team.

“A team like Jacksonville is a lothurt us on the boards.”

Though the Red Devils finished with just a two-rebound advantage, they made the most of their offensive boards, getting five putbacks. No one was more dominant on the glass for Jacksonville than Demetrius Harris, who came off the bench to score 13 points and grab 11 rebounds.

“Antwan Lockhart was under the weather tonight,” Wilson said. “Demetrius came off the bench and played big. Antonio gave us a big game, too.”

That would be Antonio Roy, who grabbed seven rebounds in the first half — eight overall, and added six points.

The Red Devils held a couple of eight-point leads early in the second half, before the Hurricane began to get a lot of easy lane penetration from Lucas Nutt. That led to some easy buckets and a 15-7 run that allowed Jonesboro to knot the game at 38 with 21 seconds left in the third period.

But Jacksonville reserve Darius Morant hit a three from the left corner as time expired to give the Red Devils a 41-38 lead entering the final period. Jacksonville never trailed again.

“We closed up a little bit,” Wilson said of Jacksonville’s fourth-quarter defense. “They tied us and we didn’t get rattled. Then, Morant hit that three to put us up.”

Harris’ post-up basket with 6:20 left in the game opened up a 45-40 Jacksonville lead. Nutt’s three-pointer narrowed the gap to one, but Harris scored inside, and Cortrell Eskridge took a feed from Terrell Eskridge for a fast-break bucket, and Jacksonville reclaimed a five-point lead at the 5:07 mark. That was one of Terrell Eskridge’s seven assists.

The lead was still five after Harris got a stickback off his own miss with three minutes left. Jonesboro got it to 53-50, but Deshone McClure, who led the Red Devils with 14 points, made two free throws and banked in an eight-footer to make it 57-50.

Jonesboro’s last hopes were dashed when Josh Calamese missed a three-pointer with 43 seconds left. Cortrell Eskridge made two free throws to set the final margin.

“I told them before the game, it would have to be our big men that had to step up,” Wilson said. “And you know what? They did. Deshone McClure hit some big threes. We didn’t take bad shots and we ran the floor. We feel like we beat a pretty good

In addition to McClure’s 14 points and Harris’ 13, LaQuinton Miles added 10 points and four steals. Roy and Cortrell Eskridge added six apiece.

“It was a total team effort, a great crowd and good team play,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to find something that was negative, but I can’t.”