Friday, March 07, 2008

SPORTS >>Road to a championship

Nov. 24 — Lonoke 87, Clarksville 67

Tyrone Dobbins led the way with 23 points, pacing five Jackrabbits in double figures. Michael Howard had 14, Clarence Harris 13, Bradley Spencer 12 and Pierre Smith.
Lonoke opened up a close game in the third quarter. (Record: 1-0)

Nov. 26 — Hot Springs 55, Lonoke 50

Bradley Spencer had 17 points in the close loss to the Trojans in the first round of the Searcy Bank Classic. Neither team led by more than two possessions, but Hot Springs’ 22-point performance in the fourth quarter was enough to pull off an early-season upset. (1-1)

Nov. 27 — Lonoke 54, Southside Batesville 37

Michael Howard led the Jackrabbits with 15 points, as Lonoke sliced its way through the Southerners’ 1-3-1 defensive assault on its way to a win during the first-round consolation bracket game of the Bank Classic tourney. (2-1)

Nov. 29 — Lonoke 68, Searcy 58

Tyrone Dobbins had 16 points for Lonoke, with 13 more from Michael Howard, but for ’Rabbits fans, it was their first real look at freshman sensation Myles Taylor. Taylor dominated the Lions inside with 13 points and eight rebounds, and earned a spot in the main rotation for the remainder of the season. (3-1)

Dec. 1 — Lonoke 53, Wynne 42

Bradley Spencer and Myles Taylor each had 15 points, as the Jackrabbits claimed the consolation finals of the Searcy Bank Classic. Michael Howard sat out the game injured, but three players in double figures, including 11 points from Tyrone Dobbins gave Lonoke balanced scoring against the less-potent Yellowjackets. (4-1)

Dec. 4 — Lonoke 58, Lutheran 36

Juice Lambert led the way with 12 points during the unsurprising conference-opening blowout. Howard remained on the bench, and was joined by team captain Bradley Spencer. (5-1)

Dec. 6 — J.A. Fair 46, Lonoke 43

Myles Taylor was the only ’Rabbit in double-figures with 12 points, as Lonoke’s first-round tourney struggles continued during the opening round of the ‘Jammin’-4-Jackets tournament at North Little Rock (5-2)

Dec. 7 — Lonoke 69, Pulaski Robinson 64

It was the Jackrabbits’ only win of the Jammin’-4-Jackets tourney. Michael Howard led Lonoke with 18 points over the Senators. (6-2)

Dec. 8 — Parkview 55, Lonoke 45

It would be the only time all season that the ’Rabbits suffered back-to-back losses. Bradley Spencer led with 12 points, but it was not enough against the 6A powerhouse Patriots. (6-3)

Dec. 11— Lonoke 80, Marianna Lee 64

Lonoke took its frustration from the strugglesof the J4J tourney out on the Trojans. Michael Howard led the Jackrabbits back into 2-4A Conference play in style with a 19-point performance. (6-3)

Dec. 14 — Lonoke 53, Mountain View 49

No other league opponent gave Lonoke more scares than the Yellowjackets in ’07-’08. The ’Rabbits needed every bit of Bradley Spencer’s 14 points and Clarence Harris’ 13 points to down the pesky ’Jackets. (8-3)

Dec. 15 — Lonoke 69, England 35

Michael Howard led with 17 points during this non-conference affair. The Jackrabbits took a 22-5 lead after one quarter and never looked back. (9-3)

Dec. 21— Stuttgart 54, Lonoke 49

Clarence Harris’ 16 points was not quite enough during the ’Rabbits’ first conference loss of the season. (9-4)

Dec. 27— Lonoke 67, Harding Academy 44

The Jackrabbits cruised through the opening round of the Beebe Holiday Classic, led by a 13-point performance by Clarence Harris. Lance Jackson also had one of his stoutest offensive performance of the year with 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers, all of which came during the second period. (10-4)

Dec. 28 — Lonoke 63, Star City 49

A difficult first quarter for the Jackrabbits put the Bulldogs up 16-7 after one, but the remaining three frames was all Lonoke. Michael Howard led scoring with 19 points, as the ’Rabbits moved on to the finals of the Holiday Classic to face an opponent that would become all too familiar before season’s end. (11-4)

Dec. 29 — Lonoke 70, Newport 33

The biggest rout of the season for the Jackrabbits closed out the Beebe tournament, and made for an anticlimactic ending to the annual event. Lonoke held the Greyhounds to only 10 points in the second half, with subs on the floor for most of that time. Michael Howard led with 19 points. (12-4

Jan. 3 — Newport 64, Lonoke 61

The ’Hounds got their revenge, and this time, it counted towards conference points. Clarence Harris led with 18 points during the disappointing loss, but it was the last time the Jackrabbits tasted defeat. (12-5)

Jan. 4 — Lonoke 61, Bald Knob 29

The rebuilding Bulldogs had no answer for Tony Jackson’s 13-point performance to lead Lonoke, as 11 Jackrabbit players made their way onto the scoreboard at some point in the game. (13-5)

Jan. 8 — Lonoke 54, Stuttgart 50

The Jackrabbits avenged the earlier league loss, but it wasn’t easy. Tyrone Dobbins led the Jackrabbits with 12 points, as Lonoke regained its spot atop the 2-4A standings. (14-5)

Jan. 11 — Lonoke 66, Heber Springs 39

Tyrone Dobbins shot the lights out of his home gym with a 24-point performance over the Panthers. Lonoke held a 36-18 lead at halftime on the way to its third-straight conference win. (15-5)

Jan. 15 — Lonoke 51, Southside Batesville 35

Lonoke’s second win over the Southerners had a near-identical final score. Michael Howard led the way with 26 points, including six three-point baskets. (16-5)

Jan. 22 — Lonoke 58, Lutheran 37

It was the same song, second verse for the Jackrabbits, as Bradley Spencer led the way with 16 points to down Lions for the second time. (17-5)

Jan. 24 — Lonoke 61, Mountain View 60

The first meeting between the two teams caused the Jackrabbits to sweat, but this one threatened to throw a wrench into everything. Lonoke held on with a 15-point performance by Bradley Spencer to lead the way, but the Yellowjackets undoubtedly earned new respect throughout the league on that night. (18-5)

Jan. 29 — Lonoke 62, Newport 50

The third in what ended up as a best-of-five series was highlighted by a 26-point blast by the ’Rabbits in the first quarter. They built a 13-point lead during the opening frame, and maintained that advantage the rest of the way. Michael Howard led with 20 points. (19-5)

Feb. 1 — Lonoke 49, Bald Knob 14

The Jackrabbits shut down their lesser foes big time in this one. It was a well-rounded offensive performance for Lonoke with Bradley Spencer’s 10 points leading the way. Every member of the Jackrabbits team scored during this game, including a third-quarter basket for Michael Nelson. (20-5)

Feb. 5 — Lonoke 60, Marianna Lee 57

The Jackrabbits improved their league record to 13-2, but had to withstand a 22-point fourth quarter by the tenacious Trojans. Michael Howard led with 19 points, with 12 for Myles Taylor. (21-5)

Feb. 8 — Lonoke 74, Heber Springs 64

The Panthers showed significant improvement since the first meeting less than a month earlier, as the Jackrabbits struggled to find motivation during the regular-season finale after officially claiming the 2-4A title three days prior. Bradley Spencer’s 15 points to lead all scorers helped Lonoke keep its 10-game winning streak in tact. (22-5)

Feb. 14 — Lonoke 54, Newport 42

The Greyhounds took it to Lonoke in the first half, but a lopsided 19-4 performance for the Jackrabbits in the third quarter changed the game’s complexion, as the Greyhounds completely fell apart in the late going after dominating much of the first three quarters. Bradley Spencer led the way with 16 points, as Lonoke advanced to the final round of the district tournament at Bald Knob High School. (23-5)

Feb. 16 — Lonoke 46, Southside Batesville 31

The Southerners came into the district championship game as hot as a team can be, but the Jackrabbits extinguished their hopes, led by an 18-point performance by Michael Howard. (24-5)

Feb. 18 — Lonoke 60, Highland 48

The Jackrabbits struggled to put their opponent away during the first round of the East regional tournament at Bald Knob High School. The fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as Lonoke outscored the senior-dominated Rebels 23-13 in the last eight minutes of play to qualify for the state tournament. (25-5)

Feb. 22 — Lonoke 40, Stuttgart 38

This game would break the series tie between the two teams, and the Ricebirds nearly rallied to pull off the upset. The ’Rabbits held on with a 14-point performance by Bradley Spencer to lead the way during the East regional semifinal win. (26-5)

Feb. 23 — Lonoke 65, Newport 47

The last of five meetings between these two teams turned out like the majority of the other showdowns, with a rather-easy Lonoke win. Bradley Spencer’s 17 points led the way for the Jackrabbits, who wrapped up the East region crown with the win to earn a No. 1 seed at the state tournament in Dumas. (27-5)

Feb. 29 — Lonoke 72, McGehee 63

Clarence Harris had 19 points to lead the Jackrabbits during the quarterfinal round of the 4A state tournament, but it was Bradley Spencer’s 13-0f-15 performance from the foul line in the fourth quarter that finally put away the tremendously-stubborn Owls. (28-5)

March 1 — Lonoke 55, Arkansas Baptist 45

The Jackrabbits struggled to find momentum until the last four minutes of the first half. They controlled most of the second half, but had to withstand a serious rally from the Eagles late in the state semifinals to secure their ticket to Spa City. Bradley Spencer and Michael Howard led with 15 points each. (29-5)

March 6 — Lonoke 47, Hamburg 42
Lonoke captures its fifth boys basketball title.

SPORTS >>Coach’s strategy pays off on boards

Leader sports editor

With Hamburg enjoying a size advantage — both in terms of height and bulk — Lonoke head coach Wes Swift came up with a clever idea to try to match the Lions on the boardS. And it clearly worked. The Jackrabbits finished with a 38-29 edge on the boards, a statistic Swift said was critical. Senior Bradley Spencer collected 15 of those for Lonoke.

“We talked about coming in, that we had to compete with them on the boards,” Swift said. “Some how, some way, we out-rebounded them by nine.”

That ‘some how’ was to use the backside of Lonoke’s 1-2-2 zone to block out and to allow Spencer to slide down from the top of the zone for boards.

“We knew our guys on the backside were going to be outsized,” Swift said. “They didn’t have rebound responsibility. They had blockout responsibility. And Bradley was supposed to, hopefully, just gather in the boards. They did a great job of keeping the much bigger guys off the boards where we could go get it.”


Lonoke seemed to have little trouble getting penetration inside Hamburg’s 1-2-2 zone, especially in the first half. The problem was finishing. The Jackrabbits missed a slew of easy shots and had four others blocked by the bigger, bulkier Lions.

“I thought our shot selection was very good,” Swift said of Lonoke’s 7-of-26 first-half shooting performance. “They just wouldn’t go down.”

Eleven of Lonoke’s 19 first-half misses were listed as lay-ups in the stat sheet. The Jackrabbits reduced that number to five misses in the second half, and it was reflected in their field-goal percentage, which went up from 26 percent at halftime to 31 percent overall.


You might have thought the Jackrabbits would try to run some clock after taking a one-point lead in the final minutes of the game. And they did ... eventually. But they hardly played not to lose, a fact that didn’t bother Swift at all.

After Michael Howard had given Lonoke a 43-42 lead and Huntsville’s Nate Rhodes had missed a three-pointer with 1:31 left, Spencer got the rebound, raced downcourt and launched an unguarded 10-footer in the lane. He missed, but Huntsville missed a free throw at the other end.

Swift said he had no problem with Spencer’s shot.

“We have a spread offense we go to and we didn’t execute it very well,” he said “But I told them at the timeout that we wanted to continue playing aggressive. And [Spencer’s shot] was a good shot. It just didn’t go down, but I thought it was an aggressive play.”


With under a minute to play, and Lonoke clinging to a one-point lead, freshman Myles Taylor made a move along the left baseline that might have had his coach pulling his hair.

Taylor ran into Hamburg’s Quinton Pippen, sending Pippen to the floor and the ball over the end line. No foul was called and the ball was ruled to have gone off of Pippen’s foot, allowing Lonoke to maintain possession. With 37 seconds, Spencer went to the line and hit two free throws.

“That was a great call by the officials,” Swift said with a laugh afterward. “We were driving to the rim, still playing aggressively.

They slid over and, honestly, I thought we dribbled it off their foot.

“In close games, you have to have some breaks. You have to have some things go your way.”


Hamburg fired up quick threes the entire game, but they might have considered working for better looks with the title on the line in the final minute.

Down just one, Hamburg rushed a three 14 seconds into their possession with 1:31 left in the game.

The Lions ran just eight seconds off the clock before Rodney Brown missed a well-guarded three with 26 seconds still left in the game and Lonoke up only three.

Again with 14 seconds left and still trailing by only three points, Hamburg rushed a bad shot rather than work for a better look.

This time, Javarus Curtis shot an air ball while being hounded in the left corner.

“These are teenagers,” Swift said. “Anytime you get down, especially on this stage, the pressure gets to you. It’s happened to us in several of our close losses this year.”


Lonoke had played zone, by Swift’s estimate, in only four of the Jackrabbits’ 34 games entering the 4A championship on Thursday. Make that 5-of-35, and after the success of the 1-2-2/ 3-2 against Hamburg on Thursday, it might not be so rare next season.

“This win is a total credit to our defense,” said Swift, who was facing a bigger team in the Lions. “We’re majority man-to-man, but we’ve beaten a couple of good teams with what you saw today. We beat a really good Wynne team right before Christmas.

“I thought, physically, they outmatched us, and [the Lions] do such a good job of running their man-to-man offense that I thought we might try to surprise them a little bit. We had notions of going [to man] if we needed to. But they never really went on a big run to show that we needed to get out of the zone.”

SPORTS >>Disappointment can’t dampen hopes for future

Leader sportswriter

The loss of seniors Carrie Mitchell and Hayley O’Cain will be a significant blow to the Lady Jackrabbits, particularly on the defensive side, but the roster that remains should give the Lonoke faithful plenty to remain enthusiastic about.

Missed will be Mitchell’s rebounding and O’Cain’s deadeye shooting, but the Lady ’Rabbits will have no shortage of playmakers.

Asiah Scribner and Michaela Brown will return as a pair of juniors who have started in two priorstate title games. They will be joined by Cara Neighbors, who went from playing freshman basketball games in front of empty houses in early February to almost leading the varsity Lonoke girls to a state championship at a packed Summit Arena in Hot Springs a month later.

Asheigh Himstedt will carry a large load on both sides of the court next season, and 5-8 Brianna Lynch will most likely step into Mitchell’s shoes on the low block, barring the rise of yet another sophomore.

If Lynch does indeed get the nod, she would still be the only senior among the starting five.

Lonoke head coach Nathan Morris was careful to balance his hopes for the future with nostalgia for the loss of his seniors.

“We’ve got a good young group,” Morris said, “so we can look forward. But at the same time, I’ve got a couple of seniors on this team, and I’m not looking forward tonight. That would be unfair to Hayley and Carrie.

“But, yeah, I think the future looks bright. We moved up a ninth grader that got some experience this year in the state tournament. We’ve got two-time starters in the state championship game. But for us to look forward right now would be a little unfair to them.


The differences between the two teams weren’t limited to size and experience. Both teams entered the game with opposite strategies, as well. The Lady Eagles wanted to stop post points, while Lonoke was geared to thwarting the Huntsville’s red-hot outside shooting, especially after the Lady Eagles had rained in 21 threes in their previous two games.

Both teams were largely successful, as Lonoke was able to limit Huntsville to just 2-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. But sophomore Martha Robinson was able to get inside for 17 points and 10 rebounds.

“They did a great job inside,” Morris said. “We had a hard time stopping Robinson and Williams. The 10 rebounds Robinson got, to me, was the key in the game.”
Still, Morris acknowledged the success of stopping the long ball.

“They had two three-point field goals. They’re a great three-point shooting team. We had our hands in their face, but we just let them loose one too many times inside.”


Morris, despite the disappointment of losing the state championship game for two years running, was gracious in the pressroom following the game. One question, however, he took exception to, whether he thought Huntsville’s seeming edge in the experience category was a factor.

“I disagree,” Morris protested. “We had two seniors that have been on this floor before. And we had two sophomores that were on this floor as ninth graders last year. Huntsville’s an experienced team, but I don’t think our lack of experience had much to do with it.”


The two coaches, who spent a lot of time in the days leading up to the title game discussing basketball, were a study in contrasts.

Legendary Huntsville coach Charlie Berry, now in his mid-70’s, led the Lady Eagles to a state title first in 1997. He just completed his 47th year in the business.

Morris, in his early 30s, is only in his third season as head coach of the Lady Jackrabbits.

Despite the age difference, and what was at stake in the game, a bond formed between the two coaches.

“Coach Berry and I have actually been hanging out at the hotel,” Morris said after the game. “He kept telling me how good a game it was going to be and I don’t think we disappointed.”

Morris’ career is just beginning. As for Berry, who has contemplated retiring before, it’s hard to say.

“I don’t know,” Berry said. “I’ll talk it over with my wife and then decide. There’s no greater feeling than hearing them play ‘We are the Champions,’ and I told my girls I wanted to hear that one more time.”

SPORTS >>Second time no charm for Lonoke girls

Leader sports editor

HOT SPRINGS – Two trips to Hot Springs have yielded no hardware, just heartache, for the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits.

For the second year in a row, head coach Nathan Morris must cling to the prospects of a bright future as his consolation prize after Huntsville held on for a 44-40 win to capture the 4A championship on Thursday evening at the Summit Arena.

Missed free throws, missed three-pointers and missed lay-ups, combined with the potent inside play of Huntsville sophomore Martha Robinson, resulted in Lonoke’s second narrow loss in as many years in the title tilt. Last season, the Lady ’Rabbits let a 10-point lead slip away in the final period in falling to Central Arkansas Christian.

“Coach Berry and I have actually been hanging out in the hotel the last couple of days, and he kept telling me how good a game it was going to be,” Morris said of Huntsville head coach Charles Berry, who just concluded his 47th year in coaching and won his second state title. “I don’t think we disappointed.”

Lonoke, a team built around its defense, played about as well as it could in slowing down a high-powered Lady Eagles team, which won its final 34 games of the year. The plan was to take away Huntsville’s perimeter game after the Lady Eagles had poured in 21 three-pointers in its previous two state tournament games.

They did just that, limiting Huntsville to just two three-pointers and only eight attempts.

“We were able to impose our defensive game plan on them for a while,” Morris said. “We didgive up some things inside. But we also didn’t give up some things they normally get. They’re a great three-point shooting team and we held them to two.

We held a high-scoring team to 44 points. So, yeah, I thought that part of our game plan was successful.”

But the Lady ’Rabbits failed to account for sophomore post player Martha Robinson, who made 7-of-9 shots for a game-high 17 points, and pulled own 10 rebounds. Jo Beth Williams was the other thorn in the Lady ’Rabbits’ sides, scoring 15 points.

Williams and Robinson accounted for all but 12 of the Lady Eagles’ points. Huntsville outscored Lonoke 13-2 over an 8-minute span late in the third period and into the final period to secure the win.

“Lonoke’s a fine basketball team,” Berry said. “They sure have a lot of quickness on the perimeter and that bothered us some.”
Ironically, it was a three-pointer from Johnna Tenberge in the final minute of the third period that allowed the Lady Eagles to escape their final deficit of the contest. Her bucket tied the game at 32 heading into the final period.

Meanwhile, Huntsville was executing its own defensive plan to perfection, taking away Lonoke’s inside presence by limiting Asiah Scribner and Carrie Mitchell to 12 shots combined. Scribner finished with six points, Mitchell four.

“Our plan was to try to keep the ball away from their big people,” Berry said. “We weren’t going to let [Scribner] have the ball on the high post. We knew they would both give us problems.”

The easy misses that had plagued Lonoke (26-9) the first three periods continued early in the fourth quarter, when sophomore Asiah Scribner missed a lay-up after a nifty weave through the lane 53 seconds in. A minute later, Robinson was collecting the first of two rebound baskets that gave Huntsville the lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“I think at one point in the first half, my assistant coach said that’s six chip shots, six point blank we missed,” Morris said.

“You can’t play a team as good as Huntsville in a state championship game and miss that many of those. You have to make that up in other areas and we just didn’t make enough of those up.”

They didn’t make it up at the line, where they went 3-of-10, or from beyond the arc, where the ’Lady Rabbits connected on only 3-of-14. Senior Hayley O’Cain made two early threes, and had a couple of others rim out in the first half. In the second half, the looks were much more difficult.

“Their defense was pretty tough because they were coming off the screens and were just all over me,” O’Cain said. “When I was open, I took the shots. They just didn’t fall.”

Robinson’s lay-up with 2:25 left in the third quarter allowed Huntsville to close Lonoke’s biggest lead of five points to two, and two free throws by Morgan Myrick tied it 17 seconds later. Lonoke’s Michaela Brown and Tenberge than traded three-pointers to knot the score at the end of three.

“They got an easy stickback that we didn’t get the rebound on,” Morris said of Robinson’s offensive rebounds in the final period. “That was critical. We had a team down, trying to step on their throats. They got a couple of looks late in the third that tied it back up, and they were able to get back in it and stay in control in the fourth quarter.”

Trailing 37-34 with less than two minutes remaining, Lonoke got three chances to narrow the deficit or tie. Freshman Cara Neighbors, who led Lonoke with nine points, found herself wide open after a drive along the right baseline, but her shot came up short.

She missed a putback attempt, and Michaela Brown’s chance at a game-tying three was off the mark. Myrick hit one of two free throws with 1:17 to extend the Huntsville lead to 40-34.

Scribner scored on an end-to-end lay-up with 14 seconds to cut the lead to 42-38, but Johnson hit a pair of free throws to all but seal it with 13 seconds left.

Morris emphasized that experience was not a factor in the contest, despite the fact that Huntsville featured three seniors and two juniors in their rotation while Lonoke played three sophomores and a freshman.

“I disagree with that,” he insisted. “We had two seniors that have been on this floor before. And we had two sophomores that were on this floor as ninth graders last year. Huntsville is an experienced team, but I don’t think our lack of experience had much to do with it.”

So Morris is left with another young, but experienced team that loses only two seniors in O’Cain and Mitchell. With a dandy freshman in Neighbors, and with Scribner, Brown and Himstedt returning, Lonoke should be a serious contender next year.

Morris was willing to hold on to that, but only to a point.

“We’ve got a good young group, so we can look forward,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve got a couple of seniors on this team and I’m not looking forward tonight. That would be unfair to Hayley and Carrie.

“But, yeah, I think the future looks bright. We moved up a ninth grader that got some experience this year in the state tournament. And we’ve got two two-time starters in the state championship game.”

Huntsville 11 9 12 12 -44
Lonoke 10 13 9 8- 40

Huntsville (34-2)

Kaylee Johnson 0-1 3-4 2, Jo Beth Williams 6-16 2-5 0, Morgan Myrick 1-1 4-6 3, Martha Robinson 7-9 3-4 10, Johnna Tenberge 1-3 0-0 2, Leah Cleaver 0-1 0-0 0, Brittney McCone 0-1 0-0 0, Nicole Gurley 0-2 0-0 5
3-pt FG: 2-8 (Williams 1, Tenberge 1); Rebounds: 27 (Robinson 10, Gurley 5); Assists: 2 (Johnson); Steals: 4 (Myrick 2)

Lonoke (26-9)

Michaela Brown 2-6 2-4 4, Ashleigh Himstedt 4-8 0-2 1, Hayley O’Cain 2-10 0-0 4, Asiah Scribner 3-8 0-0 7, Carrie Mitchell 2-4 0-2 5, Lauren Harper 0-1 0-0 0, Cara Neighbors 4-8 1-2 3
3-pt FG: 3-14 (O’Cain 2, Brown 1); Rebounds: 27 (Scribner 7, Mitchell 5); Assists: 4 (Brown, Himstedt, Harper, Neighbors); Steals: 7 (Brown 4)


Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS — Lonoke stayed aggressive. Hamburg panicked.

In the end, both of those factors played into the Jackrabbits’ 47-42 win and the 4A state championship on Thursday afternoon at the Summit. It was Lonoke’s fifth boys title, and its first since 2000.

Hamburg fired up three quick, well-guarded three-pointers over the final 1:31 of the game, missing them all, and Lonoke (30-5) made just enough free throws — 5-of-10 over the last 1:46 — to hold on.

“This team just beat an outstanding, well-coached Hamburg team, Jackrabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We talked about coming in, we had to compete with them on the boards, but someway, somehow we out rebounded them by nine. That was the total key to the game.”

The final rebound count stood at 38-29 in favor of Lonoke.

Spencer, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, was surprised by his totals on the boards.

“Wow, 15? Yes sir, I’d say that was the most rebounds I ever got in a game,” Spencer said. “This feels great. Last year, we finished short. This year, we decided we were going to take it all — that’s what we did.”

Hamburg three-point ace Javarus Curtis had an opportunity to tie the game with 17 seconds left, but his rushed shot from the left wing went sailing out of bounds, giving possession back to the Jackrabbits, who held a 45-42 lead.

Clarence Harris hit the back end of a two-shot foul to push the lead to four, and the Lions once again put the ball in the hands of their surest shot.

He was off the mark again. Spencer iced it with a free throw with 2.4 seconds left, and the celebration began.

The three-point war anticipated by many never came to pass, with a first-half trey from Michael Howard and another by Tony Jackson to close the third quarter as the only two successful attempts for the ’Rabbits from behind the arc. The other 12 missed their target.

Hamburg (23-9) made only 4-of-19.

It wasn’t just three-pointers that were missing the mark for both teams on Thursday. Hamburg made only 32 percent from the field, while Lonoke managed only 30.4 percent. Foul shooting was little better. Lonoke finished 17-of-27, and Hamburg went 10-of-15. Swift jokingly blamed Lonoke’s free-throw shooting troubles on his assistant following the game.

“That’s coach Campbell’s fault,” Swift said with a grin. “He’s our free-throw coach, but he’s not here to defend himself. Again, it’s the stage. They’re not trying to miss, we’re just trying to get them as relaxed as possible.”

He also said the rushed shots from Curtis at the end could just as easily happened to his team in similar circumtances.

“These are teenagers,” Swift said. “Anytime you get down, especially on this stage, the pressure gets to you. It’s happened to us this year.

“This win is a total credit to our defense. We’re a majority man-to-man team. But we have beat a couple of really good teams with what you saw today, which is kind of a 1-2-2 which sometimes flattened out to a 3-2. We beat a really good Wynne team right before Christmas. I thought we were so physically outmatched and they do such a good job of running their man-to-man (offense) that I thought we might try to surprise them a little bit.

“We had notions of going to (man) if we needed to. But they never really went on a big run to show that we needed to get out of the zone.”

The Jackrabbits controlled the momentum for most of the first half, until Quinton Pippen snuck in a three-point shot for Hamburg just before the halftime buzzer to give the Lions a 21-18 lead at intermission.

The held onto the lead until a pair of free throws by Howard at the 3:44 mark put Lonoke on top, 26-25. From there, the lead changed hands six more times during the next seven minutes.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came when Spencer took a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a lay-up and free throw that tied the game at 40 with 4:07 left.

Michael Howard’s steal and feed ahead to Spencer gave Lonoke a 42-40 lead 30 seconds later.

Though Pippen tied the game with a runner in the lane with 2:50 left, Howard’s free throw less than a minute later provided the winning margin. Hamburg never scored again.

Spencer led the Jackrabbits with 12 points, 15 rebounds and two assists. Harris and Howard added 10 points and two steals each.

Lonoke 8 10 16 13 -47

Hamburg 6 15 13 8 -42

Lonoke (30-5)

Bradley Spencer 4-11, 4-5, 15; Tyrone Dobbins 2-7, 2-4, 6; Clarence Harris 3-10, 4-6, 10; Michael Howard 2-11, 5-6, 10;
Jordan Lambert 0-0, 1-2, 1; Tony Jackson 1-3, 0-0, 3; Pierre Smith 0-1, 0-0, 0; Trenton Spencer 0-0, 0-0, 0; Myles Taylor 2-3, 1-4, 5; Amir Fleming 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals: 14-46, 17-27, 47
3-Pt FG: 2-14 (Howard 1, Jackson 1); Rebounds: 38 (Spencer 15, Dobbins 5); Assists: 4 (Spencer 2); Steals: 8 (Dobbins 2, Harris 2, Howard 2)

Hamburg (23-9)

Javarus Curtis 4-13, 0-0, 9; Rodney Brown 2-5, 2-2, 6; Nate Rhodes 1-8, 0-3, 2; Quinton Pippen 4-11, 2-2, 11; Randy Brown 0-0, 4-6, 4; Jarrod Brown 2 -4, 0-0, 6; Reggie Wilson 1-3, 2-2, 4. Totals: 14-44, 10-15, 42
3-Pt FG: 4-19 (J. Brown 2, Curtis 1, Pippen 1); Rebounds 29 (Rhodes 9); Assists: 7 (Curtis 5); Steals: 6 (Rhodes 2, Pippen 2)

EDITORIAL >>Bright future for Huckabee

Our gallant neighbor, Michael Dale Huckabee, ended his quixotic quest for the presidency Tuesday night and retired to his Shady Valley home in North Little Rock, like the original Don Quixote to La Mancha. We hope he does not suffer the disillusionment with chivalric causes that beset the poor Quixote.

There is no sign that he will. Despite a couple of weeks in which he was derided for carrying on when John McCain had the Republican nomination wrapped up and a catastrophic primary night in which he was swamped in four states, including Texas, his second home, Huckabee sounded as exuberant as ever.

With a captive national television audience looking on for the last time, he delivered the longest speech of the night — and he was the biggest loser. He made all his central campaign points, including the harebrained 30 percent-plus national sales tax, and recited enough biblical verses and sports parables to fill 700 Club broadcasts for a week.

Wait, that may be just the point. A few had speculated all along that Huckabee’s goal had been to impress enough with his glibness and folksy humor to get a national radio or television show. He is better than most of the Fox News talking heads.

There is no shortage of right-wing gab artists from mad-dog Willie Cunningham to Rush Limbaugh, but Huckabee comes at you more softly with a (right) wing and a prayer. We can see him replacing the aging and increasingly erratic Pat Robertson, who thought God told him last year to endorse the serial adulterer and grifter Rudy Giuliani for president. Huckabee told news people after his valedictory that if any of the networks were interested he would be by his telephone.

The vice presidency seems to be out. Huckabee makes no one’s list of potential running mates for McCain. He succeeded in marginalizing himself as a religious candidate, which presidential candidates have historically tried to avoid, most lately Mitt Romney. Though he was the last candidate to leave the race, if you do not count Ron Paul, Huckabee hardly endeared himself to the Republican electorate as the legatee for 2012 once John McCain abandons the leadership, one way or another. His claiming the mantle of God’s choice fixed him forever as the candidate of conservative religious orthodoxy. That clearly is not the Republican Party’s future.

It need not have been that way. Huckabee had an appealing argument as a politician who got progressive things done for a needy state in the face of partisan disadvantages. But he ran from that record because some on the right called him a liberal. Too bad.

If he can land a network or syndicated talk show or a good gig in televangelism, second prize will not be too bad. They pay better than president, too.

TOP STORY > >Cabot will decide on new millage

Leader staff writer

Patrons of the Cabot School District will get the chance to help further the district’s growing needs by approving a 3.9 debt-service millage increase Tuesday that would bring Cabot to a total of 39.9 mills.

The additional mills would allow the district to sell bonds and move forward with $50.5 million in proposed building projects. If not approved, construction projects within the seventh largest school district in the state will stall because of the lack of funds, Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said.

Residents can cast their votes at one of two polling sites – the family life center at First Baptist Church, 306 W. Pine Street, or the youth center at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 3105 Hwy. 89.

Although the total cost of the proposed projects is $50.5 million, Cabot’s portion will be less than half — $22 million — because of the state facilities-partnership program.

The requested millage increase of 3.9 mills will generate the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the capital projects, Thurman said.

With the millage increase, Cabot’s total millage rate would be 39.9 mills, remaining the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and placing Cabot at the average millage rate of the top 10 largest school districts inthe state. Cabot is the seventh largest district in the state.

The cost to homeowners for the proposed 3.9 mills is based on the home’s assessed property value. Taxes are based on 20 percent of the assessed property value with one mill being equal to 1/10 of one cent or .001. On a $100,000 home, 3.9 mills would cost an additional $78 a year; broken down, that’s $6.50 a month – less than a quarter a day. Owners of a $50,000 home would pay $39 more a year or $3.25 a month; a $150,000 home – an additional $117 a year or $9.75 a month; a $200,000 home – $156 more a year or $13 a month.

The district has 15 building projects planned using funds gained from a millage increase.
In the list of projects is $2.5 million to pay the district’s share of costs to rebuild Junior High North, still over a year from completion.

Also planned are a $13 million cafeteria/HPER (Health, Physical Education and Recreation center) at Cabot High School; a proposed elementary school on the west side of the district at an estimated cost of $11.4 million; $7.3 million in additional secondary classrooms; a total of $8.1 million in renovations on the high school’s auditorium, science building and agriculture building; a $2.3 million science addition at Junior High South; $600,000 to add heat and air conditioning units to school cafeterias – the only cafeterias currently with heat and air are Stagecoach and Magness Creek Elementary schools.

The list also includes $1.8 million to install heat and air conditioning units in activity buildings around the district; $200,000 for a new roof at Eastside Elementary School; $700,000 to add on to Westside Elementary School; $2 million for a permanent charter school facility; $200,000 for a student area/amphitheater at CHS; and $400,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements and accessibility.

“Taxes are frustrating to everyone. It is important to remember that a local millage election has a direct impact on the local school district and students. Our patrons, with or without children, will see the continued focus on exemplary programs, new facilities and upgrades to our current facilities,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY > >District still can’t get out of court

Leader senior staff writer

Despite attempts to be declared unitary – achieving desegregation – by the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, Pulaski County’s three school districts are likely to be bound by the existing desegregation agreement for at least another year, according to state Rep. Will Bond of Jacksonville.

During Bond’s three terms in the state Legislature, he has worked to encourage Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts to seek unitary status and to make it possible for Jacksonville to carve a stand-alone school district.

District Judge Bill Wilson made achievement of unitary status a prerequisite before allowing an election on the question of forming a new Jacksonville district, but Bond has said that even without such a district, it was time for the districts to be declared unitary and for the state to stop subsidizing them to the tune of about $60 million a year.

Toward that end, Bond passed legislation providing as much as $250,000 in legal fees for districts achieving unitary status by June 14.

But in an order this year, Wilson said he wouldn’t hear the matter until the Eighth District Court of Appeals hears a challenge of the Little Rock case, and that he would not—and wasn’t bound to—hear the unitary status petitions from North Little Rock and PCSSD by the June 14 deadline.

Little Rock was declared unitary last year.

That “essentially puts off a unitary decision by the court until next school year,” Bond said. “(The June 14 deadline) was set like that because it’s the end of the current school year. This pushes the decision back at least another full school year.”


Bond said there seemed to be no disagreement that PCSSD has achieved unitary status in student assignment, which could call in to question the constitutionality of race-based transfers, such as majority-to-minority transfers, and perhaps the notion of magnet schools.

The U.S Supreme Court ruled last year that race-based remedies were legal only where required by court order, which is currently the case for at least PCSSD and North Little Rock.

Bond said he hoped that the state attorney general’s office was meeting with the districts to come up with an agreement to end the case once Wilson is prepared to proceed.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to negotiate a phase-out of state desegregation funding over time,” Bond said. “I think everyone realizes that this is coming to an end pretty soon.”


“I don’t know that anyone is working on a proposal,” said Jones. “I think the attorney general’s office is making the rounds, taking temperature and seeing what the issues are, but nobody’s shown me an outline.”

Jones said he thought Wilson was waiting to see if the federal appeals court gave new standards to apply in its ruling on the Little Rock appeal.

He said Wilson could be hoping or expecting that it could be easier after the ruling to grant unitary status.
“I think oral arguments are this month. I have a feeling that (the appeals court) will rule fairly quickly,” he added.

TOP STORY > >Annexation vote set Tuesday

Leader staff writer

Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents will vote Tuesday on whether or not Gravel Ridge should become part of Sherwood.
Jacksonville has already voted to annex the 2,500-acre rural community of about 3,500.

If most Sherwood-Gravel Ridge voters say yes on Tuesday, then an April 1 vote for just Gravel Ridge residents will decide if the community becomes part of Sherwood or Jacksonville.

If the Sherwood-Gravel Ridge voters say no Tuesday to annexation, then Gravel Ridge will become part of Jacksonville.

“We are excited about this vote,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman who canceled her trip next week to the National League of Cities meeting in Washington because she felt the annexation vote was too important for her to be gone.

“The feedback from both Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents has been very positive,” the mayor said, adding, “We can offer Gravel Ridge lower taxes and better services.”

Former Sherwood Alderman Tom Brooks, who is heading a grassroots effort to bring Gravel Ridge into Sherwood, agreedwith the mayor, saying, “We’re extremely ecstatic about our chances.”

“We’ve spent a great deal of time contacting Gravel Ridge residents and telling them that we’re a better fit than Jacksonville,” he said.

But Brooks was upset with a telemarketing campaign that hit Sherwood about two weeks ago that was very negative toward annexation. The marketing firm that conducted the survey was out of Tulsa, but its president would not release any information about their client.

Brooks compared Jacksonville’s opposition to Sherwood annexing Gravel Ridge to “a blitzkrieg attack,” citing a telemarketing effort to discourage Sherwood residents from taking Gravel Ridge.

Jacksonville officials have denied being behind the phone calls.

Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents may cast their early votes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at the Pulaski County clerk’s office in Little Rock.

Voting sites will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and are located at:

Kellogg Valley Baptist Church 9516 Bamboo Lane, North Little Rock.

Sylvan Hills United Meth-odist Church, 9921 Sylvan Hills Hwy., Sherwood.

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

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

Sylvan Hills Community Church, 8019 Hwy. 107.

Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood.

First Baptist Church of Sherwood, 701 Country Club.

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.

TOP STORY > >Snowfall finds its way to area

Leader staff writer

Enough snow fell in the Jacksonville area midday Friday to allow the firefighters at Station No. 1 on Redmond Road to build a snowman, complete with a firefighter’s hat, in front of the station.

Officially, the National Weather Service said the snowstorm that rolled through the state leaving as much as a foot or more in spots, dropped about two inches of snow on Jacksonville and Cabot.

The weather service said the snow started falling in earnest in the late morning and tapered off by 3 p.m. in Jacksonville, and a little later in Cabot. Snow flurries continued off and on through the evening.

The threat of the snow and traffic problems caused the Pulaski County Special School District and Cabot schools to cancel classes Friday.

Beebe schools were open, but closed about two hours early Friday afternoon.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said she closed city hall offices about 1 p.m. “We have some people who live out of town, and it was a matter of their safety,” she said.

Mayor Tommy Swaim of Jacksonville sent most of his city hall employees home by 3 p.m. for the same reason. Cabot city hall also closed early.

Sherwood, Jacksonville and Cabotpolice said traffic problems were minimal through Friday afternoon.

“We assisted the state police with an accident on southbound Hwy. 67/167 around noon at mile marker six,” Sherwood Police Officer Ryan Baker said. That accident backed up southbound highway traffic two miles for about an hour.

Jacksonville police said accidents started increasing after 1 p.m., but all had been minor.

The weather service said the sun would come out Saturday and temperatures would hit near 40 degrees and close to 50 on Sunday.

The weather service said 18 inches of snow fell in parts of Stone County, 14 inches near Mountain View and up to 12 inches around Marshall.

TOP STORY > >Air base lands another C-130J

Leader staff writer

The 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base received its sixth C-130J aircraft Thursday.

The 41st AS is the newest unit of the 463rd Airlift Group, standing up at LRAFB from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., last April as part of the base realignment and closure process. The “Black Cats” are also the first active-duty combat C-130J Hercules squadron in the Air Force. They received their first new J model last March.

Seven other ultra-modern C-130Js with the 314th Airlift Wing are used for training at the base.

The 41st AS, along with the 463rd Airlift Maintenance Squadron, will be home for the new aircraft, which cost $65 million each.

The C-130J was delivered from the Lockheed-Martin factory in Marietta, Ga., by Brig. Gen. Mark S. Solo, deputy director, Air, Space andInformation Operations, Head-quarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

“This is certainly one of the highlights of my career,” Solo told the small crowd on hand to celebrate the plane’s arrival.

“I have about 5,000 hours in the Air Force and most of it in heavy jet transports, the C5, the C141, C17, so I have no time at all in the Herc and I have absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed the last two days at Lockheed, and now having the pleasure and the privilege to be a part of this ceremony, and bring the aircraft to Little Rock.”

Commander of the 463rd Airlift Group Col. Jeffrey Hoffer ceremoniously accepted the plane at LRAFB.

“There’s a lot of great things going on here, and a lot of hard work, and I can’t be prouder to accept this airplane,” Hoffer said.
Solo praised the Hercules models and the airmen at LRAFB who are employing it.

“The C-130J is a champion of air mobility and intra-theater airlift. Each J-model we receive brings greater range, speed and flexibility to the mobility arsenal,” Solo said.

“It’s an honor to deliver such a vital capability to our warfighters at Little Rock who are employing the J-model in combat today in the war on terror.”

The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130 fleet and will replace aging C-130Es.

The C-130J incorporates state-of-the-art technology to reduce manpower requirements from a five-person crew to a three-person crew – two pilots and a loadmaster, lower operating and support costs, and provides life-cycle cost savings over earlier C-130 models.

Compared to older C-130s, the J model climbs faster and higher, flies farther at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance.

The 463rd AG, the Air Force’s premier C-130 airlift wing for more than 50 years, is a primary component of the global war on terror and the war in Iraq.

It is credited with taking more than 5,200 convoys off the Iraqi roads.

TOP STORY >>Landfill owners defend growth

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council and Mayor Tommy Swaim listened quietly Thursday to a presentation of a possible landfill expansion at the city’s entrance except for objections by aldermen Terry Sansing and Bob Stroud.

Waste Management, the private company that runs the landfill at the intersection of Hwy. 167/67 and I-440, has proposed to expand the dump’s size to almost three times its current capacity.

The private company’s representatives who attended the council meeting said the dump has to expand because I-440 has cut into landfill property, leaving little room to continue hauling trash into Jacksonville.

“This original footprint has been disrupted by I-440,” said George Wheatley, governmental affairs representative for Waste Management. He said I-440 cut into about 50 percent of the original dumpsite.

“We were approached by the Arkansas Highway Department, and we had not alot of choice in that matter,” Wheatley said.
Waste Management wants to expand the dump by 145 acres on its 530-acre Two Pine site in Jacksonville. The permit would ex-pand the landfill to 240 acres with the capacity to hold 21.5 million acres of trash.

The existing landfill is 86 acres. Waste Management has already gotten permission from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to expand 40 acres on the northeast side of I-440.

“Our existing landfill…will be full by September this year,” David Conrad of Two Pine told the city council. He said a bigger landfill would receive an average of 2,000 tons a day.

Neighbors of the existing trash dump have told ADEQ that a bigger dump would depreciate real estate values because of its proximity to nearby homes.

A new development has already been planned on one side of the dump. New homes would be within 500 feet of the expansion.

Jacksonville council members expressed concerns that Dupree Park will be flooded with water from the landfill and also said its visibility from the highway is disturbing.

“That whole area floods,” Stroud said about Dupree Park. “When you increase the footprint, you’re kicking water back into Bayou Meto.”

Conrad said that once it’s fully developed, the landfill would be 117 feet from Bayou Meto and flood channels have been adequately developed and approved by FEMA.

He said all rainwater runs off the landfill and is directed to storm-water basins.

A third-party source then analyzes the water before it is discharged into Bushy Creek and Bayou Meto.

Wheatley and Conrad said Two Pine has plans with the Audubon Society to build a 43-acre wetlands development.

“The landfill will be the dominating view on the horizon,” Sansing said. “Any way you slice it, for the next minimum 40 years, we are going to be dealing with a negative, unsightly mound.”

“I don’t disagree with what you just said…It is a landfill,” Wheatley said.

“We were there first, so we don’t have that 1,000-foot separation,” Conrad said about I-440, whose construction near the landfill required cutting down trees that had previously hidden much of the dump. The original design was the state’s required 1,000 feet from Hwy. 67/167, he said.

“Nobody likes the landfill, but we got to put it somewhere,” Alderman Reedie Ray said. He told Conrad and Wheatley to make it “pretty and green.” He added, “Somebody said not in my front yard, but it’s here.”

Jacksonville residents who were at the meeting wanted to know how the landfill could help the city, which formerly received a host fee, but not anymore.

Any financial help Jacksonville gets is largely indirect.

Jacksonville students are given scholarships that are administered by the city. Wheatley said students have received $380,000 in scholarships.

Waste Management gives the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce $5,000 a year.

Jacksonville pays a dumping fee but is not charged an additional $1 fee per usage other cities must pay. That fee is given to the Pulaski County Regional Solid Waste Management District. Swaim sits on that group’s board.

Public Works director Jimmy Oakley said it’s cheaper for the city to be closer to the landfill.

“Otherwise, it would go to Little Rock,” Swaim said.

“It’s more or less an indirect benefit,” Wheatley said.

“We are the only landfill that generates electricity used as an energy source,” Conrad said. About 4,500 homes in North Little Rock use that energy.

“Turn that toward Jacksonville,” Ray said.

ADEQ has not set a date to decide if it will approve the Two Pine expansion permit. “The state has whatever time they deem they need to make a final decision,” Wheatley said.

“It will be a nice looking facility when it’s all capped and closed,” he promised.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

SPORTS >>Lonoke boys, girls head to Spa City

Leader sportswriter

DUMAS — Dominating the third quarter did not put the game away for Lonoke, but it certainly went a long way toward doing so.

The Jackrabbits survived a frenzied fourth quarter by Arkansas Baptist on Saturday to claim a 55-45 win in the semifinals of the 4A state basketball tournament.

The win secured a spot for Lonoke (29-5) in Thursday’s 4A state championship game against Hamburg, which cruised through Saturday’s semifinals with a 59-32 win over Dardanelle.

The Eagles started a rally to begin the fourth quarter, but when standout senior Pierre Paulk fouled out with 4:41 to play, things looked bleak for Arkansas Baptist.

They did not stay bleak for very long, however. Sophomore Chris Green stepped up for a pair of Eagle baskets that closed Lonoke’s lead to four with 2:44 left to play.

The biggest scare of the postseason for the ’Rabbits arrived at the 1:47 mark of the fourth quarter, when D.C. Green hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Eagles to within a single point at 46-45. It was the closest a Lonoke opponent had been in the fourth quarter since late January.

Seniors Tyrone Dobbins and Bradley Spencer played their normal leading defender roles throughout the state tournament, but had been content to let the ’Rabbits’ talented juniors handle the bulk of the offensive work.

That’s not to say the upperclassmen didn’t roll up their sleeves when needed on the offensive end. Spencer’s free throws with 46 seconds left toplay extended Lonoke’s lead back to five, after a goal by Clarence Harris moments earlier gave the Jackrabbits a 48-45 lead.

Spencer then picked the ball on the Eagles’ inbounds play, and found Dobbins for the lay-up. That pushed the score to 52-45 Lonoke with just under 30 seconds to play, all but putting Arkansas Baptist away.

“We’ve talked about the possibility of a game like this for a couple of months now,” Lonoke head coach Wes Swift said. “When you make a run at any kind of championship, you are going to have at least one game where you don’t play your best, and tonight was that game for us. We’ve said all along that when we had a bad game, we still would have to find a way to win, and tonight we found a way to win.

“Arkansas Baptist played really well,” he added. “We didn’t play bad; we just got down early and had to battle to get it back. We had some good stops when we needed them, and we made some good decisions in the third quarter offensively.”

Green got the Eagles off to a great start in the first quarter. The sophomore scored eight of Arkansas Baptists’ first 13 points in the game, with Paulk making up the rest with a three-pointer at the 5:35 mark, followed by a shot in the lane with 5:08 left in the opening period to push the Eagles to a 13-4 lead.

Lonoke struggled offensively early, but Harris finally got the ’Rabs’ on the board at the 6:24 mark, and Juice Lambert scored inside on the following possession. It was more than two minutes between that goal and the next points for Lonoke, when Michael Howard hit his first of three first-half three-pointers.

Harris added four more points for the Jackrabbits before the end of the first frame to cut Arkansas Baptist’s advantage to 17-14 heading into the second quarter.

The Eagles extended their lead back to five with a basket by Seth Miller to start the second quarter. Green then went on a 5-0 run on his own to push Arkansas Baptist’s lead back to 10 at 24-14 with 4:21 left in the first half.

But Howard came up big again, like he has since the start of district tournament play, hitting back-to-back threes at the 4:21 mark and 3:05 mark.

Myles Taylor converted an old-school three-point play, and Spencer scored the last five points of the half, including a three-pointer with 40 seconds left in the half that gave Lonoke its first lead of the game at 28-26. That was the score at intermission.

“The last three or four minutes of the first half, we just started setting up our posts better,” Swift said. “We started trying to go to our spread game in the fourth quarter, and defensively, we had to press them.”
Dobbins said defense was the key.

“We had to keep focused,” Dobbins said. “Good defense was the first thing, and then Bradley came up with that steal and got it to me for the lay-up, and we kind of got going from there.

“This means everything. We’ve been working towards this since the ninth grade, and we’ve never stopped. We’re going to keep focused and keep working hard, hopefully it will pay off with a state championship.”

Howard and Spencer led Lonoke with 15 points each. Chris Green’s 14 points led Arkansas Baptist. The Eagles finished their season at 25-7.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

SPORTS >>Conway holds off Cabot rally

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers whittled 17 points off a 22-point deficit over a six-minute span against Conway on Saturday night.

But as big as their heart was in the Class 7A state semifinals at Conway High School, the hole they dug themselves through the first two-and-a-half quarters proved just a little bigger. The Wampus Cats ended the Panthers’ magical run with a 67-57 win.

Conway moves on to the championship game Saturday, when they will take on Little Rock Catholic at Summit Arena in Hot Springs. The Panthers end the season 20-11.

“The kids have got a lot of heart and pride,” said Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges. “Down 22, we could have quit. We got it down to five, but we expended so much energy.

“Give Conway credit. But give my boys credit, too. Five years ago, people would have never said Cabot would be in the final four.”

Adam Sterrenberg took over in the second half to nearly single-handedly bring Cabot back from what seemed certain extinction after Conway took a 45-23 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the third period.

That’s when Sterrenberg, who turned in his second consecutive 30-point performance, knocked down the first of his six second-half three-pointers to begin Cabot’s 22-5 run over the next 5:56.

“Adam Sterrenberg is an outstandingplayer, one of the best in our conference,” said Conway coach James Bates. “Our intensity level dropped a little when they made some shots. We knew they wouldn’t quit. Coach Bridges has really got them going over there.”

The Panther press began to pay dividends, though Conway broke it twice for fast break buckets in the quarter. But with Sterrenberg adding three-pointers at the 2:50 mark, and again with 20 seconds left, and at the buzzer, the Panthers clawed back into it, trailing only 50-43 entering the final period.

Sterrenberg’s end-to-end drive after a long defensive rebound cut the lead to 50-45 with 7:16 left in the game.

But Conway had its own star on Saturday in the form of 6-8 post man Terry Tidwell, who dominated on the blocks throughout, and especially in the fourth quarter when the Wampus Cats needed him most. Tidwell finished with 21 points — 10 in the final period — and grabbed 12 rebounds, six on the offensive end.

“He’s played well against Cabot all three ballgames,” Bates said. “We wanted to exploit that. We played as close to perfect as we could in the first half. We got away from that in the second half and then we went back to Terry. You see what he’s capable of.

“[Cabot’s Miles] Monroe got in some foul trouble and so did [Sam] Bates. It seemed like whoever they put on [Tidwell], he was able to make plays down there.”

Bridges agreed that that turned out to be the key to the game.

“We didn’t get our low post established, and they did,” Bridges said. “And whoever can establish that low post first is usually going to control the game.”

Tidwell’s putback of his own miss at the 6:25 mark opened the lead to nine, and Cabot’s own post player, Miles Monroe, fouled out less than a minute later battling Tidwell for a rebound.

Cabot’s final run came after Sterrenberg got a steal in backcourt and was fouled. He had a chance to narrow the margin to four, but missed one of two free throws and Conway held on to a 55-50 lead with 5:00 remaining.

Tidwell pretty much took it on himself at that point, scoring inside, fouling out Sam Bates with 3:04 left, then adding two free throws and a reverse lay-up to put Conway up 61-50 with 2:40 left.

Sterrenberg hit two more three-pointers to get Cabot to within 64-57 with 1:03 left. He got a steal and drove with a chance to cut it back to five, but both of his shots were blocked, and Conway hit 3-of-4 free throws to set the final margin.

Cabot got off to a good start in the contest, and led 10-7 on Austin Johnson’s lay-up with 2:50 left in the first quarter. But Conway’s aggressive man defense slowed down the Panthers for most of the rest of the first half. Meanwhile, the Wampus Cats’ offense began to click, beginning with consecutive three-pointers by Austin Mitchell that gave Conway the lead for good late in the first period.

Conway outscored Cabot 29-11 over the final 10:50 of the first half.

The Wampus Cats dominated on the boards, finishing with a 40-24 advantage.

“We’re going to get into the weight room and put 15-20 pounds of muscle on these guys,” Bridges said. “I think that was a problem tonight. They were stronger physically than us in the post.”

That also allowed the Cats to get to the line much more than the Panthers. Though Cabot made 13-of-15, Conway knocked down 20-of-29.

In addition to Sterrenberg’s 30, Bates added nine, while Derek Clarkson, Monroe and Johnson each chipped in six.

“[Sterrenberg] is special,” Bridges said. “Nobody knows how hard he works to get where he is right now. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to coach him. He’s wowed me a lot the past few years, and I’m glad I’ve got him one more year.”

As for next season, a good nucleus returns. The Panthers lose Bates, Clarkson, Tim Lawrence and Trey Rosel, but return Johnson, Sterrenberg, Monroe and Jack Bridges among players who saw significant action this season.

“This season was fun,” Bridges said. “I probably should have my head examined about why I got back into coaching. But after this week here, that’s why. It was fun and, hopefully, next year, we’ll take it a step further.”

SPORTS >>Freshman leads Lady ’Rabs to finals

Leader sportswriter

DUMAS — Lonoke had a rout going early on, but the Dumas Ladycats did not go down without a fight in the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Jackrabbits (26-8) held on behind freshman Cara Neighbors’ 21 points to secure their second straight berth in the 4A state championship game with a 38-31 win over host Dumas on Saturday.

The win puts them in the state finals on Thursday against the Huntsville Lady Eagles, who sent defending champs CAC packing earlier in the day on Saturday with a big 55-49 win, meaning there was going to be a new state champ regardless of who won the semis finale between Lonoke and Dumas.

The Lady ’Rabs’ looked like they might cruise through the semifinal round, holding Dumas scoreless for the first 9:45 of play. The Ladycats struggled to find looks until 6:15 remaining in the first half, when LaQualia Chatman finally got the first field goal of the night for the hosts.

Up to that point, Lonoke had dominated the inside, rushing out to a 15-0 lead. The Ladycats narrowed the gap to a 21-10 advantage for Lonoke at the half, but their real rally didn’t come until the final frame, when they cut a 30-17 lead to start the fourth quarter down toa narrow four-point advantage for the Lady Jackrabbits with only 36 seconds remaining.

A three-pointer by Dumas sophomore Laneshia Larkins cut Lonoke’s lead to 35-31 in the final minute, but she came up short on two later attempts, while Neighbors and Asiah Scribner padded the Lady ’Rabs’ lead with free throws during their final two possessions.

“We limited their shots early,” Lady ’Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Ashleigh Himstedt did a great job defensively tonight. We did a good job early on of getting rebounds and setting up our shots. We’re just enjoying tonight, and we will get down to the business of Huntsville sometime tomorrow.”

Himstedt had the task of taking on dynamic Ladycat shooter Whitney Hameth, who had lit up the Lady Lizards of Dardanelle the night before with a 42-point performance, but the Lonoke sophomore kept her out of the lanes most of the night. Hameth found her way to the basket only once in the first half, and scored her other three baskets during the second half.

The Lady ‘Rabbit posts dominated the first eight minutes of play. Sophomore Scribner and senior post Carrie Mitchell combined for 10 points during the shut-out frame, while point guard Michaela Brown added a basket midway through the period, and Neighbors put in two free throws to give Lonoke a 14-0 lead.

The looks on the low block didn’t come as easy for Lonoke in the second quarter, but Himstedt stepped up offensively with two big goals at the 5:34 mark and 4:03 mark. Brown assisted her first goal, and Neighbors set her on the second one to give Lonoke a 19-4 advantage.

Larkins closed the tough first half for Dumas strong, scoring two baskets in the final three minutes to make the halftime margin 21-10.

The Ladycats stepped up their game to start the second half. Hameth made her second basket of the night with a bank shot at the 7:12 mark, and a third-try putback by post player Shan Chatman with 6:19 left in the third quarter closed Lonoke’s advantage to 21-14.

The Lady Jackrabbits were held scoreless until Himstedt came through with the first second-half points for Lonoke when she drove the paint for a jumper at the 3:03 mark.

Neighbors then rebounded a Dumas miss and took it all the way for a basket and foul. She hit the free throw, which gave the Lady Jackrabbits a 26-14 lead. She followed that with a steal and a basket on the inbounds play to give the Lady ’Rabbits their largest lead of the second half at 28-14. A three-pointer by Larkins cut it to 11, and a basket for Scribner assisted by a lob from Himstedt put the score at 30-17 to start the final quarter.

“They did a better job of getting through our screens in the second half,” Morris said. “They defended better all around. Plus, Michaela is the type of player that, if she sees something in the defense she doesn’t like, she won’t run certain plays.”
Scribner added 10 points, while Himstedt and Mitchell each added six. Hameth’s 11 points led Dumas, with eight points from Chatman. The Ladycats finished with a final record of 27-5.

SPORTS >>Lady ’Rabbits back for 2nd straight year

Leader sports editor

Nathan Morris isn’t one to shy away from talking about state championships.

“In the fall, in the summer, when we’re weight training, when we’re running sprints, we talk about playing in March, talk about winning championships, talk about hanging banners,” said Morris, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits’ third-year head coach.

“If you talk about it, and teach it and preach it, you can get them to buy into it.”

Morris has just talked his Lady ’Rabbits (26-8) into their second consecutive 4A state title game. Lonoke did something on Saturday no team had ever done before: beat Dumas in their new gym. That victory pits them against Huntsville on Thursday in the 4A championship. Tip is set for 5:15 p.m. at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs, right after the Lonoke boys play for their own state championship against Hamburg at 3:30.

Morris figures his girls have some unfinished business after Lonoke lost a 10-point lead late and fell to Central Arkansas Christian in last season’s final. But, in Huntsville, Lonoke is facing a team with its own impressive pedigree. The Lady Eagles dispatched defending champion CAC on Saturday to snap the Lady Mustangs’ 21-game win streak and extend their own to 33.
“That was a gigantic win for us,” said Huntsville head coach Charles Berry, whose Lady Eagles haven’t lost since dropping early season games to Siloam Springs and Shiloh Christian. “We went 26-2 last year and didn’t make it to state, so that was a kind of a driving force for us.”

The Lady Eagles (34-2) were shocked last season in the opening round of regionals by Booneville. They have come back with a vengeance this season, led by a balanced attack and an experienced roster, which features four seniors and two juniors among their regular rotation. In their 55-49 win over CAC, four players scored in double figures, led by Kaylee Johnson’s 14. In the quarterfinal win over Highland, Jo Beth Williams, one of Huntsville’s post players, did the damage with 18 points.

Other scoring threats Lonoke must contend with are Johnna Tenberge, Martha Robinson (post), and Morgan Myrick. Johnson runs the point.

“We’ve got seven players that play equally,” Berry said. “If you look at Lonoke and look at us, we’re both about the same. We both have good posts. They have more quickness on the perimeter. We maybe shoot it a little better.”

What makes Huntsville dangerous is they are an outstanding perimeter-shooting team, but with good size to go along with it. Berry said his Lady Eagles hit 21 three-pointers in the two games at Dumas last week.

“They’re as tough inside as they are outside,” Morris said. “They all have big numbers as far as height. They’ve got a big sophomore who can get out and guard a point guard. They can all shoot from the perimeter. And if they read a mismatch, they can post somebody up.

“They’ll have a height advantage so we’ll have to utilize our speed. It will be a tough test for us. But I wouldn’t bet against our kids.”

The Lady Jackrabbits, under Morris, have done it with defense first. They are winning by an average score of 45-33 this season, compared to Huntsville’s average scoring margin of 63-38.

But Lonoke has added some scoring punch with the emergence of freshman Cara Neighbors. Apparently undaunted by moving to varsity at a time in the season when the competition becomes more intense, the ninth grader has led the Lady Jackrabbits in four of the seven games she has appeared in.

“We always knew she was a tremendous scoring threat,” Morris said. “And she’s as fast with the ball as she is without it. She’s made a few freshman mistakes, but her positives have far outweighed any mistakes she’s made.”

Morris said Neighbors’ emergence has been a big key, given that most teams focus on stopping sophomore post player Asiah Scribner, inside player Carrie Mitchell and perimeter scorer Hayley O’Cain.

“The scouting report on us is two post players and one shooter,” Morris said. “But now we have Cara. And Ashleigh Himstedt and Michaela Brown can both get to the basket. It seems like they’re all understanding that this time of year, we need certain things to happen. Ashleigh and Michaela are getting a little more offensive minded.”

Morris said it was the first time in school history both the boys’ and girls’ teams have played for a state title. That just speaks to the success of the overall program, he said. He wasn’t sure if the school or town was planning a sendoff or special celebration today or Thursday, he added.

“If they don’t,” he said with a laugh, “that may just mean that people have come to expect us to get there. That’s maybe not so bad.”

SPORTS >>Lions’ size down low a concern

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits will be making their first finals appearance since 2003 tomorrow afternoon at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs, as they take on a physically charged Hamburg team.

The Lions (23-8, No. 1 4A South reg.) skipped through last week’s state tournament in Dumas, beating Stuttgart in the quarterfinal round 64-53 on Thursday before a 59-32 rout over Dardenelle in Saturday’s semifinal game.

The Jackrabbits (29-5, No. 1 4A East reg.) had a tougher time on their way through the final bracket, holding off McGehee in the quarterfinals for a 72-63 win, and watched Arkansas Baptist rally to within a single point during the semifinals on Saturday before pulling out a 55-45 win.

The Jackrabbits played against Pulaski Academy in the 2003 state championship game in the 3A classification, but had to settle for runners-up. It is also noteworthy to mention that for the first time in school history, both the Jackrabbits and Lady Jackrabbits will compete in the state title game during the same year.

According to Hamburg coach Bert Martin, there is no single leading scorer, but rather five starters all capable of putting up similar numbers. He says all of his starters average double digits.

The year may have been balanced, but last week’s games for the Lions were all about Quinton Pippen and Javarus Curtis. Pippen led with 18 points in the win over Stuttgart, as the two shared the honors in Saturday’s blowout over Dardanelle with 17 points each.

“We started out the season without three of our strongest players,” Martin said. “We were super-dependant on Jarvarus then. Since the first of the year we got our kids back, and we’ve been able to have a more balanced attack.”

Martin admitted to knowing very little about the Jackrabbits team. He said he doesn’t have to know a ton of specifics when it comes to Lonoke, he just knows the reputation of the head ’Rabbit, and says that is enough to put fear in anyone.

“I watched them that Friday night,” Martin said. “But no, I haven’t seen or heard much from them this year. I know coach (Wes) Swift, and I’ve seen him coach in the past. They have a good ball team. They have those big kids at the post that they can change out and not lose anything, and they are solid with their guards.”

Lonoke’s win over Arkansas Baptist marked the 17th straight win for the Jackrabbits.
Their most recent loss came at the hands of Newport on Jan. 3, a team they went on to beat four times in a total of five games.

Junior guard Michael Howard serves as leading scorer for the Jackrabbits, averaging a little more than 16 points per game. The ’Rabbits are led defensively by the senior combo of guard Bradley Spencer and forward Tyrone Dobbins, but either player has the capability of 20-plus point performances on the offensive side if the situation calls for it. At post, junior Juice Lambert serves as starter, but freshman Myles Taylor plays about as many minutes on a normal night. Taylor is more aggressive and is capable of more points, but Lambert’s touch on the inside is normally enough to keep him out of foul trouble over the less experienced Taylor.

If the Lions hold the edge on size, Lonoke’s most likely advantage will be its deep bench. Along with post player Taylor, Pierre Smith, along with Lance and Tony Jackson, can defend about as well as their starting counterparts. There is no breakout scoring threat in their 6-9 players, but they have been known to give up even less on the defensive side than that of Dobbins and company.

“There are actually a lot of keys to this game,” Lonoke coach Wes Swift said. “But I think the biggest thing is how physical a team they are. They are really good rebounders; they’re big and strong, and can stall the offensive boards.”
Swift hopes that the speed-over-power scenario will be successful for just one more game.

“Offensively, we are going to try to set up and puncture their zone,” Swift said. “We want to try and score quick before they can get their defense set. We can’t let them get set and then try to jack a three pointer, it just won’t work.”

The Lions and Jackrabbits will kick off the tournament on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

SPORTS >>Devils come up short

Managing news editor

Missed lay-ups and a suddenly hot opponent did Jacksonville in and ended its season Friday night at Hall High School in Little Rock. The Red Devils fell 44-40 to Benton in the quarterfinals of the C lass 6A basketball state tournament.

Over half —24 — of Benton’s points came from beyond the three-point line, and 21 of those points from outside came in the second half.

Jacksonville got a little better from outside in the second half, too, but better than zero is not difficult. The Red Devils attempted five threes in the first half and made none. They attempted 10 in the second half and made two.

They did shoot much better from inside the arc in the second half, but several point-blank misses early in the game likely made the difference.

“Their big boy blocked some shots early in the game and he altered some others,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “He got us a little hurried, we rushed some shots that should have been pretty easy. We made some adjustments and did some things to get him out of the middle, and that created some opportunities for us that we were able to capitalize on.

“We got some open looks and some offensive putbacks because we pulled him out of there in the second half.”

Benton never could establish an inside presence offensively, and it became clear by halftime that it would need to shoot better from outside to win the game. It did, hitting 7-of-10 three-point attempts in the second half.

Jacksonville held Benton superstar and leading scorer Brandon Jones scoreless in the first half, but he still finished with a game-high 15 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. He was held to four shot attempts in the first half and missed two free throws. In the second half he made three straight three-pointers, a driving lay-up and calmly drained four consecutive free throws in the waning seconds to help hold off a Jacksonville comeback attempt.

“They did the things you have to do to win,” Joyner said. “They’re senior-laden and made big shots and made their free throws. We had some defensive breakdowns. We tried to run a matchup zone and had some guys that didn’t jump out on shooters like they were supposed to, and they drained them. My hat’s off to them.”

When Jones hit a three-pointer in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, it was the sixth consecutive successful three-point attempts by the Panthers and it matched their biggest lead of the game at 31-25.

Jacksonville answered with a bucket by Cortrell Eskridge, but Joyner was hit with a technical foul for being out of the coach’s box during Benton’s trip back up the floor.

Kevin Wingerton hit both free throws, but Jacksonville got a defensive stop and scored the next five points to make it 33-32 with 4:10 left in the game.

The Red Devils got the ball back after a Benton timeout with a chance to take their first lead since the first quarter, but Demetrius Harris’ shot attempt with three minutes left was blocked by big Benton sophomore Ben Martin.

Jones then scored his only two-point bucket of the night, Jacksonville’s LaQuentin Miles missed a three and Jones drained a three to make it a six-point margin again in a matter of seconds.

With 1:37 left, Cortrell Eskridge scored and drew a foul from Martin. He hit the free throw to make it 38-35. Benton ran over a minute off the clock before Jacksonville sent Jones to the line with 36 seconds remaining.

He made both, but Cortrell Eskridge answered at the other end. Jacksonville then fouled Wingerton with 18 seconds to go, and he also made both ends of a one-and-one.

Terrell Eskridge then hit a long three-pointer to make it 42-40 with eight seconds to go, but Jones ended Jacksonville’s hopes by making Benton’s seventh and eighth straight foul shots to seal the win.

Both teams struggled mightily from the floor in the first half. The two teams were tied at seven apiece after one quarter, and
Benton took a 14-13 lead into intermission.

Benton went just 4-of-20 from the field in the first half and just 1-of-10 from three-point land. Jacksonville went 6-of-21 from the field and made no three-pointers.

Jacksonville, though, finished 15-of-27 from two-point range, including hitting 9-of-11 attempts from the paint in the second half. It just wasn’t enough to trade two points for three, especially as Benton also found its form from the free-throw line.

Wingerton added 12 points for Benton while Brandon Parker scored 11, including nine from three-point land.
Cortrell Eskridge scored 12 points to lead Jacksonville while Harris added 10.

EDITORIAL >>Embrace gas initiative

Governor Beebe learned this week, like the rest of us, that there are limits to his legendary prowess as a dealmaker. He could not work out a deal with the big energy companies on a reasonable severance tax for them to pay for the vast quantities of natural gas they take from Arkansas soil.

It is just as well. We have our doubts that, even with the exploration companies signing off on a tax increase, he could corral the extraordinary three-fourths vote for the tax in both legislative houses, which our perverse Constitution requires for business taxes.

It will be easy to achieve the other option for building highways, raising taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. If Beebe’s severance tax initiative fails at the general election, which is where the issue is headed, the higher fuel taxes are coming, probably in 2009. The legislature will always raise gasoline taxes because ordinary folks pay them. Every motor-fuel tax proposal the past 40 years has passed. Lawmakers draw the line at taxing big corporations.

Beebe said he would now draft an initiated act and get it on the ballot. It would set the tax rate close to the rates in Texas and Oklahoma, the big gas-producing states to our west. Beebe said his sticking point with the producers in the end was not the tax rate — Texas collects 7.5 percent of the market price of gas and Oklahoma 7 percent — but the companies’ insistence on exempting gas from taxation at every wellhead until long after the companies had recovered their exploration costs at each well. He wanted a shorter exemption. Oklahoma rebates taxes from horizontal wells like those in the Fayetteville shale until the company recovers its investment. Texas allows them to recover half the investment in a well before it taxes the production.

What, you may ask, are we talking about here? The typical exploration cost for a new well in the shale is $3.5 million. (The drillers find gas nearly 100 percent of the time in the Fayetteville shale, although a mechanical failure sometimes causes a driller to abandon a well.) If a new well produces 3.4 million cubic feet a day, like a typical one that came in the other day in White County, the producer at today’s wellhead prices will earn about $24,000 a day from that well and will have recovered its full investment inside six months. After that, it’s all gravy. Gas prices for future delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange are running close to $9 a thousand cubic feet.

Beebe would do well to simply embrace the initiated proposal of Sheffield Nelson, the former gas company CEO who is circulating petitions to put a 7 percent severance tax on the ballot. Nelson would channel only 80 percent of the proceeds of the tax — perhaps $100 million a year — to highways, streets and county roads, and Beebe wants to direct nearly all of it to those purposes. Nelson would send the other 20 percent to colleges and universities to curtail rising tuition at the state campuses.

But we understand that the governor’s pride may not permit his surrendering leadership on a vital public issue to a prominent figure from the other party. He will want to be the undisputed father of a modern highway program that doesn’t burden the motorist and the hard-pressed family. But there will be glory to go around if he can bring about this long-needed reform.

TOP STORY > >County judge is hot contest

Leader senior staff writer

Although at least one good countywide race is promised for Pulaski County, you couldn’t tell it by the filings as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, a Democrat, has filed for reelection and Republican Phil Wyrick, former state livestock commissioner under Gov. Mike Huckabee, has promised to challenge, but has not yet filed.

The filing period opened at noon Monday and closes at noon next Monday.

Other than Villines, the following incumbents have filed, so far without opposition.

Assessor Janet Troutman Ward, a Democrat from North Little Rock.

Sheriff Doc Holladay, a Little Rock Democrat.

Treasurer Debra Buckner, a North Little Rock Democrat.

Several Pulaski County justices of the peace from Sherwood, north Pulaski and Jacksonville areas have filed for reelection.
They include:
Rev. Robert E. Green Sr., a North Little Rock/McAlmont Democrat.

Bob Johnson, a Jacksonville Republican.

Jeff Rollins, a Sherwood Republican.

Dennis Sobba, a Democrat and former Jacksonville Justice of the Peace and now Hill Township Constable, filed for reelection to his constable’s post.

All four of the state’s congressmen have filed for reelection, so far without opposition, according to records of file with the Secretary of State’s Office. They include Dist. 1 Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett; Dist. 2 Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock; Dist. 3
Cong. John Boozman, R-Rogers; and Dist. 4 Cong. Mike Ross, D-Prescott.

All the Pulaski County state representatives cannot run for the House again because of term limits. Filing for the Dist. 43 seat currently held by Democrat Jeff Wood are Jim Nickles of Sherwood, a Democrat, and Tom Raley, also of Sherwood, a Republican.

Filing for the Dist. 42 seat held by Sandra Prater are Val Yagos, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Mary Jane English, a North Little Rock Republican.

Mark Perry, a Jacksonville Democrat, has filed for the Dist. 44 seat held by Rep. Will Bond.

Early voting for the primary election begins May 5 and the primary election will be held on May 20, with polls open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

TOP STORY > >Meth labs popping up again

Leader staff writer

For the past three years, the difficulty of obtaining pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in methamphetamine, together with the influx of inexpensive ice from Mexico had all but shut down local meth labs.

But in recent months, the price of ice has gone up while the quality has gone down and meth cooks and dealers in northern White County are at it again.

In 2006, 10 meth labs were seized in White County. In 2007, that number had more than doubled to 26. But in the first two months of 2008, deputies have already seized 13 labs, half the number seized in all of 2007.

When the state mandated that Sudafed and all other allergy and cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine be kept behind pharmacy counters and sold only in limitedquantities to individuals with proper identification, the production of meth declined.
But Mexican ice quickly filled the void. Furthermore, it costs less and it was of better quality than the meth produced locally, said Chief Deputy Jeremy Clark with the White County Sheriff’s Department.

Users easily became addicted to the ice, which sold for as little as $1,000 an ounce compared to $2,800 for meth, Clark said, and then the price climbed to $1,500 an ounce while the quality declined.

Illegal drugs are a business, and Clark said the “good businessmen” who deal in meth have decided that it is once more profitable to make what they sell.

Before ice went up in price and down in quality, it wasn’t worth the inconvenience or the risk to buy enough pseudoephedrine for a batch of meth.

Now it is, Clark said.

Most of the activity is in the hilly, rural part of the county, he said. But Tuesday morning, deputies were busting a dealer in Searcy.

Clark said the recent arrests are the result of good police work. But residents who notice suspicious activity are encouraged to call the sheriff’s department.

“If their neighbors have a lot of company, especially at night, and they don’t stay more than 15 minutes, they are probably dealing,” Clark said. “We do ask that people (who call with tips) be very patient, though. This guy we’re arresting this morning, I worked on him in 2005.”

TOP STORY > >Cabot gets closer to deciding on millage

Leader staff writer

For less than the cost of a Coke a day, residents in the Cabot School District could further the future growth and needed improvements of the district by voting for the 3.9 debt-service-mills increase in Tuesday’s special election.

The additional mills would allow the district to sell bonds and move forward with $50.5 million in proposed building projects which would benefit not only the students, but residents as well.

Residents can cast their vote at one of two polling sites – the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church, 306 W. Pine St., or the Youth Center at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 3105 Hwy. 89.

“Approval of these mills will allow us to generate needed funds to finance capital projects throughout the district,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said.

Although the total cost of the proposed projects is $50.5 million, Cabot’s portion will be less than half – $22 million – due to the state facilities partnership program.

The requested millage increase of 3.9 mills will generate the $22.8 million needed for the district’s share of the capital projects, Thurman said.

“There is a strong correlation between the quality of the local school system and the quality of the local community. This is exactly why families continue to choose Cabot over other communities,” he said, adding it is the priority of the board members and administration to provide the highest-quality education possible in the best possible facilities.

With the millage increase, Cabot’s total millage rate would be 39.9 mills, remaining the lowest school millage rate in Lonoke County and placing Cabot at the average millage rate of the top ten largest school districts in the state. Cabot is currently the seventh largest district in Arkansas.

The cost to homeowners for the proposed 3.9 mills is based on their home’s assessed property value. Taxes are based on 20 percent of the assessed property value with one mill being equal to 1/10 of one cent For example, a home assigned a value of $100,000 has an assessed value of $20,000 (20 percent). One mill on this home would cost $20 ($20,000 multiplied by .001).
On a $100,000 home, 3.9 mills would cost an additional $78 a year; broken down, that’s $6.50 a month – less than a quarter a day. Owners of a $50,000 home would pay $39 more a year or $3.25 a month; a $150,000 home – an additional $117 a year or $9.75 a month; a $200,000 home – $156 more a year or $13 a month.

“Taxes are frustrating to everyone. It is important to remember that a local millage election has a direct impact on the local school district and students. Our patrons, with or without children, will see the continued focus on exemplary programs, new facilities, and upgrades to our current facilities,” Thurman said.

The district has 15 building projects planned using the funds gained from a millage increase.
Obligations include $2.5 million to pay the district’s share of costs to rebuild Junior High North, still over a year from completion.

Also planned are a $13 million cafeteria/HPER (gym) at Cabot High School; a proposed elementary school on the west side of the district at an estimated cost of $11.4 million; $7.3 million in additional secondary classrooms; a total of $8.1 million in renovations on the high school’s auditorium, science building and agriculture building; a $2.3 million science addition at Junior High South; $600,000 to add heat and air conditioning units to school cafeterias – the only cafeterias currently with heat and air are Stagecoach and Magness Creek Elementary schools.

The list also includes $1.8 million to install heat and air conditioning units in activity buildings around the district; $200,000 for a new roof at Eastside Elementary School; $700,000 to add on to Westside Elementary School; $2 million for a permanent charter school facility; $200,000 for a student area/amphitheater at CHS; and $400,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements/accessibility.

Thurman note that residents’ property values have increased, saying “a quality school system ensures that property values will continue to rise.”

With or without children in the Cabot school system, Thurman said the city of Cabot will continue to be a quality community in which to live and play.

“Our district takes great pride in partnering with the city of Cabot to provide structured activities for local youth,” he said.
The district hosted 28 youth league football games last fall at Panther Stadium and 204 basketball games in district gyms, Thurman said. The gyms are used by the public for 13 weeks for a total of over 624 hours.

“We have also partnered with the city to host 40 games on our baseball and softball fields,” he added. Thurman said research has shown that students that are involved in extra-curricular activities such as athletics, fine arts or ROTC programs have better school attendance, grade-point averages and discipline records.

“The district appreciates our partnership with the city of Cabot parks and recreation department, since working together to provide access to programs will provide students with a sense of belonging in structured, supervised activities,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY > >Congress, Pentagon want more C-130Js for military

Leader senior staff writer

The C-130J airlifter “represents America’s best technology and capacity,” Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley told the House Armed Services Committee last week in the early wrangling to secure future funding, and he said the Air Force wants to extend production of the C-130J beyond expected end of production in 2010.

Currently the Air Force is set to take delivery of eight more C-130Js by the end of 2010, two of them for the Marines, at a cost of $576 million.

But Air Force officials are negotiating on the price with Lockheed Martin, which offered last fall to sell the military an additional 120 C-130Js between 2011 and 2015 for $6.1 billion.

That’s about $50 million per plane, which is about $10 million a plane less than the current price.

“The C-130J is a great new airplane that is performing very well in war environments,” said Cong. Vic Snyder, chairman ofthe
House Armed Services oversight subcommittee. Little Rock Air Force Base is in Snyder’s district.

All U.S. and allied C-130 pilot, crew and maintenance training is conducted at LRAFB, considered the premiere C-130 base in the world.

“More C-130J’s would probably mean more work for LRAFB,” the congressman said, “but procurement decisions must always be made based on what is in the national security in-terest of our nation, not the parochial interest of one congressional delegation or one base.

“I defer to the Air Force analysis regarding what they believe their long-term transportations needs are,” Snyder said.

He said the older, Vietnam-era C-130Es need to be retired and replaced by modernized H models and the C-130J.

“General Moseley and Air Force Secretary (Michael) Wynne are strong advocates for extending the C-130J line,” said Snyder. “It is not at all surprising, given the importance of reliably moving equipment and personnel, that additional planes may be forthcoming.”

The C-130J, which proponents say has proven itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in competition against other big-ticket items, including the C-17 airlifter, the F-22 Raptor jet fighter, other weapons systems and personnel increases—and that’s just in the Air Force.

“We must maintain and extend the existing product line,” Moseley said in a prepared statement.

Under the proposal, Lockheed Martin would build and sell the Air Force 24 C-130Js a year for five years between 2011 and 2015.

It is building about 12 a year at about $60 million each.

Wynne added, however, that the Air Force was “trying to make sure we have a need” for that many new C-130Js.