Friday, November 28, 2008

SPORTS>>Former Jacksonville star lifts Trojans past ’Jays

Arkansas-Little Rock sports information

UALR junior and former Jacksonville Red Devil Mike Smith got an offensive rebound and a putback with 6.4 seconds left to lift the Trojans (4-0) to a 71-69 victory over Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite Creighton (3-1) on Tuesday night at the Jack Stephens Center.

UALR got off to a slow start and trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but rallied behind a dominating presence on the inside. The Trojans enjoyed a plus-20 rebounding margin over the Bluejays (46-to-26), scored 44 of their 71 points in the paint, and converted 15 offensive rebounds into 24 second-chance points. In the second half alone, the Trojans outrebound Creighton 25-to-9.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys tonight, and that is 1 through 14,” said UALR head coach Steve Shields. “We were very tenacious tonight as a basketball team. We faced a lot of adversity early on. We couldn’t get the ball to fall and they were making some shots, but we stayed with it.”

Smith, who was a game-time decision to play, recorded his sond double-double of the year with a 12-point, 10-rebound performance, while sophomore Matt Mouzy went 3-for-7 from three-point range en route to a team-high 15 points.

“We certainly needed (Mike) tonight, and he stepped up big,” added Shields.

UALR’s deficit reached as high as 16 points, 34-18, after a putback by Chad Milliard with 5:05 to go, but the Trojans rallied behind the play of Courtney Jackson. The freshman from Paris, Texas went to work on the inside and scored eight of UALR’s next 14 points as the Trojans closed out the half on a 14-5 run to pull within seven at the break, 39-32.

UALR continued to whittle away at Creighton’s lead by going 8-of-12 from the field at the start of the second half. Down 53-44, Mouzy connected on back-to-back three pointers to pull the Trojans within three, 53-50, with 11:34 to play.

Trailing 64-63, Courtney Jackson hit a hook shot from in close to give the Trojans a 65-64 lead with 2:10 remaining – their first since leading 2-0 at the start of the game.

Creighton earned two trips to the line, but went just 2-of-4, to reclaim the lead 66-65 with 1:39 to go. UALR went to Smith on the next trip down the floor and he got behind his man and delivered a bucket in the paint to give UALR a 67-66 lead. After a missed jumper by Josh Dotzler, junior Steven Moore went to the line and sank a pair of clutch foul shots to make it a 69-66 contest with 47.5 seconds to go.

In addition to their strong play on the inside, the Trojans outshot Creighton 49.2 percent to 40.0 percent on the night. UALR shot 53.3 percent in the second half and held the Bluejays, who came in averaging 83 points per game, to a .370 field goal percentage in the second half.

“They are a very good basketball team with a lot of skill. They are one of the best-coached teams in the country,” said Shields.

“I have a ton of respect for Dana Altman and the job that he has done over the years at Creighton.”

UALR returns to action on today when it welcomes Loyola Marymount to the Jack Stephens Center at 7 p.m.

SPORTS>>Falcons opt for deliberate style in victory

Leader sportswriter

With North Pulaski outsized at every position on the court, the Falcons turned to a slow-down game and good shot selection to get past Jacksonville, 49-43, on Tuesday night at the Devils’ Den.

The game featured some of the furious full-court action that has come to be a trademark of the cross-town rivalry, but mostly the 4-0 Falcons tried to be deliberate to overcome the Red Devils’ advantages.

“We’re not going to win the rebounding battle,” said North Pulaski head coach Raymond Cooper. “Their guys are big, they’re strong and they’re aggressive. We knew we had to be really patient. In the first half, we were settling for a lot of jump shots, and we were settling for a lot of forced shots.

“Even when we got inside on them, we were forcing it. We just told them to keep working the basketball. Get something good, and then make it.”

The Falcons did, in fact, win the rebounding battle in the second half when they grabbed 19 caroms to Jacksonville’s 10, though the Red Devils won the first-half battle of the boards 17-9.

North Pulaski gave up as much as four inches of height in some matchups, and a full 16 inches in the matchup between 6-4 Jacksonville guard DeShone McClure and 5-foot North Pulaski guard Joe Agee.

The Falcons took only five shots in the first 5:48 of the fourth quarter, but made all of them to turn a 36-35 deficit at the start of the final period into a 45-38 lead at the 3:43 mark.

Junior guard Aaron Cooper gave the Falcons the second-half momentum after he scored eight of his game-high 18 points from the 3:43 mark of the third quarter to the final minute of the game, when he hit both ends of a one-and-one for a 49-41 Falcon lead.

Cooper also led in assists with four, and came away with seven rebounds. Six of those were in the second half.

“He’s been starting since he was a freshman,” coach Cooper said. “This is his third year over here. He’s been in this kind of battle before. You know, they blocked his shots a couple of times, and he’s just not going to rattle. He did a good job tonight.

We talked to him about staying out of foul trouble and watching the turnovers. He had a couple there late, but that’s going to happen as many times as he handled the ball.”

Despite his team-high 17 points, McClure, Jacksonville’s scoring ace, struggled from the floor. He went 0 for 4 from three-point range in the fourth quarter, and the smaller Falcons stormed the paint for defensive rebounds to keep Jacksonville post players Antonio Roy and Antwon Lockhart out of the mix late.

The uptempo play of the first quarter allowed the Red Devils to rush to a 17-14 lead before North Pulaski began to spread the floor in the second period.

The first-half battle ended in a 26-26 dead heat. North Pulaski’s T.J. Green came off the bench in the second half to set the tone in a big way with a three-point basket at the start of the third quarter to give the Falcons a 29-28 lead.

Green saw plenty of court time on Tuesday with all-conference junior forward DaQuan Bryant in and out of the game due to early foul trouble. Even with limited play, Bryant finished with eight points, with four points from Jerald Blair and Bryan Colson.

After North Pulaski jumped out to an early lead, the Red Devils finished the first quarter on a 9-2 run. It turned out to be the best period for Jacksonville, shooting-wise, with LaQuentin Miles, Darius Morant and even big man Lockhart hitting three-point shots. Morant set up Demetris Harris’ only score of the night with a steal and assist that ended with the football senior jamming it through just before the buzzer.

For Jacksonville, Lockhart added six points and six rebounds, Antonio Roy had seven points and four rebounds and Miles had six points and five assists. The Red Devils are now 1-1.

Keeping focus in the face of a raucous capacity crowd and an opposing team full of familiar AAU buddies was the key to the game, Cooper said.

“We know each other so well,” he said. “There’s nothing we’re going to do to surprise each other. It was just going to boil down to who made a few plays down the stretch. And tonight, our guys stepped up and hit a few big buckets.”

SPORTS>>From top to bottom, sports figures have reasons for thanks

Leader sports editor

Though Thanksgiving is now two days behind us, I thought it might not be too late to consider just what the sports world has to be grateful for in 2008.

Vic Joyner, Jacksonville head basketball coach – That the Arkansas Activities Association decided against including UCLA and Kansas alongside Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Hall among the new teams being added to the unbelievably difficult 6A-East this season.

Denny Tipton, Sylvan Hills head baseball coach — That, with a 2008 state title already in his pocket, he still has another season of ace D.J. Baxendale on the mound … and in a lower classification this year.

Private football schools around the state — That the cost of gas has fallen so dramatically just as recruiting season gets under way.

Bart McFarland, former Searcy head football coach — That, with his resignation tendered and accepted, the yahoo hate-mongers who all but set fire to the trees in his front yard, will turn their demented focus on someone or something else.

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss football coach — That Arkansas rode him out of town just as the cupboard went officially bare in Fayetteville, while Oxford welcomed him with a fully stocked pantry, compliments of former coach Ed Orgeron; that when Ole Miss blocked the extra point that handed Florida its lone loss this season, he “called that play.”

Ole Miss football fans — That for every low that accompanies an unexpected and disappointing loss under Houston Nutt, they can count on an equally unexpected and thrilling win over a top team just around the corner.

Unemployed mathematicians — That, with the BCS college football season figuring to end in the most muddled mess since the system that could stagger Pythagoras was created, thousands of their profession will be needed to unmuddle the mess.

NFL fans — That the league and the networks once again showed us the winless, luckless, hapless and listless Detroit Lions this Thanksgiving Day, making it easier to comply when girlfriends and wives demanded they “turn off the stupid game and listen to Uncle Louie’s colonoscopy story.”

Pacman Jones, oft-suspended but just-as-oft-reinstated Dallas Cowboy defensive back — For the NFL’s 23-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

John Daly, former lovable, grip-it-and-rip-it golfer, now tiresome waste of talent — For Australia, the last remaining continent on which he is not only allowed to compete but is not wanted for sundry felonious behavior.
Tiger Woods, greatest golfer ever — For possessing a talent so eclipsing that he can win on one leg, for his stunningly gorgeous wife, for his ridiculously adorable daughter, for having enough money to buy diamond-encrusted, gold ball markers that cost more than my house, for … well, simply for being the most blessed man in the history of the universe.

Wally Hall, sports columnist — For having a tap dancing cat that walks across his keyboard every night and cranks out another amazing column.

Peyton Hillis, Denver Bronco running back — For staying healthy enough to out-gain more-famous Arkansas Razorback alumni Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboy quarterback — That, though he injured his little pinky and missed three games, his index fingers remain healthy, allowing him to plug his ears when girlfriend Jessica Simpson begins nattering.

Seattle sports fans – That, with the Washington Huskies (0-11), Seattle Seahawks (2-10) and Seattle Mariners (61-101) combining to go 63-122, the Seattle Supersonics had the decency to split town for Oklahoma City, where they are carrying on the tradition with a 1-15 start.

Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams — That, despite being among the very worst teams in the NFL, each can make a valid claim to being the second-best team in the state of Missouri … behind the Missouri Tigers.

SPORTS>>Saints rout ’Rabbits

Leader sportswriter

SPRINGDALE – Shiloh Christian had little trouble spreading the wealth during the its 47-7 win over Lonoke in the 3A state quarterfinals on Friday night at Champions Stadium.

Five of their six touchdowns in the first half came through the air, all to different receivers. Those scoring strikes also came from two different sources, as the Saints (11-1) went on to set the final margin before the half.

The Saints defense also had a dominating night, holding the Jackrabbits (10-2) to only 244 yards, 140 of which came in the second half. None of it came on the ground.

“Offensively, defensively, they just dominated us,” said Lonoke coach Jeff Jones. “They hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t like it. We couldn’t do anything about it. They’re a great football team, bottom line. They are a better team up front, and we didn’t have an answer at all.”

Lonoke’s only score of the night came on an 84-yard kickoff return by senior Lance Jackson at the 4:11 mark of the first quarter. That cut Shiloh Christian’s early 10-0 lead to three after a successful point-after kick by Sam King, but the Saints’ next six scores went unanswered. That included a blocked punt for a safety to start the second quarter.

The clock ran continuously in the second half after Shiloh Christian secured a 47-7 lead by halftime.

The Jackrabbits never stopped trying to close the gap in the second half despite staring down a 40 point deficit coming out of the locker room. The running clock limited them to just three possessions in the second half, and Lonoke drove the ball to the Saints’ red zone each time.

The first drive ended with a pass to Michael Howard that fell two yards shy of the markers at the Saints’ 14-yard line. The second drive stalled at the Shiloh Christian 22 and the final drive ended the season for Lonoke as time expired after an incomplete pass from senior quarterback Rollins Elam to Howard in the end zone.

With the Saints holding Lonoke to minus one yard rushing, the Elam-Howard connection was the only effective weapon for the Jackrabbits. Howard ended with 14 receptions for 155 yards.

Elam, Howard, Joel Harris and Clarence Harris made up a strong senior core that helped lead the Jackrabbits to the 2-4A Conference championship, Lonoke’s first title in eight seasons.

“They had an outstanding year,” Jones said. “And that’s what I told them. To come out in the second half, and us leave the field with some dignity. I’m proud of the way they finished.”

Elam finished 22 of 37 passing for 245 yards.

Saints quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and David Matthews split the time behind center. Frazier led the opening drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal, and had the only rushing touchdown for Shiloh Christian with a 10-yard scramble at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter.

Matthews had three passes for touchdowns, including one from the halfback slot after a toss from Frazier. He found Jake Ryan for a 73-yard score with 11:11 to go in the first half to put the Saints up 24-7.

Shiloh Christian finished with 506 yards of total offense.

“We’re really proud of our guys,” said Saints coach Josh Floyd. “We’re a little disappointed that they had the kickoff return on us, because we talked about it all week that the special teams could help us because they are very good on kick returns. I’m really proud of how our defense played. To have a shutout on those guys is unbelievable. No offense to our kids, but we sure didn’t expect this. We would have been excited if we held those guys to three or four touchdowns, really.”

Shiloh Christian’s dominant defensive line, led by left tackle Samuel Harvell, kept the pressure on Elam all night, sacking him three times and allowing no Lonoke runner to rush for positive yardage.

“We tackled well, and that was a big concern for us coming in,” Floyd said. “They have so much athletic ability, and a lot of big-time receivers with speed that we’re really not used to seeing. Our defensive backs missed a few tackles, but overall I thought they played really well.”

TOP STORY > >Health care for children above national average

Leader senior staff writer

The dirty secret about the 66,000 Arkansas children without health insurance is that 90 percent of them live in a home where at least one parent works full time year-round.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln and others in Congress want to change that after the first of the year.

Left Behind, a study by Families USA using census data, revealed that 9.2 percent of Arkansas children lack health coverage compared to 11.2 percent of all children in the United States. Arkansas is 25th in the nation in terms of the percentage of children with healthcare coverage.

Other than age, income is the primary qualification for Arkids First, Arkansas’ version of the State Children’s Health Improvement Program. The federal poverty line is $21,200 for a family of four and to qualify for the program, a family must earn less than twice that amount.

Two-thirds of the children without health insurance qualify.

Both Houses of Congress passed an expanded version of the program in the last session and twice President Bush vetoed it. It is set to expire March 31.

“We have to deal with this quickly,” Lincoln recently said in a telephone interview. “(President-elect) Obama says it’s a big priority, early. The speaker (Nancy Pelosi) has echoed that.

“He wants to hit the pavement running,” she said. “We want to be prepared.”

Lincoln said the bill likely to be passed would extend and expand coverage. In Arkansas, another 22,400 children would be covered.

As for the expanded nature of the coverage, it would include “dental, mental and care for expectant mothers,” Lincoln said.

She said that children with good health care, including prenatal care, dental care and mental health care do better in school and have better life prospects.

“All parents want the peace of mind that comes with health care for their families. This is one of the best investments we can make.”

Rep. Mike Ross said health care is particularly difficult in these rougheconomic times. “Actions we do in October will avoid a 21st Century great depression,” Ross said.

“We are six months or a year-and-a-half from seeing the worst time,” he said. “We need to jumpstart the economy.”

He said he thought Arkansas could get $1 billion from the federal government as a share of the infrastructure stimulus package that President-elect Obama had promised.

Lincoln said the expanded SCHIP program is an important but incremental step. But that regarding a broader restructuring of the nation’s health-care system, she said she is optimistic.

Of Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick for secretary of Health and Human Services Department, Lincoln said, “He gets it. He understands…what the need is and more importantly, what we have to do to make that happen. We had eight bipartisian hearings last year and we’re ready to move ahead…to get better coverage at a lower cost.”

Lincoln said she wanted to make sure that small business has a place to go for reasonably priced plan.

“We did our homework last year,” she said.

TOP STORY > >District jobs may be on the line

Leader senior staff writer

Jobs or contract renewals of top Pulaski County Special School District administrators could be on the line when the school board meets in special session at 6 p.m. Monday.

Some board members question whether Superintendent James Sharpe and other administrators moved quickly enough to move children out of harm’s way after engineers in September questioned roof safety at two Pulaski County Special School District elementary schools, and Sharpe has commissioned a study into who knew what, and when.

Last month, the board went into executive session at a special meeting to consider firing Sharpe, but emerged and said they would consider his employment at a future meeting.

Also on the agenda for the special meeting Monday are status reports on the Crystal Hill and Clinton Elementary School roof repairs. Crystal Hill students are temporarily attending class in portable classrooms set up at the Maumelle Elementary School and Clinton students are attending class at the North Little Rock Assembly of God.

Engineers for Baldwin and Shell have inspected the roofs and said it would take six to eight weeks to fix the Crystal Hill roof and four to six weeks to fix the Clinton roof.

The board recently hired Sam Jones, the district’s lawyer on desegregation issues, to review the contracts of district administrators.

Jones’ orders are to review those contracts of “the superintendent, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent, executive directors and directors of PCSSD with reference to board policies, contract language and the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act in order to advise the PCSSD Board of the legal authority to act on personnel issues concerning those positions.”

Personnel is also on the agenda, which covers the board if it decides to consider the contract of Sharpe or any of the others.

Assistant superintendents and directors include Brenda Bowles, assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services; Deborah Coley, assistant superintendent for human resources; Larry O’Briant, chief financial officer; Beverly Ruthven, deputy superintendent for learning services, and James Warren, executive director for support services.

TOP STORY > >Developers want state to buy land

Leader staff writers

The Sherwood area developers who asked the city council Monday to take the North Belt Freeway route off the city’s master street plan might be satisfied if state highway and transportation authorities would specify exactly where in a 200-foot-wide swath that highway would be located, then promptly buy the right-of-way, Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said Wednesday.

This second leg of the North Belt Freeway would help alleviate congestion on I-40, bringing it through the northern reaches of Sherwood.

The developers say they can’t develop their land as long as the North Belt Loop is part of the master street plan and that the state appraisers have “low-balled” the value of that land.

But to remove it from the plan could endanger the long-planned project.

Developers insisted that they have been in limbo for almost two years and cannot afford to leave their property undeveloped.

No action was taken on the master street plan Monday night, but some action will have to be taken at the December meeting.

Michael Marlar, president of Marlar Engineering, said the Highway Department’s plans would land lock 200 acres of the best residential acreage in the city.
Gregg Mueller with the Ashley Group said that the developers own 63 acres near Hwy. 107 and Brockington Road.

It would require conversion of 707 acres of right-of-way, according to the environmental-impact statement.

“We only got the (federal) record of decision in September,” said Randy Ort, Highway Department spokesman. Until then, the department couldn’t precede any farther. “If the city takes it off the master street plan, then it may not get built,” Ort said.

“That’s a local issue. The city needs to deal with that. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to the point where we are now,” he added.

Ort said that now that the alignment of that highway from Hwy. 67/167 to I-430 at Crystal Hill had been federally approved, the engineers could begin to develop the exact path.

“There will be public meetings and public input as well,” Ort said, before the engineered route is approved.

“This is not the time for the city to be backing off the North Belt,” Hillman said. We already passed a resolution (in 2007) saying we approved of (the route). It’s a very touchy issue.

“I’ve got an email from the city planner and we will talk with the Highway Department before the next council meeting,” Hillman said.

Developers told her that their properties had been assessed for the Highway Department at about one-fifth the value they believed they should be.

The Highway Department has earmarked $4 million to begin buying right- of-way, but Ort said Friday he didn’t know if the money was actually available.

“The key is the rapid acquisition of the right-of-way,” said Jim McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan.

“My understanding is that the city had endorsed the route and to the best of my knowledge, they intend to stand by that,” McKenzie said.

The 12.7-mile project will cost an estimated $347 million.

Of that, $320 million would be for construction, $14.8 million for right-of-way, $10.9 million for utilities and $1 million for relocation costs.

The route east from I-40 at Crystal Hill was described like this:

From the western end of the proposed project at Interstate 40, the preferred alternative goes to the northeast through the Crystal Hill community to an interchange at Hwy. 365.

From there, it continues to the northeast into Camp Robinson, passing to the southeast of the Camp Robinson Army Airfield.

Briefly turning to the southeast then east, the route passes to the north of Engineers Lake before turning to the northeast again to cross Batesville Pike just to the north of Maryland Avenue and the North Little Rock Municipal Airport.

Part of the route includes relocating a portion of Batesville Pike outside Camp Robinson.

From the Batesville Pike interchange the route continues northeast, to the west of Wayside Drive, and crosses Kellogg Acres Road just to the north of the intersection with Oakdale Road. It continues east just north of Oakdale Road and then southeast with an interchange proposed at Hwy. 107.

The preferred alternative turns to the northeast when crossing Fears Lake and back to the southeast, crossing Oneida Street before connecting with the Hwy. 67 interchange.

TOP STORY > >Officials hope for stimulus funding

Leader senior staff writer

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promise a massive new infrastructure stimulus-spending plan to jump-start the economy, but so far local agencies can only speculate how that would affect them.

The federal government could pump as much as $700 billion into the economy, funding roads, bridges, trains, mass transit, schools, power plants, transmission lines and energy-efficient homes.

But the details are too few to move the Arkansas Education Department, the state Highway and Transportation Department or
Metroplan far down the proverbial road.

While school facilities throughout Arkansas need remodeling or replacing, state Education Department officials seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. “I haven’t heard any discussion about it,” said Gayle Morris, an Education Department spokesman.

Highway and Metroplan officials agree that as far as roads or bridges, any money would be aimed at projects that have been through environmental andplanning stages. For the money to flow and have any effect on the economy, it must fund projects that lack only the money to move forward, according to Jim McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan. Metroplan is the local metropolitan planning organization that must sign off on road and highway projects funded through the federal government.

State Highway Depart-ment spokesman Randy Ort says he hopes there will be a stimulus package with money for highways.

“We would hope it would come for highways. We have informed our umbrella state agencies that we have 100 projects waiting on funding that total more than $700 million,” Ort said.

“If we did receive money, we could put it to work immediately, putting people to work,” Ort said. Locally, new funding could expedite the widening of state Hwy. 107 from Bearpaw to Brockington. The money could also move up the widening of southbound Hwy. 67/167 from Redmond Road to Kiehl Avenue.

“We still have a public hearing to go on that one,” Ort said.

“We’re just trying to figure out which way the world’s turning,” McKenzie said.

“Nobody has a handle on what it looks like and we’ve been talking to congressional staff,” McKenzie said this week. He said the total stimulus package looked like it would be “at least half a trillion dollars, but you have bankrupt automobile companies and suppliers, it could approach a trillion.”

McKenzie said he thinks the infrastructure money would be available for projects ready to go to contract within 180 days.

“Most of the ready-to-go, easy projects are street and bridge overlays, routine maintenance, bridges in particular,” he added.

Those would be more the purview of cities and counties. “The North Belt (Freeway) would not meet criteria,” McKenzie said.

“It’s not even ready to buy right-of-way.”

McKenzie said the bigger the stimulus bill was, and the longer it stretches out, the greater the likelihood that money would be available to fund the final $340 million of the North Belt Freeway.

“It’s going to be competing with a lot of projects,” McKenzie said, not just other highway projects but extended unemployment compensation, medical coverage, new schools, water projects and who knows what else.

“If you dump a lot of public-works money in, there may not be enough people to do the work all at once,” he said. “Right now it’s all a big unknown.”

Also, Obama has a significant climate-change initiative, McKenzie said, and there is some talk of limiting the money to projects that wouldn’t hurt the climate. That would eliminate new capacity. Using that consideration, repairing I-40 would be all right, but completing the North Belt Freeway or widening freeways and bridges might not.

“One of things we’re clearly going to be working on is moving forward with regional arterial projects—not highways—like the plan to widen Brockington Road in Sherwood,” McKenzie said.

TOP STORY > >Construction down double digits

Leader staff writer

New construction is down, but Jacksonville seems to be feeling much less of the brunt than Sherwood or Cabot; both have seen drops around 60 percent. Jacksonville has fallen just 23.5 percent.

Sherwood saw $66.5 million worth of construction through the first 10 months of 2007, which includes a Walmart Supercenter, but for the same period this year has logged in just $21.7 million — a 68 percent drop.

Cabot had $41 million worth of construction in the first 10 months of 2007, which included the $9.4 million rebuilding of Cabot Junior High North, but is down to $17.3 million, a drop of 58 percent.

In Jacksonville the slide has not been so steep. For the first 10 months of 2007, the city had $26.9 million in new construction, and this year it has seen $20.6 million in construction, which includes more than $3 million for the new library.

Austin has seen a drop of more than $2 million in construction, going from $4.18 million in August through October 2007 to $1.92 million for the same time period this year.

Even Ward has seen a drop in construction. For August through October 2007, the city had $2.09 million in construction, but that fell to $1.55 million for the same three months this year.

Not only is the total value of construction down, but so are the number of permits in Cabot and Jacksonville.Cabot has gone from 250 permits issued through October 2007 to 129 for the same time period this year. Jacksonville has dropped from 263 permits to 195 and Austin went from 34 permits in August through October 2007 to 14 permits those months this year.
Ward went from 31 permits issued in August through October 2007 to 18 forthe same time period this year.

Sherwood actually has issued six more permits this year, standing at 554 compared to 548 last year, but more of this year’s permits have been for remodeling rather than new construction.

For the month of October, Cabot leads other cities in the area in value of its construction permits, standing at $4.5 million, which includes $1.74 million for a new hotel.

That $4.5 million nearly triples up on Sherwood and is about nine times more than Jacksonville’s amount for the month.

Sherwood issued 53 permits in October valued at $1.7 million, while Jacksonville issued 17 permits worth a total of $680,300 and Ward had eight permits valued at $500,875.


Permits issued in Cabot in October include:

A $1.74 million commercial permit issued to Surraj Home Builders to construct a hotel at 1302 W. Locust St.

A $206,150 single-family home permit issued to S&H Construction to build at 138 Ridgecrest St.

A $104,325 single-family home permit issued to Paul Shield to build at 16 Elizabeth Lane.

A $100,500 single-family home permit issued to Paul Shied to build at 18 Elizabeth Lane.

A $92,050 single-family home permit issued to Pipkins Construction to build at 2802 Ewing.


Permits issued in Sherwood in October include:

A $300,000 single-family home permit issued to Renaissance Homes to build at 2101 Oakbrook.

A $250,000 single-family home permit issued to Damien Diamond to build at 3101 Clearwater Court.

A $225,000 single-family home permit issued to Bruce Engel Construction to build at 9209 Johnson.

A $180,000 single-family home permit issued to Daniel Menden Homebuilding Contractor to build at 9224 Johnson.

A $148,000 single-family home permit issued to R.B. Ewing Builders to construct a home at 4300 Community Cove.

A $145,000 single-family home permit issued to Danruthen Construction to build at 2909 Maelstrom Circle.

A $131,000 single-family home permit issued to Tim Wilson Custom Construction to build at 3409 Brundle Court.


Permits issued in Jacksonville in October include:

A $200,000 single-family home permit issued to Roy Smith to build at 2413 Estates Court.

A $145,000 single-family home permit issued to Greg Brock to build at 5508 Aviator.

A $145,000 commercial permit issued to Dave Grundfest Co. to build a fitness center near CiCi’s on John Harden Drive.


Permits issued in October in Ward include:

A $119,500 single-family permit issued to Charlotte Pack to build at 150 Sweetwater.

Two single-family permits issued to Ricky Miller, one for $74,700 and one for $72,000, to build at 13 Sooiee Cove and 15 Sooiee Cove.

Three $67,425 single-family home permits issued to Rausch Coleman to build at 15, 17 and 19 Green Apple Drive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

EDITORIAL >>No to a second medical school

Arkansas has one too many law schools and soon will have one too many medical schools — one more in each case than this poor state can afford.

It was Jacksonville’s own state Senator Max Howell, a powerhouse in the legislature at the time, who engineered the creation of a second state-supported law school 30 years ago, this one at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. No one had complained that Arkansas was cheated by a paucity of lawyers when the only public law school was at Fayetteville, but we know that we have an abundance of them now. The Fayetteville law school shrank over time to second place. Senator Howell did it because he could, although the state’s anemic treasury could ill afford duplicate law schools.

A duplicate medical school will cost far more because the facilities, equipment and faculty salaries are far more expensive than what is needed to train lawyers. But Northwest Arkansas will extract payback for Howell’s deed next year. Lawmakers from the region say they are united, Republicans and Democrats, in making a Fayetteville medical school a priority when the legislature convenes in January. Gov. Beebe told them he would go along if the area could raise the money privately for the first capital costs. So the rich people of the community put up $3 million, which will retrofit the old Washington Regional Medical Center for a medical school. The taxpayers will put up $3.5 million next year to operate the school, which will open next fall with six or so students.

That is not so much, but it is only the beginning. When it is up to the planned 100 students, the operating and capital costs borne by the taxpayers every year will be many multiples of $3.5 million. The diminishing quality of medical school entrants at the state’s expanded medical school is already an issue.

But northwest Arkansas, the supporters say, will need not only more doctors as it grows but more health professionals generally, and especially more nurses. Five colleges in the area, including the University of Arkansas a few blocks away, already offer degrees in nursing and are not full. Will a sixth school produce more?

Legislators who can serve no more than six years will not care what the expense will be in eight years. If the sales tax on groceries can be cut again as Beebe proposes, they will think we can certainly afford $3.5 million for a medical school next year. Never mind if it is $75 million in eight years. That is how government grows.

EDITORIAL >>Palin, Huck a lot alike

While making the rounds of the media promoting his new book about his presidential race and beyond, Mike Huckabee has drawn more attention to his churlishness about his Republican opponents, the media and religious conservatives who did not support him. This week it was Sarah Palin who drew his wrath or, maybe more accurately, the man who picked her and the people who criticized Huckabee but gave her a pass.

Huckabee’s peevishness about his defeat still seems jarringly out of season. Even Mitt Romney, the chief object of his scorn, was willing to forgive and forget, turning aside invitations to rebut the Arkansan’s attacks. But on Sarah Palin we must concede that Huckabee had some good points. He thought he was at least as qualified as the Alaska governor to be John McCain’s running mate.

At first he told an interviewer with New Yorker magazine, “She, uh, was an appropriate choice because she put John McCain back in the game.” Then he thought better of it.

“I was scratching my head, saying ‘Hey, wait a minute. She’s wonderful, but the only difference was she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair.’ It wasn’t so much a gender issue, but it was like they suddenly decided that everything they disliked about me was O.K. . . She was given a pass by some of the very people who said I wasn’t prepared.”

Yes, the two did have so much in common: their opposition to abortion, gay marriage, evolution and science, their evangelical creed and also their records governing small (population) states.

Their records in public office both contrasted sharply with the images they proffered for the national audience, as fierce foes of taxes, spending and big government. Huckabee raised more taxes, grew the government more and piled up more public debt than any governor in Arkansas history. Palin raised a big excess-profits tax on Alaska energy companies, multiplied government payments to individuals and, as mayor of the town of Wasilla, raised taxes and accumulated more debt than in all the city’s history.

She sought more federal pork per capita than any governor in the nation. Both had ethical troubles over the use of the government to settle personal quarrels and in tapping the state treasury for personal benefit. Palin drew a daily travel allowance nearly all the days of her tenure because she lived at home and not the state capital. Huckabee used the governor’s mansion fund as a personal piggy bank. Huckabee had 10 ½ years as governor, she only 18 months.

So why would John McCain pick her and not him? We think he’s right. It was the heels and the hair.

TOP STORY > >District sells bonds for new elementary

Leader staff writer

The recent shaky financial market will not affect the Cabot School District as it moves forward in constructing its ninth elementary school, planned to open in the fall of 2010.

The district has $50 million for planned construction projects, including the new elementary on Hwy. 5, thanks to the sale of bonds in April and the state’s partnership program for public school districts.

According to Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman, the district received approximately $22 million for construction projects by selling bonds in April 2008. “We were able to sell these bonds as a result of patron approval of the 3.9 mill increase in March 2008,” he said.

“The current market has no impact on our bonds since they were sold earlier in the year,” Thurman added.

An additional $28 million will be received from the state through the partnership program.

The $160,000 to purchase Bill and Mildred Ray’s 16 acres, located a half-mile from the intersection of Hwy. 5 and Mountain Springs Road, will come from the district’s building fund, Thurman said.

Construction will begin as soon as the property purchase is completed.

“We will use the same footprint as Magness Creek Elementary and Stagecoach Elementary with modifications to the office area, cafeteria and gym,” Thurman said.

Since the land is not in the Cabot city limits, Thurman said the district had discussed annexing the property into the city limits with Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and said annexing “would certainly be our preference.”

“We have worked with the city to ensure that this site was acceptable for both the city and the district,” Thurman added.

“We will also begin developing a traffic plan for the intersection of Mt. Springs Road and Hwy. 5 since there is currently no turn lane from Hwy. 5,” Thurman said.

The new elementary will help relieve the overcrowding at Magness Creek and Northside Elementary schools and would require a rezoning of the district.

“Zoning would not begin until the semester preceding the opening of the school since enrollment patterns, building capacity and growth trends over the entire district would need to be as current as possible to ensure that all zone changes have a positive impact on all district elementary schools,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY > >Despite stroke, senator says he has work to do

Leader senior staff writer

He may be recovering from a stroke, but don’t expect state Sen. Bobby Glover, 72, to be a backbencher when the General Assembly convenes in January. Glover says he has work to do before he is term limited out.

Glover, a Carlisle Democrat, thinks county officials should serve four-year terms instead of two-year terms, and has already filed a Senate bill to that effect—the first of the new session.

“We’re about the only state that doesn’t have four-year terms for county officials,” Glover said Monday. “Salaries aren’t all that high,” he said. “We live in the 21st century. After the first year (of a two-year term) they have to start campaigning again.”

He said even Arkansas mayors serve four-year terms and that county judges, sheriffs, clerks, assessors and the state’s residents would be well served by the change.

Glover attempted to pass a similar bill two years ago, and this time he’s worked out all the rough spots with the Arkansas Association of Counties, which favors the bill, he said.


Two years ago, when Gov. Mike Beebe fulfilled a campaign promise by repealing the first half of the state’s 6-cent grocery tax, Glover handled the bill for him.

Glover said the governor had hoped he could cut the remaining 3 percent grocery tax during the January session of the General Assembly, but that the economy could be too slow and the state could be left with insufficient revenues.

“I anticipate that he’s going to ask that we take off another penny,” said Glover. “I’ve asked to handle it for him.

He said the governor had factored in another penny off the grocery tax when he prepared his balanced budget.”

At the November general election, voters decided to have annual sessions of the General Assembly instead of every two years.

Glover said he believed that was a bad idea. He plans to sponsor an amendment repealing the new constitutional amendment.


Glover’s colleagues have elected him Senate chairman of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.

Glover also will be vice chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee during the 87th General Assembly. He also will be on the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
Both committees are expected to have full agendas during the 2009 legislative session including the governor’s penny sales tax reduction.

State Agencies will consider legislation establishing a state lottery, which voters approved in the election earlier in November.

“I’m very pleased with my committee assignments because I’ll be working on some of the major issues before the Legislature,”
Glover said. “It’s also important to me that I’ll be able to effectively represent my constituents.”

Glover will be on the Joint Budget Committee, which reviews in detail all state agency spending requests.

Glover will be a member of the Legislative Council, which meets in the interim between sessions to monitor state government operations. He also will serve on the Senate Committee on Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs.


The Joint Audit Committee scrutinizes the spending practices of state agencies, school districts, cities, counties and institutions of higher education. If auditors uncover questionable procedures, they outline improvements, and in cases of serious wrongdoing they refer their findings to local prosecutors.

“It was humbling to be elected by my fellow senators to the leadership of the Audit Committee. I’ll do my best to justify their confidence in me,” Glover said.

Glover also will serve on the Joint Performance Review Committee, which tracks state agency spending to make sure government dollars are spent wisely, and the Senate Rules Committee, which determines disputes about parliamentary procedures.

Glover represents Senate District 28, which includes Lonoke and Prairie counties and parts of Pulaski and Arkansas counties.


Speaking of his stroke, Glover said it hit him about 1 a.m. last August, characterized by “excruciating pain in the shoulder and both arms.

He was taken first to Baptist Hospital at Spring Hill, later to “Big Baptist.”

He had a couple of MRIs and a CAT scan and they determined that he had a tear in blood vessels in his brain stem.

“I’m progressing, still having trouble with my right eye,” Glover said. “My voice is getting stronger, my right arm and leg are gaining strength. I’m walking with assistance.”

“I feel so fortunate,” Glover said. “It could have been so much worse. People have been so nice to me.”

“It has completely and totally wiped me out as far as running for statewide office,” said Glover. He had said he would run for Secretary of State after finishing his last term as a senator.

“It’s been kind of a blessing, an opportunity to change my priorities,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Pastor retires after 42 years with church

Leader editor-in-chief

Two years after he had cancer surgery, Lyndon Whitledge has retired as pastor of North Jacksonville Missionary Baptist Church, where he was the minister for 42 years and at its predecessor, Unity Baptist Church, which was in the Sunnyside section of Jacksonville.

But even after the church moved uptown, along the freeway between Jacksonville and Cabot, North Jacksonville Missionary Baptist continued in its modest way. Like its pastor, it’s a simple church, with no airs about it.

Whitledge, who is 68, was a big man until he fell ill. He has lost a lot of weight — from more than 300 pounds, he’s down to about half that.

“I lost about 175 pounds,” he said Monday. “I’m not the man I once was. I feel good, but I don’t get around as much as I used to.

“I’m not an invalid,” he continued. “I can drive a car. I can get around.”

He usually stays at home and is often resting in bed.

Although he still goes to church, he decided this summer it was time to retire, making way for Nick Bumgardner as his successor, who is just 27, almost as young as Whitledge when he started out at the church.

He never forgot his roots when he arrived here in 1965, after he served in the Army in Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis.

He says it was there, following a secret deal between John Kennedy and Nikita Khruschev, that the U.S. agreed to remove its missiles from Turkey if the Soviets took out their missiles from Cuba, thus averting World War III.

Whitledge was born in Oklahoma, and he arrived in Jacksonville after completing his studies at Little Rock Missionary Baptist Seminary.

He was on the front page of the first issue of The Leader, which ran a picture of Whitledge and other local ministers protesting the sale of pornographic magazines at a gas station.

Whitledge was a carpenter for much of his life, and he wore his work clothes most every day, except on Sundays, holidays and funerals and public events.

About 50-75 people worship at his old church while they avert their eyes from the distractions around them: A couple of businesses nearby sell alcohol, and there’s also a strip joint and a lingerie shop.

Whitledge thinks zoning laws are biased against churches, and he’d tell any public official who’d listen how he felt about the matter, although without much success.

He’d rail against “government schools” and government in general for opposing religion.

“I’m worried about the next generation,” he said. “What kind of world are we leaving for them?”

Whitledge is grateful for having survived major surgery that included removal of a part of his esophagus and the lower part of his stomach. It’s the disease that killed Humphrey Bogart at the age of 57.

According to the Mayo Clinic, survival rates have improved when the disease is detected early enough. The cancer can start with acid reflux disease, which is what Whitledge had.

“If you have acid indigestion, you’d better have it checked out,” he said.

“I was doing an electrical job when I passed out,” Whitledge added. “I was fortunate they got to me when they did.”

He appreciates the calls he gets from friends and acquaintances.

“I may be retired, but I’m not dead yet,” Whitledge said. “I have always tried to do what God would have me do. I have always been consistent in my convictions. Without God, you have nothing. I never regretted my decision to put God first.”

Then, in a personal comment directed at this columnist, he said, “I’d stand with you when standing with you wasn’t a good idea.”

The words of a saint.

TOP STORY > >Developers push ideas for bypass

Leader staff writer

A group of developers asked the Sherwood City Council on Monday night to take the North Belt Loop off the city’s master street plan so they could proceed with their development plans.

But City Planner Dwight Pattison said if the city was to do that it would be an indication to the state Highway Department that Sherwood was not interested in the bypass and could put financing for the project in limbo. The 12.7-mile project will cost an estimated $347 million.

Of that, $320 million would be for construction, $14.8 million for right of way, $10.9 million for utilities and $1 million for relocation costs.

Developers insisted that they have been in limbo for almost two years and want cannot afford to leave their property undeveloped.

No action was taken on the master street plan Monday night, but some action will have to be taken at the December meeting.

Michael Marlar, president of Marlar Engineering, said the Highway Department’s plans would landlock 200 acres of the best residential acreage in the city. “This is to Sherwood what Chenal Valley is to west Little Rock,” he said.

Gregg Mueller with the Ashley Group explained that the developers own 63 acres near Hwy. 107 and Brockington Road. He said when the land was first purchased the North Belt route was going to cut through about 100 feet of the northern edge of the property.

“We had no problem with that but when the final route was approved it came through the middle of the property, putting 30 acres on one side of the interstate and 17 acres on the other,” he told the council.

He went on to say that the highway department had appraised the portion of the developers’ property it needed for rights of way.

“It was a low-ball figure,” Mueller said, adding that the developers’ appraiser came up with a figure five-and-half times higher. “We’ve not heard back from the highway department since presenting our appraisal,” he said.

Mueller added that if the city adopts what is proposed, “then the state can prohibit development of our land. It leaves us in limbo for the next 10 to 15 years. Exclude I-440 from the street map until the state is ready to purchase the land.”

Mayor Virginia Hillman cautioned the developers, “We were blamed in 1994 for stopping the North Belt. We can’t just switch it.

We have to work with the highway department.”

Pattison told the council that the North Belt, in one form or another, has appeared on master street maps since 1941. “It has moved steadily north over the years,” he said.

Sulcer reminded the council that the highway department had already, at the request of the city, adjusted the planned interchange for that area, shrinking the amount of right-of-way needed and giving the developers more land for commercial use.

Alderman Charlie Harmon told the developers that he thought it would be to the developers’ advantage to have it on the street map. “Once it is on the street map and the planning commission approves a platted plan, the highway department has one year to buy their necessary right-of-way.”

Pattison agreed, saying if the highway department doesn’t act within that year, the developers could proceed with their plans and then the highway department would have to pay a higher price to take over developed land. He added that the department has about $4 million right now to buy rights of way.

Alderman Becki Vassar said Sherwood needed the residential development, the commercial development and the bypass.
“If the highway department can do it all in west Little Rock, why not right here? We are being treated like a stepchild,” Vassar said.

The mayor and aldermen will spend the next month getting clarification from the highway department on its exact plans and timetable for North Belt construction in that area of Hwy. 107 and Brockington.

While no money has been identified to build the project, there is $4 million available to begin purchasing rights-of-way, according to Jim McKenzie, director of Metroplan. It would require conversion of 707 acres of right-of- way, according to the environmental impact statement.

The route east from I-40 at Crystal Hill was described like this:

From the western end of the proposed project at Interstate 40, the preferred alternative goes to the northeast through the Crystal Hill community to an interchange at Hwy. 365.

From there, it continues to the northeast into Camp Robinson, passing to the southeast of the Camp Robinson Army airfield.

Briefly turning to the southeast then east, the route passes to the north of Engineers Lake before turning to the northeast again to cross Batesville Pike just to the north of Maryland Avenue and the North Little Rock Municipal Airport.

Part of the route includes relocating a portion of Batesville Pike outside Camp Robinson.

From the Batesville Pike interchange, the route continues northeast to the west of Wayside Drive, and crosses Kellogg Acres Road just to the north of the intersection with Oakdale Road. It continues east just north of Oakdale Road and then southeast with an interchange proposed at Hwy. 107.

The preferred alternative turns to the northeast when crossing Fears Lake and back to the southeast, crossing Oneida Street before connecting with the Hwy. 67-167 interchange.

TOP STORY > >Fighter jet from war in Vietnam at museum

Leader staff writer

Every military museum should have a famed fighter-bomber on its lawn. Now, the Jacksonville Museum of Military History has its own.

On Sunday, a Vietnam-era F-105 Thunderchief aircraft rolled (yes, on its own wheels) into Jacksonville where it now sits imposingly on the expanse of grass in front of the colonial-style building. Around 7 a.m., the trailer pulling the plane set out from Camp Robinson, escorted by police. The wings and tail had been removed for the trip through Sherwood and Gravel Ridge and into Jacksonville. It arrived three hours later, at 10:22 a.m. to be exact.

The plane, which had been on display at Camp Robinson, will be on permanent loan from the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

During the Vietnam conflict, the F-105 Thunderchief – nicknamed the “Thud” – played a prominent role in strikes against launch sites of enemy surface-to-air missiles directed against U.S. bombers over North Vietnam.

“That plane was a workhorse in air-to-ground bombing,” said Col. Mark C. Vlahos, vice wing commander of 314th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, and member of the museum’s board of directors. “This is a neat moment for the Jacksonville Museum of Military History. To be able to obtain the plane took the efforts of many people.”

Vlahos said the museum’s board worked for more than a year to acquire the plane, but that the main credit goes to members Bill Kehler and Joan Zumwalt, who helped see the idea to completion.

One major step in the long process was gaining approval to house the plane. That required certification by the United States Air Force Museum, and involved a rigorous review process.

“We were investigated top to bottom, all our financial documents and procedures, to make sure we were up to snuff and met Air Force standards for taking care of their artifacts, because technically the plane belongs to the Air Force,” museum coordinator Danna Kay Duggar explained.

“If we wanted to get an Army tank, we’d have to go through a similar process,” she said.

It will be several months before the plane, which is in need of some paint, is spiffed up and looking its best.

“She is kind of ugly right now; the paint job will be done as weather permits,” Duggar said.

According to Vlahos, volunteers from LRAFB plan to restore the aircraft’s original Vietnam-ear camouflage next spring.

It will then be mounted on a 15-foot-tall pedestal.

Moving the plane to Jackson-ville also helps out Camp Robinson, which has four other planes on display.

Lending one out reduces the costs associated with maintenance and security, Duggar said.

The museum is also “on the list” for a C-130 cargo plane.

That must wait until one is retired from active duty; Vlahos anticipates that happening next year.

The museum will then have two historic planes on its lawn.

The more information about the F-105 and directions to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, visit or call 241-1943.

SPORTS>>Cabot girls finish strong to knock off Pine Bluff

Leader sportswriter

Cabot spent three quarters building an 18-point lead only to watch the Pine Bluff Fillies erase all but two points of that deficit by the middle of the fourth quarter.

But the Lady Panthers (3-1) held on for a 54-44 win on Monday night at Panther Pavilion behind 14 points and 15 rebounds by Shelby Ashcraft.

The Lady Panthers held Pine Bluff (2-2) scoreless in the second half until the 3:11 mark of the third quarter, building a 39-21 lead during that time.

Once the Fillies got going, however, the rally was on. They went on a 13-3 run from the final minute of the third quarter to the 6:53 mark of the fourth, and another 6-2 Pine Bluff run cut the lead down to 46-44 with 4:47 left to play.

That was as close as they got. Senior guard Jenna Bailey began an 8-0 Cabot run to close out the game with a 17-footer with3:17 left. Two straight turnovers by Pine Bluff led to an Ashcraft basket, and Stephanie Glover pulled down two big defensive rebounds in the final minute to seal the win. Bailey led the Lady Panthers with 16 points and four steals.

The first half was much less dramatic. Early baskets by Glover and Bailey, including a three-pointer by Bailey with an assist from Ashcraft at the 6:54 mark of the first quarter, lifted the Lady Panthers to an early 9-3 lead. Amber Rock added to that lead with two of her six points for the night to put Cabot up 11-3 with 5:28 left in the first quarter.

Post points allowed the Lady Panthers to claim a double-digit lead later on in the period. Ashcraft followed a basket by 6-2 junior Sara Moore with a basket and a free throw at the 3:33 mark for an 18-6 Cabot lead. Moore struck again following a basket and free throw by Kelsey Spry with a 10-footer at the 2:10 mark to put Cabot up 20-12.

Cabot held serve in the second quarter for a 31-21 halftime lead.

Both teams started the second half shaky. Turnovers and missed shots led to a scoreless period until the 5:42 mark when Rock finally converted a steal into two points to give the Lady Panthers a 33-21 advantage.

Bailey got her own steal and took it the distance for a layup moments later. That gave Cabot a 14-point lead, and baskets by Glover and Taylor Rosel extended it to 39-21 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

The Fillies were able to slice into Cabot’s lead on the outside shooting strength of Brittney Gatewood. Twelve of her game-leading 19 points came off three-point baskets, including her final one with 6:53 left to play that cut the advantage to 43-38.

To go along with her double-double, Ashcraft also had five assists and a block. Glover had 10 points and six rebounds. Rock had six points and four assists, and Amalie Benjamin helped lead defensively with three steals.

SPORTS>>Abundant Life girls and boys post wins over Oak Grove

Leader sports editor

One thing hasn’t changed from last season. The Abundant Life Lady Owls still pack a mean one-two punch with Hannah Pastor and Brittany Sharp.

The two seniors combined for 50 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and 10 steals in Abundant Life’s 80-49 win over Oak Grove on Monday night in Sherwood.

What has changed for the Lady Owls is the supporting cast. It’s not just Pastor and Sharp anymore.

“Yeah, we definitely have more we can call on,” said Abundant Life head coach Justin Moseley, whose club bounced back from a tough conference loss at St. Joseph’s to improve to 9-4. “Camryn Sharp had a really good game for us tonight.”

Camryn Sharp, a sophomore post player, came up big on the blocks, pouring in 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds to go along with two blocks.

It was an entertaining first half, with Pastor and the Sharp sisters trading baskets with the Lady Hornets’ Mercedes Gaines, who scored 24 of her 30 points before halftime.

“They like to get up and down the court like we do,” Moseley said. “We didn’t play great defense but (Gaines) is really tough.”

Abundant Life threatened to make a rout of it early when it raced to a 22-7 lead after a 15-2 run midway through the opening period. But behind four consecutive Gaines buckets, Oak Grove climbed to within 22-19 a minute into the second period. But it was pretty much all Abundant Life from that point on. Brittany Sharp hit a pair of free throws and scored along the baseline, and Pastor scored twice inside to extend the lead to nine.

Erin Williamson’s three from the left corner pushed the lead to 15 with 3:11 left in the half. Pastor closed the half with an end-to-end drive that allowed the Lady Owls to carry a 52-35 lead into the locker room.

It was more of the same early in the second half, with Brittany Sharp hitting a three, scoring on a spin move and getting a steal and a layup to push the lead to 62-39. Her rebound basket to end the third quarter made it 77-46 and got the continuous clock running.

Pastor led the way with 26 points, four rebounds, five assists and six steals. Time and again, she forced the action, weaving through the lane for buckets inside.

“She’s just so quick and she jumps so well,” Moseley said. “And now she’s added an outside shot that she didn’t have last year.”

Brittany Sharp had 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals. Sophomore Sydney Venus scored eight points and Savannah Lancaster added five points and six boards. Andrea Venus pulled down eight rebounds as Abundant Life enjoyed a 55-30 rebounding advantage.

The Lady Owls made 27 of 63 shots, including 6 of 13 from beyond the arc.

The Owls overcame 22 turnovers, including a pair of critical ones in the game’s final minute, to hold on and improve to 8-5.

One of those turnovers, with 25 seconds remaining, gave the Hornets the ball back trailing by a single point. But Oak Grove returned the favor with an errant pass with 11 seconds left and Mike Steele hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three.

The Hornets got off a long, contested three as time expired but it missed.

“When every one of their players is faster than every one of yours, it’s kind of hard to get in a rhythm offensively,” said Abundant Life head coach Tim Ballard. “Oak Grove is a good team. It was kind of an ugly game, but when you have the uglier team, you have to win ugly.”

It was the Owls’ first win over the Hornets after dropping five straight to them over the summer.

Abundant Life overcame poor shooting in the first half to trail only 27-26. They Owls made only 10 of 30 shots and missed all four of their three-point tries.

Ballard went to his bench often, with the starters struggling to shoot and to hold on to the ball.

“I just got tired of looking at the starters getting outworked and outhustled,” he said. “The second group got in there and made a run for it. They got several stops in a row and got some buckets.”

Ballard said he tries to play at least nine each game, and often as many as 11.

Dane Lottner led the Owls with 19 points, while Terrell Ghant added 10. Steele had eight and George Herring six.

“Oak Grove’s defense is pretty good,” Ballard said. “(Point guard Ghant) has played the two guard his whole life, and he’s done a great job for us. But he’s still new to the point and he’s still learning when to go, when not to go. But (the Hornets are) so fast, it doesn’t matter if you have a plan, they’re going to bother you.”

The Owls are just now coming together as a full team after playing without leading scorer Lottner for five games, Ghant for three and Dustin Keathley for two. Ballard said he’s more concerned with being 1-0 in the conference, especially after going on the road to beat previously unbeaten St. Joseph’s last Friday night, 56-50.

Lotter and Mike Stramiello led the way with 14 points apiece, while Herring added 13. Lottner got all his points in the first half and fouled out in the second half.

SPORTS>>Lady ’Rabbits fall in finals

Leader sportswriter

An impressive run ended on a down note for the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits over the weekend. The Lady ’Rabs’ made it to the finals of the RAPA Roundball Rally at Little Rock Hall last week, only to fall 66-33 to a dominant North Little Rock team during Saturday’s championship game.

The Lady Wildcats had firepower everywhere. Strong defense limited Lonoke’s shots, while a quick, precise transition game led to a number of fast-break points.

That alone was more than enough for the Lady ’Cats, but they also threw in an 8-of-9 performance from behind the three-point line in the second half on the combined efforts of four different shooters to set the continuous clock in motion for the final two minutes of the contest.

“We tried to defend those shots,” said Lady ’Rabbits coach Nathan Morris. “But I have to give credit to them. I mean, one of those girls was almost out of bounds when she made her three. I chalk it up to an off night against a really good team that was hot. I don’t think there’s anyone in the state that can defend them when they’re playing that well.”

Lonoke came in to the final game confident after a 57-50 win over 6A powerhouse Little Rock Parkview in Thursday’s semifinal round.

The Lady Jackrabbits played over their 4A classification level for the entire tournament, downing host team Hall in the first round on Monday in a 65-22 blowout. They did it with a balanced attack as well. Sophomore Cara Neighbors led the way with 15 points against Hall, while junior post Asiah Scribner added 13 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double performance. Junior guard Ashleigh Himstedt also finished in double digits with 11 points. She also added two steals. Point guard Michaela Brown had eight points, along with five steals and five assists.

Scribner turned in a similar performance during Thursday’s semifinals. She had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way for Lonoke.

“They held their own,” Morris said. “But at the same time, we already knew they could do thatgoing in. We expect to go in and compete against higher classification teams. We don’t go into these tournaments just hoping to keep up, we expect to win.

“Most of our non-conference games are against teams that are in higher classifications. We’re going to get another shot against (NLR) at Fayetteville in our tournament after Thanksgiving. They’re our first-round game.”

The first minute of the second half went well for the Lady ’Rabbits against North Little Rock. Scribner made a pair of free throws after being fouled under the basket at the 15:26 mark. Himstedt then hit a banker on the left side of the lane with 14:46 left that cut the score to 28-22.

The rest was all North Little Rock. Tourney MVP Jerica James hit a layup, followed by another transition basket by Helen Olson at the 13:03 mark. Both then hit three pointers to complete a 9-0 run.

Olson came away with two more three pointers before the end, while James found the arc one more time for three more of her game-leading 17 points. Kayla Brown and Robnecia Taylor also hit threes during the final 16 minutes.

Scribner led the Lady Jackrabbits with 11 points, with six more from Himstedt.

SPORTS>>Panthers hold off Zebras

Leader sportswriter

Pine Bluff refused to go quietly on Monday night at Panther Pavilion.

So Cabot called on its go-to guy, and Adam Sterrenberg delivered with 19 second-half points as the Panthers held off the Zebras, 68-53. Sterrenberg finished with 26 points.

Cabot’s 8-0 run in the final two minutes of the third quarter gave the hosts a 51-33 lead but Pine Bluff answered with 10 straight points.

“We don’t want anybody to leave early,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “We want to keep them in their seats. We’ve got to get a killer instinct that when we get teams down to keep them down, because that’s going to come back and haunt us. We get a little too relaxed defensively. At times, our defense looks real good. We’re swarming – everybody’s helping and we’re there.

Then we get in that comfort zone and we drop our guard.”

The Zebras kept Sterrenberg contained well during the first half, holding the Arkansas State signee to only seven points. Austin Johnson and post player Miles Monroe picked up the slack during that time to establish the early lead for Cabot. It was a leadit held for the duration, despite a strong second-half effort from the Zebras.

The Panthers put Pine Bluff’s 11 first-half turnovers to good use. A steal by Jack Bridges led to a three-point shot by Austin Johnson at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter to put Cabot up 8-4, and back-to-back miscues by the Zebras to start the second quarter allowed the Panthers to go on a 12-0 run and take a 25-12 lead at the 4:03 mark.

Cabot spread its scoring around, particularly in the first half, but most of Pine Bluff’s points came from the duo of Cameron Luckett and Stephen Collins. Luckett led the Zebras with 18 points. Collins was right behind him with 17.

The Panther lead got as high as 13 in the first half, but a three and another basket for Collins cut it to 25-17 with 2:57 left in the half. Johnson put the advantage back to double digits with a shot in the paint assisted by Alex Baker. Johnson then pulled down a defensive rebound and turned it into two more points to set the halftime score at 32-20.

The final two minutes of the third quarter was all Sterrenberg. He hit a three pointer at the 2:18 mark and another less than a minute later to put the Panthers up 46-33. He then got a steal and a jam to extend the lead to 15.

It was a complete turnaround for Sterrenberg after a first half of limited looks. Bridges was pleased to see the support on the floor during that time.

“What’s good for our team is that during that stretch we still maintained a lead,” Bridges said. “I thought Alex Baker did a great job there coming off the bench. I thought Miles did much better establishing himself in the post, and we have to have that.

Jack did a great job making passes. Gary Clark’s up there getting on the boards, and Alex Baker is a great spark off the bench. We call him the microwave. He’s capable of heating it up for us.”

Baker pulled down the rebound on a missed Zebra shot, which led to a nice spin and shoot under the basket by Monroe with an assist from Sterrenberg. He also drew a foul, completing the and-one for a 51-33 Cabot lead.

The Zebras needed a late spark to stay in the game, and they got it when Monroe drew his fifth personal foul with 2:22 left to play. Monroe had been the dominator on the glass all night and led all players with eight rebounds. He wasn’t forced to do it alone, however, with seven boards for Johnson, six for Clark and five for Sterrenberg, who also added three steals.

“We’ve just got to check our men off better when we all five go to the boards,” Bridges said. “We’ve got some that occasionally wanting to try and cheat out here and there. I thought even my little guys rebounded well.”

Johnson added 15 points for Cabot, with 12 more from Monroe. Baker came off the bench for 10 points. The Panthers are 2-0 and will begin tournament play in Searcy on Dec. 1.

SPORTS>>Shiloh showdown

Leader sportswriter

Friday night’s 4A state quarterfinal playoff game in Springdale between Lonoke and Shiloh Christian will pit a pair of teams with similarly balanced and high-powered offenses.

And that’s just the beginning of the similarities between the two state title contenders.

Both Jackrabbits (10-1) and Saints (10-1) went unbeaten and virtually unchallenged through their conferences to claim league titles, and both made quick work of their second-round playoff opponents after having a bye week in the opening round. The

Saints laid 84 on Clarksville last week, while Lonoke dispatched Warren, 45-24.

Each team has an abundance of playmakers who have captured attention around the state. Because the two teams appear to be so much alike, Shiloh Christian head coach Josh Floyd thinks the outcome will turn on fundamentals.

“I think it will definitely come down to mistakes and turnovers,” Floyd said. “When you have two evenly matched teams and both of them have good guys up at the front, it will almost always come down to who has turnovers and who can capitalize off them.”

Lonoke head coach Jeff Jones agreed, adding that the battle in the trenches could be key for his team.

“Everything starts at the line,” Jones said. “(Shiloh Christian has) dominated up front on both sides of the ball this year. They have strong players that can move well and sustain blocks. The battle up front will be important for us. If our offensive and defensive lines can go toe to toe with them and match their physical strength, I like our chances.”

Shiloh Christian started its season with a 47-9 loss to Evangel Christian out of Louisiana, but the rest of the year has been a breeze for the defending state runners-up. The most impressive victory in their 10-game winning streak may have been a 37-20 victory over Class 5A state champion Greenwood in Week 3.

The defense then dominated in an unblemished run through the 1-4A Conference. The Saints have allowed only 568 yards rushing all season.

“Our guys have been fortunate,” Floyd said. “We’ve had a great defensive line that gets good penetration. Our secondary has played well also, they haven’t given up any easy scores. We’ve made people earn what they get.”

Floyd hopes his defense can respond similarly against the Jackrabbits.

“Lonoke does a great job of spreading the ball around,” he said. “It’s kind of scary how effective they are with both the run and the pass. Their quarterback does an excellent job with the play action, and he has some great weapons to choose from.”

Lonoke has thrown for nearly 2,400 yards and rushed for nearly 2,000 more this season.

Quarterback Rollins Elam has 2,377 passing yards and 24 touchdowns on 138 of 261 pass attempts. Fellow senior Michael Howard is the leading receiver with 51 catches for 963 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Joel Harris has 599 yards and four touchdowns on 34 receptions, and Clarence Harris has 383 yards on 30 catches with six touchdowns.

Clarence Harris serves as Lonoke’s dual threat. He also has 790 yards rushing on 90 carries and 13 touchdowns. Junior tailback Brandon Smith is the Jackrabbits’ leading rusher this season with 894 yards and 10 touchdowns on 109 carries.

The Jackrabbits’ only loss of the year came in a 28-19 setback to Beebe in Week 2. That was followed by perhaps their biggest win of the year in a 41-38 win over Central Arkansas Christian.

Lonoke then enjoyed a domi-nant run through the 2-4A Conference. It all came down to a showdown with unbeaten Stuttgart in Week 9 for the league championship, and the Jackrabbits handed the Ricebirds their first loss of the year in a 41-22 blowout to claim the title outright.

Last Friday, the Jackrabbits pounced on Warren from the opening drive, taking their first possession 70 yards in 10 plays for an early 7-0 lead. They then converted two interceptions into scores, and answered the only Lumberjack score of the first half with a one-yard touchdown run by Brandon Smith to start the second quarter.

“I think our guys are pretty seasoned,” Jones said. “We’ve got some good senior leadership. They’re a pretty loose group. I don’t think they can be intimidated by anybody, no matter who they face. As a coach, it’s good to know you have a bunch of guys that believe in themselves.”

Two different quarterbacks lead the Spread assault for coach Floyd and the Saints. Sophomore David Matthews has completed 46 of 78 pass attempts for 1,082 yards, 13 touchdowns and only one interception. Kiehl Frazier has a 64 percent completion rate with 74 of 115 passing for 1,069 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

“We pretty much keep it in the Spread,” Floyd said. “We can run or pass out of that package. There may be a few times we will line up a little different, but not much. We mostly stick with what we know.”

Frazier has also added 747 yards rushing on 112 carries for 12 more touchdowns. Junior Chris Bryant and Garrett Harper have combined for over 800 more yards, along with 11 touchdowns.

Zann Jones leads a talented group of receivers with 31 receptions for 477 yards and six touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Harper has 24 catches for 558 yards and eight touchdowns.

Jake Ryan is the lone senior in the Saints’ skill package. The wide receiver has 21 receptions for 390 yards and two touchdowns, while Jake Scott has 13 catches for 283 yards and two touchdowns and Bryant has 14 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Clarksville took an early 7-0 lead last week before the Saints rolled off a staggering 12 straight touchdowns, racking up over 500 yards of offense in the first half, and finishing with 607 total yards.

“We have two major rules as a team,” Jones said. “The first is to never underestimate your opponents. The second is to never doubt yourself and your own abilities.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

SPORTS > > McFarland resigns job at Searcy

Bart McFarland, who struggled through four seasons as head football coach at Searcy, has resigned his position.
The resignation became official when the Searcy School Board accepted it on Wednesday night.
McFarland, a Searcy native and Searcy High alum, took over the job from Danny Mallett in 2005, posting a 3-37 record over four years. The Lions beat Little Rock Fair in Week 2 this season before dropping their final eight games, including all seven of their 6A-East Conference contests.
McFarland could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.
Searcy athletic director Terry Dawkins said McFarland’s decision was “totally voluntary,” though McFarland was under constant fire from the community after posting season records of 1-9, 0-10 and 1-9 in his first three seasons. Dawkins said McFarland has accepted an academic reassignment and that he would not be a part of the Searcy athletic program through the rest of the 2008-09 school year.
Dawkins said it was too early to discuss possible replacements.
“We are posting the job internally first,” he said. “We want to look at the coaches on the staff and see if we can hire from within first. We might have someone on staff that might do a great job for us.”
Searcy’s assistants this fall included Clay McCammon, Eric Simmons, Bryan Morgan, Steven Leonard, Mike McCain and Tony McCoy. McCammon is the head baseball coach.
Dawkins, in his first year as athletic director at Searcy, said he appreciated McFarland’s efforts.
“He’s a great person and I know he was under the gun a lot,” he said. “I don’t think he read a lot of the blogs or the newspapers or the media that criticized him a lot. I didn’t read any of it and I’m glad I didn’t.
“But he did a great job under the circumstances.”
McFarland’s former defensive coordinator, Mike Bush, who is now a head coach at Barton, said he hated to see his “close, personal friend” go out the way he did.
“I tell you this, when he took that job, he had high aspirations and high expectations to lead his former team as the head coach,” Bush said. “Nobody cared more as far as wanting those kids to be successful. He put a lot of work into it and it just didn’t work out.”
Bush is one of several potential candidates for the job, along with Riverview head coach Stuart Hill, who led the Raiders to the playoffs in the school’s first season of varsity football. Hill, a former Searcy coach, was a candidate when Mallett left in 2004. But Bush said he hasn’t been contacted and has no comment about the job.
“Right now, I’m just trying to rebuild a program down here,” he said.