Friday, January 23, 2009

SPORTS>>Lonoke girls win

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Southerners simply refused to go away.

But Lonoke got solid defensive play from post player Asiah Scribner and senior Lauren Harper, as well as a 19-point, 64-percent shooting performance by junior guard Ashley Himstedt on the offensive side for a hard-fought 49-38 win over Southside Batesville on Thursday night at the LHS gym.

The Lady Jackrabbits (15-4, 6-1) couldn’t shake their foes in the first half. The two teams traded the lead throughout most of the second quarter before Lonoke began to establish some control in the third.

“That’s the kind of ball team they are,” said Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris. “They’re a gritty team – a small, guard-oriented team. Even if they turn the ball over, they’re coming right back at you. They shoot extremely well, especially off screens. They did a great job of holding screens and getting themselves open.”

The smaller Lady Southerners were not shy about driving the lane, especially in the first half. It took a collective effort from Lonoke center Asiah Scribner and senior reserves Lauren Harper and Brianna Lynch to limit Southside. That effort finally paid off in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, as the Lady Southerners went without a field goal from the field in the final 5:08.

“We did a pretty good job defensively. I’m really pleased with that. They packed it in, and we were supposed to shoot, and we hit enough shots to win. We had some people that made some nice shots.”

The Lady ’Rabs’ began to gain momentum in the third quarter on the strength of Himstedt’s efforts at the baseline. She scored on three straight trips with a baseline runner from the left side from the 6:14 mark to the 4:40 mark that increased Lonoke’s lead to 30-24.

“That offense worked pretty well against the defense they threw at us,” Morris said. “She stepped up and knocked down some really important shots. When they were getting good looks at threes on the other end, we were able to pace with the twos on our end.”

Lynch scored on a putback on the Lady ’Rabbits next possession, and got plenty physical with the Southside post players on the defensive end.

“She came in here, got a big rebound, got a stick-back off the rebound,” Morris said. “She got a rebound that I think they would have scored on. She did the dirty work. We talk about knowing your role, and that’s her role. She came in and fulfilled that role tonight. No matter what amount of time she was out there, she did her job, as the rest of the bench did. I thought Lauren Harper did a good job off the bench and played good defense.”

Lonoke’s attempt at building a lead in the first half was to no avail. Southside forward Lunden Roberts drove repeatedly for eight of her team-high 14 points, and helped keep the Lady Southerners within a basket at halftime, 24-22.

“They’re going to be real tough at their place,” Morris said. “This keeps us in second place by ourselves. Keeps us in check to make a run. We have to win every home game to have a chance.”

Hemley made it interesting with a three-point basket with 5:08 left to play that cut it to 41-37, but a free throw by Roberts in the final minute was the only other point that came Southside’s way late. Lonoke, on the other hand, continued to attack with an inside shot by Asiah Scribner assisted by Cara Neighbors, and a pull-up jumper from Himstedt with 3:21 left to play that gave the Lady Jackrabbits a 45-37 lead.

Neighbors tacked on a pair of free throws after that, and a lay-up by Himstedt set the final margin.

The Lady Jackrabbits shot 19 of 50 from the field, but made only 3 of 11 from deep. Lonoke finished 8 of 15 from the free throw line.

Neighbors added 16 points and 11 rebounds, six of which were offensive. Scribner had six points and five blocks. Michaela Brown had eight assists for Lonoke.

Lonoke had a much easier time on the road Tuesday against DeWitt. The Lady Jackrabbits took a 62-33 win, with a 22-point night for Scribner. Neighbors added 14 points, with 10 from Himstedt. Brown had nine for Lonoke. Haley Horton led the Lady Dragons with 16 points.

Lonoke hosted Clinton last night, and will host Stuttgart on Tuesday.

SPORTS>>Miles’ 20 points leads Red Devils to critical road win at Jonesboro

Leader sports editor

JONESBORO — Vic Joyner figures that week off following the Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Hall games was absolutely essential.

His Jacksonville Red Devils returned to action with an easy win at Searcy last Friday, setting them up for a critical road trip to Jonesboro, where Joyner has never won.

He has now. Behind 20 points from Laquinton Miles, the Red Devils rallied from a three-point halftime deficit to pull away for a 60-43 win over the Hurricane on Tuesday night.

“That week off was humongous,” Joyner said. “We burned a lot of energy (playing two of the top teams in the league back to back) and we just needed to get away from the pressure of the game. We had four days to work on different things.

“You could see the relaxation in their eyes and in their body language. They and the coaches were able to take a deep breath.”

The victory helped offset the three-point loss to defending 6A champion Hall at home on Jan. 16 and improved the Red Devils to 3-1 in the 6A-East, 10-3 overall. Jacksonville opened league play with home battles against two of the top teams in 6A.

After struggling enough in the first half to earn him a seat on the bench, Demetrius Harris came to life in the second half to finish with 14 points.

“Antonio Roy was the only big man to give us much energy in the first half,” Joyner said. “I challenged Antwan (Lockhart) and Demetrius to (pick it up) and they did. I put Demetrius on the bench in the first half and he must have looked up at what Antonio and Cortrell were doing and said, ‘Dang.’”

The Red Devils fell behind by as many as eight points early, the result of poor outside shooting and lackadaisical defense. Joyner said the Jonesboro crowd wasn’t nearly as energetic as it often is and his kids reflected that early on.

“We didn’t play a lick of defense in the first half,” Joyner said. “We didn’t disrupt them at all and let them cut and move anywhere they wanted to go.”

Going inside was just the ticket for a Jacksonville team which made only 3 of 15 from beyond the arc. Miles got four dunks in the contest, helping the Red Devils make nearly 55 percent of their shots from the floor.

“Jonesboro isn’t as deep as they usually are and they tried to slow the game down,” Joyner said. “They packed in their zone and we didn’t hit from outside. We weren’t working hard to get the ball to the post men early.

“But we got into their legs in the second half and they started to tire.”

Cortrell Eskridge was the only other Red Devil in double figures with 10, marking the fourth game in which long-range threat Deshone McClure has not reached double digits. That’s something Joyner can live with.

“Shone is playing into the team concept more,” Joyner said. “Everybody’s used to him coming out and shooting a bunch of shots. But he is a whole lot more selective and he is more effective now than when he’s scoring a bunch of points.

“He’s not taking a back seat to anybody, but we’ve got eight or nine guys that can score five or six points and that adds up.”

Jacksonville traveled to Marion last night for a game played after Leader deadlines. The Patriots have bounced back from a 70-17 shellacking to Hall in their league opener to improve to 2-2, 11-7 overall. That included a road win at Jonesboro.

“They’re way, way better than (the Hall game),” Joyner said. “They’re very young and they weren’t used to that kind of atmosphere and that kind of talent at Hall. But those youngsters have grown up.”


Turnovers and poor shooting combined to send Jacksonville to its third loss in four 6A-East contests.

The Lady Red Devils made only 10 of 38 shots from the field and committed seven turnovers over a critical stretch of the second period, when they went from an 8-6 lead to a 19-13 deficit at the half.

Jacksonville took on Marion (14-2, 3-1) in a game played last night after Leader deadlines. The Lady Red Devils fell in December to the Lady Pats, 49-44, in the Mills Invitational. Marion is coming off a 46-16 trouncing of Mountain Home on Tuesday.

SPORTS>>Lady Panthers overcome sloppy play

Leader sports editor

It was not a game you’d want to send to the basketball hall of fame. One team shot poorly, the other shot it fairly well … when it wasn’t turning the ball over.

But the Cabot Lady Panthers will take a win in a game in which they turned it over 25 times. They can thank a 16-rebound advantage, nearly 50 percent shooting from the field and the inside defensive presence of Sarah Moore and Shelby Ashcraft for escaping with a 48-38 victory at Little Rock Central on Tuesday night.

“Central is tough to play,” said Cabot assistant Charles Ruple. “They’re very physical and extremely quick. We certainly don’t match up well with them in those areas. Of course, they don’t match up well with us either.”

The Lady Panthers, who bounced back from a home drubbing at the hands of North Little Rock last Friday, improved to 3-1 in league play, 15-4 overall. Moore blocked seven shots and Ashcraft, who also scored 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, blocked four to help limit Central (9-7, 2-2) to 11 of 45 shooting in the contest.

“Their continued poor shooting gave us the chance to force them inside, where our strength is,” Ruple said.

But all of that nearly wasn’t enough when a steal and a lay-up to start the final period got the Lady Tigers to within a basket. Though Amber Rock returned the favor with a steal and a basket and Rachel Glover added a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 39-33 with 4:48 left, Central responded with a three-pointer and another steal and lay-up to cut that lead to one with 4:18 left. Central would not score again.

Rock scored on a fast break after taking a feed from Jenna Bailey, who dished out six assists, and Bailey followed a Moore block at the other end with a pair of free throws to give Cabot some breathing room at 43-38 with 1:57 left.

Glover’s steal 26 seconds later resulted in two more free throws as Cabot went 9 of 11 from the stripe in the final quarter to preserve the precarious win.

Central led only twice in the game, the final time at 14-13 with 3:29 left in the first half. Cabot raced to a 6-0 lead after three straight defensive breakdowns allowed two easy inside baskets by Moore and another by Glover over the first minute-and-a-half of the game.

The Lady Panthers never trailed after Ashcraft scored inside off a looping feed from Bailey at the 3:09 mark. They led 22-16 at the half, despite 12 turnovers and just 1-of-4 shooting at the stripe. Central made only 4 of 23 shots.

“Our turnovers can be attributed to excessive dribbling for no strategic reason,” Ruple said. “And their quickness presented a problem for us when we were forced to dribble. Better passing and spacing would have served us well.”

Bailey got her only basket of the night when she drained a three-pointer 10 seconds into the second half, and a pair of rebound baskets by Glover extended the Cabot lead to 29-19 with 5:55 left in the third period.

The Lady Tigers got back into it by making 5 of 6 free throws and getting a rebound basket in the final 1:59 of the quarter and trailed only 33-31. Brooke Taylor slipped inside the lane to deliver a nifty feed to Glover for a lay-up to end the quarter. It’s was Glover’s fifth consecutive basket for the Lady Panthers. She led the way with 16 points and added seven rebounds.

Bailey, Rock and Moore each added six points and Moore had six boards as well. Amalie Benjamin came off the bench to pull down five rebounds as Cabot enjoyed a 40-24 advantage on the boards.

The Lady Panthers made 18 of 38 shots and warmed up at the line in the second half to finish 10 of 15.

“Every game in the 7A Central has a chance to look sloppy, but a win on the road is our goal when we travel,” Ruple said.

Cabot hosted red-hot Bryant (3-1) last night in a game played after Leader deadlines. The Lady Hornets were coming off a win over Conway in which they scored 92 points.

SPORTS>>Cabot boys charitable in setback

Leader sports editor

It was enough to make a coach drop his clipboard a couple of times, which is what Jerry Bridges did on Tuesday night while watching his Cabot Panthers struggle to a critical 58-49 loss at Little Rock Central.

The Panthers missed 10 of 14 free throws, got out-rebounded 33-20 and time and again allowed Central’s big duo of Jordan Washington and Chuckudy Ekeh to get inside their 1-3-1 zone for easy baskets.

Cabot fell to 12-5 overall, 2-2 in 7A-Central play, while the Tigers picked up their first league win to move to 1-3, 8-6 overall.

“I thought we played hard but we lost the battle of toughness,” Bridges said. “They won all of the loose ball battles. You have to win the tough game. We had chances to take a charge and bailed. Then you factor in the free-throw line. It was just another tough night in the 7A-Central.”

With Adam Sterrenberg fighting just to get an open look and Miles Monroe on the bench in foul trouble, only Austin Johnson was able to keep Cabot in the contest.

Cabot fell behind 9-2 in a game in which it never led, but good outside shooting late in the first quarter allowed the Panthers to climb back in it. Johnson scored 10 of his 22 points in the first half to account for half of the Panthers’ total before intermission. His end-to-end acrobatic scoop and another lay-up with 5:06 tied the game at 15, but Central took a 27-20 lead into the locker room.

“Austin has just played great ball since conference and even going back to the Coca-Cola Classic (in December),” Bridges said. “His focus has been better. I am so proud of the way Austin has been playing lately.”

Sterrenberg scored only one point in the first half and struggled to a 2-of-7 night at the free-throw line. The Central lead grew to 11 midway through the third quarter, but three straight Cabot baskets, including Sterrenberg’s first of the game on a baseline reverse, had the Panthers to within 37-32.

Monroe fouled out early in the final period, but Johnson hit a three-pointer and got a steal and lay-in over an 18-second span to whittle the gap to 40-37. Once again, though, the Tigers were able to whip passes down to the block for a pair of easy baskets to extend their lead back to seven.

“We’re not putting enough pressure on the ball, not getting our arms up,” Bridges said of the defensive breakdowns inside. “We’re long but if we keep our hands down to our side, we’re not taking advantage of our wing span and they’re able to find that guy down there a little easier. They exposed us right there.”

Jack Bridges got a three to fall and Johnson banked one in to narrow the lead to 48-45 with 3:22 left. It was 51-45 with less than two minutes remaining when Cabot made it’s final charge. Sterrenberg got a steal and lay-up, then got another steal and capped it off with a baseline reverse as the Panthers crawled to within 51-49 with 56 seconds left.

Central, which early struggled just about as badly at the line as Cabot, hit their critical free throws, making 7 of 8 over the final 49 seconds.

Bridges and Sterrenberg both missed threes down the stretch as Cabot desperately tried to climb back into it.

“I thought Adam’s shot selection was better than at Conway,” Bridges said of the Arkansas State-bound Sterrenberg. “He got a lot of good midrange shots that went in and out. There’s no one more frustrated than Adam Sterrenberg. He’ll be back. His teammates believe in him and his coach believes in him.”

The Panthers took good care of the ball, committing only eight turnovers, and they made nearly 50 percent of their shots (21 of 45), but Central made 20 of 36 from the field and knocked down 17 of 31 free throws to Cabot’s 4 of 14.

Monroe, Alex Baker and Sterrenberg added eight points each. Besides Johnson’s 22, Bridges’ three-pointer was the only other points for Cabot. Johnson led the Panthers with four rebounds. Sterrenberg added four steals.

“Central was a different team than what we saw on film,” Bridges said. “They came out in a man-to-man and hooked up with us and we didn’t do a good job of being disciplined or giving our offense a chance to work. But this team will be fine. We’ve just got to take our practices to the games.”

Washington had 16 and Ekeh 11 for Central. Cabot tried to bounce back at home against Cabot last night in a game played after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>>Balanced attack leads North Pulaski past Bears

Leader sports writer

The North Pulaski Falcons kept their perfect 5A-Southeast Conference record intact with a 55-40 win over Sylvan Hills on Tuesday night at the Falcons’ Nest.

A dominant third quarter which saw the Bears (7-9, 2-2) make only one goal from the floor allowed North Pulaski (13-5, 4-0) to stretch its 29-20 halftime lead to a comfortable 43-24 advantage entering the final period.

The absence of senior P.J. Ross and junior post Taylor Beeman hurt the Bears against the more physical Falcons. Ross, who sustained a hyper-extended ankle five days earlier at White Hall, joined Beeman on the bench. Beeman, Sylvan Hills’ leading rebounder, also suffered an ankle injury earlier in conference play.

The Falcons simply got more looks in the game, and took advantage of those looks when they presented themselves. They shot 38 percent from the field (22 of 57), while Sylvan Hills managed only 27 percent (12 of 44).

The lane was a busy place for both teams. Falcon guards Aaron Cooper and Kyron Ware each made a pair of three-pointers, with Kolby Davis and Deundre Bryant each hitting one time behind the arc for Sylvan Hills, but the rest of the points for both teams came either inside the key or at the foul line.

“I didn’t tell them not to shoot from the outside,” said Falcons coach Ray Cooper. “We like to get it inside first and then outside, and I think they overcompensated a little. We were forcing the ball instead of allowing it to happen. It all goes back to being mentally sharp and knowing what you’re doing.”

North Pulaski shot 4 of 12 from three-point range, while the Bears went 2 of 9.

Despite the win, coach Cooper was not pleased with the effort early on from his team.

“Overall, we have been starting games poorly,” said Cooper. “I don’t know what it is that we’ve got to do to get the guys to understand that they’ve got to prepare for the beginning of the game. It’s becoming a habit, and obviously, I’m the only one that’s bothered by it.

Maybe I’m being too liberal with playing time, maybe I need to tighten it up. I don’t know what it is, but I do understand that you have to maintain your focus, especially in conference games.”

The difference in depth began to show in the second half. Duquan Bryant’s repeated drives inside resulted in seven of his nine points. His first did not come until the 4:09 mark to put the Falcons up 33-22. He then followed a Bryan Coulson basket with a pair of free throws with 2:38 left in the third to extend the lead to 37-22.

The second quarter was the most productive for Sylvan Hills. Ahmad Scott scored at the 6:15 mark to get things started, and a Demetric Gross basket with 4:37 left in the half made it 19-11 North Pulaski.

Harold Ward ended the half with a pair of baskets, and guard Nick Zimmerman made a jumper to cut it to 23-18 with 1:52 left in the second quarter, but that was as close as the Bears came for the remainder of the night.

Cooper ended the period for North Pulaski with a three-point shot, and got another a minute into the fourth quarter. That concluded a 15-2 run for the Falcons to put them up 48-24 with 6:52 left to play, the rest was formality.

Cooper led the Falcons with 16 points and had four steals. Bryant added nine rebounds, six of which came in the first half, to his nine points. Ware scored eight for North Pulaski.

For Sylvan Hills, Harold Ward led the way with 10 points, with nine for Alonte Mitchell. Demetric Gross had seven for the Bears.

North Pulaski played at Monticello last night, and will host Jacksonville on Monday. Sylvan Hills hosted Mills last night, and will host Beebe on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TOP STORY>>Young cancer victim remembered

Leader staff writer

Those who knew and loved Lawson Phillips, a Bayou Meto Elementary School third-grader who died in 2007, honored his life yesterday by making a donation in his name for more than $10,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South. The funds were raised by his parents, David and Lorey Phillips, and their family, the Bayou Meto Student Council and the Junior Twisters football team.

Lawson, 8, slipped into a coma a few days after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that November, so he did not have an opportunity to make a wish. He died a month later.

The fund-raiser was conceived as a way to remember Lawson and to bring happiness to another child with a life-threatening medical condition, Lorey Phillips said.

The sale of rubber wristbands with Lawson’s name and football jersey number raised enough money to grant the wishes of two children.
When the word got around about the fund-raiser, many people wanted to contribute, Lorey Phillips recounted.

“It has been overwhelming – people we didn’t even know, people from churches, people from Arkansas Children’s (Hospital) who knew Lawson, they would email asking for 25 or 100 wristbands,” she said. “We want people to know that Make-A-Wish got every penny of it.”

According to those who knew him, Lawson was a quiet, thoughtful child whose smiles and kind ways made him popular with both peers and adults. He enjoyed football, riding his pony and playing with his cousins.

“He was awesome, always friendly, a good student, very loving and compassionate,” reflected Debra Rowlett, the school’s bookkeeper. “All the kids wanted to be his best friend.”

The Phillips family’s deep bond with the Bayou Meto school made the loss even harder for everyone there. His two older siblings had attended the school, and their mother has been a volunteer there for many years.

“It was a shock to everybody – with Mama up here all the time volunteering and the two cousins like brother and sister. It was really tough on them and all the kids in the third grade,” Rowlett said. “They are a real special family, a big part of everything at Bayou Meto. This is our way of giving back in honor of Lawson.”

In remembrance of Lawson on his birthday last February, his cousins and classmates sang “Happy Birthday” and wrote messages on balloons, then sent them skyward.

“Four hundred balloons all going up at the same time – it was really heartwarming,” Rowlett said.

As a way to celebrate Lawson’s birthday this year, his family and friends decided to participate in two benefits for children – the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Change Angel program and Make-A-Wish Foundation fund-raiser. Only later did they learn that both events are on Lawson’s birthday, Feb. 6.

“It was meant to be,” Lorey Phillips said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TOP STORY>Sherwood selects a full-time fire chief from Memphis

Leader staff writer

Just four years ago, he was suspended and fired from the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department, but on Tuesday night, David Teague was approved by a 3-to-1 vote as the new chief of the 65-man, three-station Sherwood Fire Department.

The current chief, Frank Hill, will stay on, according to the fire board commissioners, until July 11 with full powers. On that date, Teague will take over and Hill will be given a severance package of about $25,000 and leave the department.

Teague is working now as a battalion chief with the Memphis Fire Department and operates two roofing-related businesses in Jacksonville.
Commissioner Mike Anderson said the board will negotiate a contract with Teague in the upcoming weeks and that the new chief’s salary will be about $60,000.

Commissioner Tom Brooks made the motion to “tender an offer of employment to David Teague as full time fire chief of the Sherwood Fire Department.” This was after the five-member board spent about an hour working on the department’s 2009 budget and after turning down a motion by Commissioner Karen Jacob to keep Hill as chief through 2009.

The board has spent the last two months looking to replace the part-time chief with a full time person. Hill averages 30 to 40 hours a week with the department, but the 27-year veteran has also been a longtime employee of Fidelity Information Services.

He could not afford to give up the salary and benefits of that job for the extra amount being added to his fire chief salary to make it a full-time position. Because the board has made it clear that it doesn’t want the fire chief to have an additional job, Teague will have to give up his local businesses.

Teague, who started with the Memphis Fire Department in 1990, served as a member of the South Bend Fire Department from 1978 to 2001. In his resume, he says that he “rose to rank of assistant fire chief responsible for the day to day operations of the department.”

What was not mentioned in the resume was his controversial de-parture from that department. Fire Chief Wes Harris fired Teague after the South Bend board split 2-2 on the issue. In a letter to Teague that was passed on to the board during the firing meeting, Harris wrote, “You will never be a team player.”

Teague had been the assistant chief until his brother was fired as chief in August 2000. Teague took over but in October had to go to court over a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental operations after getting into a scuffle with a fire board commissioner. Teague was suspended in October 2000, and then fired in February 2001.

Teague was one of four applicants the Sherwood board interviewed Thursday. Three of the ap-plicants were on the agenda, culled from eight candidates at the previous meeting. The fourth candidate was called in at the request of Commission Chairman Michael Dupstaff.

At the Thursday meeting, after interviewing Teague, Phillip Flynn, a former North Little Rock firefighter and a full-time lieutenant with the Sherwood Fire Department; and Andy Traffanstedt, the Gavel Ridge fire chief and a part-time captain with the Sherwood department, another applicant, Alan Ford, was called into the board’s executive session.

Soon after Ford’s interview, the board reconvened in public and with no fanfare said it would meet again Tuesday at the fire station to discuss the 2009 budget and any decision it makes regarding hiring a full-time chief. The board then adjoined.
The meeting location was then changed without notifying the press to the Sherwood City Council chambers.

Commissioners said they would contact Teague to let him know that he was their pick and invite him to the board’s meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the council chambers. “I’m sure he’ll want to have a meeting with the firefighters as soon as possible,” Anderson said.

Brooks said Teague would be paid about $30,000 for this year, plus be paid for any time he spends shadowing or working with Hill and the department prior to the July 11 takeover date.

Earlier, Alderman Butch Davis tried to talk to Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, who appoints the fire board commissioners, to ask him to have the board halt the search for 30 to 60 days to allow everyone to calm down, but Villines was out of town.

“This whole thing is just snowballing out of control,” Davis said.

He was also concerned about who the board is supposed to represent. “If it’s the people of Sherwood, they aren’t listening,” Davis said.

The Fire Department, which encompasses all of Sherwood, is not a municipal fire department but a fire protection district department under the control of the county judge and the five-member board. The board members are appointed by the judge without any city input.

In his resume cover letter, Teague says his background and education in emergency services has prepared him to lead the Sherwood department. As a battalion chief in Memphis, he is in a mid-level management position in a department that includes 1,700 people and 59 stations.

Teague has served as the director of emergency medical services for Cleburne Memorial Hospital in Heber Springs and spent 23 years with the Southbend Volunteer Fire Department in Lonoke County. He also owns and operates Klad Co., a consulting and inspection firm for large roofing systems, and David Teague Roofing Co., both in Jacksonville.

EDITORIAL>>A new start for America

There are spectacles more lavish and majestic, but no celebration in the world ever matches the inauguration of a new president of the United States — any new president. There is a unique grandeur in the festive national toast to enduring principles — the peaceful transfer of power, the allegiance to the Constitution, the summons to hope and faith in trying times, the salutes to freedom, and the collegial call for togetherness and sacrifice for the common good, which mark the inauguration of every president, Republican or Democrat.

The inauguration of the 44th president yesterday did not disappoint on any score and, in fact, was by any account the grandest ever. The multitudes that filled not only the National Mall but the entirety of the federal district and downtown Washington were the largest by far in history, and it was estimated that more people watched the event on television than any spectacle in history.

The reasons were not mysterious. An epic vote had elected an African-American to run a country riven for much of its history by slavery and discrimination, and he was sworn in on the steps of a Capitol built by slave labor to reside in a palace also built by slaves. That moment sent a powerful message to a world where such possibilities are unthinkable or remote. The personality and extraordinary gifts of Barack Obama, his beautiful and brilliant wife and those exuberant children did not detract from the global curiosity.

This handoff of power in 2009 also bore special significance, even an urgency, because it occurs at a moment of extraordinary peril, the gravest economic crisis in 75 years. President Obama’s first task is no less a mission than saving capitalism in the face of the utter collapse of the financial order. It is another reason that the whole world was attuned to the pageantry on the mall. As banks and markets shrink and living standards fall, people from London to Nairobi and Beijing again glimpse the truth that if the government of the United States missteps, distance and borders cannot immunize them from the consequences.

Inaugurations always engender hope and a feeling of renewal. Such were the feelings, we recall, when eight years ago George W. Bush pledged unyielding fealty to the Constitution and promised a global search for peace, wider prosperity and limitless opportunity. How did that work out?

It would be easy to be pessimistic now that the high expectations for this brilliant and charismatic man will be dashed all too soon on the shoals of economic disorder and war. Even the massive stimulus program that he is pushing through Congress seems inadequate to the task.

But the atmospheric expectations that Barack Obama has fostered may be his most powerful tool. Polls show that public expectations and confidence in the president are far higher than for any new president in modern times, although they do not expect instant miracles. If he can maintain and channel that faith it will be worth trillions in stimulus spending. If he cannot, the mint cannot print money fast enough to do the job.

This morning the pageantry recedes and the gritty work of restoring economic order and international credibility begins. The new president can be sustained by nearly universal good wishes and prayers. The rest — the ideas, the leadership, the judgment and the hard work — he will have to provide himself.

EDITORIAL>>An era ends in Jacksonville

It had been rumored for sometime that Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim might not finish his sixth term in office. Sure enough, he told the city council on Thursday that he’d be stepping down on July 1, when he turns 65, opening the field to several potential candidates who have waited a long time for him to leave office.

A special election will be held before Swaim retires, and the list of possible candidates is growing. A spirited and diverse field will enter the first real contested race for mayor in more than two decades: Swaim has not had a serious challenger since he unseated then-Mayor James Reid in 1986.

It was then that Swaim inherited the urgent need to clean up the Vertac chemical plant site, one of the worst in the nation. It took more than a decade and $150 million to clean it up under the Superfund program before the fund went broke. The cleanup saved Jacksonville and was the mayor’s finest hour.

Swaim helped usher in a building program for Jacksonvillle, including a community center, a city hall, a library and a joint-education center that will go up in front of the air base. The Main Street railroad overpass proved to be less successful, a poorly conceived project that has led to the closing of virtually all retail businesses around it. Swaim’s successor must address the urban blight in that area, especially the Sunnyside neighborhood, where crime remains high.

The city’s schools continue their decline, and it is to be hoped that a new mayor will usher in an era of renewal with the creation of an independent school district. Only then will Jacksonville become a first-rate city.

TOP STORY>>Arkansans celebrate in Washington

Leader staff writers

When President Barack Obama, an African American of humble origins, took the oath of office as 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, 11 Jacksonville High School students, two chaperones, a teacher and Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien were among the two million or so people who braved the Washington cold to witness history.

O’Brien, a Jacksonville resident, was perhaps the first elected official in Arkansas to endorse Obama’s candidacy, back when he was a footnote candidate.

“My realization just happened a lot earlier than other people,” O’Brien said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “It was like I knew a secret that no one else knew, although they could have if they wanted to.”

“I had a chair 100 yards away (from the lectern),” he said. “I had a great view.”

O’Brien said he had always promised himself that if he found a candidate who inspired people the way the late Bobby Kennedy did, that he would support him.

O’Brien confirmed that he would probably announce his candidacy for Arkansas Secretary of State at the end of the 87th General Assembly. Charlie Daniel, the current occupant of the office, can’t run again because of term limits, O’Brien said.

“Oh my gosh,” said Lori Lachowsky, the Jacksonville High School advanced placement government teacher who took some class members to the inauguration. “Think big! Expand it by ten million times. It was beyond anything I could imagine.”

The students were cold, hungry and tired, but moved by their experiences.

“I thought it was pretty amazing,” said Cody Castile, a senior who voted for Obama in his first presidential election. “He gave a great speech and since I voted I had a little to do with his election. He was really great, smart and impressive.

“Everybody kind of came together. That says a lot about our country, people of all races coming together to elect someone like him.”

Brittany Rodgers said she was excited to have been there, heard his speech and to have seen the ex-presidents.

They were about 200 yards from the dais, and watched on a large-screen TV in the VIP section, Lachowsky said. They got up at 4:30 a.m. and stood in endless lines to get to their spots.

She said she was really proud of the maturity of the students who made the trip.

“This was a phenomenon,” Lachowsky said. “It’s such an historical moment for a county that is looking for hope and ready to change. It’s an era of change.”

Wednesday they will visit the National Archives, the Iwo Jima memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial and Union Station before flying home.

People watching the inauguration at the Jacksonville Senior Center had their own take on the moment in history.

“I met him four years ago, when he was a senator, and shook hands with him,” said William Hunter, a Chicago native, while he was watching the inauguration. “I never thought he’d be president.” Hunter spoke these words with a sense of pride.

He sat at a round table with Robert Cain and Eulalie Frank Tuesday morning at the center, patiently waiting for the historical moment when Obama became President.
Many area seniors gathered at the center to watch that moment, playing inaugural trivia and word find games as they waited.

A large screen television sat at the front of the room, tuned into the events at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

When Rev. Rick Warren took the stage to pray, heads bowed. When Aretha Franklin sang “My Country Tis of Thee,” there were nods and words of approval. When Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in, there was clapping. And when Obama took stage, there were cheers for the nation’s 44th and first African-American president.

“I feel good, elated,” said Grace Kelly. “I’m highly elated and thankful.”

Kelly sat with Ceola Crump, Yester Watson, Georgia Thomas, Louise Ford, Alma Bell, Clarice Roy and Annie bonds, all of who seemed very happy to see this day.

The table of ladies gave the loudest cheers in the room.

There was even one attendee who has seen 100-years of history, Esther Cox.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Cox, who will celebrate her 101st birthday in just a couple months. “It’s a treat for all of us.”

TOP STORY>>Growth ready to resume in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Home sales in the Cabot School District, which also includes Ward and Austin, are set to rebound despite the slow economy.

The attraction for new residents to Cabot is the schools, and that is not likely to change, say James Moore, a developer and builder in the Cabot area for 27 years, and Bill O’Brien, a realtor who keeps city officials abreast of the housing market in the Cabot School District.

Cabot’s population was 22,092 in 2006 when a special census was taken, but that number is now estimated at 22,500. And despite the downturn in the economy that has driven many area builders out of business, the Cabot area will continue to grow, they say.

Home construction has been declining for at least two years in Cabot. But O’Brien points to the steady sale of recently built houses in the Cabot School District as evidence that Cabot’s growth is not slowing down.

A marketing research firm has determined that the Cabot area is the third fastest-growing in the state behind Lowell in the Rogers-Springdale area and Maumelle.

In descending order, these areas followed Cabot in growth, according to the Gadberry Group, a Little Rock-based firm: Bella Vista, Conway, Bentonville, Bryant and Benton.

Records from Cabot Public Works show that 183 building permits for single-family homes were issued in 2007 compared to 113 in 2008. But at the same time the number of houses for sale in the Cabot School District fell from 590 to 460.

O’Brien says that means the inventory of homes is dropping and will need to be replenished soon.

But the homes they will build in Cabot will be larger than in past years, he said.

“I don’t know if we’re going to see as many of the beginner houses because the price of land is too high in Cabot. Those houses are being built in Ward and Austin (also in the Cabot School District),” he said.

Public Works records show that six building permits for single-family homes have been sold so far this year, but O’Brien says he believes the weather is largely responsible for that low number. There is money available in Cabot for buying homes, and he believes construction will pick up when the weather turns warmer.

“I’ve talked to a lot of builders and they say they’ll start again in the spring,” he said.

Jonathan Lupton, a planner with Metroplan, which distributes federal transportation dollars in Little Rock and the surrounding area, says data Metroplan gathers from cities and the census bureau indicate that the economy is keeping more people in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood and that household sizes all over the Metroplan area are increasing. Whether that means more adult children are living with their parents or that more people are seeking out roommates to help share the cost of maintaining a household is not known, Lupton said.

But young families, especially military families who are often several states away from their extended families, will always need houses, and Moore says those are the families who will continue to buy the houses he builds.

Most local banks have cut back on the money they lend for houses that are not pre-sold, Moore said, and that has put many builders out of business.

“The builders that are left are lucky enough to have enough money in savings to pay the interest on construction loans,” he said.

Moore’s son was one of those builders who found another way to make a living when the economy started to decline, but Moore says he will stay in the business because he must.

As the developer of Orchard Estates in Austin, Moore says he sold 30 starter homes last year, half the number of new homes sold in the Cabot School District.

He’ll keep building, he said, because he still has 45 empty lots, and if he stops building, his subdivision will die.

But he says he knows when those 45 homes are completed, he will sell them.

“As long as we’ve got a Little Rock Air Force Base, we’ll keep selling houses,” he said.

TOP STORY>>Race to draw crowd

Leader staff writer

Most aldermen felt it was coming but were still surprised and saddened by the news that Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim would resign July 1.

The mayor made the announcement at Thursday’s city council meeting.

“I could sense it coming,” said Alder-man Bob Stroud, “but I’m still saddened like everyone else.” Alderman Bill Howard had spent most of the day with the mayor in other meetings. “He gave me no indication,” Howard said, even though the alderman half expected the mayor not to finish out his term which would have expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Howard said Swaim has been good for the city and he’s leaving some big shoes to fill. “There’ll be a lot of people wanting to try,” Howard said.
Stroud felt the long dragged-out negotiations to save the city’s hospital did the mayor in.

“He agonized for that for months,” Stroud said, adding, “I appreciate that he got us through numerous trouble spots and has the city on a super foundation.”

The council will set the date for a special election to elect Swaim’s replacement.

“It will probably be in May,” Stroud said. Whoever wins that election will complete Swaim’s unexpired term and will be able to run for the next complete four-year term.
Stroud said the city will continue to move forward. “We’ve got a number of good people ready to step up,” he said.

The only candidates to step into the race for the mayor’s seat so far are Alderman Kenny Elliott, who announced at the council meeting that he would run after Swaim said he was resigning, and Randy (Doc) Rhodd of Family Motorcycle Ministry, who said Tuesday he’s decided “to throw my hat into the ring.”

Alderman Marshall Smith was at Thursday’s meeting to be sworn in with the rest of the council, but then left to be with his wife, who wasn’t feeling well after recent surgery. It was only the 10th meeting in 28 years that the alderman has missed.

“The mayor called me after the meeting and told me about his resignation,” Smith said.

“I was not totally surprised. He had indicated to me earlier that he was thinking in that direction. He’s been at this a longtime and I know how he feels,” Smith said, adding that the mayor has done an excellent job. Smith, himself, has submitted his resignation as chairman of the city’s advertising and promotion commission.

“I’ve been running it since its inception in 2003 and it’s just time for other aldermen to be involved,” he said. Smith’s last commission meeting was Tuesday.

Howard said many people aren’t aware how tough the mayor’s job is. “There’s always another meeting to go to. It’s not an eight-to-five job,” the alderman said.

Alderman Terry Sansing, who admits to bumping heads with the mayor probably more than anyone else on the council, was equally surprised. “The one good thing is the shape of the city,” he said, praising Swaim’s accomplishments. “The mayor’s conservative fiscal management and principles have been a blessing to Jacksonville.”

Elliot had planned to run for mayor in 2008 if Swaim opted not to run again, but Swaim announced he was going for another term and ran unopposed. The mayor had already said he would not seek reelection in 2010.

“I was going to run in 2010. This just moves up the timetable,” Eliott said.

Swaim, who is in his 23rd year as mayor, said family played a major role in his decision. He told the council he missed a lot of his children’s activities while mayor and didn’t want to do the same with his grandchildren.

“It was a hard decision to make, but the right one,” he said. “I’m comfortable with leaving. The city’s in good financial shape and has good employees.”

"I was looking forward to the mayor finishing out his term," said Alderman Reedie Ray. "This took me by surprise, but I wish him the best."

Ray called Swaim a workaholic. "And a workaholic for the city means a lot," he said, adding that he expects at least five or six people to run for the mayor's seat.

"I hope we get another person who has the city in mind," Ray said.

TOP STORY>>Prosecution rests case in court martial

Leader staff writer

The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the court martial of Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones Jr., an airman currently stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Jones is being tried on charges associated with the death of Army Sgt. Juwan L. Johnson following a gang-type hazing in 2005. At the time, both were stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Jones is being accused of aggravated assault, culpable negligence resulting in death, conspiracy to commit assault, conspiracy to obstruct justice, participation in a gang that advocates use of force or violence, witness influencing, participation in violent initiation rituals, use of marijuana, recruitment and fund-raising for a gang that advocates use of force or violence, and aiding and abetting to protect suspects in Johnson’s death. He faces penalties ranging from demotion to E-1, loss of pay, a bad conduct discharge and one to 59 years in prison.

The trial got under way on Friday after a lengthy pretrial phase marked by numerous motions from Jones’ defense team, challenging witnesses and evidence brought by the prosecution. On Saturday and Tuesday the attorneys were on their feet at every turn to impede one another.

Lt. Col. Nancy Paul of the Judge advocate General's office at one point in frustration told defense counsel Capt. Jeremy Emmert, “These calls for a mistrial are getting out of hand!”

During two hours on the stand yesterday morning, witness for the prosecution Thermitros Saroglou described his own violent initiation into a group known as the Gangster Disciples as well as BOS, for Brothers in the Struggle. The Gangster Disciples at one time was a powerful gang whose reach extended across the United States and into many foreign countries. He identified Jones as second in command in the group, which he called “a wannabe gang click.”

Saroglou’s eyewitness testimony clearly marked Jones as a participant in Johnson’s initiation at a park pavilion the night of July 4, 2005. Saraglou that night was not physically well so watched standing on a bench in the pavilion, which was illuminated by car headlights and flashlights.

By his account, that hazing was more brutal than his own or others he’d had a part in. Instead of the usual six men, many more had gathered to administer punches to Jones’ head, chest, and kidneys. Repeatedly Jones fell under the blows, but the others helped him up.

When asked if he wanted to continue, he answered, “F*** yeah!!” Then he fell, and no one helped him up, so the group began kicking him. A timekeeper – at each initiation a member keeps the beatings to six minutes – called to the men to stop, but it took several shouts to subdue the violence.

Johnson weakly got to his feet to receive hugs and cheers of congratulation. He declined the invitation to go out and celebrate at a club and was driven back to his barracks. He was found dead the next morning.

Jones’ attorneys sought to stop an expert in gang identification from taking the stand. The Killeen, Tex., police office, John Bowman, said he has been involved in “hundreds” of investigations involving the Gangster Disciples. He told the five-man jury that the activities of the group in which Jones, Johnson, and Saroglou took part – a secret handshake and stance, symbolic icons, numbers and letters, and identifying colors and clothing – were consistent with that of the group by the same name active in U.S. cities.

Bowman’s testimony largely strengthened the prosecution’s case. However, the defense was helped by his views about the intention of gang initiations: to “establish the heart of the recruit,” never injury, damage to internal organs, and death. That is a point that the defense surely will hammer on when the court martial resumes today. Testimony by defense witnesses, closing arguments, and panel deliberations may take the rest of the week.

Saroglou may still be brought to trial, as have several other airmen who had a part in the death of Johnson. The gang’s ringleader, Rico Williams, who has left the military at the time, remains at large.

TOP STORY>>Developers don’t want to wait on loop

Leader staff writer

“The North Belt will be a detriment to Sherwood,” developer Steve Deere told the Sherwood Planning Commission at its January meeting.

Deere, who wants to develop the 586-acre Oakdale North Addition, just west of Hwy. 107, believes the state is holding him and other developers hostage by not buying up the property it needs for the freeway.

Developer Tom Brooks, who is also working on the Oakdale development and is a former alderman, said that area was where future growth for Sherwood would take place, and he did not want its development to be restricted by the proposed location of the North Belt.

The state has only $4 million to buy up right-of-ways and that will not come close to buying what the state needs to extend the North Belt from Hwy. 67/167 to Hwy. 107, let alone covering land expenses to the west of Hwy. 107.

Deere has been told that property acquisition could be 10 years away. “How long am I expected to wait?” he asked the commission.

However, if the commission gives the go-ahead to Deere and other developers who own property along the proposed North Belt route, it could delay or kill the freeway project.

In the late 1990s, Sherwood developers, tired of waiting for the state to move ahead with plans for the North Belt Loop, built a subdivision in the middle of the approved route, causing what has turned out to be at least a 10-year delay of the project.

Now it could happen again.

The new I-440 route was just approved late last year, but would be in jeopardy if Deere and others get the go-ahead.

That new route has I-440 cutting Deere’s development almost in half from east to west. “Not only does it take 66 acres for the freeway, it landlocks about 150 acres in the northern half of the subdivision, according to David Jones with Marlar Engineering.

“There’s no provisions from the state for grade separations and we would need two of them to be able to develop that section,” Jones explained.

Deere says that the proposed route renders most of his property useless for development.

However, state law says once the planning commission approves development plans the state has one year to acquire the land it needs for projects. After that time, the developer is free to build in the right-of-way.

Commissioner Lucien Gillham, who recently met with Metroplan and the highway department, says the law is a little fuzzy, but that seems to be everyone’s interpretation of it.

The commission, knowing that the state most likely cannot work out something in a year’s time, has been reluctant to approve Deere’s plans or that of a few other developers. Deere’s plans were tabled in December and again this month.

“Let’s what and see what the state does,” Gillham said, explaining that the highway department did publicly state it would buy needed right-of-way in the Brockington Road area by Jan. 31.

Former city engineer Michael Clayton, representing the developer of Miller’s Crossroads, Phase II, is more adamant than Deere. He believes the state has already had more than a year to purchase the property in Miller’s Crossroads and that the developer shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

“It’s been well over a year since the Mehlberger Firm submitted plans on this 48-acre parcel of land,” Clayton said. He added that the plans do show the corridor for the North Belt.

But it is the route that is currently on the city’s master street plan, and that is not the same as the recently approved route.

The city council is taking public comment and making final adjustments to an updated master street plan that will show the newest route for the bypass. Clayton believes his client is not bound by the new plans.

Contrary to Clayton’s belief, the new North Belt route was supported and approved by the city in a resolution that was passed Apr. 23. 2007.

In the resolution the city agreed to the new route, only asking for a grade separation north of Oakdale Road and east of Mine Road.

In the resolution, the city also urged “the state Highway and Transportation Department to begin work on this most important project as soon as possible.”

Sherwood developers may do the same, as they want to develop property once again in the proposed North Belt corridor. The new route was just officially approved late last year.

SPORTS>>Cardinals in the Super Bowl? What’s next?

Leader sports editor

Maybe it was that double-strength Ambien I took the night before or the new Venezuelan coffee I drank the following morning. I don’t know which, but something has to account for the headline I thought I saw when I opened the paper on Monday morning.
Promise not to send the silly wagon to my house when I tell you that I’m almost certain I read the following in the sports section the other day: Arizona-Pittsburgh to meet in Super Bowl.

My first thought was that, this wasn’t the Super Bowl they were talking about, not the annual battle to determine the best team in the NFL. Couldn’t be that, not with the Arizona Cardinals as a participant. The Cardinals, after all, are a franchise so identified with futility that Chicago Cubs fans pity them.

Must be some sort of bowling story, I figured. Super Bowl must be some clever name for a kegglers’ competition. Bowling’s hot right now. Cabot’s Allfam just hosted an NCAA tournament, after all.

But, no, it turns out it was THE Super Bowl and it was THE Arizona Cardinals who were the NFC Champions, the same Cardinals who, a few weeks back, were gathered around their space heaters in the locker room while the New England Patriots scored about a thousand points on them.

The Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl makes sense. They were there just three years ago — won it, in fact. They’ve been there about a dozen times, it seems. No mystery there. But the Cardinals, well, now that just hardly makes any sense at all. In fact, I got to thinking of headlines that I thought I’d see before the one that made me choke on my Cheerios on Monday:

– Bowling replaces hockey as top spectator sport

– BCS admits it misplaced a decimal, declares Texas national champion

– Michael Phelps rescued from wading pool at Big Splash Amusement Park

– Shiloh Christian shuts down football program due to low turnout

– Brett Favre pleads with media to just leave him alone

– Tim Tebow blames deity for three-interception game, converts to Islam

– Studies reveal Duke can’t get a break from referees

– 400-pound Kansas football coach Mark Mangino releases ‘Tighten Those Glutes, Flatten Those Abs!’ exercise video

– NFL team eschews coaching carousel, hires first-time head coach

– Drive Time Sports host Randy Rainwater receives honorary doctorate in English, recites Shakespeare soliloquy at ceremony

– Harding University opens up first co-ed dorm ... complete with mini-bars!

– Spread offense catching on at Cabot

– NBA All-Star game a defensive struggle

– Historians cite eloquence, humility for George Bush’s ranking as Best President Ever

– Marbury, Artest neck-in-neck for NBA Sportsmanship Award

– Fellow golfers intervene, tell Daly he is ‘dangerously’ thin

– Wally Hall discovers non-awkward way to use first-person references

SPORTS>>North Little Rock pounces early

Special to The Leader

By the time the Cabot Lady Panthers found an offensive rhythm, it was already too late.

North Little Rock (11-3, 3-0 in the 7A Central) led by as many as 26 points on the way to a 62-46 win at Panther Pavilion on Friday night.

On Tuesday, the Lady Panthers moved the ball well with perimeter passing, crashed the boards and shot close to 60 percent from the field.

The Lady Charging Wild-cats beat Cabot in all of those categories on Friday.

Lachasity Seale scored the opening two baskets of the game for the Lady Wildcats to set the tone for the rest of the night.

Seale led all scorers with 27 points. Cabot fell to 12-4 overall, 2-1 in league play.

Shelby Ashcraft made a lay-up to make the score 4-2, but Cabot went scoreless over the next 4:30 as the Lady Wildcats surged ahead for a 13-2 lead.

Things didn’t get better for the Lady Panthers in the second quarter. The Lady Wildcats hit four three-pointers inside the final three minutes of the half to extend their lead to 33-14.

The game was in danger of getting out of hand and turning into a mercy- rule loss for Cabot in the third when North Little Rock opened the quarter with an 11-4 run that made the score 44-18.

Cabot came alive at that point with a 10-0 run and went into the fourth quarter trailing 48-30.

The Lady Panthers pulled within 11 points after Ashcraft hit a pair of three-pointers on consecutive trips down the court.

The next seven points of the game were all free throws from the Lady Wildcats as North Little Rock put the game away from the line. All 14 of the Lady Wildcats’ points came from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

Ashcraft led Cabot with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Stephanie Glover scored 10 points and added 8 more rebounds. Amber Rock scored 7 points, Amalie Benjamin had 4 points and 6 rebounds. Lindsay Hoggatt scored 3 points, while Kristen Spann and Jenna Bailey scored 2. Brooke Taylor added a free throw for Cabot.

SPORTS>>Panthers blow past Wildcats from long range

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers spread the three-point love around Friday night in a 54-34 win over the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats at Panther Pavilion.

Adam Sterrenberg, Astin Johnson and Jack Bridges each had a pair of threes in the win.

On Tuesday night, Johnson made six three-pointers. Sterrenberg broke out of a short scoring drought to lead Cabot with 25 points. Johnson finished with 14.

Miles Monroe was challenged with sticking to the Charging Wildcats’ best player in Terry Tidwell most of the night. Monroe contributed 8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in the win.

“I thought Miles played some great defense on Tidwell,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, whose Panthers improved to 12-4, 2-1 in the 7A Central. “Tidwell is one heck of a player, but our guys did a good job tonight.”

Monroe was often on one side of Tidwell while a fellow Panther would be on the opposite side to bracket North Little Rock’s big man.

While the Wildcats’ leading scorer for the season was being held in check, the same wasn’t true for the Panthers.

Sterrenberg had been dishing out assists the last two games while Austin Johnson was draining three-pointers. This time, it was Sterrenberg who was sinking threes, and he also added a dunk to lead the Panthers in scoring.

“We preach that we want everyone involved, but we knew Adam would be back,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “The main thing is that he let the game come to him and had a much better shot selection tonight.”

The Wildcats (7-7, 2-1) scored on their first trip down the court, but didn’t again for over six minutes as the Panthers went on a 13-0 run.

Sterrenberg scored 16 points in the first half as Cabot took a 30-15 lead into halftime. Cabot’s defense forced North Little Rock into 12 turnovers in the first half.

“We’ve got experience guards out there, while they are playing some younger players,” Bridges said. “That makes such a huge difference. Take Adam off the team and we’d have a rough time.”

Cabot was one point away from a mercy rule in the fourth quarter when Bridges started emptying the bench. North Little Rock ended the game on a 9-0 to make the score closer than the game.

Sterrenberg’s 25 points led all scorers, while Johnson made a pair of three-pointers on his way to 14 points. Monroe scored 8, while Jack Bridges scored 6, Baker 3 and Clark 1 in the win.

SPORTS>>Red Devils pick up East road win

Special to The Leader

Jacksonville was heavily favored, but still got a big win in a place that’s been a tough place for the Red Devils to play in recent years, beating the Searcy Lions 56-46 Friday night in The Jungle at Searcy High.

Things didn’t start going according to plan until the third quarter, as the home team hung tough with its favored visitors throughout the first half.

The Lions laid back in a tight zone in the first half, hoping to neutralize Jacksonville’s biggest advantages, height and quickness. The Red Devil guards were unable to penetrate, and the big men weren’t open for shots. The Searcy strategy worked on the front end, but offensive rebounds and putbacks kept Jacksonville in front throughout the first half. Searcy’s Jamaal Jones came off the bench to lead the Lions and keep them close in the early going. He scored nine of Searcy’s 22 first-half points as Jacksonville took a four-point lead into the break.

The Red Devils all but ended the drama in the third quarter, outscoring Searcy 18-4 and taking a 44-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville broke the game open about halfway through the third. Leading 33-26, Antwan Lockhart got a steal and assist to teammate LaQuentin Miles, who was fouled on a made basket and converted the three-point play. Another Searcy turnover was followed by a three pointer by DeShone McClure. After a Searcy miss, Miles hit a three that made it 42-26 with 1:49 left in the period.

Shortly after the start of the fourth quarter, Jacksonville’s Darris Morant came off the bench to hit two more three pointers to give the Red Devils complete control.
The lead grew to as much as 25 before Searcy’s Casey Wilmath got hot late with most of Jacksonville’s varsity on the bench. Wilmath scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the final four minutes of the game, going 6 of 7 from the floor in that span, his only miss a 50-footer at the buzzer.

“We had to get them out of that zone and the only way to do that is to hit some shots from outside,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We finally did that in the second half and the game changed. Darris Morant came off the bench and hit two from the perimeter, because we had to break up that zone. In the first half we didn’t do anything to soften that zone up. They sagged in, and I would’ve done the same thing. Searcy played the percentages and made us hit from the outside. We finally started hit some and the percentages went our way. They went Searcy’s way in the first half and our way in the second.”

Miles led Jacksonville with 15 points while post player Demetris Harris posted another double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jones finished with 11 points for the Lions.

The win lifted Jacksonville to 10-3 overall and 2-1 in league play. Searcy fell to 5-9 and 1-2.

SPORTS>>Lonoke’s Jones off to Springdale

Leader sports editor

Citing family and a desire to reunite with old friends and former coaches, Jeff Jones announced he is leaving Lonoke to take the defensive coordinator’s job at Springdale.

In three years as Jackrabbit head coach, Jones compiled a 22-12 record, including an 8-4 record in 2007 and a 10-2 record last fall. Lonoke won the 2-4A Conference last year and reached the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Shiloh Christian.

“They’ve been talking to me about coming back ever since I left (Springdale),” said Jones, who was a special teams and cornerbacks coach at Springdale in 2003-2004. “It’s just a good time. Lonoke’s in great shape now, better than when I found it. The cupboard is not empty.”

Jones will rejoin Kevin Johnson, now the head coach at Springdale and a former assistant under Gus Malzahn.

“Coaches always talk about relationships,” Jones said. “It’s not only with the players but with the coaches we work with. Kevin was a good friend even before (we coached together) at Springdale.”

The main reason Jones listed for the move was the opportunity to be near his only son, Zach, who just completed his first year as an assistant coach at Alma.

Jones wouldn’t speculate on his replacement, saying only that his staff consisted of quality coaches.

“Lonoke is a job that should invite a lot of applicants,” he said. “I’d recommend it for everyone. It’s a great community and a great sports town.”

Since Springdale won the 2005 state championship in dominating fashion under Malzahn, quarterback Mitch Mustain, wide receiver Damien Williams and an unprecedented host of talented players, it has fallen on rough times. Johnson compiled a 6-4 record in his first season and followed that up with 4-6 and 5-6 campaigns.

Jones will take over the defensive coaching duties from Johnson, who doubled as both head coach and defensive coordinator last season. The Bulldogs allowed 34 points a game in 2008.

Jones, who led an immensely talented offense at Lonoke last season, said he is really a defensive coach at heart.

“I’m a football player and all I care about is football,” he said. “I’m a team guy. I don’t have a big ego. I do what I’m assigned. But I love defense. My first job was as a defensive coordinator at Dierks, so I’ve always been on the defensive side of the ball.”

Jones said he will honor the rest of his contract at Lonoke and finish out the spring semester, though he will spend some time up at Springdale to prepare for spring football and to begin installing defensive packages.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits race past Heber Springs

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits did what jackrabbits do: run and then run some more.

After getting off to a sluggish start against Heber Springs, Lonoke was off to the races in an 84-63 win over the Panthers on Friday night at Lonoke. The Jackrabbits bounced back from a four-game span in which they lost three times, and improved to 10-4 overall, 3-2 in the 2-4A Conference.

The Jackrabbits trailed only once in the game at 2-0, but scored the next eight points on their way to a 22-6 lead early in the second period.

Though the ’Rabbits held Heber Springs to just nine points midway through the second quarter and 7 of 27 from the field in the first half, coach Wes Swift was far from pleased with his team’s defensive effort.

“Giving up 63 is not going to get it done,” Swift said. “We give up 63 to Marianna, then 63 against Heber Springs. I think I’ve had teams that haven’t given up that many points the whole season.

“Defense starts with ball pressure but we’re not containing the ball well and we’re not challenging passes. You don’t want guys driving by you. Our overall toughness is what I’m really not happy about. We just had a two-and-a-half hour practice and that’s all we worked on was defense.”

Lonoke was not shooting a whole lot better at 12 of 31, but the Jackrabbits finally found the range from the free-throw line, an area that has plagued them through much of the season. After missing five of their first six, Lonoke hit 14 of their next 15 to finish a respectable 19 of 28 for the game.

“A lot of (free-throw shooting) is between the kids’ ears,” Swift said. “A lot of it is focus, understanding that that point is important. We’re just kind of a nonchalant team right now. We don’t have much focus. We’re struggling.”

The Jackrabbits maintained a 20- to 25-point lead throughout most of the third quarter. It reached 60-35 on Darius Scott’s steal and lay-up with 2:15 left in the third. An 11-2 Heber Springs run narrowed the gap to 16 early in the final period, but Lonoke merely turned it into overdrive at that point, getting fast-break baskets by Michael Howard and Trenton Spencer, a drive and basket by Howard and an end-to-end breakaway by Lance Jackson to push the lead back to 24.

The game was played at a frantic pace from the start, which played into Lonoke’s much deeper bench. Nine Jackrabbits scored in the first half. Eight players scored six points or more and four reached double figures in the game. Despite the frantic pace, the Rabbits committed only 10 turnovers.

Clarence Harris led the way with 14 points and added three blocked shots. Spencer added 13 points, two assists and two steals. Howard had 12 points, six boards and four assists and Jackson had 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“I thought we shared the ball a little better,” Swift said. “And I’m not disappointed with 84 points. I’ll take 10 turnovers at the pace we play at.”

Tyler Gibbs had eight points, while Pierre Smith added seven points. Mike Jones scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds.

Lonoke warmed up significantly in the second half, thanks primarily to a slew of fast-break baskets and 3-of-4 shooting from deep. The Jackrabbits hit 18 of 29 after intermission to finish the game 30 of 60. Heber heated up a little in the second half, though the Panthers still finished at 19 of 55 and connected on only 3 of 16 from beyond the arc. But Heber Springs got to the line 33 times, a number Swift chalked up to being out of position on defense.

Big post player Juice Lambert is still struggling to regain his timing after missing the first part of the season with injury. Lambert scored four points and grabbed five rebounds.

“He’s rushing a lot, but kids that come back do that,” Swift said. “And on our end, we’re having to learn to play with him. We want to attack, sure, but we actually want to use Juice, too. We tell them, if we can’t get it immediately to the rack, lets reverse the ball and try to use him.

“He has a lot of mass and can get down in the low position for us.”

SPORTS>>Searcy girls hold off Jacksonville for win

Special to The Leader

The Lady Red Devil defense started hot, and the Lady Lion offense was cold. The result was a big early lead for the visiting underdogs, but the hosting Searcy girls slowly and steadily came back to claim a 46-37 win Friday night at SHS.
Searcy didn’t score in the first six minutes of the game. Its first points came from a free throw by Kristen Celsor.

Thanks in large part to an aggressive Jacksonville defense, Searcy hit just 1 of 16 shot attempts from the floor, and was one of four from the foul line. The Lady Red Devils, meanwhile, hit six of 12 attempts and held a 13-3 lead after one quarter.
Jacksonville’s lead remained in the nine- to 10-point range for the better part of the second quarter, but Searcy then took its turn to apply some pressure.

The pressure, as well as several second-chance opportunities, sparked a 9-2 run late in the second quarter that turned an 18-10 margin into a 20-19 score by halftime.
“I thought we did a much better job in the second quarter of getting to the offensive boards,” Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong said. “We didn’t rebound very well early. We did a much better job of that starting in the second quarter and I thought that made the difference.”

The Lady Lions got hot from the outside in the third quarter. Searcy tied the game at 22 apiece in the first minute of the second half. A three-pointer by Celsor gave the hosts their first lead at 25-22 with six minutes left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville tied the game again shortly thereafter, and the two teams stayed tied for almost three minutes. Searcy broke the drought with a 5-0 run that forced Jacksonville to take its first timeout with 1:49 left in the third quarter. Searcy’s Tara Gardner hit a three after the break, but Jacksonville came back to pull within 35-29 by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Lady Red Devils went with full-court pressure to start the fourth. That created turnovers and Jacksonville capitalized. Five points by Sherice Randel and a bucket by Jessica Lanier went unanswered as the Lady Devils took the lead back at 36-35 with a 6:35 left in the game. From there it was all Searcy as Jacksonville would manage just two more points the rest of the way. Searcy closed the game with a 12-2 run that was almost entirely on putbacks and free throws.

“We’ve got some young guards handling the ball and we’ve had trouble handling the press,” Birdsong said. “Once we got through it a couple times and got a couple of shots to go down, I think we settled down and did a much better job.”

Neither team took very good care of the ball. Jacksonville committed 19 turnovers while Searcy gave it up 20 times. The rebounding, as Birdsong recognized, was resoundingly in her team’s favor. Searcy out-rebounded the Lady Lions 39-25.

Celsor led all scorers with 18 points. Lauren Harrison added 10 for Searcy. Celsor and Elliot Scarbrough each pulled down nine rebounds to lead the team, while Lindsey Hanshew grabbed eight boards.

Randel led Jacksonville with 16 points while Lanier, who spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble, finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

Searcy improved to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the 6A-East. Jacksonville fell to 7-8 and 1-2 in league play.

Monday, January 19, 2009

TOP STORY > > Hazen resident works toward earning his GED

Leader staff writer

Charles Washington of Hazen had a rude awakening when one day long ago he went job hunting in the city, after a move to Tulsa from an Arkansas cotton farm. He was 20 years old, but was no stranger to work – that was not the problem. From childhood he had toiled in the fields, chopping cotton, along with his father and siblings. For the 12 children in his family, school was a luxury. The crops and the owner’s demands came first. After eighth grade, Washington dropped out of school entirely to run a tractor and other farm equipment. Yes, he knew how to work.

But he did not know how to read or fill out a job application.

“The lady brought me an application and a pencil and told me to fill it out,” he recalled. “I just sat there and looked at it. It was kind of funny, but not really.”
Luckily, his prospective employer knew a good man when he saw one and asked the secretary to fill out the form for Washington. “That was really embarrassing. When you can’t read, when you have no knowledge of what’s on that paper, you are really missing a whole lot. Reading is knowledge, but reading is understanding, too.”

In his spare time, Washington began studying for his GED, but soon gave that up to get a second job to support his family. What Washington lacked in education, he made up in a strong work ethic, making it through the years as a janitor and pipe fitter. However, his experience on the farm as an equipment operator was of no value to any employer, because he could not pass the test for a license.

Three years ago, Washington saw his chance again to pursue his education. An accident had forced him into an early retirement, but blessed him with time on his hands. Roy Henderson of the Literacy Council of Lonoke County began tutoring Washington; they have become fast friends.

Washington was clear on his goals: to be able to read and understand the Bible, and to earn his GED. He has accomplished the first, and is well on his way to achieving the second, despite a learning disability from the accident. In a year, he should be ready to test for the GED. “He can do anything now that he wants to,” Henderson says emphatically. “He is one of our best students ever. I admire his courage.”

Today, being able to read is critical, Washington observed. Even his old job on the farm might be out of reach for someone who can’t read. “The way things are going now, everything is computerized, even a tractor. I couldn’t drive it; I doubt I could even start it. You have to be able to read the manual.”