Friday, January 15, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Snyder’s goodbye

U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder announced Friday that he will not run for re-election, which means that the Second Congressional District will be represented in a radically different way.

It is anybody’s guess whether Snyder’s successor will be a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative, a moderate or a liberal, but we are quite sure that central Arkansas will not again be represented by the most quixotic member of Congress. It was Snyder’s quaint insistence upon principle that we liked more than his votes and that finally became his strength with voters.

Alone among the 535 members of Congress, Snyder did not have a permanent campaign fund. When he first ran for public office, a position in the state Senate from central Little Rock, he would not seek or accept campaign contributions until he actually filed for office, two months before the primaries. He hewed to that ideal in every race thereafter. Every other member of Congress raises money year-round, so that by election year he has a daunting campaign treasury. No principle trumps the imperative of getting re-elected.

Snyder has been an anomaly in so many ways. He was a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam but refused to exploit it. More often than any member of the House, he would cast lonely and politically risky votes. He cast one of the few votes against the invasion of Iraq when the country was being stampeded by war fervor, but he fought relentlessly for better support for soldiers and veterans.

A Snyder campaign was quaint in other ways. He never demonized his opponent or his critics. He was respectful, even complimentary, of even his meanest opponents. His campaigns were, well, just odd.

He would have faced another nasty race this fall. He has a cacophony of critics for his votes to expand health insurance to everyone and for a bill to reduce climate-warming gases.

There were rumors that Snyder would quit or at least not seek re-election after the birth of triplets last year and the frail recovery of his wife, Rev. Betsy Singleton. He spent every weekend and every day that Congress was not in session back at home with his family. Friday, he said could not cheat his family any longer.

The Second District is not apt to elect anyone like him, but we can hope that he or she will be at least a reasonable facsimile.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville will hold two pageants

The Miss Greater Jacksonville Pageant and the Miss Greater Jacksonville Outstanding Teen Pageant will be held on Feb. 27 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Miss Greater Jacksonville contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 24.

Outstanding Teen contestants must be at least 13 years old by the date of the state pageant or no older than 17 and must not be a senior in high school.

Other contests will include: baby miss for children under 18 months old, toddler miss for children between the ages of 19 and 35 months old, wee miss for 3 to 4 year olds, tiny miss for 5 and 6 years old, little miss for 7 to 9 year olds and petite miss for 10 to 12 year olds. Each competition includes beauty, talent and photogenic portions.

Deadline to enter is Feb. 19.

For more information, call 501-982-3898 or 501-982-2222.

Winners will go on to compete in Miss Arkansas and Miss Outstanding Teen pageants, which will take place in Hot Springs later this year.

EDITORIAL >> Disaster in Haiti

Americans may have become a little calloused to mass suffering because there have been so many bids for our conscience from scenes of war, terrorism, hurricanes and earthquakes in Indonesia, China, Iran and our own southern coast. But we have awakened each morning this week to images of unspeakable horror from Haiti that dispel any boredom with natural disasters.

The destruction and the suffering on that little island off our gulf shores are of a magnitude that they have awakened unusual humanitarian impulses for the people of other lands, or at least we hope they have. No disaster in memory has wrought such havoc, and it is upon the poorest and most abused people of the Western Hemisphere.

The first major earthquake along the Caribbean fault in 150 years fell upon the most vulnerable people, virtually destroying that country. Fifty thousand people or perhaps twice that lie dead under the wreckage, and most of the people of the sprawling capital and its environs are homeless and beyond relief.

Getting emergency relief to the survivors, in which the resourceful folks at Little Rock Air Force Base are employed, is a daunting proposition because the infrastructure has vanished in the rubble. Even the logistics of mass burials of corpses that lie everywhere seem impossible.

President Obama promised an all-out American effort to help, and that, of course, is our history. The private philanthropy of ordinary Americans may be unprecedented for foreign assistance. It ought to be.

But there are the usual discordant notes, sounded by people who do not think Haitians deserve our help. Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio icon, says that Haitians already get far more assistance from the U.S. government than they deserve and that American citizens should avoid helping. We wonder if that is because Haitians are black. The most unfathomable rant was from Rev. Pat Robertson, the television evangelist who had declared after the 9/11 attacks that God was punishing the United States for its tolerance of homosexuals and abortion.

Robertson said the tens of thousands of Haitians who died and the others whose lives were destroyed got what was coming to them. That presumably included the Catholic bishop and the other men of God who died in the collapse of the cathedral in Port au Prince. Robertson said God was punishing Haiti for rebelling 200 years ago and winning independence from Napoleon’s imperial rule. Independence was a “pact with the devil,” the good reverend said. The message was that Americans should not try to undo the Lord’s handiwork.

The history that Robertson referenced ought to impel us in the opposite direction. Haitians are a people with whom Americans have a special bond that dates to our mutual independence from imperialist Europe. Haitians came over and fought with Americans in the Revolutionary War.

Twenty-five years later, the African slaves who made up most of the population of the island rebelled and threw off French rule, but at a cost of 100,000 lives. It was the only slave rebellion that was also a war for independence, and Haiti was the first colony in Latin America to win independence from Europe.

The tyranny did not end with independence and continued down to modern times. The dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic on the other half of Hispaniola, carried on a vendetta against the blacks on the island, systematically slaughtering those caught on the Dominican side.

Haiti was ruled for 30 years after mid-century by the brutal Duvalier family and its terrorist militias, the Tonton Macoutes, until an uprising drove “Baby Doc” Duvalier away in 1986. President Reagan arranged for him to find exile in France.

Democracy has been uncertain for Haiti — President Clinton threatened U. S. armed intervention to preserve it — and not always kind.

No, Haitians deserve misfortune no more than did the peasants of the Chinese plains or the coastal dwellers in Louisiana and Mississippi who found themselves in the path of the worst hurricane in a century. We can’t be sure but we suspect that God expects us to help.

TOP STORY >> Woman goes extra mile to save pets

Joy McManus is shown with Vayle, a pit bull who had been hit by a car. The dog was transported to LaMancha Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania and found a new home.


Leader staff writer

More than a dozen dogs at the Beebe Animal Shelter were recently given a second chance at finding new homes at pet-rescue centers in the eastern United States.

Joy McManus of Romance is a volunteer who organized more than 60 drivers to transport 17 homeless dogs to three rescue organizations in New York and Pennsylvania.

A team of volunteer drivers relayed the dogs from Arkansas eastward. The trip had 20 legs with three drivers for each leg.

McManus had to find overnight hosts for the dogs, including a mother dog with a litter of 5-week-old puppies, and their drivers for the two-day trip the week before Christmas.

Delayed by a snowstorm, McManus had to find temporary foster homes in the Little Rock area for the dogs until the trip was rescheduled on Dec. 26.

McManus’ involvement with shelter rescues began in August 2006, when she lived in Texas. She was a junior high school art and journalism teacher and a Web site designer. She volunteered at a shelter in Texas.

Her plan was to photograph dogs at the shelter and post them online to help increase the local pet-adoption rates.

While in Texas, she met someone who worked many years in “companion” animal-rescue work. She learned about rescuing dogs and cats scheduled for euthanasia at animal shelters with low adoption rates.

McManus moved to the Beebe area in 2007 with her boyfriend, Doug Hall. Hall was earning his bachelor’s degree and had parents who living in the area.

She received an e-mail a few weeks earlier about pets in need of rescuing at the Beebe shelter. McManus met with Beebe animal control officer Horace Taylor in February 2007 to talk about rescue work at the shelter, which is located at the city landfill off Hwy. 31.

McManus said she began managing the volunteer rescue effort at the Beebe shelter in March 2007.

According to McManus, Taylor agreed to try things out as he did not like to see the dogs euthanized.

She said, “the initial and ongoing efforts over the past years have resulted in a shift from nearly upward of 95 percent euthanizations of all unclaimed, adoptable strays to nearly zero, with the exception to a large spike in the impounded dog population during the summer of 2009, when rescue acquisition hit an all-time low due to the recession.”

In 2009, McManus moved 129 dogs from Beebe to rescue organizations across the nation. Since her work began two years ago, she has relocated nearly 400 dogs.

McManus does not find homes for the dogs staying at the Beebe shelter. She meets the dogs, takes their photos and sees how they interact over several days. She learns about the dogs’ personalities and behaviors.

She then posts an e-mail plea to nonprofit pet-rescue organizations about the dogs. The information is then posted online on discussion groups and forums.

McManus then communicates with the directors of the rescue centers. When a rescue organization agrees to take in one of the dogs from the Beebe shelter, McManus arranges for the dogs to be checked out by a vet. McManus takes the dogs to the veterinary clinic with the assistance of fellow volunteer Glenda Cranford of North Little Rock.

Then McManus works on planning the routes to rescue centers on the East Coast, Minnesota and Arizona.

To prepare the dogs for the trip, McManus makes sure the dogs have all their paperwork and health certificates so they can be transported across state lines legally. The drivers have an information sheet and a photo of each dog being transported in their vehicle.

The driver’s contact information is a record for each leg of the trip driven.

She then makes sure the dogs have collars or leashes that buckle, food and medicine if needed.

McManus is in constant communication with the dog transporters until the dogs arrive at the rescue organizations.

The transport team is a volunteer effort.

McManus said, “It is their gas money, their time and their vehicle wear and tear they are sacrificing, because they want to help companion animals get a second chance.

“They are the unsung heroes to complete the cycle from a municipal kill-shelter to rescue organizations.”

Moving 17 dogs was the largest transport McManus has undertaken.

She said, “Routine transports involve four or five dogs at a maximum. Circumstances surrounding this particular transport involved the necessity of removing all impounds from the shelter prior to the animal-control officer’s two week, holiday vacation departure coupled with several previously pulled groups of dogs that could not be transported at the time of the pull due to health reasons.”

With one group of dogs, a mother recently gave birth to puppies. The puppies could not travel to the East Coast until they were old enough to be moved from car to car safely. A second group of puppies needed two sets of booster shots over three weeks for their immune systems.

Intake coordinator Alison Abraham at LaMancha Animal Rescue in Unionville, Pa., said the organization has taken in dogs from Beebe along with dogs from other states.

She said up north, “People do not let their dogs run loose that are not spayed or neutered. A family dog would be fixed by the time they are 6 months old unless bought for breeding.

“Most dogs sleep in dog beds in the living room, bedroom or kitchen, but tied up to the dog house (outside) is very rare.”

Abraham said in the northern states there is a larger adoption rate and a lesser amount of puppies than in the South. She said people would rather adopt than purchase a dog from a breeder. People feel they are helping out an animal that didn’t have a home that would still be in a shelter.

Abraham said many families are looking for a Labrador retriever or a hound for a good family dog. She said pit bulls and pit bull mixes make up much of the populations at animal shelters in the North.

She said one of the reasons is that pit bulls are a status symbol to inner-city youth.

A majority of the dogs McManus transports from Beebe to pet rescue shelters are Labrador retriever, hound mixes, terrier mixes and stray pit bulls.

PetsAlive is a no-kill animal shelter in Middletown, N.Y. The organization takes in animals from all across the U.S. from shelters that are euthanizing dogs due to lack of space at their facilities.

Executive director Kerry Clair said the rescue center has between 60 to 80 dog adoptions a month.

“We have a 100-percent adoption rate. It is very rare to have a dog more than a month that was pulled from the South,” Clair said.

She said the dogs are adopted within a week after coming off quarantine. Five dogs from the Beebe shelter that were transported to PetsAlive during the weekend after Christmas have already found new homes.

Clair said there are more resources for pet owners in the North. Many organizations offer low-cost spay and neutering from $50 or less. She said there are more humane education programs in the school systems about pet sterilization.

She said, “If the legislatures in the South would recognize that it is cheaper to spay a female dog than to euthanize her offspring, they would offer low-cost spay and neuter clinics to the communities.”

TOP STORY >> Snyder will not run for re-election

Leader senior staff writer

Second District Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, announced Friday that after seven terms, he would not seek re-election, choosing family over what was expected to be a rough-and-tumble campaign against former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin.

Although Snyder hadn’t begun campaigning or raising money, Griffin a former aide to Karl Rove, had a double-digit lead over the incumbent, according to at least one recent poll.

Snyder, 62, serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where he chairs the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, the Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Joint Economic Committee.

His style was that of a thoughtful, unruffled public servant in an era of bare-knuckle politicians hurling vitriol and invective.

Snyder and his wife, the Rev. Betsy Singleton, have four young boys, including triplets. He was active in helping to bring programs and construction projects to Little Rock Air Force Base worth millions of dollars.

Snyder said in his announcement, “2010 will be a robust election year during which great forces collide to set the direction for our country for another two years.”

“Over the last several weeks Betsy and I have had discussions with family and friends, including other members of Congress — Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and our own Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) regarding the appropriate balance between family and congressional service when a family has very young children. I have concluded that these election-year forces are no match for the persuasive and powerful attraction of our three one-year-old boys under the leadership of their three-year-old brother, and I have decided not to run for re-election.”

“Two weeks ago, my campaign manager came on board,” said Snyder, “but that first morning, I advised him to do nothing to begin the campaign because of my doubts regarding running. The onset of the new year, the time I always begin organizing my campaigns, did nothing to remove these doubts.”

Snyder’s announcement caught the Democratic Party of Arkansas by surprise, but executive director Mariah Hatta put the best face on the situation.

“We have heard from several who might be interested in running,” she said. “We will definitely have a strong nominee. I have no doubt about that. The Second District is the most Democratic in the state. It has historically sent democrats to Washington and elected Democrats on all levels.”

She declined to say who had expressed interest in the Democratic nomination for Snyder’s seat.

“We will miss him but we respect his decision,” Hatta said. “I can’t imagine raising four children.”

Griffin, the presumptive Republican candidate, issued the following statement: “I respect Rep. Snyder’s decision not to seek re-election. I thank him for his many years of service to the nation, both in uniform and in Washington.”

Griffin capped perhaps the best day of his political career, announcing that Little Rock businessman Warren Stephens had agreed to be the finance chairman of his campaign.

Snyder, who is both a lawyer and a doctor, said he hadn’t thought much about what he would do next, but that “it is clear from observing how much our four little boys eat that I will be working.”

Snyder, an Oregon native, dropped out of college and joined the Marines, working as a medic in Vietnam and reaching the rank of corporal.

He returned to college, earning a medical degree from the Oregon Health Sciences Center in 1979.

He came to Arkansas to serve his residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

He volunteered as a doctor at refugee camps in Cambodia, Thailand, El Salvador, Honduras, Ethiopia and Sudan.

He then attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School in 1988 while still operating a family medical practice.

He frequently supported traditional liberal issues, and sometimes stood up for unpopular causes, such as repealing Arkansas’ sodomy law.

In Congress, he was one of 113 representatives to vote against authorizing the invasion of Iraq. He was one of only two who voted against prosecuting Saddam Hussein.

“He is a remarkable man who has served our country in so many capacities – in the Marine Corps, as a lawyer and a doctor, and as the proud representative of Arkansas’ Second District,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln. “He has given an incredible amount of time and energy to the people of Arkansas, and he will be missed.”

“He has built a strong reputation as a man of principle, a trait he carried while serving his nation as a U.S. Marine in combat and a member of Congress,” Pryor said. “I know that whatever the future holds for Vic, he will touch and inspire others; but most importantly, he will be able to spend precious time with his family.”

SPORTS >> North Pulaski girls trip state semifinalist Beebe

Beebe’s Shayln Young takes a shot over North Pulaski guard Jaqueline Moragne in a 5A Southeast Conference game.


Leader sportswriter

North Pulaski’s confidence grew right along with its lead in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Beebe Lady Badgers.

The Lady Falcons held Beebe scoreless in the final 2:36 as North Pulaski claimed its first 5A-Southeast Conference victory of the season, 50-39, at the Falcons Nest.

North Pulaski (2-7, 1-1) led the entire game until Lady Badgers guard Alexis Miguel made a pull-up jumper to give Beebe (0-14) the 31-30 lead with 3:41 left in the third quarter. But pint-sized Lady Falcon Breanna Trent answered with two big outside shots for the three-point lead, and North Pulaski never trailed again.

“It felt good. The girls worked hard,” Lady Falcons coach Todd Romaine said. “And that’s why we get so frustrated. This is probably the first complete game that I’ve seen in a while from a North Pulaski girls basketball team. They ran every play they were asked to do; they stayed within their game and played smart.”

Foul trouble hurt Beebe’s inside game, as senior post player Danna Jackson was on the bench for much of the second half.

Jackson kept the Lady Badgers in it early with six points in the first quarter, but she picked up three fouls in the first half. She got her fourth to start the fourth quarter, which forced her to sit out until the final minutes.

The Lady Falcons went on a 7-2 run in that stretch to improve a 36-33 lead at the end of the third to 43-35 with 4:37 left in the fourth, when senior guard Laura Dortch scored off an assist following a defensive rebound by Bianca Harper.

“The balls were falling tonight,” Romaine said. “Friday night, we played over at Mills, and we couldn’t hit anything. Tonight, every shot we made seemed to go in. We had a lot of point production from several people, and that helped.”

Most of Denesha Shelton’s point production came in the first half for North Pulaski. Shelton scored all but two of her 13 points in the first two quarters, including a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter to help the Lady Falcons take an early lead.

She sank one more three-pointer in the second quarter as North Pulaski entered halftime with a 26-21 lead.

“Not having a point guard hurts us, but Laura Dortch has stepped up and done an excellent job there,” Romaine said. “Bianca, of course, any given night she’s an offensive threat. Denesha brings us a good perimeter threat when she’s shooting well. Everybody put what they had into the game tonight, and I’m proud of them.”

Harper led the way for the Lady Falcons with 14 points while Dortch finished with 12. Trent added nine points.

Harper fended off Beebe’s first second-half run with a pair of inside shots that extended a 26-25 lead to 30-25 with close to six minutes left.

Beebe followed with its best run of the game. Amanda Wheeler’s basket with 5:39 left cut it to three, and post player Kelsie Walker cut the Lady Falcons’ lead further with an inside shot to make it 30-29. Miguel followed with her shot in the lane to complete the 6-0 run and give Beebe its short-lived lead.

“One challenge we have is that they have to start believing in themselves that they can win,” Romaine said. “There are still going to be some challenges up and down, but this is the team that we have, and that’s how they can play if they’ll just get out and play.”

Wheeler led the Lady Badgers with 10 points. Jackson added nine and Shayln Young had eight.

North Pulaski played host to Crossett Friday and will play at Sylvan Hills on Tuesday. Beebe played host to Monticello Friday night.

SPORTS >> Cleanup role new position for McGwire

Leader sports editor

So Mark McGwire has come clean.

And judging by his reduced size, the former St. Louis Cardinals slugger has also become clean.

The one-time, single-season home-run king finally admitted Monday to on-and-off use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs during his career with the Oakland A’s and Cardinals.

It was the confession McGwire couldn’t bring himself to make before Congress when he said, on March 17, 2005, that he wasn’t “here to talk about the past.”

So why now?

Of course, McGwire, who famously dueled the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa while hitting a then-record 70 home runs in 1998, is working on some image rehab prior to reporting to the Cardinals as their new hitting coach. Apparently he has been hired to inject some offense into the team.

Which makes one wonder if Cards manager Tony La Russa, who hired McGwire, is taking something more mind altering, given the media circus sure to ensue.

Judging by the recent Hall of Fame balloting, McGwire has a lot more rehabbing to do. In his fourth year on the ballot, McGwire received 23.7 percent of the vote.

The only player voted in, former Montreal Expos and Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson, earned 77.9 percent of the votes cast by the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers of America.

Dawson, who also played for the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins, banged out 438 home runs and 1,591 RBI in his 20-year career. If a guy could have benefited from the recuperative powers of steroids, it would have been the creaky-kneed Dawson, who nonetheless stole 314 bases and took a blank check from the Cubs to play on the kinder natural grass of Wrigley Field.

But by all accounts and appearances, Dawson — whose career ended in 1996 — stayed clean.

McGwire hit 583 homers and has the greatest ratio of home runs to at-bats, but has never earned 25 percent of the Hall of Fame vote. The guidelines state “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team (s) on which they played.”

And let me tell you, the Baseball Writers, well-meaning soreheads that they are, take this seriously. Which is why McGwire may never be a hall of famer and the equally suspect Sosa, who finished 1998 with 66 homers, is next in line to be shunned.

McGwire is not an evil man. He has apologized to the widow of Roger Maris, who set the record McGwire broke with 61 home runs in 1961.

In my only interview with McGwire in spring training of 2000, with the steroid scandal still simmering mostly below the surface, we talked about his off-season work on behalf of sexually abused children, which proves the drugs hadn’t affected his heart.

Unfortunately, the few sportswriters who tried to out steroid users during the home run heyday were largely ignored or shouted down. In those days, we couldn’t even bring ourselves to believe the ball was juiced.

By the time I visited Cubs spring training a few years later, I was ready to ask Sosa a steroids question, after which he angrily broke off the interview.

It may be the proudest moment of my career.

People who defend McGwire say he and Sosa, with their jocular competition in 1998, brought fans back to baseball after the 1994 strike. But they left us with another mess, and there is no way they should be allowed in the Hall of Fame, just like Pete

Rose who broke the taboo of betting on baseball.

Love McGwire or hate him, you can’t signal that players can break the game’s primary ethical rules and be rewarded later as long as they put up the numbers.

But I also submit McGwire and players like him are victims of a sort, guys trying to find an edge in a demanding, highly competitive, big-money sport.

A friend in my business raised an interesting hypothetical: If there were a drug that could make you a better, more prolific, consistently award-winning sportswriter, would you take it?

I know I need all the help I can get, but the serious answer is it depends.

Would I take such a drug on general principles? No. I don’t think so.

But, what if I’m in a newsroom and I’m seeing my fellow sportswriters taking such a drug?

What if I see them banging out reams of quality copy with no letup, raking in the statewide and national awards, while I sit at my desk and know they’re doping, while also knowing I’m being left behind and not getting my share of the glory?

Then what?

I’m glad it’s a hypothetical question.

SPORTS >> Owls’ Southerland steps in and out

Abundant Life guard Mike Stramiello goes up between two Conway Christian defenders.

Leader sports editor

Big double-zero had no problem reaching double figures Tuesday night.

Abundant Life’s 6-6 center Garrett Southerland scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Owls to a 64-36, mercy-ruled victory over Conway Christian in a 5-2A Conference game at Abundant Life.

Southerland hit from outside early and used his height to score inside late as Conway Christian struggled to find an answer all night.

“My post players are my best outside shooters,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “And my guards can shoot it but my post player can do that. But I think once he starts doing one thing, people forget he can do the other things too.

“He can score inside too and rebound and guard. I’ve been real proud of Garrett.”

For good reason. Southerland hit four three-pointers in the first half, including his first from the top of the key to make it 6-3 with 5:25 left in the first quarter.

Abundant Life (21-4, 6-0) never trailed again.

Southerland, and the Owls, truly got up to speed in the second quarter.

Abundant Life already led 15-9, but Southerland made three more three-pointers as the Owls outscored the Eagles 23-5 in the quarter and took a 36-14 halftime lead.

“He really hurt us out there,” Conway Christian coach Shane Davis said of Southerland. “I think he had 16 first-half points. We knew he could shoot out there but we didn’t think he could do it that much that often and we didn’t do a very good job of contesting the shot.”

Mike Stramiello added six points during the Owls’ big second quarter. The Eagles’ only points came on a three-pointer from the right corner by Zach Johnson and a basket from Kirby Powell.

But Johnson picked up his second foul on a charge with 7:10 left in the second quarter, and he committed his third in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

“Their No. 3 got in foul trouble and had a seat and that’s really when we exposed them, I think,” Ballard said.

The second quarter was just too much to overcome, Davis said.

“We have a tendency, when we get down, we kind of hold our heads down,” Davis said. “We don’t do a good job of keeping playing. Us getting down that first quarter, it was 15-9. That second quarter, it was 23-5, I believe it was, and we just couldn’t recover from that.”

The Eagles outscored the Owls 13-12 in the third quarter, but Southerland switched up his game and scored eight points, all from inside the three-point line, to help keep Conway Christian from cutting into the big lead.

After wholesale substitution by both teams with 3:40 left in the game, the Owls finally triggered the mercy rule when Clark Endy scored from inside for the 64-34 lead.

The rule requires the clock to run once a team reaches a 30-point lead any time in the fourth quarter.

As much as Southerland shone on offense, Ballard said the defense had a role in things Tuesday.

“They’re hard to figure out how to play because we usually just get out and press them like crazy and make it a rat race and go all or nothing early,” Ballard said. “We decided to just kind of guard them for awhile and see what happens and play a tight defense.”

Stramiello added 14 points for Abundant Life and George Herring scored 10.

Powell led Conway Christian with 15 points.

Ballard agreed it is a challenge to keep his team focused without letup in such a runaway victory. Especially after Abundant Life had already beaten or hung tough with teams like North Little Rock, Benton, Pulaski Oak Grove and some 7A-sized schools in a recent tournament in Tennessee.

“I tell them how bad we are every game, even when we win,” Ballard said jokingly. “That usually helps.”

Ballard said his team might have had something else on its mind Tuesday. Abundant Life was going for the regular season sweep at Conway St. Joseph on Friday night.

“They don’t need to get re-focused. They’re ready,” Ballard said. “They may have been thinking about them tonight, as much as I tried to keep that from happening.”

SPORTS >> Jacksonville fights off slow start, falls short against Hall

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s second-half comeback at Little Rock Hall fell just short on Friday, as the Warriors held off the Red Devils 59-52 in 6A-East Conference play.

Jacksonville (5-8, 1-1) found itself facing a 25-point deficit in the first half but held Hall to only free throws in the third quarter to climb back into the game.

“The first half, I don’t even think my team got off the bus,” Red Devils coach Victor Joyner said. “We sat around and watched a good basketball game and got down by 25. There’s not much you can say about that first half, but we were able to come back in the third quarter.”

Hall (13-1, 1-0), seeking a measure of revenge for last year’s loss to Jacksonville in the 6A state finals, outscored the Red Devils 21-9 in the first quarter and 19-6 in the second for a 40-15 lead at halftime.

“The deal is, we’re a young team, and you have to know that in every conference game, you have got to come out competing from the jump ball and be mentally prepared,” Joyner said.

The Red Devils stepped up their defensive intensity in the third quarter and held the Warriors without a field goal and to only four free throws. That allowed Jacksonville, scoring 18 points of its own, to reduce the large deficit to a more manageable 44-33entering the final quarter.

But Hall was able to regroup for the last eight minutes, and while the Red Devils outscored the Warriors 19-15 in the fourth quarter, it was not enough.

Senior guard Deshone McClure led Jacksonville with 16 points. Rakeem Dickerson was the only Hall player to reach double figures with 12 points, while David Rivers and Myles Taylor each added nine.

“Hall is so much bigger than us,” Joyner said. “They go 6-10, 6-7, 6-5, while we go 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, so for them to battle back like that, you’ve got to look at it in a positive light that we’re a team that can compete.

“We just have to learn that you need to go four quarters. But we jumped some big hurdles, and we’re beginning to have something that we can hang our hats on.”

Hall played at Little Rock Parkview on Friday and will play at West Memphis on Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Falcons looking for groove

Leader sportswriter

It’s not point production, upcoming opponents or even North Pulaski’s record that concerns Falcons coach Ray Cooper at this point in the season.

What does concern Cooper, after the Falcons beat the Beebe Badgers 77-61 on Tuesday, is the lack of intensity he is seeing from his team as North Pulaski prepares to enter its toughest stretch of play in the 5A-Southeast Conference.

While Tuesday’s performance was good enough to beat the Badgers, it still wasn’t exactly what Cooper was looking for from a team that reached the 5A state final last season.

“Right now, we haven’t been playing with the passion and hunger we need,” Cooper said. “Last year, we had that intensity; this year is different. We play well in spurts and then dial it back. I’m holding them accountable for that.”

The Falcons are entering a stretch of four critical 5A-Southeast match-ups against Crossett, Sylvan Hills, Monticello and finally, multi-talented Little Rock McClellan, which has proved dominant in early conference games.

But it is not the name on the schedule Cooper is concerned with.

“I don’t look at who’s next; I’m just looking at the calendar,” Cooper said. “There’s only about 5-6 weeks of basketball left.

You have to peak somewhere in that time and hit your stride. You have to get in a flow, and we haven’t been able to find it. I want us to hit a stretch where we start to see a playoff mentality.”

The first indication that Cooper was looking to make a statement came when the starting lineup was announced in the pregame and regular starters Aaron Cooper, Kyron Ware and Bryan Colson were sent to the sideline.

Seniors Joe Agee and Christian Knight, along with junior Alonte Mitchell, led the Falcons (10-4, 2-0) in the early going until Ware and company checked in midway through the first quarter.

“You can tell that how you practice carries into a game,” Ray Cooper said. “That was what led to a different starting lineup for us tonight. We went with the people who were giving us the most in practice.”

Despite the different look early, North Pulaski still established the outside game with three-point shots by Braylon Spicer and Agee. Spicer took the opening tip for a three-pointer, and Agee added his trey with 6:47 left in the quarter to give the Falcons a 6-1 lead.

The Badgers were significantly out-sized and did not have near the depth as the Falcons, but still managed to keep it competitive most of the way.

Sophomore forward Braden Jones cut North Pulaski’s lead to 14-11 with a wide-open inside shot off an assist by junior guard Devonte Young with 1:38 left in the first quarter.

Jones hit the first of two free throws to make it a two-point game with 58 seconds left before a Ware basket and an Aaron Cooper free throw extended the Falcons’ lead to five.

The margin grew very little for the Falcons in the second quarter as the Badgers battled to stay within 37-29 at halftime.

“That’s another thing,” Ray Cooper said, taking note of Beebe’s effort. “We didn’t go to the playoffs two years ago, and last year we were able to make it to the state championship game. Now, teams have got us in their sights. They play us with a greater intensity, and with more of a chip on their shoulders. We haven’t identified that yet.”

North Pulaski finally began to establish the tempo to start the third quarter. Aaron Cooper began the second half with three of his game-high 23 points with 7:35 left to give the Falcons their first double-digit lead of the night, 39-29.

Agee followed with his second three-pointer and Cooper struck from three-point range again with 4:34 left in the period to stretch the lead to 47-33.

What followed next was a bit embarrassing but mostly humorous for young sophomore Beebe guard K.J. Maples, who came out of a timeout attempting to score on the wrong end of the court.

Maples did not make either attempt and was able to laugh it off with the other players and fans once he realized his error. The only person who did not seem amused was first-year Badgers coach Chris Parker.

Beebe junior Scot Gowen, the Badgers’ quarterback in football, got the hard points inside most of the night. Gowen was not hesitant to play physically with the larger Falcons and came away with 16 points while Young led the team with 22.

Knight and Colson each added 12 points for North Pulaski while Spicer and Ware both finished with eight.

Beebe hosted Monticello Friday night and will play at McClellan on Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Hold off on school

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District board member Charlie Wood, paradoxically at the request of Jacksonville’s mayor and an attorney for the Jacksonville Education Foundation, withdrew his proposal Tuesday night to issue bonds and build a new elementary school in Jacksonville.

Wood’s proposal would have allowed the district to issue bonds that would have cost PCSSD as much as $2 million a year to pay off in order to build an elementary school by August 2012 to replace both Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and attorney Patrick Wilson both asked the matter to be considered after the U.S. District Court rules on PCSSD’s unitary status. There’s a hearing set for next month.

While Jacksonville residents do want a new school, if Jacksonville gets its own district in the near future, the state would pay 65 percent of the cost of approved construction, based on a wealth index.

But if PCSSD builds the new school and Jacksonville gets stuck with paying the bill, the state will pay less than 1 percent of the cost because PCSSD is a wealthier district than Jacksonville’s would be, according to Jacksonville school activist Daniel Gray.

A $17 million Arnold Drive/Tolleson elementary replacement school is still on the non-binding master facilities plan for completion in 2013 and a new $30 million Jacksonville Middle School for 2012-2014.

The board unanimously approved a new 10-year state master facilities plan.

It increases the cost of the new high school in Maumelle to $63 million including furnishings and also raises the new Sylvan Hills Middle School from $30 million to $37 million, an increase attributed by Wood to problems with rock and site preparation.

Including other repairs and renovations, the total for the master plan is estimated at $177.8 million, $100 million of it for the two schools under way for Maumelle and Sylvan Hills.

Other items of local interest in the plan include: $240,000 for restroom renovations at Jacksonville Elementary School this school year and $120,000 to reroof Jacksonville High School this year.

It includes $400,000 for the renovations to the Jacksonville Middle School to ready it this year for its new role as a coeducation middle school.

Gone is $1 million for design of a new Jacksonville Middle School, since that was stimulus money, which must be spent more immediately, interim Superintendent Rob McGill explained.

Also in the budget for this year was $50,000 toward completion of the Jacksonville Middle School field house with another $25,000 earmarked for next school year.

Also on the plan was $400,000 for already completed restroom renovations and another $287,000 for Northwood Middle School restroom renovations.

Also in the plan was $264,000 for restroom renovations at Sylvan Hills Elementary School and $150,000 for Murrell Taylor Elementary School restrooms.

Next year Sylvan Hills High School is slated for $112,000 to upgrade HVAC in the auditorium.

Enmity between the Pulaski County Special School District board and its teachers’ union —more particularly between school board president Tim Clark and Marty Nix, president of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers — picked up Tuesday night where it left off before Christmas, this time with Nix accusing Clark of sabotaging the teachers contract, then withdrawing recognition of the union because PACT wouldn’t pass the hat to support an election they said Clark is considering.

While he tried to rule her out of order and away from the podium microphone, Nix told a room packed with PACT supporters that Clark was going to run for state Rep. Ed Garner’s Maumelle-area seat.

After Nix and Emry Chesterfield spoke, president of the Pulaski Association of Support Staff, Clark tried to answer Nix’s remarks, but he was first shouted down by union members, about 25 of whom then got up and followed Nix and Chesterfield from the board room.

Clark said during a break in the meeting that he hadn’t decided about running for the General Assembly. Then he said, “That’s not really the position I was thinking about.”

He declined to be more specific.

TOP STORY >> Cellmates accused in killing prisoner

Leader senior staff writer

Three former cellmates of Jerry Dale Luker — all Lonoke County residents — were charged with second-degree murder Friday in his death, which resulted from an incident in the Lonoke County Jail last October, according to Prosecuting Attorney Will Feland.

Feland also charged the three — Eddie Thomas Buchy, 29, of Ward, David Chad Lane, 32, of Cabot and Wesley May Minnie, 22, of Cabot — with engaging in violent criminal-group activity and with being habitual criminals. Both charges are sentence enhancers.

The habitual-criminal charge is for defendants previously convicted of four or more felonies, making them subject to an extended term of imprisonment.

Engaging in violent criminal-group activity occurs when someone acts in concert with two or more others. It also enhances penalties.

“I can’t elaborate on the circumstances,” Feland said, except “they were all in the samejail cell with the deceased.” The charges followed an investigation into Luker’s death by the State Police.

The three men will appear in court at 9 a.m. Jan. 25 for plea and arraignment.

Luker, 34, a Lonoke resident, died as the result of a major head injury. He was committed to the state Correction Department to serve a 36-month sentence for fraudulent use of a credit card and felony probation violations, according to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.

While in custody in Lonoke, but before he was transferred to the Correction Depart-ment, he received a head injury while in the restroom area of the cellblock, according to a report.

Buchy is serving 36 months in the Correction Department’s Pine Bluff Unit for convictions of theft by receiving, manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, fraud/possession of drug paraphernalia and probation revocation.

Lane is serving eight years in the Tucker Maximum Security Unit for charges dating back as far as January 1998, including residential burglary, probation revocation, theft of property, manufacture, delivery and possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence and absconding.

Minnie is in the Cummins Unit, sentenced to five years for crimes including sexual indecency with a child, residential burglary, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft of property, breaking and entering, theft by receiving, failure to register and probation revocation.

TOP STORY >> Republicans slam Lincoln

State Sen. Gilbert Baker (left) meets David Mitchell and Brent Cooper, both of Cabot, during a lunchtime campaign stop Monday at Colton’s Steak House and Grill in Cabot. Baker is running for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary.


Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County Republicans, spoiling for a good fight and vowing to banish Democrats — Sen. Blanche Lincoln in particular — from power in the nation’s capital, heard what they came for when state Sen. Gilbert Baker and Sen. Kim Hendren, two of nine GOP hopefuls, spoke at Grandpa’s Bar-B-Que in Cabot on Monday night.

Both men, along with state Rep. Davy Carter (R-Cabot) and others, took a shot at the two Lonoke County officials who are drawing state retirement benefits while serving as county treasurer and county assessor.

Karol DePriest is treasurer and Jerry Adams is assessor, both Democrats.

Carter was warmly received when he referred disparagingly to “Barack Hussein” and “Blanche Lambert.” Lambert is Lincoln’s maiden name.

He accused her of “voting in our face every time she pushes a button.”

He warned that when the General Assembly meets in its first regular off-year session beginning Tuesday that he would be voting against all bills, no matter how good they might be, because the session was supposed to be dedicated to financial matters only.

“We’re not going to open the floodgates,” Carter said.

“America’s at a crossroads,” state Sen. Baker (R-Conway) told approximately 35 local Republican officeholders, hopefuls and others at the gathering.

Apparently a campaign catchphrase or theme, he said that several times during his 20-minute talk.

“If we don’t take Blanche out now, we’re done for,” Baker said.

“We’re going to send her back to Virginia,” which, he said, is where she really lives.

“I’m not accepting any earmarks,” Baker said. “I’ve already signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes.” Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington.

He called Lincoln as a liberal Democrat who yields to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama.

Baker, who leads a large field in the Republican primary with about $800,000 in his war chest, said voters must consider electability, “not just another 2004, when we just had our say.”


He said he led Lincoln 51 percent to 39 percent in a Rasmussen poll of likely voters last week.

He criticized Lincoln for voting for the health-care bill and favoring a climate bill that he said would raise utility bills by $100 a month.

“She voted twice for the health-care bill,” Baker said, which is a sweetheart deal for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson’s constituents.

“She voted with Pelosi, Reid and Obama.”

He accused her of turning off her office phones so she wouldn’t have to hear from Arkansans.

“We blew it in 2004,” he said, when she was re-elected in a race against former state Sen. Jim Holt of Springdale. He’s running again in the Republican primary, along with eight others.

With a bill to ban gay marriage on the ballot, it was a perfect time for conservatives to take her out in 2004, Baker said.

“She voted for (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia) Sotomayer, who has trampled on the Second Amendment,” he said. “Senator Gilbert Baker wouldn’t have confirmed her.”

“The Bush tax cuts are going away,” he warned.


Hendren, a former Democrat who is in his sixth term in the state Senate, spoke with an easy, good-old boy Gravette charm, alternately attacking the Democrats or drawing laughter.

Of his unsuccessful run for governor in 1982, he said, “They told me I’d have won that if I’d been married to Hillary—but it wasn’t worth it.”

Criticizing President Obama, he said, “I’m not sure you can understand (regular people) when you spend your life in an ivory tower.”

Hendren, who is 71, promised that if he’s elected senator, “two terms and I’m out.”

He criticized the move to double the scholarship amounts based on the Arkansas lottery’s first few months’ revenues.

He said those decisions were improperly being made behind closed doors.

Hendren’s remarks frequently covered the kinds of local Arkansas issues he’s addressed since coming to the General Assembly in 1979.

“We’ve got a balanced budget, but (the state owes) $300 million in unemployment taxes,” he said.

“Now you don’t have to prove you can’t find a job,” he said. “You just have to say so.”

“He who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat,” Hendren insisted.

“We’re not teaching the Constitution to kids,” he lamented.

“Sam Walton campaigned for me,” he said of an early election, referring to Walmart’s founder.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EDITORIAL >> A pass for polluters

Our nomination for the least surprising news of the week is the recommendation of the director of the state Department of Environmental Quality that the coal-burning utilities in Arkansas be given a pass on reducing their air poisoning by Oct. 15, 2013. The least surprising news next week will be the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s decision to do exactly that.

That is, after all, what the utilities want and there is little record of Arkansas state regulatory agencies disappointing them. The quality of Arkansas air is a secondary matter.

The immediate effect of director Teresa Marks’ recommendation and the commission’s rubber-stamp of her recommendation next week is that Entergy Corp. and the other owners of the White Bluff coal-powered generating plant south of us will not have to install scrubbers at the plant to reduce its emission of sulphur and nitrogen oxides — not for a long while anyway. The White Bluff plant produces more sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide — the chief agents that cause acid rain — than the other Arkansas generating plants combined: about 38 billion tons a year of sulphur dioxide and 22 billion tons of nitrogen oxide.

The utilities did not want to install scrubbers when the plant was built in the 1970s and state regulators said that was fine.

Elsewhere around the country, owing to the rising concern about acid rain on forests and streams, states required scrubbers.

Acid rain declined across the East the last quarter century.

Two years ago, the Environ-mental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush created a new air rule requiring coal plants built in the 1960s and 1970s to be equipped with scrubbers, which remove the sulphur from the exhaust-flue gases of coal and oil plants. The Arkansas pollution agency set Oct. 15, 2013 as the deadline for Arkansas coal plants to comply.

Entergy and the other owners of White Bluff — three city utilities and the electric cooperatives — wanted to install the cleaner at a cost of some $780 million because the alternative was to shut the plant down and build a cleaner one or buy power from a cleaner supplier of electricity like the big gas-powered generating plant at El Dorado.

But the utilities realized the uncertainty at the federal level. The new tougher EPA standards or Congress may write even tougher standards that apply to the carbon gases that produce global warming as well as sulphur and nitrogen. Why clean the air until you absolutely have to and you know exactly the least that you will have to do? Waiving the 2013 deadline means the new deadline will be five years after the EPA eventually approves Arkansas’ plan to comply with the air rules.

It’s best to be philosophical about our obsequious regulatory agencies. The acid hasn’t killed us yet. What’s another five or six years? —E.D.

EDITORIAL >> Those sham retirements

Several Lonoke County officials are red-faced over those sham retirements uncovered last week involving Assessor Jerry Adams and Treasurer Karol DePriest, who have been drawing two checks since last summer — their regular pay and a pension.

But the fallout has also hurt other county officials who probably knew about the scheme.

Their pseudo retirements were met with derision at a meeting of Lonoke County Republicans in Cabot Monday night. But Adams and DePriest say they’ve done nothing wrong and will run for re-election. But if they had felt clean about their temporary stealth retirements, why the secrecy?

We can see the campaign slogans in a Democratic primary or general election now: “Retire retirees for real. Turn out the double dippers. Vote for (fill in the blank).”

Now, it’s easy to say that other officials have pulled off the same deception — secretly drawing a retirement check when the public wasn’t even told that they had temporarily “retired.” It’s still wrong, no matter how many officials have tried to dupe the public.

They didn’t “retire” any more than they walked on the moon. They just happened to have found a loophole in the law that allows retired public employees to return to work when their talents and expertise are needed. The law, of course, was meant to encourage retired teachers to fill vacancies, allowing them to keep their pension checks even if they went back to work.

That sounds reasonable, but then the school superintendents and the politicians saw an opening, and they couldn’t wait for that retirement check. Former Cabot Superintendent Frank Holman called it quits for a few weeks last year when he was superintendent in northwest Arkansas. But at least he told his board he was vacating his position, although the job was never advertised and the public was never told. Media coverage finally uncovered the scheme.

Adams and DePriest supposedly informed a small group of insiders about their intentions to grab an extra paycheck, but county residents and even the quorum court were kept in the dark. When we checked at the courthouse last summer, we were told nobody had retired and come back to work. That was supposed to happen elsewhere.

Other county officials are grudgingly conceding that they may have heard about the scheme after all. It should never have happened, even if the Arkansas Association of Counties was quietly encouraging officials to go for it, hoping the public would never find out.

The Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, which administers the fund for retirees, is looking into the controversy and is promising to clean house. Let’s hope the reaction against this public deception will end double dipping among elected officials and school superintendents.

Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, is among the critics who want to stop the practice. He and the state Legislative Audit Committee have begun an investigation. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has been clear on this issue: He says elected officials cannot collect retirement pay without vacating their offices. It’s common sense, which is often lacking in the public arena.

SPORTS >> Lady ’Rabbits strike early, dominate late

Lonoke’s Cara Neighbors tries to dribble between Bald Knob defenders Friday.


Leader sportswriter

Friday night’s 2-4A Conference game between rivals Lonoke and Bald Knob was somewhat anti-climactic as the Lady Jackrabbits clubbed the Lady Bulldogs 52-19 in a mercy rule-shortened game at Lonoke.

But the lack of drama was just fine with Lonoke coach Nathan Morris.

Maybe that’s because his Lady ’Rabbits (12-5, 4-0) have taken the driver’s seat in the league standings thanks to a victory over contender Stuttgart earlier in the week and their rout of the defending conference champion Lady Bulldogs on Friday.

Lonoke held Bald Knob (6-7, 1-1) to only four points until the final 1:21 of the first half, and scored all the points necessary to put the clock in continuous motion with 1:53 left in the third quarter. The one-sided victory put a new spin on a series that has traditionally been one of the more closely played in the state.

“It’s been such a big rivalry for the past four or five years,” Morris said. “I think our kids knew that. You can’t hide that. I’m proud of the way they played — I thought we came out very intense early. We pressed well and hit a lot of shots early.”

Quickness, a full-court defense and balanced scoring gave the Lady Jackrabbits an overwhelming advantage, not to mention a 21-0 run that began with two minutes left in the first quarter and ended with 1:21 left in the second, when Lady Bulldogs guard McKenzie Cox finally scored for Bald Knob.

But the Lady Jackrabbits had already built a 29-6 lead by that point, and continued to pressure the slower and less-experienced Lady Bulldogs coming out of halftime.

“We didn’t let up in the second half,” Morris said. “We played hard in the second half. We finished it off, and were able to rest starters. Scoring 14, 17, 17 — that’s good quarters, and at the same time holding them. Defensively, we executed real well and we executed most of the things we wanted to on offense.”

Lonoke junior guard Cara Neighbors led the way with 14 points while Ashleigh Himstedt scored 11 and post player Asiah Scribner scored 10. Senior point guard Michaela Brown scored eight points and made a three-pointer at the 6:12 mark of the first quarter to give the Lady ’Rabbits a 6-2 lead.

“This was a game where we felt like we were better athletes, so we wanted to utilize that,” Morris said. “Against Shiloh, Conway and Star City, we wanted to slow down a little bit, but this game, we wanted to run. I thought we did that; I thought they responded to that real well.”

The bench also came through for Morris. Junior Patrice Smith had a pair of steals and several rebounds while classmate Emily Howell disrupted the Lady Bulldogs inside by forcing jump balls and putting herself in passing and scoring lanes repeatedly.

“I though Patrice Smith did a good job tonight,” Morris said. “I thought she was under control. She’s getting more and more confidence. Those other kids who are playing some minutes are doing well.

“Anna Himstedt, our sophomore starter, has been doing well. And then Emily Howell has been coming off the bench and playing good minutes. They are not scoring a lot of points, but they are doing the things you don’t read about in the papers.”

SPORTS >> Conway outmans Cabot in opener

Alex Baker was Cabot’s leading scorer in Friday’s home loss against Conway.


Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges pulled up a courtside chair during halftime of the girls game Friday night and watched the Conway boys, Cabot’s opponent in two more quarters, conduct their shoot around.

“If they put him down on the block, I’m in trouble,” said Bridges, warily eyeing Conway’s 6-5 senior forward Preston Purifoy.

Guess what happened?

Purifoy, banging inside, scored 19 points and Conway ran away to a 77-47 victory that came by way of the high school mercy rule. It was the 7A-Central Conference opener for both teams.

Bridges recalled a similar beating on the road, but it was his worst home loss since he took over in 2004.

“The last game of the year at Russellville my third year here, but not in this gym,” Bridges said. “It’s embarrassing.”

The Panthers were within 17-16 when Karsten Powers made two free throws with 4:14 left in the second quarter.

But Purifoy scored 11 points in the quarter as the Wampus Cats took a 36-20 halftime lead. Purifoy took the ball inside and got to the free-throw line for five of his second-quarter points.

“The animal,” Bridges said in his post game interview. “I’m open for suggestions as to who you all think I ought to have guarding him. My guys can’t match with him.”

But Bridges already knew beating Conway was going to be a tall order. Watching film of Conway’s game against Springdale Har-Ber, Bridges said he never saw Purifoy post up, but knew that if he did, Cabot would have its hands full.

Once Purifoy was established around the basket, Conway junior Micah Delph erupted to score 16 of his 18 points in the third quarter. Delph hit four three-pointers in the period as the Wampus Cats took a 64-38 lead into the fourth quarter.

Conway’s Kenyon McNeaill scored eights points in the first quarter before taking a hard fall, banging his hip and elbow.

Conway coach James Bates said the bumps and bruises turned McNeaill into an offensive catalyst.

“I think the one that made it all happen is McNeaill,” Bates said. “He kind of hit hard on his elbow and hip there in the first half and quit looking to score, but he had a bunch of assists and got us going. When those three are all playing well we’ve been really good and tonight was a night to get a good start in conference play.”

Even with half a McNeaill, defending Conway was still a coach’s headache, Bridges said. A double team on Purifoy, or anyone else, was not an option.

“Do we double down on him and let him kick out to Delph and McNeaill, who can knock them down?” Bridges said.

Bridges said Cabot didn’t help itself by giving in to the Wampus Cats’ tempo.

“We’ve got to try do a better job of not letting them speed us up,” Bridges said. “And boy my little guards were just going bananas at the get-go.”

McNeaill made Conway’s first three-point attempt and it never trailed, and with Cabot playing catch-up the entire game, the best thing the Panthers could have hoped for was a few missed shots by the Wampus Cats.

“If they’re not making shots they can’t get into their fullcourt pressure because that’s where they speed you up, and it is relentless,” Bridges said of Conway. “But we played hard; my guys didn’t quit.”

Cabot’s Alex Baker made four three-pointers and led Cabot (6-6, 0-1) with 16 points. Darin Jones added nine.

SPORTS >> Lonoke rallies by Bald Knob

Lonoke guard Ryan White gets heavy pressure from Bald Knob’s Nick Glaze.


Leader sportswriter

Lonoke senior guard Michael Nelson rebounded a missed Bald Knob free throw with two seconds left to help the Jackrabbits beat the Bulldogs 43-42 in a 2-4A Conference game at Lonoke on Friday.

Everything went Bald Knob’s way in the first half. But Lonoke held the Bulldogs scoreless in the third quarter to go from a 27-15 halftime deficit to a 32-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter to set up the thrilling finish.

Lonoke (6-4, 3-1) has won four straight games.

“We want to try and put as much pressure as we can in the second quarter,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “But I thought we gave them some open looks. We just came out in the third quarter and made up our mind to play half-court, man-to-man defense and be solid and defend. I’m proud of them.”

It was an offensive duel between post players. Bald Knob senior Trey Gavin led the Bulldogs with 17 points and made three, three-pointers, while center Chad Dixon led the Jackrabbits with 19 points, scoring eight in the pivotal third quarter.

But with Gavin’s physical play also came three first-half fouls, forcing him to sit out the entire third quarter.

“Trey is a very good player,” Campbell said. “He’s got a lot of confidence, especially out of football season. Several of those kids play football just like ours do. He really helps them go.

“Our guys did a good job of helping on team defense as opposed to just individual. Our guys really did take advantage when he was out.”

Lonoke’s fate without Dixon was similar. Bald Knob managed to take Dixon out of the mix in the second quarter after the junior post player had scored seven points in the first.

But the Jackrabbits reversed that in the third quarter by going to Dixon almost exclusively. Dixon scored 10 of Lonoke’s 16 third-quarter points to help the ’Rabbits reclaim the lead.

“We talked at halftime,” Campbell said. “And all I did was put up a picture of the court, put his number on the block and drew arrows from places on the floor for him. And I told them that when that happens, good things have happened.

“He played varsity last year, but he still needs to get more varsity minutes. It’s been up-and-down, and tonight, I thought he did a good job.”

Lonoke also got third-quarter help from Demarcus Dodson, who started the half with a floater in the lane to cut it to 27-17.

Nelson, the quarterback in football, then stepped up for his first points when he hit a free throw to make it 27-24 with 3:43 left in the quarter. Dixon made a pair of free throws and Tarrale Watson followed with a shot assisted by Dodson to make it 30-27.

The Jackrabbits snuck in two more points before the end of the quarter when Dixon hit a second put-back attempt for a 32-27 lead entering the final period.

Mike James added six points for Lonoke, while Watson, Dodson and Nelson finished with five each.

For Bald Knob, Nick Glaze added nine points.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are – what each kid can do,” Campbell said. “They’re getting more comfortable together. We’re starting to gel a little bit.

“Kids are giving each other five on the free-throw line and encouraging each other. I think this group really likes each other, so that helps.”

Gavin dominated the inside and outside in the first half for Bald Knob. He made an inside shot off an assist from guard Seth Duncan to put the Bulldogs up 5-2 with 5:46 left in the first quarter and ended a 7-0 run by Dixon with a long three-point shot that cut Lonoke’s lead to 10-9 with 1:42 left.

Gavin added another seven points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer with 5:44 left to give the Bulldogs an 18-11 lead and a layup off a steal with 4:18 to play.

SPORTS >> Globetrotter has a ball

Hot Shot interacts with the kids at the Little Rock Air Force Base daycare center.

Leader story and photos by Jason King

Harlem Globetrotter Andre “Hot Shot” Branch paid a visit to Little Rock Air Force Base on Friday afternoon to entertain kids and sign autographs at the base daycare center.

Branch, now in his seventh year as a Globetrotter, will also be on hand when the legendary Clown Princes of Basketball take on their archrivals Washington Generals at Verizon Arena on Jan. 20 as part of their 2010 “Magical Memories” world tour.

Branch is a Houston native and a 1995 graduate of Baylor University. He is the sixth-leading scorer at Baylor and holds the school record for career three-pointers with 267, and he is second on the all-time list for three-pointers made in a season with 104.

He received a degree in communications and played minor league basketball oversees until getting the call of a lifetime to don the Globetrotters’ red, white and blue in 2004.

Branch made the grade in a succession of camps the Globetrotters use to develop talent, and earned a place alongside such notables as Kevin “Special K” Daley, who is now in his fifth year as a Globetrotter, and Wun “The Shot” Verser, the elder statesman of active players.

Branch began his visit to the base by giving the children a brief history of the 84-year-old Globetrotters before volunteering some members of the audience to participate in ball-handling drills, which mostly consisted of a no-dribble figure eight. He then enlisted the kids into a silly dance, getting them to shake their hips and wave their hands in the air.

Branch went on to demonstrate ball-handling abilities and command of some of the Globetrotters’ signature tricks before signing autographs as Brother Bones’ “Sweet Georgia Brown”, the Globetrotters’ longtime theme song, played from a boom box set up on the autograph table.

More goes into being a Globetrotter than just basketball skills, Branch said.

“As the season goes along, you start picking up on things,” Branch said. “Your personality, character and all of those things need to be straight too, because you’re talking about an 84-year history. Once you’re able to maintain those things and they feel that you can be a part of this team, then you’ll get your shot.”

Branch received his nickname because of his high shooting percentage and outside accuracy.

The Magical Memories tour follows a tour of U.S. air bases around the world, something the Globetrotters have done for a number of years.

“We always do a military tour before we start our United States tour,” Branch said. “We go to the military bases overseas and we play games for women and men who are serving in the armed forces.

“We want to show appreciation for what they do. They’re over there fighting and battling and sacrificing their lives.

“They are the actual heroes, and we want to bring something to them. And by seeing their faces — they are so happy — we have a great time every place that we go.”

Branch used a camouflage basketball during his appearance at the base; the same basketball the Globetrotters used while entertaining overseas. He said the ball is another way to show appreciation to the troops.

The Globetrotters’ primary adversaries since 1952 have been the Washington Generals, although they were renamed the New York Nationals from 1995-2006 before returning to the familiar green and yellow of the Generals in 2007.

The running gag of the Globetrotters versus Generals rivalry poses the Generals as intent on competing in a serious basketball game, while the fan-favored Globetrotters perform a series of tricks and pranks, usually at the expense of their adversaries.

But even with all of the buffoonery, the Globetrotters still find a way to out score Washington and claim the victory.

Harlem has beaten the Generals over 13,000 times through the years, while going down in defeat only six times. The last time Washington won a game against the Globetrotters was in Martin, Tenn., on January 5, 1971.

When asked if he ever felt guilty about beating up on Generals for a living, in light of all the military appearances, Branch had a quick response.

“Those are a different type of Generals – they’re green and gold,” Branch said. “The good thing about being a Globetrotter and playing the Generals and coming to the arena — we know what outcome the game is going to be — but our main goal and our main focus is to bring all the families together.”

Branch, who grew up as a big fan of the team, said seeing people bond at Globetrotters games has been his biggest reward since joining the organization.

“Because out of my years of watching the Globetrotters growing up, and out of my years of playing, the many games I’ve played, I’ve never remembered the final score of the game,” Branch said.

“I’ve never remembered how many points someone had; I always remember that one particular moment, that great time I had at that game. And that’s what it’s all about, so everyone’s a winner.”