Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TOP STORY >> Beebe: Democrats can win

Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday night that he wasn’t too concerned about the current spate of retirements in the state’s Democratic congressional delegation.

Both Rep. Vic Snyder of Little Rock and Rep. Marion Berry of Gillett have announced in the past two weeks that they would not run for reelection.

“It’s a seasonal change, a generational change,” Beebe said. “People are tired. I’m sure there will be good candidates out there. Most Arkansans are pretty independent.”

Beebe won’t be retiring. He’s already announced he would seek re-election.

He was in Jacksonville to speak at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet.

The governor said he wasn’t too concerned about the impact of President Barack Obama’s just-announced proposed budget cuts.

“I concentrate on trying to take care of us, trying to take care of Arkansas,” Beebe said. “I leave most of that national stuff to the congressional delegation.”

“He’s apparently trying to cut some discretionary spending, and how that will affect us remains to be seen,” Beebe said.

“The message I got was that he wasn’t cutting Medicare or Medicaid, and as far as the federal government is concerned, the thing we look at the most is the Medicaid because that’s the part of our budget that we’re really concerned about. It’s been growing way too fast,” the governor pointed out.

Candidates and potential candidates turned out for the banquet.

Pulaski County Circuit and County Clerk Pat O’Brien and House Speaker Robbie Wills (D-Conway) arrived in tandem.

O’Brien is running for secretary of state, and Wills is among those seeking the Second Congressional District seat currently held by Snyder.

Also attending were former Rep. Sandra Prater of Jacksonville, a Democrat, and Rep. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, a Republican, who are running for the state Senate seat John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, will retire from.

Capps, an old friend of Beebe’s, also was there.

Others attending were Reps. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, and Jane English, R-North Little Rock.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville teen linked to murders

Leader senior staff writer

A Jacksonville youth has been charged as an adult in connection with the grisly discovery on Dec. 12 of a dead adult man and toddler in a burning truck near Sweet Home.

Daniel Chase Gatrell, 16, of 10 Coral Lane surrendered to authorities Monday night, according to John Rehrauer, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.

Gatrell and his cousin, Robert Todd Gatrell, 21, of 724 Shamburger in Little Rock, both are charged with two counts each of capital murder and one count of arson.

The older Gatrell was arrested on Jan. 21 and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday in Pulaski County District Court.

The two are charged in the murder of Michael Palmer, 28, of Hensley and Hannah Palmer-Dowdie, 1, of Little Rock.

Three Granite Mountain Quarry workers discovered the burning pickup with the bodies in it at about 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 when one of them saw smoke on his lunch break and summoned the others to investigate a possible fire on Granite Mountain property.

Revy Rickard told Deputy Willard Brawley that he noticed two bodies in the burning pickup—one in the passenger seat, one in the bed of the truck.

A third Gatrell, Charles, 72, was arrested on a single charge of terroristic threatening Tuesday during a search of his property at 710 Shamburger Road.

Charles Gatrell told Pulaski County Sgt. Mike Blain that he hated him, that “as far as I’m concerned, you have a target on your forehead,” and then pointed his right index finger at Blain’s forehead, according to an arrest deposition report on file at the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.

TOP STORY >> Trial set for killing by 3 in Lonoke jail

Leader senior staff writer

David Lane and Wesley Minnie of Cabot and Eddie Buchy of Ward entered not guilty pleas Monday to second-degree murder of Jerry Luker while the four were cellmates in the Lonoke County Jail.

Luker, 34, of Lonoke was taken to a Little Rock hospital where he later died of head injuries in October.

The co-defendants Buchy, Lane and Minnie pleaded not guilty to engaging in violent criminal-group activity and to being habitual criminals.

Circuit Judge Phillip Whiteaker set an omnibus hearing for the three men for 1 p.m. Feb. 16. Any motion to separate the trials would likely come at that hearing.

Whiteaker set the pretrial hearing for April 26 and the trial for April 27 - 28.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Will Feland has declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Luker’s death in Oct. except to say the three defendants were all in the same cell as Luker and that the charges followed an investigation by the Arkansas State Police.

Luker died as the result of a major head injury. He had been 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, before he was to be transferred to the Correction Department, he received a head injury in the restroom area of the cellblock, according to the State Police.

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 >> Race for Congress starts

Leader staff writer

Citing health problems, Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett), who has represented the First District since 1997, announced Monday morning that he will not run for re-election.

Another Democrat, Second District Rep. Vic Snyder of Little Rock, also announced recently he would not seek re-election this fall.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who has been a frequent visitor to Berry’s Washington office in the past three years trying to get money for various projects in the city, says the congressman has been very helpful.

The new railroad overpass in Cabot is supposed to be the first step toward building a north interchange. Williams said Berry promised him the interchange would be started before he leaves office, and if all goes as planned it will be.

Williams said Tuesday that $1.1 million for right-of-way acquisition and engineering for the north interchange is “in the pipeline” and should be appropriated in February.

Berry was also instrumental in getting the $10 million to build a National Guard armory in Cabot and in getting a contract post office across the railroad tracks on Main Street.

Although Berry said his staff got the official word on his retirement at 4 p.m. Sunday, a list of possible candidates was posted online before then.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Davy Carter has already quashed rumors that he will run. Carter, a banker in Cabot, grew up on a farm in Lee County and has strong ties there, which could have made him a viable candidate in the district that has not elected a Republican since 1875.

But he said in a written statement Monday afternoon that his other commitments would not allow him to run.

“I will not be entering the 2010 race for Congress. Although I sincerely appreciate the encouragement, I am committed to my role at Home Bancshares (Centennial Bank), raising my young children, and serving my constituents in the Arkansas House of Representatives,” Carter wrote.

Former Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, who ran against Berry in 2006, said Tuesday that he had received about 150 calls about running again but he is not running. His commitment is to Cabot.

“I’m running for mayor,” Stumbaugh said. “I appreciate Marion for the work he has done for our district but I think he is a wise man to step down.”

On the Democratic side, Chad Causey, Berry’s chief of staff, has confirmed that he is definitely considering a race for his boss’ job.

“I have prayed about this and continue to discuss it with family and friends,” Causey said Tuesday.

Causey, from Jonesboro, has worked for Berry for nine years, the last four as chief of staff.

“I know how to avoid the potholes,” he said of his experience in Washington.

During a press conference, in which he refused to elaborate on his ailments, Berry, 67, said he wasn’t leaving because he thought he couldn’t win. Polls showed he was well ahead. Neither was he leaving because of frustration with President Barack Obama over health-care reform and climate change legislation, issues for which he has criticized the president.

“All White Houses are frustrating for Congress, and it doesn’t matter who the president is,” Berry said, adding he has been frustrated with Obama, but he was more so with President George W. Bush.

Berry, a pharmacist by training and a farmer by heritage, said by following his doctor’s orders he will be able to complete this term in office, but that spending his youth working with a shovel had taken a toll on his health.

Gabe Holmstrom, the Cabot native who is now working to get Sen. Blanche Lincoln re-elected, called Berry a mentor. Holmstrom was Berry’s campaign manager in 2006, and he also worked for Berry in Washington.

“Right out of college, I put 90,000 miles on a car with him riding shotgun,” Holmstrom said. “I learned more from that experience than from any college course. I’ll always be in his debt.”

Accolades and best wishes for the congressman followed close on the heels of the announcement that he would not run for an eighth term.

“I want to thank Marion Berry for his outstanding leadership and service to the First District of Arkansas. His many accomplishments will stand as a testament to his dedication to the working families he represents,” wrote Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

McDaniel, a Democrat, has also said he will not run.

Other possible Democratic candidates are former state Rep. Scott Ferguson of West Memphis; Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville; former Sen. Paul Bookout of Jonesboro; Rep. Keith Ingram of West Memphis; state Treasurer Martha Shoffner; former Sen. Henry Boyce; Prosecuting Attorney Tim Wooldridge of Newport.

Also former Democratic Party chairman Jason Willett,; Sen. Robert Thompson of Paragould; former House Speaker Benny Petrus of Stuttgart; former Sen. Kevin Smith of Hot Springs; former Rep. Chris Thyer of Jonesboro; Rep. David Dunn of Forrest City, and former Rep. Becky Lynn of Heber Springs.

Possible Republican candidates include Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home; former Cong. Tommy Robinson of Brinkley; GOP congressional staffer and Wynne native Princella Smith; former Rep. Shawn Womack of Mountain Home, and Woody Freeman of Jonesboro, former GOP candidate for governor.

Rick Crawford, a farmer and agriculture reporter from Jonesboro, announced in August that he would run.

Berry is known for his support of farmers. He said during the Monday news conference that he was proud of the 2002 farm bill and disappointed with the 2008 farm bill.

He said he regretted his vote to allow the president to send troops into Iraq and his vote for the first Patriot Act.

He is disappointed that his attempts over the past 13 years to lower the cost of prescription drugs have failed.

To help agriculture, he said attitudes about trade agreements need to be reassessed. He called the embargo against Cuba “foolish.”

TOP STORY >> School probes railroad-bus wreck

This bus belonging to the Lonoke Exceptional Development Center had $30,000 damage along the tracks, while the train that hit it had $10,000 damage.


Leader staff writer

A Union Pacific train slammed into a Lonoke Exceptional School bus at 6:40 a.m. Monday in Jacksonville.

The five passengers and bus driver got out of the bus before impact.

Bus driver Charles Grady, 68, of Lonoke was picking up a rider in Jacksonville to take to the Lonoke Exceptional Development Center in Lonoke.

On board were a bus aide, three children ages 2, 3, and 5 years old and an adult client who attends the program.

In a police report, Grady told officers he had just picked up a bus rider on Hickory Street. He pulled into a gravel parking lot at the corner of East Hickory and North Spring streets, so he could pull through the parking lot onto North Spring Street to turn around.

As Grady was making a right turn, he said he was blinded by a streetlight. He drove off the road and onto the railroad tracks.

Grady then called 911. He unloaded the passengers and got them to a safe location away from the bus.

Train engineer Timothy Jones told police he was headed north on Track 2 and saw the vehicle on the tracks. Jones applied the brakes but the train hit the vehicle. The train came to a stop after impact.

The school’s executive director, Janie Sexton, said Grady did not have any accidents before. He has worked for the school for several years.

Sexton said, “It is an ongoing investigation. We are waiting on the police report. We did an internal investigation as well and we have a safety committee.

“Anytime there is a serious incident with a driver, we suspend them until the investigation is complete.,” Sexton said. “The driver is immediately taken for a drug and breathalyzer test.”

Jacksonville Police Department spokeswoman April Kiser said state law does not require law enforcement to test bus drivers for drugs or alcohol after an accident unless the officers believe that intoxication was a factor.

The bus aide immediately helped with the evacuation, Sexton said.

A parent of one of the children on the bus also helped get the students off the bus. Sexton said they were off the bus and far from the debris when the train hit the bus.

“We are very grateful no one was injured, that the bus aide responded so quickly and thankful to the parent that assisted and made things go faster,” Sexton said.

No citations were issued.

Damage to the 2001 Chevy bus was estimated at $30,000. Damage to the train was estimated at $10,000.

Sexton said bus drivers are required to have a physical, and Grady had a current physical.

The Exceptional School practices emergency exits from buses.

“We regularly train our drivers and bus aides for evacuations. We practice those on a regular basis,” Sexton said.

TOP STORY >> Beebe says Arkansans moving up

Leader staff writer

“Thank God for Mississippi” shouldn’t be in our vocabulary any longer, Gov. Mike Beebe told a packed house at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Tuesday night.

He admitted there was a time he was guilty of saying that, and knew that most people in the room had said it, too.

“We are lapping so many states in so many categories,” the governor said.

He told the crowd that recently a television station in Fort Smith did a report bragging that Oklahoma was 22nd in education.

“As if that was something to brag about,” Beebe quipped. “That same study showed Arkansas was 10th. Not 10th from the bottom, but 10th from the top.”

“That’s not my doing,” Beebe added. “I give some of the credit to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, some to the state Supreme Court and a ton of credit to our state legislature for banding together to do what was best for the state.”

“So let Alabama worry about Mississippi. We should be irritated that Connecticut still has a higher per capita income than us,” Beebe said.

Arkansas, which had been mired 49th in per capita income, has moved past two states in the last two years and is about to pass South Carolina, the governor pointed out. “Most states take 10 years to move up one notch on the per capita ranking,” Beebe said.

“Thank God for Mississippi” shouldn’t be in our vocabulary any longer, Gov. Mike Beebe told a packed house at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Tuesday night.

He admitted there was a time he was guilty of saying that, and knew that most people in the room had said it, too.

“We are lapping so many states in so many categories,” the governor said.

He told the crowd that recently a television station in Fort Smith did a report bragging that Oklahoma was 22nd in education.

“As if that was something to brag about,” Beebe quipped. “That same study showed Arkansas was 10th. Not 10th from the bottom, but 10th from the top.”

“That’s not my doing,” Beebe added. “I give some of the credit to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, some to the state Supreme Court and a ton of credit to our state legislature for banding together to do what was best for the state.”

“So let Alabama worry about Mississippi. We should be irritated that Connecticut still has a higher per capita income than us,” Beebe said.

Arkansas, which had been mired 49th in per capita income, has moved past two states in the last two years and is about to pass South Carolina, the governor pointed out. “Most states take 10 years to move up one notch on the per capita ranking,” Beebe said.

EDITORIAL >> Democrats fear tsunami

Both congressmen from our parts picked one frosty week in January to announce that they had had enough and would not run for re-election. Marion Berry of the First District and Vic Snyder of the Second started their congressional careers together in 1997 and now will go together into that good night of private repose.

Two men could not be further apart in style and personality — Berry the inveterate hayseed, outspoken and unabashedly partisan, Snyder the courtly loner, reserved and always solicitous of even his meanest critics. They were not so far apart on matters of substance, both breaking ranks with Southerners last fall to vote for the controversial health insurance reform. In a sharp break with form last summer Snyder voted for a clean-air bill opposed by Berry and the other four members of the Arkansas delegation and then badgered all the rest to debate him on the subject, five on one, on the public television network.

Berry told him, in effect, to get lost.

Their sudden, consensual and simultaneous leave-taking of politics, immediately after the high-profile election of a Republican to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, had all the pundits wondering this week if a political tsunami is in store for Arkansas this year. If polls are good evidence, the state’s senior senator, Blanche Lincoln, is in deep trouble and the sitting Republican congressman from North Arkansas, John Boozman, is emboldened to surrender his safe seat and run against her and the nine other Republicans who are after the seat.

Is Arkansas, the purest Democratic state in the nation in terms of political offices, about to become a Republican state like the rest of the South?

That could be, although we don’t read the signs quite that way, yet. But 2010 will bring the biggest shakeup in the state’s representation in the national councils since 1992, when voters replaced three of Arkansas’ four members of the U. S. House of Representatives. The other had been elected only two years earlier, so Arkansas, which had lived for a century by seniority in the Congress, suddenly had the least influence of any state in the House of Representatives.

Both Berry and Snyder said the timing of their announcements was only coincidental with the tumult over the Massachusetts election. Snyder at 62 has four infant boys and a fragile wife at home at Little Rock, and he said he could not be an absentee father at such a critical juncture in their lives. He probably would have had a tough race for re-election, but he had never seemed fazed by the prospect of electoral defeat. Berry, whose polls showed him winning re-election overwhelmingly, was said to be agitated over the appearance that he might be running from a fight. At 68, his health and energy are flagging. He said he wanted to go back to his farm at Gillett and relax. Let’s take them at their word.

But it is hard to believe that the hateful political climate did not play some role in their decisions. If the time is approaching to retire, what better time than right now? We remember Sen. Dale Bumpers’ retirement in 1998, although there was no sign of an opponent. He said bitter partisanship had transformed the Senate into a far unhappier place than it was when he went there in 1975 and found himself working closely with Republicans from Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island, Iowa and Oregon. He couldn’t abide the hatred, and he didn’t want to be there anymore.

Every member of the delegation had been besieged by wrathful and sometimes threatening telephone calls, e-mails and letters. Snyder and his wife were famously set upon at dinner one night by a gaggle of Republican women and denounced for his vote to extend health insurance to poor Arkansans.

Part of that wrath was engendered by the great tide of advertising and propaganda from industries whose profits were threatened by elements of the health bills and that accused Democrats and the president of plotting a “government takeover” of medicine and of trying to take away their health coverage. But much of the unhappiness is deeper and almost unavoidable.

The nation is into the third year of the worst recession since the 1930s. People knew whom to blame in 2008 and they turned out Republicans in droves, and while the economy was in a freefall of the magnitude of 1929-30, they gave the White House to a Democrat.

President Obama did not contribute in any way to the recession, nor is the mammoth and ballooning national debt much of his making. He did not deregulate financial institutions or encourage the reckless risk-taking and abuse that undermined the global financial system. He did not start the wars or fatten insurance and pharmaceutical profits from Medicare, which sent budget deficits soaring after 2003. It was not his idea to bail out the commercial and investment banks or the carmakers with tax dollars, although as a senator and presidential nominee he acquiesced.

Regardless of their genesis, all those problems are now his — and Democrats’. They may fault voters’ short memories, but that is a fact of political life. Of course, the vast majority of Arkansas voters never cottoned to Barack Obama, so he has not had a reservoir of good will to squander. They are willing to believe the worst about him.

The disquiet, suspicion and wrath of ordinary people are portable, too. Vic Snyder, Marion Berry, Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor and, yes, even Rep. Mike Ross in the Fourth District carry the unfortunate baggage of being part of the team that was supposed to fix things and couldn’t, at least not in one year. You don’t ask a man who has lost his job and can’t find one or who lives in fear of that predicament to be patient.

It is better this year to be just not in charge of anything. A Republican, in other words. But in Arkansas that still may not be quite enough.

SPORTS >> Few locals are named as coaches for all-stars

Leader sports editor

Area coaches were largely absent from the staffs of 2010 Arkansas High School Coaches Association all-star games announced Tuesday.

The staffs were released at a news conference at the Arkansas Activities Association’s North Little Rock offices.

Sylvan Hills’ Melissa Duncan was named to the East all-star cheer staff headed by Jonesboro’s Caroline Crawford.

No other Leader-area coaches were named to the football, volleyball or dance staffs named Tuesday.

The football game, which pits a squad of East all-stars against a squad from the West, is in its 55th year and will be played at 7 p.m. on June 25 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

The all-star volleyball game, in its ninth year, will be held at 7 p.m. on June 23 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

Cheer and dance squads, also in their ninth year of all-star participation, will perform during the all-star festivities.

Paul Johnston of Bald Knob is the head coach for the East football team.

The staff will consist of Brad Bolding of North Little Rock, Van Paschal of Monticello, Jon Bradley of Cave City, David Carpenter of Junction City, William Hardiman of Little Rock Parkview and Mason Moody of Bald Knob.

Fountain Lake’s Tommy Gilleran, whose team won the 3A state championship, is head coach for the West football team. His staff includes Randy Tribble of Greenbrier, Josh Jones of Magazine, Chris Wood of Springdale Har-Ber, Bill Harrelson of Gravette, George Shelton of Watson Chapel and David DeArmon of Fountain Lake.

Head coach for the East volleyball squad is Lisa Beasley of Marion. She will be assisted by Kelly O’Rourke of Mount St. Mary, Vickie Gatewood of Nettleton and Melissa Williams of Piggott.

West head coach is Huntsville’s Angie Baker. Her assistants are Brandy Chumley of Benton, Jessica Phelan of Fayetteville and Brent Reeves of Mansfield.

Morrilton’s Trent Tipton, president of the Arkansas High School Coaches Association, made the staff announcements at Tuesday’s news conference.

No Leader area volleyball players were named to the all-star roster.

The football roster was not set by late Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Harding Academy stands tall in win

Harding Academy guard Anna Bangs tries to shake defender Ashanti Baker.


Leader sportswriter

Old number 12 would have been proud.

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats responded to the pressure of a packed house and an emotional jersey-retirement ceremony and beat cross-town and 2-3A Conference rival Riverview 50-26 on Friday night at Harris Gym.

Lady Wildcat coaches Rusty Garner and assistant Darren Matthews presented the jersey of former player Micah Rine-Pate to be retired after the game.

Pate’s No. 12 jersey will no longer be worn by any Lady Wildcats basketball player. It was the first such jersey retirement in the school’s 86-year history.

The Lady Wildcats (12-5, 6-1) had difficulty establishing their inside game early on despite an overwhelming size advantage, but once the Lady Raiders’ early adrenaline wore off, Harding Academy took control and outscored Riverview 15-2 in the final period.

“Every time we get together it’s ugly, and the kids play hard against each other,” Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner said.

“That one was as ugly as they come. We’re fortunate that we were able to get a 20-point win in an ugly game against a rival. We’ll sure take it.”

Riverview guards Ashanti Baker and Queen Banks helped the Lady Raiders (2-7, 2-4) hold the lead for most of the first quarter, but both got in foul trouble as the second half progressed. Baker picked up her fifth foul with 3:56 left to play, but Banks was able to avoid fouling out.

“Our girls played really hard,” Riverview coach Russell Stumpenhous said. “They outsized us at almost every position and that’s really hard to account for in a game. I thought they played their hearts out. They hustled so well. If a few shots fall a little different in the third quarter, it’s a different game.”

There was little contribution inside from Harding Academy posts Megan Pack and Ariel English in the first half, but both began to take more shots to begin the third quarter. Pack established the inside game in the third quarter with a basket with 5:37 left to give the Lady Wildcats a 23-16 lead before closing the period with a free throw that made it 35-24.

“They did a good job of keeping the post game out of it,” Garner said. “We did a bad job of forcing the issue with the post too early in our possessions. Second half, I felt like we kind of wore on them and got them in some foul trouble. We were able to keep going to the inside.

“We were more patient in our attempt to get it into the inside. I thought post play was probably the difference in the ballgame.”

English hit three of four free throws early in the fourth quarter after drawing contact on shot attempts and finally got a shot to fall with 4:35 left to give the Lady Wildcats a 44-24 lead.

“It’s hard to guard someone who outweighs you 60 for that long,” Stumpenhous said. “I’m trying to get them to guard them for about three seconds and hopefully our guard pressure will eliminate that option. But if they stay with it, that’s a hard guard for somebody that outweighed.

“Give Harding Academy credit, they did exactly what they needed to do; he did exactly what I would have done if I had his team.”

Harding Academy relied heavily on the perimeter play of standout Anna Bangs in the first half, and Bangs continued to attack in the third quarter even as the inside game began to gel.

Bangs hit a baseline runner with 3:37 left in the third quarter to extend the Lady Wildcats’ lead to 27-18, and she got a steal and another basket with 32 seconds left in the period to make it 34-22. Bangs went on to lead all scorers with 14 points, while Pack scored nine and English and point guard Molly Koch scored seven each.

“Our kids felt a lot of pressure to perform well tonight under the circumstances,” Garner said. “We felt like we just had to win tonight. I hate that pressure was on them, but they responded in the second half. We tried to get them to relax a little bit.”

Baker led the Lady Raiders with 12 points and Banks added six.

SPORTS >> Raiders on pace to victory

Jordan Smith pulls down a rebound.


Leader sportswriter

Riverview’s key to victory was controlling the tempo, both fast and slow, against Harding Academy on Friday.

The Raiders beat the Wildcats 61-40 at Harris gym and stayed unbeaten in the 2-3A Conference.

The Raiders got off to a fast start, and once they had established that pace they slowed it down.
Way down.

But after imposing a range of paces on the host Wildcats, and surviving a frantic Harding Academy press in the fourth quarter, the Raiders (14-4, 7-0) put it all together with perfect free-throw shooting down the stretch.

“It’s always a joy; a joy and a battle,” Raiders coach Russell Stumpenhous said of the cross-town Searcy rivalry. “We wanted to keep the pace in our favor. We got lucky and we hit some shots. We executed well in the first quarter. I thought we got the looks that we wanted, and we knocked them down.”

Riverview was shaky at the free-throw line to start the final period, going two of six in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. But when Harding Academy got to the double bonus and began to foul in an effort to control the clock during the final 3:09, the Raiders went 10 of 10.

The Raiders began on a more frantic note with 4:38 left in the first quarter, when junior post player D.J. Teague converted a basket and free throw to put Riverview up 7-3. Tyler Colvin made a three-pointer with 3:40 left in the quarter to give the Raiders a 10-9 lead after a brief Wildcat rally, and the Raiders never trailed again.

Jordan Perry gave the Raiders their first double-digit lead with a three-pointer with 56 seconds left in the first to make it 15-5. Perry hit a transition shot moments later with an assist from Teague to improve the lead to 17-5 before Will Francis cut Harding Academy’s deficit to 10 just before the end of the quarter.

The Raiders showed a completely different look to begin the second quarter. In fact, they showed virtually no look at all for the first 4:20, as guard Taylor Smith kept the ball at mid court most of that time watching the clock count down.

The Wildcats did not contest, and the Raiders burned over half the quarter before finding Teague inside for the first of his three dunks with 3:40 left until the half. That raised Riverview’s lead to 19-7, and gave Teague two of his game-leading 17 points.

“It was more for legs than anything else,” Stumpenhous said. “It wasn’t necessarily a planned thing to slow it down, but we saw they were pretty tight. We didn’t want to force a three. So we decided we would hold it out there and see if they would come get us. They didn’t, so we ran off a few minutes and got back into it.”

Teague used his 6-9 frame to his advantage against the smaller Wildcats, and inside help from reserve Rodney White gave Harding Academy even more to worry about at the low post.

The addition of 6-5 guard Smith roaming the perimeter and the lane made it nearly impossible for the Wildcats to focus on any one area of the court and opened the door for a balanced scoring night for Riverview. Smith finished with 16 points, Colvin scored 10, Jordan Perry scored nine and point-guard Keinan Lee scored seven.

“Last time when we played, they did a really good job of playing the inside,” Stumpenhous said. “And we tried to make that a factor tonight. We really wanted to get our big guys involved and try to utilize that advantage.”

Riverview, leading by 10 at the break, pulled away to start the second half. Perry scored on a back-door assist from Smith to start the half, followed by two free throws for Smith and a three-pointer by Colvin to make it 28-13 with 4:53 left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats avoided being blown out with three-pointers from Lane Dailey and Francis before the end of the third to pull within 37-22.

The Wildcats tried to make up the difference in the fourth quarter with a full-court defensive attack, but the Raiders kept the ball in Smith’s hands for most of the final eight minutes. Smith went 4 of 4 at the free-throw line in the final minute.

“He played a great game,” Stumpenhous said. “He managed the court really well. He utilized his tools really well, and I felt like overall he managed a really good game.”

Post player Daniel Stevens led Harding Academy with 15 points while Francis finished with 14. The Wildcats are 5-2 in conference play.

The game was the first of two in a four-day stretch for the teams. At Riverview on Monday they made up their first 2-3A Conference game originally scheduled in December.

SPORTS >> Abundant Life zones in on success

Abundant Life’s Cameron Slayton handles the ball on Friday.


Leader sports editor

Carlisle tried a zone but Abundant Life was in the zone Friday night.

Abundant Life overcame Carlisle’s zone defense and ran away to a 79-55, non-conference victory at Abundant Life.

Led by senior post Garrett Southerland, three Owls players scored 20 or more points in what could have been a postseason preview, or at least a postseason measuring stick, for Abundant Life.

Carlisle is in the 6-2A South and Abundant Life is in the 5-2A North and their shared classification means they could meet again in the postseason regionals at White Co. Central. At the very least, Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard got an idea of what the competition is like elsewhere in the 2A.

“I feel like we get a terrible draw in region and a terrible draw in state every year,” Ballard said. “You look at that region, you’ve got Carlisle, Hughes Palestine-Wheatley, Hazen. All of them are good but all of them play kind of a similar style as this so I think it will give us confidence when we get there that we’ll be ready to play.”

The preferred style in Carlisle’s neck of the woods is zone defense, but Abundant Life was able to break it down in the first half to take a 37-27 lead it extended to almost 30 points late in the closing minutes of the second half.

“We try to keep the floor balanced and use a lot of pump fakes to get them out of position and try to get some easy ones,” Ballard said. “My philosophy is if you score some easy ones against the pressure then you’ll make them do something different.

“So that’s what we were trying to do and luckly we had some shots go down at some key times.”

Carlisle coach William Rountree said the Bison did shake up their defense with some man-to-man, with pretty much the same result.

“We’re primarily a zone team,” Rountree said. “We played some man tonight, didn’t seem to do real good in it. We kind of switch it up. I’ll go back and watch the film and I’m going to bet I’ll see a lot of breakdowns.”

Southerland led Abundant Life with 26 points, Mike Stramiello had 21 and George Herring scored 20. D.J. Lowe led Carlisle with 20 points and Chris Larkin scored 14.

“They’re all averaging 15-20 points, all three of them,” Ballard said.”So if I can get four or six points form the other six guys that play then we’re usually okay.

“So that doesn’t surprise me those three leading us in scoring. They do it every game.”

Carlisle jumped to an 8-2 led thanks in part to early three-pointers by Malcolm Murray and Lowe.

Abundant Life went in front 9-8 when Ryan Johnson made a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

The Owls led the rest of the game, but the Bison kept it close through most of the first half. Larkin scored to pull Carlisle within 20-17 and Murray made a three-pointer to cut the lead to 26-21 with 3:48 left in the half.

But Herring got a rebound and scored for the Owls to make it 28-21 and Southerland scored on a follow-up shot as the ball rolled around the rim before falling in to make it 32-23.

Stramiello got a steal and a layup for the first double-digit lead, 34-23, and Herring added a three-pointer for the Owls’ last points of the half, which ended with them in front 37-27.

SPORTS >> Remembering ‘True Wildcat’

Leader sportswriter

SEARCY — Loving memories have a way of touching hearts and helping to ease the pain of tragic events.

For Searcy residents Dennis and Terri Rine, loving memories of their daughter Micah are also shared by the entire community.

So much so that Micah’s high school alma mater, Harding Academy, made the unprecedented gesture of retiring her varsity basketball jersey after a victory over Riverview on Friday night.

It was the first jersey retirement in the 26-year history of the Lady Wildcats basketball team, and the first in the school’s 86 years. The ceremony was held at Harris Gym, on the very court where Micah created so many of her basketball memories.

Micah Rine-Pate was a 2001 graduate of Harding Academy. She was a gifted athlete, loving daughter and beloved figure at her school.

She went on to graduate from Harding University before moving to the Memphis area to pursue nursing and start a life with her husband Thomas Pate.

But what was supposed to be a beautiful new beginning for Micah ended tragically, and Pate is now awaiting trial in August for her murder in April 2009. Micah was 26 years old.

Lady Wildcats head coach Rusty Garner and assistant Darren Matthews, who was Micah’s head coach when she was at Harding Academy, set up the jersey display near mid court following the game. The Rine family stood alongside while a tribute was read over the public-address system.

The display contains the jersey and a photo of Micah wearing her red-and-white number 12, along with passages of Bible verses from I Corinthians and II Timothy.

The tribute was especially touching for Micah’s father Dennis Rine, who has been a longtime faculty member at Harding Academy and head coach of the boys baseball team since its inception in 2002.

“She tried to do what was right,” Rine said. “And for the community and the school to see that enough to honor her this way tonight, it’s very touching and very humbling. It’s very emotional to have Micah honored this way.”

Matthews remembered Micah as a scrappy guard for the Lady Wildcats; a player who was not afraid to play physically.

“It’s fitting,” said Matthews. “Micah was a true Wildcat. She grew up watching girls basketball here at Harding Academy. She played so hard. Her knees were always bruised and cut because she was down on the floor hustling and giving incredible effort. That’s the way she lived her life.”

For current Lady Wildcats coach Rusty Garner, who was a classmate of Micah’s at Harding University, the decision to retire a jersey for the first time was one that was met with unanimous agreement.

“It’s never been done before, but she deserved it, and there wasn’t a doubt,” Garner said. “All former Lady Wildcat coaches were in agreement that it needed to be done. We’re glad that we had that opportunity.”

Rine said that among his fondest memories was when he baptized Micah at camp when she was 12 years old. The two also ran together frequently, and even participated in the Mississippi Coast Marathon together when Micah was in college.

But the most unique aspect of their relationship was that Micah spent time with her dad at Harding Academy while she was a student and he was an administrator.

“She would eat lunch with me in the cafeteria,” Rine said. “For a daughter to do that in front of her peers and not be embarrassed about eating lunch with dad even though he was on the faculty, that was pretty special.”

The motives for Thomas Pate’s actions on April 30 of last year are not known. Initially he reported his wife missing, then he later confessed to shooting her and led police to Micah’s body near the Loosahatchie River.

But, with Pate’s trial now a little more than seven months away, Rine and family choose to celebrate the life of a daughter who touched so many in such a short time.

“We just have to let the court sort those things out,” Rine said. “We know because of some things that she has written and some conversations we’ve had that she was faithful until the end. She maintained her faith all the way through, and we’re very thankful for that. That probably gives us the most peace.

“I hope it doesn’t sound cliché, but I know she’s in a better place.”