Tuesday, February 16, 2010

EDITORIAL >> $4.5B ripoff must stop

Don’t hold your breath, not until 2013 anyway, but a little relief on your light bill may be finally on the way. The state Public Service Commission ordered a study last week to see whether the state’s largest electric utility, Entergy Arkansas, should stop subsidizing people and industries in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas with our paychecks.

You probably ask, why do we need a study? Isn’t the answer transparently yes? But we all thought the answer was yes 31 years ago when Arkansans first learned of the “system agreement” under which the six subsidiaries of Entergy Corp. — it was called Middle South Utilities back then — would start sharing the costs of power generation when a big new nuclear plant in Mississippi was finished.

Since 1985, when the Grand Gulf I generating plant was finished at Port Gibson, Miss., customers of the Arkansas utility have sent $4.5 billion to three states to the south so that customers there would not have to pay so much to light, heat and cool their homes and businesses. The monthly subsidy was part of your light bill. It helped Mississippi amortize the mammoth cost of building the nuclear plant and customers in all three states avoid the high cost of generating their electricity with expensive oil and gas.

As we have pointed out, Jacksonville’s own Wally Nixon, who was then working for the new young Governor Bill Clinton, uncovered the state’s obligation under the agreement, which was negotiated by the utilities. Clinton protested and there was protracted litigation, but in the end Arkansas lost. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a federal appeals court said Arkansas had to oblige the agreement and pay up.

Arkansas had to pay under the agreement because in the 1960s and ’70s it had built two nuclear units at Russellville and two coal-powered plants near Pine Bluff and Batesville, all of which produced electricity at lower costs than the oil and gas plants in Louisiana. Arkansans had to pay for the plants’ construction, but along with much greater pollution from the carbon exhausts of coal, they eventually got cheaper power. Starting in 1985, they (we) would also have to subsidize the southern neighbors. The neighbors got cleaner air from generating from natural gas and nuclear and flat rates, too. Louisiana in particular has liked the arrangement a lot. Thanks Arkansas, Louisianans say, keep the money coming.

Last fall, the federal agency said Arkansas could be let out of the agreement in 2013 if it chose. The state Public Service Commission said last week that it wanted to explore that option. It will hold hearings this year.

Entergy, of course, wants the six subsidiaries to continue to share costs in some way. The company says it is working on a new agreement to start in 2013 but promises that it would be much different and presumably fairer than the old one. We recall Middle South’s insistence 30 years ago that the agreement was fair and mutually beneficial to people in the four states. How did that turn out?

It sounds like the Arkansas commissioners are going to examine the propositions with a hard eye, as they should. They only have to imagine what Arkansas and the 687,000 customers of Entergy could have done with $4.5 billion — $5 billion before this year is out.

TOP STORY >> Justice Jim fought tough final battle

Leader executive editor

Arkansas bloggers were the first with the news of Justice Jim Johnson’s suicide over the weekend. The local TV news on Sunday ignored his passing, probably because no one in the newsroom knew who he was.

Johnson, who fought against integration at Central High School in Little Rock and elsewhere around the state, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound early Saturday morning in his rural Conway home at the age of 85. He’d been in poor health and had been deteriorating since his wife’s death several years ago.

I knew him well enough to get his old ties in the mail around Christmas, but I didn’t receive one last December, and I realized he was not well.

He really was a man of the 1950s, although he kept making mischief for most of his life. He was smart, shrewd, articulate and all that, but a bit over the top: His blatant bigotry was a little too embarrassing even to those who shared many of his beliefs.

In his heyday, there was a menacing air around Justice Jim, who would scream and holler and hint at potential violence if he didn’t get his way. But he really wasn’t much of a brawler, and in his old age, everyone thought he was courtly, someone who was born 100 years too late, and he knew it.

He was mostly forgotten. Cancer had killed his beloved wife Virginia, and then he, too had cancer. Too despondent to go on, he killed himself with his .45-caliber rifle.

His constitutional amendment opposing integration, which the voters approved and then repealed 30 years later, was a legal sham and was never enforced.

Leading the massive resistance against the U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation, Justice Jim fought the ruling with all his might and high-falutin’ legalisms such as “interposition” and “nullification,” which meant states could ignore court decisions they didn’t like.

A half-century later, the secessionists down in Texas and elsewhere are using the same words, which must have pleased Justice Jim.

An old-style segregationist who stuck to his principles, Johnson really believed all that stuff about keeping black children out of good schools and why it was wrong to shake hands with a black person. Orval Faubus, who died in 1994, was an opportunist who would have accepted integration if his political career hadn’t been on the line.

The obituaries talked about Johnson’s unabashed bigotry. He was a firebrand who modeled himself after Huey Long of Louisiana, just across the border from Johnson’s home town of Crossett in Ashley County. But Justice Jim, like Faubus, was a spent force by the time the 1960s rolled around.

Johnson hadn’t won an election since 1958, when he was elected to the state Supreme Court, a job he hated because it made him stay out of politics. He ran again for governor in 1966, losing to Winthrop Rockefeller, and the result was not much better than a decade earlier, when Faubus defeated him soundly.

Faubus, who positioned himself as a moderate in 1956, when he was running for a second term, carried 67 of the state’s 75 counties and beat Johnson better than 2-1.

The Central High School integration crisis might have been avoided if Johnson hadn’t sent his followers to the school and threatened violence. Faubus was so intimidated (and fearful he might lose the election next year), he sent in the National Guard to keep the Little Rock Nine out of Central.

Johnson rehearsed for the 1957 crisis two years earlier, when he thought he could stop integration in Hoxie near Jonesboro.

He stirred up the mob, as he often did, but in the end Hoxie was integrated.

Schools in Fayetteville, Van Buren and Charleston were integrated without incident — all of them in the northern half of Arkansas, where Johnson’s brand of politics didn’t travel well.

Justice Jim ran and lost for U.S. senator, attorney general and Supreme Court chief justice. He made a mark as state campaign chairman in 1968 for George Wallace, the third-party presidential candidate who carried Arkansas. That was the year Johnson lost to Sen. J. William Fulbright in the Democratic primary and Johnson’s wife lost to Rockefeller.

It’s unlikely Arkansas will ever see a ballot lineup like that again — not to mention the Gene Williams’ country band that entertained Johnson’s supporters on the campaign trail. You had to be there.

Johnson and Faubus were important political figures for maybe a dozen years, but neither would fade away: Johnson used his newspaper, Arkansas Faith, to spread his segregationist views and kept writing letters to editors and cultivating the media, a word that didn’t exist when he was still a force to be reckoned with.

Justice Jim had one more fight in him. He did not want Bill Clinton elected president and was the source for some of the most salacious allegations against him. This was 1950s no-holds-barred politics, the only kind he knew. That style of politics has made a comeback, thanks partly to Justice Jim.

During the Clinton years, Sheffield Nelson worked on the other side of the street, recruiting Jim McDougal to embarrass Clinton over Whitewater. Nelson was all business, sort of, while Johnson was all dirt.

The election of Barack Obama was another blow for Justice Jim. It was worse than integration, miscegenation and Clinton’s election. Few blacks could vote or go to white schools when Johnson started out in politics, and now it all seemed hopeless. All his life he had predicted that integration would mean the end of white domination, and he’d lived long enough to see it happen.

By then he had a terminal illness, and it was all too much to bear. He had no more fight left in him and ended it all with a gunshot to his chest.

TOP STORY >> Mayor will miss running city

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who is not running for re-election, gave his last state of the city address during the Tuesday night council meeting saying the past three years have been the best years of his life.

Although Williams is running for state Senate, he said he will continue to work for the city as long as he is in office.

“It is my job to maintain the public’s trust and confidence that we are doing the best for Cabot with the means we have available to us. I believe we have accomplished this task, and my commitment to you is that we will continue down that road the rest of my term as mayor,” he said. “I took forward to an exciting final year in office and pledge to you that I will work my hardest for you until the day I leave office.”

From the tornadoes in 2008 to heavy rains in 2009, the weather has been one of the biggest challenges of his administration, Williams said.

“All of this water brought flooding to areas that never flooded in the past and extra problems to areas that typically flood,” Williams said.

But since the $30 million solution outlined in an engineering study was not feasible, Williams said, “We had to look at our drainage situation from a different perspective, and I believe we have made a significant amount of progress with a much smaller price tag.

“We applied for four small drainage grants from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. We have received approval letters for three of these projects and have two of them completely finished.

“They have already made a marked difference in the drainage in these areas, and we look forward to continuing to work on these projects as much as possible to help as many flood areas as we can with the available funds.

“We also applied for a large project through FEMA to help the Cabot Highlands, and we are currently awaiting approval of our application. This project is estimated to cost around $800,000 and is an 80/20 split with the city.

“There are still several flooding issues in Cabot, but we have made great strides and will continue to work hard to help as many of these areas as possible,” the mayor said.

Williams talked about improvements in technology that have made city hall accessible to residents without leaving their homes and about setting up a system for paying wages and salaries that includes a serious evaluation program for raises.

He talked about the good working relationships he has helped develop with county, state and national leaders and the importance of setting aside money for projects that will need funding after he is no longer mayor.

“Some of the projects we are planning for are the north interchange, Cabot Highlands flooding project, Veterans Park Community Center expansion, and equipping a new fire station. We must plan for these expenses now rather than wait until the day we need the money,” he said.

“The north interchange will require approximately $2 million to $4 million from the city of Cabot, so we must prepare now to have that money available when we are given the go ahead to start this project.

“We have worked diligently with our congressional representatives to get funding for this project, and we will continue to work on this project to my last day in office, and hopefully until it is finished,” the mayor said.

In other business, the city council passed a resolution reappointing Roger Tonnessen to the parks commission and read an ordinance that, if passed, will allow the city to place liens on property to collect unpaid bills for mowing yards.

TOP STORY >> A lengthy hearing on PCSSD expected

Leader senior staffwriter

Representatives of the Pulaski County Special School District expect another lengthy hearing to begin on Feb. 22 as part of its petition for unitary status.

The hearing may last longer than a week, be rigorously opposed by the Joshua Intervenors and probably by the Knight Intervenors as well, PCSSD attorney Sam Jones said.

The Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts have been interlocked in an expensive, extensive desegregation agreement for about three decades.

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson ruled earlier that Little Rock is in substantial compliance with requirements to achieve desegregation, and over a challenge by the Joshua Intervenors, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

Wilson then recused himself from the desegregation case, which landed on District Judge Brian Miller’s docket.

After some delays, Miller set Jan. 25 as a hearing date on North Little Rock School District’s motion for unitary status.

That hearing, which started on time, is expected to wrap up this week, Jones said.

The Joshua Intervenors, the parents of a group of black students, are represented by their original attorney, John Walker, and by Robert Pressman and Austin Porter Jr. in their objection to a declaration of unitary status, Jones said.

It will be easier for Jacksonville to detach from PCSSD and form its own district if the desegregation settlements and court oversight are ended.

Walker has said a separate Jacksonville district hurts desegregation and that he’s opposed to it.

The Knight Intervenors are schoolteachers. They made no court filings in the North Little Rock hearing but “they did file a lot of stuff in opposition to ours,” Jones said. “One could infer that they might appear and be active in our case.”

The Joshua attorneys have pressed extensive cross examination of North Little Rock witnesses and still had witnesses to call at the beginning of this week, said Jones, who has sat through much of the proceedings.

‘The judge keeps his cards very close to his vest,” he said. “He’s intensely interested in achievement issues. Beyond that, nothing else is very clear. He’s granting both sides great latitude.”

Jones said the Pulaski County Special School District case is substantially different than the North Little Rock plan. The PCSSD plan is based on Plan 2000 and it enumerates 11 areas, he said. I will make initial presentations on each topic,” Jones said, “pretty spare.”

“But I can’t predict how much cross-examination there will be. While I hope our case is not nearly as long as North Little Rocks has proven to be, its probably going to take longer than a week.”

Jones said it would be his job to prove that PCSSD substantially satisfied the requirements of Plan 2000.

SPORTS >> Snow days don’t freeze imagination

Leader sports editor

I’ve got to hand it to the local school administrators and athletic directors for the prompt way they got those snowed-out basketball games rescheduled and, in many cases, already played.

The people in charge realized the season was winding down — the smaller classifications began their conference tournaments this week — and with sites and dates set for regional and state tournaments and state finals, and with some schools playing previously scheduled makeup games at the end of the regular season, the latest round of postponements had to be made up whenever possible.

The situation probably wasn’t solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Former Lonoke girls coach Darryl Fimple, now at North Little Rock, told me at Cabot on Friday his team was playing its second consecutive night.

As a sports editor, I am particularly grateful to Fimple’s old employer Lonoke, which got in a couple makeups with Clinton a week ago to give us something live to cover for The Leader. Cabotalso got in games on Wednesday and had just a one-day hiatus before facing North Little Rock on Friday.

When rumors of more snow began to flutter around late last week I nearly panicked. After all how many postponement/rescheduling/state of the program stories can you write?

In my distressed state I threw out a lifeline on my Facebook page.

“If it snows again,” I wrote, “and more basketball games are canceled, and I don’t have anything to put in my sports section AGAIN I swear I’m going to start making stuff up. If you read about a basketball player being carried away by an enormous bird, you’ll know the fix is in.”

Apparently most of my friends were as bored or afflicted by cabin fever as I was, because they chimed in with ideas ranging from the ridiculous to the really ridiculous.

Some of the printable suggestions included an offer for me to cover a friend’s game of chess with his wife; an offer from a fellow editor in Colorado — where games don’t get snowed out — to send me some material; a suggestion I write about clowns in the sewer, Stephen King style and a recommendation I write about the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers or Bill Belichick, like all sportswriters do when they’re bored.

Boy, it’s like a college creative writing professor once said to me “when your back is against the wall you just plot, plot, plot.”

I also read a lot of Facebook updates from people who see snow in winter and automatically think it disproves the theory of global warming. As if years of science, study, observation and measurement can be debunked by a guy using his debit card to scrape off his windshield.

Let me get this straight, if it snows, it means there is no global warming. So, using that logic, when the snow melts, it must mean global warming is back on, right?

Anyway, you think a lot of weird thoughts when you’re snowed in.

For example, I actually started missing Jacksonville’s pregame warm-up music, which should come with a parental advisory label; having to park far away at Abundant Life because the Owls always have an early-arriving crowd, and that weird yellow glow that suffuses the inside on North Pulaski’s gym.

Seriously, I’m hoping we’re back to stay now, because I’d hate to see another interruption to this basketball season. I mean, look at what we have going on here.

Lonoke’s girls are the 2-4A Conference champs and the top seed to this week’s district tournament as they try to reach their fourth straight state final and finally win one; North Pulaski’s boys were perfect in the 5A-Southeast entering Tuesday, No. 1 in 5A and looking for a finals return of their own and the Abundant Life boys are No. 2 in Class 2A, the 5-2A North champions and the top seed in that district.

The Riverview boys are No. 3 in 3A and it remains to be seen if defending 6A champion Jacksonville can regroup with a mostly new starting lineup and make a push in the postseason. And maybe some other area team, boys or girls, pulls it together in the postseason, peaks at the right time, gets a good draw and makes a run.

To an ex-Yankee carpetbagger like myself, our recent weather is probably supposed to be a tiptoe through the tulips. But with all this basketball awaiting us and with baseball just around the corner, the next time I hear the word “snow” it better be followed by “cone.”

SPORTS >> Panthers spoil night for seniors at Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

A shining sophomore was not enough for Lonoke on senior night.

Post player T.J. Scott led the way for the Jackrabbits with a strong, 16-point performance, but he was the only Lonoke player in double figures against a Heber Springs team that had three, and the home team fell short on Friday as Heber Springs won 60-45.

The Panthers (18-7, 12-2 2-4A Conference) benefited from guard Tanner Rockwell’s deadeye shooting and Caleb Brock’s quirky moves in the lane on their way to securing the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in this week’s district tournament at Stuttgart.

“We did some better things on offense tonight than what we’ve been doing as far as being patient,” Panthers coach Kevin Kyzer said. “We got away from that late, but we did a pretty good job offensively. Early, we did a poor job defensively of denying the ball in the paint. We shored that up and were able to extend our lead in the second quarter.”

Heber Springs finished one game behind league champion Marianna-Lee.

“We probably weren’t a very good team to start the year,” Kyzer said. “We steadily got better. We split with Marianna, and the guys did a really good job of improving all year. They really came to play every night in conference. We only had eight home games all year, so a lot of it has been on the road.”

The Jackrabbits (11-10, 7-7) kept it close early with seven inside points from T.J. Scott in the first quarter. But the team was without junior starting point guard Darius Scott, who chose to attend an event at Ole Miss over his teammates’ senior night and conference finale, and the one-dimensional approach did not hold up.

“They’re a very good team, I mean, there’s no getting around it,” said Jackrabbits coach Dean Campbell, who declined to comment on Darius Scott’s absence. “They’re very physical, strong kids in the post, guards that shoot it real well. You can tell they spend a lot of time in the gym. It’s a credit to them.”

Rockwell scored all but two of his game-high 17 points on three-pointers, including a pair in the final 2:28 of the first quarter to help Heber Springs take the lead for the first time. But it was the inside-outside play of two-guard Brock that kept Lonoke off balance.

Brock scored 10 straight points for the Panthers starting with 4:03 left in second quarter as he hit two consecutive baskets in the lane. His approaches were awkward and his releases were even more unconventional, but both shots fell.

He then extended his run and Heber Springs’ lead with a 30-footer that made it 29-21, and capped it off with another three-pointer with 1:27 left in the half for a 32-21 Panthers lead.

“That’s the way he plays — that’s the way he’s always played,” Campbell said of Brock’s unusual inside style. “And I think he kind of took it personal. At their place, we held him to no buckets. I think he had three points — three free throws. I think he wanted to come in and make a statement, and he did.”

Lonoke seniors Mike Jones and Demarcus Dodson did not go down without a fight in their final game at home. Along with fellow senior and two-sport star Michael Nelson, Jones and Dodson tried to battle back from a 34-21 halftime deficit.

Jones scored seven points and Dodson had six for Lonoke, but 16 points by Brock, and another 10 from forward Austin Brown allowed the Panthers to extend their lead to 50-31 at the end of three quarters.

“The first quarter, I thought we played real well,” Campbell said. “We moved the ball, we were active; second quarter, we got a little stagnant and didn’t move as much. And they knocked down some shots. There were times we were there, and they knocked them down.”

Lonoke will be the No. 3 seed in this week’s 2-4A district tournament at Stuttgart with a first-round bye. The Jackrabbits played Tuesday night against the winner of Monday’s first-round game between Clinton and Southside Batesville.

SPORTS >> Turnover costs Panthers in loss

Cabot’s Alex Baker attempts a three-pointer in Friday’s loss.


Leader sports editor

It was a case of theft, pure and simple.

North Little scratched out a 7A-Central Conference road victory when it beat Cabot 33-29 at Cabot on Friday night. Reggie Bryles gave the Charging Wildcats their final lead with 2:37 left and Brandon Tyler stole an in-bounds pass with fewer than 20 seconds left to help seal the victory.

“We stole one here tonight,” North Little Rock coach Richard Alexander said. “We did.”

Alexander was referring to the old “win at home, steal one on the road,” maxim, but Tyler’s steal after Cabot had pulled within 32-29 gave literal meaning to Alexander’s words.

“We didn’t quit,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “If you get one of those looks to fall it could be a different game but, man, it’s tough.”

North Little Rock took a 27-26 lead on Bryles’ scoop shot with 2:37 left in the game and improved that to 28-26 when Bryles made a free-throw after drawing Darin Jones’ fifth foul.

Jones’ foul-out surprised Cabot because of miscommunication among the Panthers’ bench, the student assistants and the official scorekeeper. Bridges left Jones in the game thinking he had three fouls when he had four.

“I’m going by the board,” Bridges said. “The board had him with three. But the board’s not official.”

Bryles made it 30-26 for North Little Rock when he hit two free throws with 1:18 to go and Bryles made two more free throws for the 32-26 lead with 42.2 seconds left on the clock.

Seth Bloomberg penetrated then kicked the ball out to Alex Baker on Cabot’s next possession and Baker hit an off-balance, falling-down three-pointer to cut it to 29-32 and Cabot called timeout with 31 seconds remaining.

“He was supposed to stay with him and not help,” Alexander said of his defender on the play. “I don’t care if they drove in and made a layup, he was not supposed to leave him and consequently he made the three.”

Bryles got behind the Panthers defense to take the long, in-bounds pass but missed the open layup. Chris Campbell blocked Jacob Ellerbee’s shot out of bounds on Cabot’s possession with 21.6 seconds left, but Tyler picked off the Panthers’ in-bounds pass, drawing a foul from Shane Collins.

North Little Rock (15-9, 7-3) wrapped free throws around two missed three-pointers by Cabot to close out the game.

Bridges said the loss of Jones, the trigger man on many of Cabot’s in-bounds plays, may have led to the final turnover.

“That’s just an unfortunate time to get a turnover with the amount of time left in the game,” Bridges said.

Cabot (9-12, 3-7) led 6-3 early but North Little Rock went in front when Campbell stole a pass leading to Mike Malvin’s jumper that made it 7-6, and after another turnover Campbell slammed in a one-handed dunk over Christian Armstrong to make it 9-6.

Cabot, whose tallest player is 6-3, was against a taller North Little Rock front line that included Malvin, 6-5. But the Panthers packed the middle and dictated a deliberate pace to stay within seven, though they didn’t regain the lead until Baker made a leaping, one-handed shot after Armstrong’s offensive rebound to make it 25-24 with 6:05 left in the game.

Baker made a free throw with 4:42 remaining for the 26-24 lead. Then Campbell made a free throw for North Little Rock after a Kai Davis foul, and after a Cabot miss Bryles hit his go-ahead shot.

SPORTS >> NLR shows depth, grit to win big over Cabot

Leader sports editor

Undefeated North Little Rock had a good reason to be tired Friday, but the Lady Charging Wildcats looked tireless instead as they harassed their way to a 62-44 victory over the Cabot Lady Panthers at Cabot.

Playing its second game in as many nights, North Little Rock used a deep bench and plenty of fullcourt pressure to force Cabot turnovers and turn them into points.

“That’s kind of how we play,” North Little Rock coach Darryl Fimple said. “We were awful at the free-throw line so we had to do something to kind of keep it up tempo and that’s what we’re kind of known for, to try and wear out some people on our traps.”

North Little Rock (24-0, 10-0 7A Central) outscored Cabot 11-3 in the first quarter and made it 13-3 early in the second before Kaki Thomas made a three-pointer for Cabot. The Lady Panthers fought back to within 17-11 on a rebound and putback by Sarah Moore and 19-13 when Amber Rock made a jumper from the left corner with 4:33 left in the half.

But North Little Rock closed out the half with an 11-2 run, beginning with a steal that led to Lexus Williams’ fastbreak layup and ending when Williams hit a basket underneath with 1.5 seconds left to make it 30-15 at halftime.

Cabot committed eight turnovers in the second quarter against North Little Rock’s defense that included plenty of traps and double teams in the backcourt.

“We just can’t simulate that in practice,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “They’re so much quicker than we are and that’s just something we’ve got to work on to get better.”

Cabot has a young team whose only seniors are starters Amber Rock and Sarah Moore. Crowder said the Lady Panthers played into the Lady Wildcats’ hands, especially in the first half.

‘When you dribble they’re going to trap you so you’ve got pass,” Crowder said. “We dribbled a lot the first half. Second half we did a lot better.”

Williams scored inside to give the Lady Wildcats a 41-21 lead with 5:19 left in the third quarter and the Lady Panthers didn’t get within 20 points again until Emilee Turner made a pair of free throws for the final margin with 5.3 seconds left.

“Cabot’s been playing better; coach Crowder has always got them ready,” Fimple said. “They sure as heck shot the basketball better in the second half too. We couldn’t keep them off the foul line.”

Cabot (10-13, 4-6) did put together an 8-2 run early in the third quarter to pull within 53-33. Most of its points came on free throws, including two by Jessie Grunwald when Fimple was called for a technical foul when he complained about a non-call he thought should have been a personal foul on Cabot.

“I thought our kid got hammered to be honest with you,” Fimple said. “I know it was late in the game but I keep telling our kids you’ve got to play hard and be intense. That’s one of them things. It happens.”

North Little Rock kept up the defensive pressure, despite beating Conway the previous night and because Fimple was able to get quality minutes out of most of his roster. The Lady Wildcats used 13 players and 11 scored.

“We definitely do that,” Fimple said of the number of players used, “but especially after back-to-back nights.”

Williams led North Little Rock with 15 points and Cassie Vaughn scored 12. Thomas made two three-pointers and led Cabot with eight points.

“I think we played hard,” Crowder said. “Maybe we were a little intimidated to start with. And at the finish, I think we finished real strong.”

SPORTS >> Lady ’Rabbits savor sendoff

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s senior night against Heber Springs in the 2-4A Conference finale was merely a statement game after Lonoke had clinched the league crown two nights earlier.

But senior Asiah Scribner took the opportunity to make the statement a bold one in the Lady Jackrabbits’ 57-30 victory at Lonoke on Friday.

Scribner, the 6-0 post player and UALR signee, took over the game completely in the third quarter with 10 consecutive points.

Scribner’s outburst sparked a 20-0 run for the Lady Jackrabbits that began with 5:20 left in the third quarter and ended with 4:47 left to play.

Scribner finished with a game-high 23 points as the Lady ’Rabbits overcame a sluggish first half. The victory marked Lonoke’s first conference championship since the 2006-07 season and their first unbeaten conference run, 14-0, in modern school history.

“It’s an emotional night,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “These seniors have meant the world to our program. We probably needed that — a little wake-up call. It’s not always easy. They kind of turned it on in the second half. Asiah Scribner, she was able to impose her will inside.”

Lonoke (22-5) held a 30-23 lead when Scribner began her run with 4:28 left in the third quarter. She started with a third-try putback, followed by a basket off a steal and assist from sophomore Calvian McGaughey to make it 36-23.

Scribner’s next shot came off an assist from fellow senior Ashleigh Himstedt, and then she scored after a steal and pass from point guard Michaela Brown. Scribner capped the run with two free throws, while Himstedt added a basket in the final eight seconds to give Lonoke a 43-23 lead heading into the final period.

While emotions ran high for the seniors during their final game in their home gym, Morris said Scribner’s explosion was not out of sentiment, but necessity.

“I don’t know if it was that or just the need for it,” Morris said. “I think she just knew it was her night. Our guards weren’t necessarily scoring early. It just looked like no one wanted to shoot the ball, so she kind of took it upon herself. We’re definitely tough to beat if Asiah Scribner scores more than 20 points.”

Himstedt scored 15 points for the Lady Jackrabbits while junior guard Cara Neighbors added 10.

Scriber, Brown and Himstedt, along with fellow seniors Emily Smith, Mallory Sexton and Brandy Lee, were honored along with the senior boys and senior cheerleaders immediately following the game.

It marked the last home game for a senior group that has two conference titles, three district championships, two regional titles and three state finals appearances to its credit.

“We told them it was their last game in Lonoke, but it wasn’t their last game in a white jersey,” Morris said. “If there’s this many tears after the last home game, then we better not lose, because it’s emotional.

“These kids have, I don’t want to say built the program, but they’ve built it strong. We had a strong program, but they built it stronger. Every one of them are better people than they are players, and I’ve always said that I felt like they were good players.”