Friday, February 10, 2012

TOP STORY >> Council in Beebe to let in Walmart

Leader staff writer

Walmart is one step closer to building a supercenter in Beebe.

On Tuesday, the city council unanimously agreed to the planning and zoning commission recommendation to rezone 15.2 acres at 2003 W. Center St. from an R-1 single-family residential area to a C-2 commercial development.

The council will vote on the rezoning ordinance during its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.

About 40 people were in attendance at city hall, some voicing concerns about building a Walmart on the Hayes property along Center Street near Dewitt Henry Drive.

Little Rock real estate and municipal lawyer Stephen Giles, a consultant to Walmart, responded to questions during the meeting from the public and the commissioners.

Windwood subdivision residents Charles and Faye Moore opposed the rezoning request. The Walmart property will border residential properties in the area.

Charles Moore asked the planning and zoning commission to rezone less commercial property than has been requested.

Faye Moore said the Walmart will bring loiters and drug dealers near their backyard. She is concerned about noise from customers and semi-trucks unloading at all hours of the night.

She said the lights from the parking lot will illuminate their backyard, changing the living conditions.

Giles said Walmart will have many security cameras in place. The parking-lot lights will be directed downward and a perimeter fence will dissipate noise.

Faye Moore is worried water runoff from the parking lot will exacerbate flooding problems in the Windwood subdivision.

“Walmart will comply with runoff regulations,” Giles said.

Faye Moore is also concerned with pollution from the traffic and odors from garbage at the store.

The loading area, garbage and recycling dumpsters will be screened. Giles said there won’t be much odor. Walmart will not have rotting food in the receptacles around the store, he said.

“Why is it the building has to be sited near residential areas instead of closer to the street? Are we looking for additional development,” Faye Moore asked.

Jim McCoy of Ida was concerned about the protected migratory song bird population that roosts in the trees. Grackles, brown cowbirds and red-wing blackbirds make their home in the trees on the property.

He said the field is home to one-tenth of world’s red wing blackbirds. Displacing the birds could have a negative impact on the global population of the birds.

“Residential or commercial, it doesn’t matter. The thickets are going to go,” planning and zoning vice chairman Stanley Renneker said.

Giles said not many trees will be taken away. Walmart will try to retain some of the trees and bushes as a natural buffer between residential properties, he said.

Resident Joey Cook was unhappy that the city was voting on rezoning without having a site plan from Walmart.

“Can they do anything on it?” he asked.

Giles said Walmart is waiting on the outcome of the rezoning request before developing a site plan. He did not have a time frame from Walmart for building the store.

Resident Amanda Barton had concerns about safety. She said twice a day school traffic on West Center Street is “heavy.”

Giles said he will make the request for sidewalks along the property. He said it is Walmart policy to get along with its neighbors.

Walmart will pay for a traffic light and turning lanes to the store and develop frontage land.

Renneker, secretary Michael Westergren and members Doug Kennedy, Kevin Conner, Tony Ferguson voted yes to the rezoning request.

Robert Morrison voted no. Chairman Jason Scheel abstained.

Minutes later the council members all voted yes to the rezoning.

Aldermen John Johnson and Becky Short were absent.

EDITORIAL >> Phony report on schools

Arkansas, home to more than 200 failing schools, a number of academically and fiscally distressed school districts (including the Pulaski County Special School District), ranks fifth in the nation in education according to a study published by EdWeek, a well-known education journal.

How can it be that a state, according to its own flagship university, scored in the 53rd percentile on standard tests for third- through eighth-grades — meaning just above average — and yet can outperform 45 other states and the District of Columbia in the field of education?

How can it be that both the governor and the state’s education commissioner can extol, extrapolate and just get plain excited about a report that clearly doesn’t make any sense?

It’s simple: The report doesn’t put much emphasis on student achievement.

Let’s repeat that — a study on the quality of education that placed Arkansas fifth in the nation gave the state a “D” in student achievement, but also gave very little credence to that achievement in the overall score for the study.

The report, prepared by the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, looked at six educational components: chance for success, K-12 achievement, standards, assessments and accountability, the teaching profession, school finance analysis, and transitions and alignment. Even though the general public would think the product or the outcome — in this case, achievement — would carry the most weight in a study. The “experts” disagreed, giving each component the same weight, meaning that student achievement was only 17 percent of the state’s total score.

Not only did the state receive a “D” in student achievement, it also received a “C-” in chances for success, but it still ranked fifth in the nation. How can it be?

Simple: The study gave the state high marks in paperwork, vision and effort. Arkansas was awarded an “A” in standards, assessments and accountability. That means paperwork.

It also received an “A” in transitions and alignment — more paperwork, ideas and vision.

So the state is great at paperwork, but not in reality. Let’s look at the reality.

According to the report, the state ranks 49th in chances of success if the student’s family is 200 percent below the poverty level and 47th in chances of success if the student has only one parent with a college degree.

The study also shows that only 30.1 percent of fourth-graders in Arkansas are proficient readers and 29.3 percent of the state’s eighth-graders are proficient in math, yet we are fifth in the nation? Not really.

Arkansas is ranked 50th in the percentage of adults with two- or four-year degrees. According to the study, only 28.2 percent of Arkansans have a degree, a problem that is connected to the state also being 50th in annual income.

Put together all the factors in the study’s “Chance for Success” category and the state comes out eighth from the bottom.

In the K-12 achievement category, Arkansas doesn’t get above 34th in the nation when it comes to students being proficient in reading and math. The high school graduation rate is a dismal 69.7 percent.

Yet the study still declared Arkansas the fifth best in the nation and Gov. Mike Beebe was quoted as being very excited, and Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, announced that he was “very pleased.”

How can that be? Paperwork has become more important than achievement. Amazing.

TOP STORY >> LRAFB shows Mrs. Obama its right stuff

By John Hofheimer
Leader senior staff writer

Good nutrition and physical fitness are vital not just to good health, but to national security, Michelle Obama said at Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon—and amongst the military, those at LRAFB are leading the way, she told those assembled at the base’s Hercules Dining Facility.

“You are 95 percent in compliance with what’s going to be happening already,” to improve nutrition in the military, in schools and through-out the nation, she said. “You’re ahead of the curve. This is due to the foresight of your commanders.

“For the first time in 20 years, the DOD is updating their nutritional standards to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products with every meal,” Obama said.

“This isn’t a drop in the bucket, this is a big splash,” she said.

Response from the airmen has been quite positive, according to 19th Airlift Wing commander Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson, supporting that conclusion with a couple of Power Point graphs.

Looking fit and healthy, Mrs. Obama received a briefing from Robinson, Col. Ray Jeter of the 19th Medical Group, Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services, as well as the contracting firm that provides more nutritious foods and others.

“We came up with something that sounds familiar,” Robinson told the first lady. “It’s from your ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign, but we call it the Rock Plate lunch.
“So the dieticians and the chefs got together and figured out how to make a meal that consists of lean protein, non-starchy vegetables that’s well balanced, well presented and tasteful, so that it would make our airmen want to partake of that meal. And that’s been very, very successful,” Robinson said.

The military spends more than $4 billion on feeding its service members and an additional $1.2 billion on addressing obesity problems.

Let’s Move! program

In a cross-promotional effort on the second of three stops Thursday on her four-day tour in support of her “Let’s Move!” program, the first lady shone the light on steps taken at the base to improve the quality and nutrition of the food served on base. It’s not only more nutritious and less expensive to the military, but the hours that the dining hall are open are much greater and the food is now available not only to airmen but to their families and retirees.

“Let’s Move!” was launched Feb. 9, 2010, with the intent to fight childhood obesity. Since its launch, the initiative has made significant progress in its efforts, has been made to solve the problem of childhood obesity.

Other stops on her three-day tour included a kick-off in Des Moines, Iowa, Fort Worth and Dallas, as well as Homestead, Orlando and Longwood, Fla.

LRAFB is one of six bases involved in the Food Transformation Initiative to make healthful, nutritious and appealing food available to service members and their families.

The other bases in the pilot program are Patrick Air Force Base and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Travis Air Force Base in California, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington and Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.

The dining facility here has more than doubled its weekly hours of operation from 53 to 112 hours. The base has made $700,000 in improvements, and yet still managed to lower costs by 7 percent through a contract with Aramark, a private food service company.

The Defense Department will evaluate every military base in the country to make sure they’re serving healthy food to service members and families.

“They’ll be looking to improve the food served in dining facilities, school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars,” she said.

More than a quarter of 17- to 24-year-olds are too overweight to serve in the armed forces today, according to an Army study.

Mrs. Obama said exercise and good nutrition are what “Let’s Move!” is all about. “It’s about mobilizing folks from every sector of our society to address our obesity epidemic.”

OBESITY Costs keep rising

The Defense Department spends “about $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion a year in obesity-related health issues,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson. Woodson, described as the military’s “top doc,” is assistant to the secretary of defense for Health Affairs. He announced Thursday the Military Health System’s new obesity and nutrition awareness campaign.

“The military has always taken a lead in terms of setting standards for the nation,” said Woodson. “In 1947, after it was found that many recruits were undernourished coming in, the school lunch program was born.”

He said the military now has the opportunity to take the lead in battling obesity, which he said is a national challenge.

One example of the strategy is the Rock Plate Lunch, which usually includes a lean meat and vegetables low in carbohydrates. Airmen can still pick and choose among offerings of various entrees and sides–fried as well as grilled chicken strips, for instance–but they can also ask for the Rock Plate and get a healthy meal plated for them.

“The Rock Plate (makes healthy choices) without you knowing what we did to you,” said Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, the Pentagon’s director of Air Force Services, who was on hand for the event.

The Rock Plate concept will soon be expanded to breakfast and dinner menus.

Healthier choices around the base

Little Rock Air Force Base personnel also have healthier choices at the golf course and bowling center snack bars and another dining facility, Hangar 1080.

Murrie told the first lady that Little Rock Air Force Base would be getting a POD–that’s provisions on demand–on the flight line. PODs, which provide hot and cold prepared meals quickly like Chili’s To Go at major airports. They have proven “incredibly popular” at Travis Air Force Base and Elmendorf Joint Operations Base, where they were pioneered. Since September the PODs already served 100,000 meals.

“We’re working hard to make healthy sexy,” which will help build a healthier Air Force, Murrie said.

Robinson told the first lady that education and execution are the ways to influence behavioral change in the approach to nutrition and fitness.

He said the key to execution was to make the food “appealing, healthy, affordable, accessible and nutritional.”

“The center point of our collaboration (between us and Aramark) was when our dietitians from the Health and Wellness Center got together with the executive chefs from Aramark and said, ‘how can we make this better,’” Robinson said.

“The result was “something that sounds familiar that’s from your “Let’s Move!” campaign, but we call it the Rock Plate lunch.

“You all look really good. I have to say, you are all looking really fit. So thanks for eating your vegetables, we all need you really fit. If we do our part…we can put this country on a stronger, healthier future,” Mrs. Obama said. “This is a serious problem. This is really about our kids. If you do the right thing, they’re going to follow suit.”

The first lady thanked the airmen telling them “I want you to keep eating your vegetables. You are the best this country has to offer.”

She said she was troubled to learn that the country spends millions of dollars every year on dental care because of poor nutrition.

Meeting airmen

After the presentation, Mrs. Obama spent more than half an hour greeting airmen who were finishing lunches that included sizzling chicken, roast turkey, steamed broccoli and Greek salad. Most plates were pretty clean, some had a little leftover broccoli.

Of the first lady’s visit, “I was excited but nervous,” said Airman First Class Aaron K. Dahlstrom. “The food is an improvement.”

Airman Alfredo Lara-Marques, a 19th Aircraft Maintenance crew chief, said, “It was very informative. It’s an honor to have her here. I think it’s (the food transformation initiative) going to have a big impact. I have younger siblings who look up to what I do.”

1st Lt. Chris McGillen, a C-130J first pilot with the 41st Airlift Squadron, said, “I thought it was excellent, very motivating. It’s an excellent opportunity for all of us.”

Airman Michelle Bonnin, a Component Maintenance Squadron C-130 engine mechanic, said, “It was very enjoyable and informative.”

Airman First Class Kashmere Patterson, a public health specialist from Pittsburgh, Pa., said after meeting Mrs. Obama, “I think it’s a good plan because everyone is getting bigger.”

Patterson was pleased to have met the first lady, who complimented her on her manicured nails.

“Just being here. I never thought this would happen to me,” Patterson said.

Leader staff writers Christy Hendricks, Jonathan Feldman and Garrick Feldman contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Mayor has role of cheerleader

Leader staff writer

“I’m a cheerleader for Cabot,” Mayor Bill Cypert told the Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Cabot is the 20th largest and the third fastest-growing city in Arkansas. The mayor is convinced the city will grow at a steady rate to a population of nearly 50,000 in 2050.

Cypert said a lot of Cabot’s prosperity is attributable to the success of the central Arkansas region it is part of.

Since 2005, the metro Little Rock area has added 11,697 new jobs, $450 million in new payroll and $1.1 billion in capital investment, the mayor said.

Forbes magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. News and World Report, MSN and others have named the region the fourth strongest economy, seventh best place for jobs, sixth best real estate market, second least toxic area, fourth fastest in green job growth, ninth strongest housing market, seventh best place for starting over, the sixth best mid-size area for jobs, the seventh best value area, America’s eighth greatest gain in real estate values, 10th best area for recent college graduates, the best metro for young professionals and the 19th best-performing area for creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth in the country.

Cypert said, “We have managed to thrive in the midst of this recession. There are a lot of positive things about Central Arkansas and, of course, Cabot is a part of that. Cabot is going to grow, period. Working together, Cabot will be one of the best places to live, work and invest. Talk it up.”’

The city’s main assets are the strong support of a successful school district with more than 10,000 students and the backing of the Little Rock Air Force Base, the mayor continued.

Only 37 of more than 500 Arkansas cities have a population that surpasses the enrollment for the Cabot School District, which is the seventh largest in Arkansas and boasts a 96 percent graduation rate.

Its budget is $81 million and it had a millage rate of 39.5 last year.

The high school’s new HPER (health, physical education and recreation) and cafeteria building was completed last month.

The renovation of the high school’s auditorium is almost finished and the ninth grade facility is set to open in Fall 2014.

Little Rock Air Force Base has a local economic impact of $720 million and is the fifth largest employer in the state.

Cypert said, “If you walk out anywhere in Cabot, four out of five people you see are connected to the base in some way.”

The mayor shared a laundry list of positive things about Cabot.

The city sales tax revenue is up 2.10 percent, the county sales tax revenue is up 18.18 percent, revenue and expenses are on target and cash or cash equivalents were up $193,430 for a total of $4,164,835 as of Dec. 31.

There are 950 active business licenses and 9,561 water customers in Cabot.

Cypert said the city offers one of the top BMX bike tracks in the central United States; a small hometown family-oriented atmosphere with big city amenities nearby; a sound water and wastewater infrastructure with long term strategic plans; more than 30 evangelical church congregations; a caring and volunteering community; close proximity to the world class medical facilities at UAMS; close proximity to recreational places for fishing, deer and duck hunting; a state-of-the-art armory; a trained workforce with good work ethics; and nearby higher education and technical education facilities.

Cabot is located on a planned interstate route to St. Louis; is immediately adjacent to the Little Rock metro and central Arkansas areas that have a great deal of potential for commercial expansion; has a broad base of community support and involvement in youth sports and other diverse activities; offers a 32-lane state-of-the-art family bowling center; has a dual railroad for potential future mass transportation to the Little Rock metro; it is near both a national and regional airport; and has two different major roadways to the Little Rock metro.

The city is home to a Department of Workforce Services office, state Rep. Rick Crawford’s constituent office, Arkansas State University at Beebe and at LRAFB and Cabotfest, Cypert added.

A few rotary members asked questions after the mayor’s presentation.

Someone inquired about whether the city’s vehicles would “go green” and become more economical. Cypert said the city would look into that.

In response to another comment about how the city is growing, Cypert said, “Typically Cabot has exploded overnight. We’ve never been prepared for it. We have to start planning strategically.”

Another rotary member said, “Not having an interstate is a big deal,” amidst nods of agreement.

SPORTS >> Panthers lose overtime duel with Catholic

Leader sportswriter

The power outage experienced at Panther Arena on Tuesday was not the result of the two teams on its court shooting the lights out of the place.

In fact, shooting was below 40 percent for both Cabot and Catholic High School, but the Rockets used their advantage inside to tie the game at the end of regulation and eventually win in overtime 39-35, completing a season sweep over the Panthers in the 7A-Central Conference.

Catholic post player Matt Morris dominated with 20 points and 16 rebounds and hit a game-saving shot for the Rockets in the final five seconds of regulation that tied the game at 34. Morris also hit the only field goal in overtime to put Catholic up 36-34, as Cabot (12-6, 3-6) could not take advantage of the Rockets’ failure to close the game out at the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Struggles at the free-throw line were parallel to a trying night of shooting from the floor for both teams as Cabot finished 15 of 46 for 33 percent while Catholic went 13 of 33 for 39 percent.

The game was actually on pace to be finished in record time with Catholic’s Zack Reinars at the line for the second of two foul shots and the Rockets up 32-30 with 2:24 left to play in the fourth quarter at approximately 8:15 p.m., but a quick flicker was the only warning before the arena went pitch black for nearly five seconds. The darkness gave way to the recovery of secondary lighting around the aisles and exits, but the ensuing scramble to retrieve the floor lights took 20 minutes, and the overtime period pushed time well beyond 9 p.m.

“We shot the lights out,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “You definitely can’t attribute it to our shooting, unfortunately. We had our chances at the end, but they got it to overtime, and we didn’t do the things we needed to in order to win.”

Sam Howe led the Panthers with 11 points while Arthur West added nine points and J.D. Brunett finished with five points.

The Rockets never truly put the game away once they got the lead in overtime, going 3 of 12 from the foul line down the stretch, but Cabot went 0 for 6 from the floor during the extra period. That set up the routine of a Cabot miss, followed by a Catholic rebound and subsequent trip to the stripe.

The real drama unfolded once the lights came back on late in the fourth and point guard Bryan Shrum put the Panthers up 33-32 with a three-point basket at the 2:02 mark. Shrum made it 34-32 when he hit the front end of a one-and-one with 23 seconds remaining in regulation, but he missed the second shot and Morris rebounded for the Rockets. Catholic used its final time out with 10.3 seconds left on the clock and set up a play for Morris, who muscled his way through Cabot defenders for the tying shot at 2.1 seconds.

“It was talked about,” Bridges said of defending Morris late. “We tried to swarm him, but he keeps working. He played a great game, and he probably outworked us some. We need to start coming up with some more loose balls; we’ve got to start getting our hands on them.”

Cabot hosted North Little Rock last night after Leader deadlines, and will play at Little Rock Central on Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Cabot pummels Belles

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers defended their perfect record in the new Panther Arena with a near-perfect performance against Mount St. Mary on Tuesday. The Lady Panthers cruised to a 67-24 win.

The Lady Panthers (19-5, 8-1) took control from the start and maintained even through numerous lineup changes against a Belles team which struggled mightily against Cabot’s press. Mount St. Mary committed 15 turnovers alone in the first half and 23 for the game.

Junior guard Jaylin Bridges led the way for the Lady Panthers with 16 points, including four three-point baskets, while senior center and University of Arkansas signee Melissa Wolff added 12 points, six rebounds and five steals. Sophomore Maddie Smith finished with 11 points, including four straight field goals in the fourth quarter for Cabot’s final eight points.

Cabot opened the game on an 8-0 run and finished the first frame on a 12-0 run that started with the first of Bridges’ long-distance jumpers to give the Lady Panthers a 19-6 lead. Senior forward Sydney Wacker then took an inbounds pass from Micah Odom and scored underneath the basket to make it 21-6 with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter.

Wolff took a steal and feed from junior Ally Van Enk and converted a layup before Van Enk made a pull-up jumper to extend the lead to 25-6 with 24 seconds left to play, and Bridges bookended the run with another trey to put the Lady Panthers up 28-6 heading into the second quarter.

The Lady Panthers continued to dominate in the third quarter, as Bridges started the second half with another swished three pointer for a 40-15 Cabot lead. Wolff added two free throws at the 7:41 mark and then converted a steal by Elliot Taylor to make it 44-15.

Laci Boyett delivered the final blow from the starting unit with a lay up off a steal and assist from Wacker with 6:50 left to go in the third quarter to boost the Lady Panthers’ lead to 46-15.

Bridges was left on the floor for ball-handling purposes once the other starters made their exit, and her hot hand continued with a steal in the backcourt she took all the way for a score at the 3:01 mark, followed by her final three-point basket with 2:45 left to play in the third quarter to give the Lady Panthers a 54-18 lead.

Sarah Fowler and Van Enk closed out the third quarter with a basket each in the final minute to push the score to 58-20 before the mercy rule activated the continuous clock in the fourth quarter.

Wacker finished with eight points for Cabot while Taylor had six points and Boyett had five. Van Enk finished with six rebounds and five steals for the Lady Panthers.

Cabot hosted North Little Rock last night after The Leader deadlines. A win in that game would put those two teams in a tie for first place atop the 7A Central standings. Look for details of that matchup in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader. The Lady Panthers will play at Little Rock Central on Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Lonoke beats Clinton, sets district seeds

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys sealed up third place in conference and the girls fourth after a sweep of the Clinton Yellowjackets on Tuesday at Lonoke High School. The Lonoke teams still have a game to go against league leading Heber Springs.

The Panthers are in first place in boys and girls 4A-2 Conference standings, but no matter how things turned out in Friday’s matchups, the Jackrabbits’ spots in next week’s district tournament are settled.

That’s thanks to two big wins on Tuesday over Clinton. The girls won 43-26 while the boys prevailed 53-35.

The Lonoke boys (16-8, 9-4) jumped out to a big early lead, but let most of it slip away in the second quarter. On the strength of a huge half by sophomore guard Blake Mack, the Jackrabbits ran out to a 20-7 lead after one quarter. That lead was cut to 26-20 just past the midway point of the second quarter.

“I think we relaxed a little bit in the second quarter and let down the intensity,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “We got up on them so quickly, we just relaxed. It’s sort of a natural thing. You don’t like it and you don’t want to see it again, but you understand how it happens.”

After a timeout, Lonoke quickly and permanently regained control.

The Jackrabbits stretched the lead to nine, 34-25, by halftime. Mack had scored 23 of those points on his way to a career-high 28-point night. The Jackrabbits then started the third quarter with a huge run.

“We talked about getting back to where we were, intensity-wise, at the start,” Campbell said of his team’s halftime conversation. “We stress how important those first four minutes of the third quarter always are. I thought they went out and really dominated the whole eight minutes.”

Lonoke out-scored Clinton 19-4 in the third, with five players getting buckets during the game-clinching run.

“It was a lot more balanced in the third quarter,” Campbell said. “The first half wasn’t really a matter of not being balanced, Blake was just really in a rhythm. He attacked early. He got a couple of good looks at mid-range, got a couple of easy buckets. He shot the three well. He got to the free-throw line and made them. He just kind of caught everything in rhythm and had a really good night.”

The Lady Jackrabbits (15-11, 9-4) weren’t in danger of losing their four seed at district to the fifth-place Lady Yellowjackets (6-17, 4-9). Five games separate fourth and fifth in the unusual league standings.

Lonoke led only 8-6 after one quarter and stretched it to 23-14 by halftime. The game was still relatively close after three quarters, 32-22, but Lonoke won the fourth quarter 11-4 to win the game going away.

“Their record isn’t that great, but the way they play they give people a tough time,” Lonoke girls coach Nathan Morris said. “Their coach said we’ve beat them worse than anyone in our league this year. The way they pack that zone in you have to turn them over or they’re going to give you some trouble. Their guard play is not what it’s been and I think our speed really gives them some matchup problems.”

The Clinton ladies also rely heavily on the three-point shot, but that wasn’t working for them on Tuesday. The Lady Yellowjackets went 0 for 13 from outside the arc.

“They didn’t shoot it well, but a lot of that was because of a hand in their face,” Morris said. “I thought we did a good job defensively as far as disrupting what they try to do.”

Freshman guard Kerasha Johnson led all scorers with a season-high 18 points. Senior post player Anna Himstedt added 10 for Lonoke.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville comes back on Parkview

Leader sportswriter

It’s been nearly a month since Jacksonville went to Little Rock Parkview and beat the Patriots in their own house. Parkview was No. 1 in class 6A at the time and unbeaten before the Red Devils handed the Patriots their first loss of the season.

Tuesday night No. 2 Parkview (17-4, 5-4) traveled to No. 1 Jacksonville (17-4, 7-2) seeking revenge. It came down to the very end, but Jacksonville came from behind to beat Parkview 54-51 at the Devils’ Den.

Parkview was the aggressor in the first half, and led 16-11 at the end of the first quarter. Jacksonville battled back in the second quarter, but still trailed by five before Brandon Brockman hit a one-handed floater in the paint to cut the Patriots lead to three. At the half Parkview led 25-22.

“I challenged the kids at halftime,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “Parkview looked like they wanted it more than we did. They were more aggressive on the 50-50 balls, and I just challenged them at halftime.

“They had to get after it. We weren’t competing the way we wanted to compete in a high-profile game, or any game. You have to compete, and I thought they finally started getting aggressive in the second half.”

Jacksonville came out with more of a competitive edge in the second half. About midway through the third quarter Dewayne Waller hit a three-pointer to give the Red Devils their first lead of the game.

The score was tied at 35 before David Johnson hit a late basket. Crushawn Hayes hit two free throws with no time on the clock, giving Jacksonville a 39-35 lead going into the final quarter of play.

The fourth quarter was a battle as the lead was exchanged on several occasions. Parkview regained the lead with 4:31 left to play after Anton Beard hit two free throws to make the score 45-44.

After another Red Devil bucket, Imara Ready made two more baskets for Parkview to give the Patriots a 49-46 lead. Jacksonville came back to tie it after free throws from Tirrell Brown and Aaron Smith.

With 1:08 on the clock, Smith gave the Red Devils a three-point lead after an and-one play that caused the gym to shake once the basket fell through. Once Parkview scored its final basket, Waller hit a midrange baseline shot with 17.8 seconds left to give Jacksonville the 54-51 lead.

Parkview pushed the ball up court and post player Emmanuel Adoyi heaved a three that was off the mark. The Patriots grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Ready who tried another three, but it was no good and the home crowd stormed the court as time expired.

“I just challenged them to be more aggressive. They were beating us to balls. They were getting second shots. They were driving to the lane any time they wanted to,” Joyner said. “We had no backside rotation, and you can’t beat a good team like that with guys that aggressive. We had to get more aggressive point blank, and they came out and were a little bit more aggressive.”

The statistics were as close as the game itself. Parkview edged Jacksonville on the boards, out-rebounding the Red Devils 23-22. Parkview finished with 22 turnovers to Jacksonville’s 20. The Patriots had a slightly better free throw percentage on fewer attempts, shooting 79 percent as Jacksonville shot 72 percent.

Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 14 points. Smith scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Waller had 12 points while Brown finished with eight points and nine rebounds. Beard led all scorers with 18 points. Ready finished with 15.

Jacksonville traveled to Searcy yesterday to resume 7A/6A East Conference play.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

TOP STORY >> Former legislator had Cabot roots

Leader staff writer

George Wimberly, who grew up in Cabot, was known for many things.

He was a former mayor of Little Rock and he served in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

He was a drug store owner with no formal education as a druggist and by most accounts a caring man who would go out of his way to make sure his drug store customers had what they needed even in the middle of the night.

Wimberly died Sunday. He was 92 and despite all his accomplishments, he is best known across the state from news reports in 1988 about a scandal at his Buice Drug Store in Stifft Station concerning his good friend Little Rock Police Chief Jess F. “Doc” Hale. Hale was caught on camera with his hand in Wimberly’s cash register. He was suspended and charged with misdemeanor theft of less than $200. Then he shot himself to death a month later.

His defenders said Wimberly allowed him to take money from time to time.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams called The Leader when he heard about Wimberly’s death, not to set the record straight but to talk about his connection to Wimberly, a first cousin to Williams’ mother, Dorothy Wimberly Williams.

He had always known Wimberly, Williams said. They attended the same family reunions and his mother told him stories about how Wimberly’s father made sure her father had money to buy Christmas gifts for them.

“When we were kids, we looked up to him because he was the mayor of Little Rock,” Williams said. “That might be where my interest in politics came from. I didn’t know anyone else who was involved.”

It was only later, when Williams ran for city council in Cabot that he learned that J.T. Wimberly, George’s father, became Cabot’s first mayor in 1919 before going back to Star City where he was elected Lincoln County judge and then to the Arkansas House of Representatives.

When Williams became mayor in 2007, he looked through old city records and found his great-uncle’s name in the first city book. Then he called his cousin and got a picture of J.T. Wimberly to hang in the hallway at city hall with all the other mayors. Until January 2011, J.T. Wimberly was at the head of the line of pictures and Williams was at the end.

When Williams was sworn in as mayor, his mother and Wimberly were there. Wimberly talked briefly about the old days and one of his teachers, Mrs. Park, mother of city leader J.M. Park, now deceased.

When Williams ran for state senate, he visited Wimberly at his drug store, which had ceased to be a popular hangout for politicians after the incident with Hale in 1988.

“He reached in his pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. He said he wanted to help,” he said.

Williams said he talked to his cousin once about what happened with Hale.

“The Doc Hale thing was such a sad chapter in his life,” he said. He said it was the most difficult thing he had ever lived through.

“Money was missing and he didn’t know why. And when he saw the tape, he turned it over to the State Police. He said it was out of his hands.”

The incident almost certainly ended Wimberly’s political career. But he kept his drug store open and continued to take care of his customers until shortly before his death.

“What you hear is true, Williams said. “He really did carry a case of light bulbs in his car.”

Wimberly delivered medicine to shut-ins, Williams said. When he came across a porch with a light out, he changed the bulb because he knew the people inside couldn’t do it for themselves.

Williams also attested to the truthfulness of the blog posts about the signs that hung in his cousin’s drug store: The only true love that money can buy is a dog and don’t tell my mother I’m a lobbyist, she thinks I’m a piano player in a whorehouse.

They were there on the wall, Williams said.

Even Williams pointed out that his cousin is probably best known for the incident in 1988. But here are a few remarks posted on the Arkansas Times blog by people who knew him:

“George and I sat on the same row in the ledge and we came into service in the same class. George was always genial and respectful and helpful to most. Other things, others can testify to.

Once I went to George with a complaint about my big toe hurting. I could hardly walk.
I removed my shoe to let George look at it. Before I could yell in pain, he had taken pliers and pulled off my toe nail. More shock than pain. He then patched me up and sent me on my way. Problem solved.”

“George was the sweetest man. When my girls were little we lived down the street, and we would walk to see him on Saturdays. He also very graciously delivered their prescriptions to the door when they had an ear infection or were sick. Loved him dearly.”

“Mr. Wimberly was one of the most caring people to ever live in this fine state. There is no telling the number of prescriptions he filled and gave to patients who could not afford them. He took in stray dogs and stray people of all shades and lent them a hand. He was a true friend to many, and he will be missed.”

“The pharmacy, the sign and all ought to be a little museum. I think it was the last place I filled a prescription, which the label was made with a typewriter.”

“George was one of the hardest working men I ever knew, even at 80 or 90 years old he worked seven days a week, and got there early in the morning. I have even seen him at work on Christmas Day on more than one occasion. He would go out of his way to help someone. He would sometimes bend the rules a little when someone truly needed help, and understood that doing what was right was sometimes more important than doing what was legal. He was a role model, a better person than most anyone I have ever known.”

EDITORIAL >> Welcome, Mrs. Obama

Michelle Obama will land at Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday to promote the second anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” initiative geared toward fighting childhood obesity.

We extend an Arkansas welcome to the first lady, whose health and fitness campaign will complement the military’s efforts to improve the nutritional content of food served on military bases.

The base is one of six military installations taking part in a pilot program designed to improve the quality, variety and availability of food for the men and women in uniform and their dependents.

The first lady will be briefed about the healthy eating habits of airmen and tour the dining facility. She will sit down and eat with about 40 airmen and discuss how they feel about the pilot program.

The first lady’s three-day tour kicks off in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday morning and makes stops at Jacksonville, Fort Worth and Dallas, as well as Homestead, Orlando and Longwood, Fla.

Mrs. Obama kicked off “Let’s Move!” exactly two years ago to reduce childhood obesity. According to a White House press release, some of the initiative’s accomplishments include the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. In January, the USDA released school meal regulations updating the quality of nutrition through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. The updates call for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to be served at schools, as well as meals with less sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.

Grocers have committed to build or expand 1,500 stores in communities with little to no access to healthy food. Approximately 9.5 million people will now have healthier food choices available to them, according to the White House.

While the first lady visits here, let’s hope she finds the time to drop in at the two fine schools at the air base, the new Flightline Academy for middle-school students and the award-winning Arnold Drive Elementary. In 2010, the U.S. Education Department named Arnold Drive a Blue Ribbon school for academic excellence, one of only four schools in Arkansas to get the award.

Arnold Drive Elementary has about 250 students and about half qualify for free or reduced lunches. The website gives Arnold Drive a five-star rating, placing it 16th among the state’s 457 elementary schools.

Mrs. Obama will be impressed.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD hoping it can escape state scrutiny

Leader senior staff writer

Bill Goff, the Pulaski County Special School District’s chief financial officer, thinks the district has a good chance of meeting all requirements to be released from fiscal distress by the end of the 2012-13 school year by balancing its books, which would help the district get out from under state supervision.

“I’m very optimistic we can fulfill the fiscal distress plan” by cutting several million in spending, Goff said.

The original finding of fiscal distress dates back to transgressions several years old, discovered after the PCSSD board asked the state Bureau of Legislative Audit to take a good look at the district’s books.

When the state Board of Education meets Monday, it is slated to consider classifying the district as being in fiscal distress for having a low financial reserve budget.


This would be on top of the district’s existing designation of fiscal distress, issued last March.

Following that designation, the state board dissolved the PCSSD school board and fired its superintendent, Charles Hopson, who is a finalist for a superintendent’s job in Florida.

State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell thus became a board of one for the district.


The fiscal distress designation that the state Board of Education will consider Monday is based on the drop in the district’s financial reserves from $9.5 million to $4.5 million over the course of the 2010-2011 school year, Goff said.

Excluding federal program funds, the PCSSD budget is about $170 million, about 80 percent of that in hard-to-touch salaries, Goff said.

The teachers and support staff have agreed to forego pay increases, other than regular step-grade in-creases, which could save the district about $4 million, using Goff’s rough figures.

A change — reduction for some — in fringe benefit health insurance could save another $1.5 million, improvements to some buildings, making them more energy efficient, will help some, the warm winter has reduced utility costs will contribute to the $7 million in savings, he said.

The 70 percent of district workers who receive $313 a month for their health insurance will continue to do so, but those who opt instead to receive a similar amount toward buying their own insurance will have that amount reduced to $40 a month.

For the first time in at least a decade, student enrollment increased at PCSSD by perhaps 135 students. Each student brings about $5,500, so there’s an income increase in minimum foundation aid of about $750,000 if those numbers hold.


A district that can’t escape from fiscal distress within two school years is subject to consolidation or annexation with an adjacent school district, or reconstitution, but the existing desegregation agreement would make any of those options difficult if not impossible, according to Goff.

Federal District Judge Price Marshall has oversight regarding desegregation matters, and any real change in structure would have to be approved by him.

Kimbrell has told some state legislators that he would like the law changed to allow a district five years to fully implement a recovery plan. Kimbrell’s proposal is unlikely to be considered next week, when the state General Assembly convenes for its fiscal session, but it could be considered at the next regular session a year from now, in plenty of time to be in force before the district’s two-year time limit expires.

Based largely on the legislative audit, the state Education Board last March put PCSSD on fiscal distress for bad financial oversight and transparency, improper payments to former superintendent James Sharpe, inappropriate reimbursement to board members and because a maintenance manager stole and sold $400,000 in parts, supplies and items — among other reasons.

TOP STORY >> Legion honors heroic war chaplains

Leader staff writer

The Cabot American Legion Post 71 held a memorial service on Sunday to honor four chaplains of different faiths who sacrificed their lives to save four soldiers on a troop carrier that was sunk by a German submarine during the Second World War.

On the night of Feb. 2, 1943, the Army transport ship Dorchester was traveling the frigid waters from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland.

The Dorchester, a former luxury ocean liner, was carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers. It was escorted by three Coast Guard cutter ships.

The Dorchester was 150 miles from the base. The captain ordered the men to sleep in their clothing and keep their life jackets on. Many of the men ignored the captain’s orders, because the life jackets were uncomfortable and the ship’s engine made them hot.

A German U-boat spotted the Dorchester at 12:55 a.m. on Feb. 3. The submarine fired torpedoes, striking the Dorchester. The hit blasted a hole in the ship and knocked out radio contact. The ship sank 27 minutes later.

One of the Coast Guard ships saw the flash from the blast and three cutters circled back to the Dorchester.

While the men were jumping ship, chaplains Lt. George Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, Jewish; Lt. John Washington, Roman Catholic, and Lt. Clark Poling, Dutch Reformed, stayed on the ship calming the wounded and offering prayers to the dying and hope for the survivors.

When there were no more life jackets, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four soldiers. As the Dorchester slipped into the waters, survivors in the life rafts saw the four chaplains with their arms linked, braced against the slanting deck continuing to offer prayers until their deaths.

That night, 672 died and 230 survived. The four chaplains received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart medals. In 1961, the military honored the chaplains with the Special Medal for Heroism, the only time the medal was presented.

The Cabot Legionnaires honored the four chaplains with a memorial service and candle lighting. Among those attending the service were Mayor Bill Cypert, Cub Scout Pack 205 and American Legion national chaplain Carl Schmidt.

TOP STORY >> Base units thrive amid cuts

Leader executive editor

The commanders of the Air National Guard and the new Air Force Reserves unit at Little Rock Air Force Base said this week they’re confident their missions will thrive even with proposed cuts in the defense budget.

Col. Steve Eggensperger, commander of the 189th Airlift Wing, said that despite a hold on the avionics modernization program, his wing continues to operate at full strength with 790 airmen and is still looking to fill key positions with qualified high school graduates.

He expects to lose only one C-130 in the next five years.

“Little Rock Air Force Base will continue to provide global airlift,” the colonel said. “The 189th, in partnership with the Reserve unit, is responsible for legacy training.”

The 314th Airlift Wing has transitioned to an all-modern C-130J training unit. The 19th Airlift Wing, the host unit at the base, leads the global C-130J combat airlift mission.

Col. Edsel A. (Archie) Frye, who heads the new Air Force Reserve Command at the base, said the cuts announced at the Pentagon last week will mean possibly losing two C-130s assigned to the unit, but not not until 2017.

Despite the projected cuts, the new unit he’s building will have more than 700 Reservists. Half of the new hires will be full-time.

The 19th and the 314th Airlift Wings, the two largest units on base, have seen minor reductions. At year’s end, the base eliminated 41 civilian jobs and has retired some 20 young officers, but both the Reserves and Air National Guard are still recruiting new members with $20,000 signing bonuses, Eggensperger said.

Nationwide, the Air Force will eliminate 10,000 airmen and 65 C-130s.

20 C-130s

The 189th and the Reserve each have 10 legacy C-130s. The Guard has four planes that have been modified with new avionics, including new cockpit panels and extensive rewiring from Boeing, although the planes are now grounded.

Until last month’s cancellation, the new avionics were being installed at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia at a cost of at least $7.5 million each.

The AMP modifications re-place analog controls and displays with digital, standardize the 30 different C-130 cockpit configurations and upgrade and standardize communication, navigation and air-traffic management, have a glass cockpit, including so-called heads-up displays, night-vision imaging and will meet operational conditions.

They also reduce the size of the flight crew from five to four and make the cockpit compatible with that of the state-of-the-art C-130J. The 19th and 314th Airlift Wings at the base are transitioning to all C-130Js.

The Air Force has also delivered a new simulator to train for the new avionics upgrades. Another simulator is scheduled for delivery soon and will be located in a new building, Eggensperger said.

He emphasized that if the avionics program is scrapped, the two simulators can be rewired for training on the older C-130s. The Air Force had planned to upgrade some 200 older planes, but the Pentagon will save $4 billion by cancelling the program.

The 189th had assigned eight crews with 100 maintainers — three from Arkansas and five from Missouri — to the avionics program before it was put on hold.

“We understand fiscal realities,” Eggensperger said. “There will be some turbulence and uncertainty, but we remain confident about our mission.”

He said when there’s another round of base closings, LRAFB will be on solid footing because it remains the C-130 center of excellence.

Eggensperger said the Guard has openings in several key areas.


Other than possibly losing two planes in five years, Frye said, “We don’t know of any other cuts in the foreseeable future.”

Frye, whose unit, 22nd Air Force Detachment 1, is being built from the ground up, said, “We’re continuing on schedule. The unit is replacing active-duty maintainers and flying instructor crews on the legacy C-130s as the active-duty training wing, the world-champion 314th Airlift Wing and transitions to the newer C-130J models.

He said, “Our maintainers and flight instructors are already integrating with the 314th to learn and perform the new mission. Other than losing two planes in five years, we don’t see any cuts in the foreseeable future.”

“We’re not programmed for reduction,” he added, although he concedes, “I can’t predict the future.”

“We’re gaining members daily,” he continued. “We’re extremely optimistic about being able to rapidly recruit all our members by 2014.”

Frye, who was named commander last February, has so far recruited 112 reservists, including maintainers, flight instructor crews and an all-civilian finance team.

They are spread out over several buildings around the base.

He praised the 189th AW as “our nation’s most highly decorated Air National Guard wing. All three wings on base have graciously made room for the fledgling Reserve unit. By 2014, the Reserve unit will associate with the 189th (lead wing) to train all legacy C-130 aircrews worldwide.

“It is our intention to build the best wing in Air Force history. We are committed to that vision,” he said.

SPORTS >> Hall whips Red Devils, wins again physically

Leader sports editor

Early in the second quarter, it appeared Jacksonville was going to avenge its last loss, a 65-52 loss to Little Rock Hall on Jan. 6. The Red Devils led 17-6 and Hall was reeling. Instead, it was the Warriors who made it a season sweep over the Red Devils, dominating the fourth quarter and pulling out a 47-43 victory in a defense-dominated game.

Hall’s Aaron Walton entered the game and changed it with his physical brand of defense, too physical at times for Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner’s liking. Joyner made it clear that he felt Hall was allowed too much contact, but that wasn’t his biggest concern after the game.

“We were just soft,” Joyner said. “They were coming out, picking us up at halfcourt. When they come out that high and get on you, you go by them. We weren’t doing that. We were picking up the dribble way out there in the corner. You can’t do that. That’s soft. That’s timid. They were aggressive and we were timid. That’s the bottom line.”

It was a game of runs for the first three quarters. Jacksonville opened with six straight that should’ve been eight, but Aaron Smith goal tended on a Justin McCleary fast break runner. Jacksonville post player Brandon Brockman scored the first bucket of the second quarter to give Jacksonville a 17-6 lead just second into the period, but Hall answered with six straight and Jacksonville got just two more points the rest of the quarter.

Hall began to extend its man defense to mid-court, and was transitioning out man defense in halfcourt settings and into traps.

The strategy got the Red Devils totally out of sync. By halftime, Jacksonville’s lead was 19-17.

Hall tied the game 40 seconds into the third quarter and took its first lead 15 seconds later with a steal and layup by Javon Perry.

The Warriors’ lead grew to 28-24 before Jacksonville went on an 11-0 run and seemed to have figured out the Hall defense.

Brown scored the last four of the run, giving Jacksonville a 35-28 lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter. But it didn’t even last the rest of the period.

Hall closed the frame with six straight points to make it 35-34 going into the fourth quarter.

“We should’ve gone ahead and put it away right there,” Joyner said. “But they started grabbing and putting two hands on our ball handlers. I told the officials if they were going to let them put two hands on us, I’m going to tell my guys to knock their hands away. And I did. I told them to be forceful. Don’t take that. But they didn’t do it. They just let it happen, let ‘em stop their momentum, stop their drives.”

The game wasn’t settled until Walton hit two free throws with six seconds remaining to set the final margin. His two foul shots immediately followed a blow opportunity by Jacksonville’s James Aikens. Aikens was at the line with a chance to tie the game, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Both teams were bad from the line, but Hall pulled it together in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville made just eight of 17 attempts. Hall went 9 of 19, but was five of seven in the fourth quarter.

The Red Devils suffered a season-high 17 turnovers while Hall gave it up 11 times.

Walton came off the bench to lead Hall with 13 points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Quan Jones added 11 and David Berete scored 10 for the Warriors. McCleary and Dwayne Waller scored 10 points each to lead Jacksonville.

The Lady Devils hung tough for a quarter, but the Lady Warriors blew the game open in the second period en route to a 73-48 victory.

The Devils’ Den was crawling with big-time college coaches for the girls game, including defending national champion Gary Blair of Texas A and M. They were there to watch Jacksonville junior Jessica Jackson and Hall’s Tyler Scaife. Neither disappointed.

Jackson almost single-handedly kept the Lady Devils close with 13 of the team’s 14 first-quarter points. She finished with 23 points and seven rebounds.

Scaife had an incredibly balanced game. She finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals.

The Red Devils were at home last night against Parkview. They go on the road on Friday to face Searcy.

SPORTS >> ’Rabs split pair with Cave City

Leader sportswriter

A strong second half boosted the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits to a 47-25 victory at Cave City on Friday. The Lady Jackrabbits outscored the Cavewomen 13-8 in the third quarter before holding the hosts to a single point in the fourth quarter with increased defensive pressure.

“We played a little more zone in the fourth quarter,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “We pressured more in the second half altogether.”

The victory improved the Lady Jackrabbits to 14-11 overall and 8-4 in the 4A-2 Conference.

Cave City matched Lonoke beat for beat through most of the first half until Lady Jackrabbits senior guard Kaitlyn Tate made a three-point basket in the final eight seconds of the second quarter to give Lonoke a 20-16 lead at the break.

“We didn’t play especially great in the first half,” Morris said. “We didn’t value the ball very well. Second half, played better defensively, we had a lot better defensive pressure in the third quarter. And the fourth quarter, we played a little more relaxed on offense and started moving the ball a lot better.”

The Lady Jackrabbits got off to a slow start in the first quarter with no score until senior Mary Davis came off the bench to make a pair of free throws midway through the period. The two teams eventually fought to a 10-10 deadlock at the end of the first quarter despite no scoring from either team early on.

Lonoke was 18 of 58 from the field for 31 percent and was 10 of 13 from the free-throw line.

“We had shots, maybe we didn’t quite attack the basket hard enough,” Morris said. “There were not a lot of fouls called, it was that type of game that we got into, but it helped when we upped the pressure in that third quarter.”

Senior post player Anna Himstedt led the Lady Jackrabbits with nine points while freshman guard Kerasha Johnson added eight points. Eboni Willis and Savannah Holman each finished with seven points for Lonoke, with all of Holman’s points coming consecutively during a run in the third quarter.

The Jackrabbits boys team did not fare as well and lost 53-52. The Cavemen were playing in memory of a recently-fallen classmate for an inspiring performance in front of an emotional crowd. Cave City has been a conundrum all season, losing to teams at the bottom of the standings and beating the teams at the top.

It was the second straight loss for Lonoke, which also lost at Marianna Tuesday 67-58.

The two teams battled to a 19-19 lead at the half before the Cavemen outscored Lonoke 17-12 in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits made some of that up in a frantic final period in which they outscored Cave City 21-17.

“We pressured them practically the entire second half,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “And in doing that, I think we got into their legs and were able to make a run on them.”

Sophomore Blake Mack led the Jackrabbits with 21 points while senior Tarrale Watson poured in another 15 for Lonoke.

The Jackrabbits are now 15-8 overall and 8-4 in the 4A-2 Conference. Campbell was pleased with both the shooting and defensive efforts of his team, but simply said playing against an inspired team is a difficult game to win, especially on the road.

“They were definitely driven,” Campbell said. “Sometimes, you have to have more to play for than just the game. Kids will always come together in those types of situations.”

Lonoke hosted Clinton last night and will have senior night at home against Heber Springs on Friday to conclude the 4A-2 Conference schedule before district tournament play begins next week at Heber Springs.

SPORTS >> Evans leads at junior college

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville native Mike Evans is larger than life at North Arkansas College in Harrison, and he has the billboard to prove it.

Of course his 6-8 stature doesn’t hurt things for the starting sophomore post player on the NorthArk Pioneers basketball team under longtime coach Jerry Thomason. Evans leads the team in scoring, blocking and rebounding, averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game, which has helped the Pioneers to a 16-6 record so far this season.

The school’s advertising theme which features faculty members working with students in their field on billboards are prevalent in the northwest Arkansas area. Evans got the nod to be featured alongside Thomason as one of three returning sophomores and team captain this year.

“He’s got a little bit of height, and he’s got a good work ethic,” Thomason said of Evans. He’s gotten a lot stronger while he’s been up here. He’s our leading scorer and top rebounder, so he’s been real good for us.”

The Pioneers are an independent team as one of only two public two-year institutions that fields a competitive basketball team, along with West Memphis. Though they do not take part in any conference race, they do compete for a chance to take part in the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament in late March.

In fact, NorthArk will host the NJCAA sub-district tournament on March 3, with the district finals being held in Clarendon, Tex. on March 11. The winner there gets to move on to the NJCAA Nationals in Danville, Ill., March 20-24.

Thomason, who has led the Pioneers to six straight regional championships during his 23-year tenure at the school, says he feels good about his team’s chances again this year.

“I thought we would be pretty good,” Thomason said. “I knew we would have a decent ball club, but you never know how long it’s going to take them to have chemistry together. We had three sophomores that were a good foundation.

“Our depth has really improved since semester. I’m not surprised that we’ve had success, but I guess I’m a little surprised that we are 16-6. I never thought we would have that kind of record, but we have pulled out some close games.”

Evans got his first taste of basketball success as the starting post player on the North Pulaski Junior Falcons freshman team under coach Ben Belton in 2007, as the team went on to claim the River City Conference championship that year. Evans then went on to play high-school basketball at North Little Rock, where he eventually attracted the interest of Thomason and the NorthArk staff.

“It’s definitely different up here,” Evans said of college life in northwest Arkansas. “It’s only a two-and-a-half hour drive, but it’s a lot different.”

Though Evans downplays the significance of being featured on a billboard promoting the school, simply saying it’s “pretty cool,” Thomason said the advertisement is a good representation of the program.

“It’s not unique to our school,” Thomason said. “There are five or six of them, and each one has a faculty member and a student. It is promoting our school and letting them know what we have to offer here, and we wanted to make sure they knew that athletics was one one of them.”

Evans will have to move on after this year, and is in the process of finding a four-year school where he can play basketball with the help of his father Steve Evans, who has had a big hand in Mike’s career.

“He helps me a lot,” Evans said. “I don’t know where I would be without my dad.”

But for the six remaining regular-season games and however far NorthArk gets in the postseason, Evans is still a Pioneer for the time being. His role as team captain will be even more vital as the games increase in importance.

“He’s a team player, and he works very hard,” Thomason said. “He does everything right, and he’s a good team leader.”

SPORTS >> Panthers take second in Central wrestling

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers made a fine showing at the 7A Central Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday at North Little Rock High School. The Panthers finished second in team points with 171-.5, 37.5 behind winner Little Rock Central.

Cabot had wrestlers in 12 of the 14 weight classes. Six made it to the finals and two took first place in their respective class.

“I think we’ve done pretty well,” Cabot coach Jason Rogers said. “We’ve guys in the finals of half of our weight classes we entered. We needed to pretty much win out in all of them to catch Central, so we knew that was a longshot. But overall I think the guys have done a very good job.”

Erik Cooley won the 126-pound division. Cooley was 13-6 on the season entering the tournament. He received a bye in the first round then beat Catholic’s Henry Yeary to advance to the title match.

There he faced Central Tiger Jaylen Webster and dominated the three-round bout 13-5.

Cabot’s other champion was 145-pound Tyler Kurz. Kurz, who entered the match with an impressive 22-1 record, also received a first-round bye. In the semifinals he pinned North Little Rock’s Detirick Deshazier just 1:28 into the bout.

His championship match was over even quicker. Kurz pinned Bryant’s Brett Blend in 1:26.

138-pound Panther Daniel Davis was one of four second-place finishers for Cabot. He pinned Marlon Cuevas of Russellville at 3:53 in the semifinals. He then lost to Van Buren’s John Haywood 11-5.

In the 152-pound division, Cabot’s Kyle Wheeler, who entered the tournament with an impressive season record of 18-3, pinned Matt Mears in just 19 seconds in the quarterfinal round. He won a close 7-5 decision over Andrew Elam of Russellville in the semifinals to advance to the championship round. There he faced Central’s Tyler Mann, who is ranked in the top 30 nationally and sported a 29-1 record coming into the tournament. Mann pinned Wheeler with less than one second remaining in the first round.

Cabot’s other two second-place finishers were Chase Campbell in the 182-pound division, and Keith Pledger of the 285-pound division.

Campbell was 16-2 entering the tournament. He pinned Bryant’s Colton Caviness at the 2:08 mark in the quarterfinals. He pinned Khalil Campbell of North Little Rock at 3:24 to advance to the finals. There he lost to undefeated Van Buren wrestler Lucas Ardemagni (23-0) by pin with just 20 seconds left in the bout.

Pledger also faced an eye-popping record in his championship bout. He lost his championship match 8-4 to 32-1 Keidrick Usifo of LR Central.

Before that, Pledger beat Hubert Bryant of Central in the quarterfinal round by pin at 1:15. Then got by Conway’s Brannon Kotch, who quit the match due to injury with Pledger leading 6-3.

In the 106-pound division, Hayden Mills took third place by beating Conner Perkins of Catholic High in the finals of the consolation bracket. Mills won the match by pin at the 3:32 mark.

The class 7A state finals are Saturday at UALR.