Saturday, March 03, 2012

SPORTS >> Lady Devils overcome foul trouble

Leader sportswriter

EL DORADO — Early foul trouble and missed free throws made Jacksonville’s first round 6A state playoff matchup with Sheridan more competitive than it should’ve been after one half. The Lady Red Devils regrouped and came out in the second firing on all cylinders en route to a 58-44 win Thursday at Wildcat Arena in El Dorado.

Jacksonville (21-5) proved to be the better team early on as the Lady Red Devils led 19-10 after a quarter of play. However, standouts Jessica Jackson and Shakyla Hill each picked up their second fouls early in the second quarter, and sat the remainder of the half.

Sheridan (8-18) wasted no time taking advantage of Jacksonville’s misfortunes, and the Lady Jackets fought their way back to cut Jacksonville’s lead to 27-25 at the break.

“We knew we came out flat,” said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms about the first half. “They called some quick fouls on us, and got us in a little bit of foul trouble. So, we couldn’t get into what we wanted to do to them, and I think they got into what they wanted to do to us.

“When I have Shakyla and Jessica over there on the bench sitting down, we’re a little bit different team. But we came out in the second half and handled our business, and we were able to rest down the stretch.”

Jacksonville opened the second half with a ferocious 17-4 run, forcing Sheridan to call timeout at the 4:06 mark in the third. After a first half where Jackson and Hill scored two points each, the two combined for 22 points in the second half.

By the end of the third, Jacksonville held a comfortable 52-36 lead. Jacksonville’s free throw shooting was less than stellar as the Lady Red Devils went zero for seven at the line in the first half. Hill had five of those misses.

Sheridan allowed Jackson-ville to shoot the three-ball early, and put its defensive focus on closing off the lanes to where the Lady Red Devils couldn’t score in transition. It was a strategy that Mimms wanted to counter in the second half.

“We picked the tempo up,” Mimms said. “Picked the tempo up and forced some turnovers. We got some easy put-backs, and we had some girls attacking the hole. I said, ‘quit settling for these jumpers and get to the rim and finish.’”

Neither team had an advantage on the boards as both teams totaled 25 rebounds. Sheridan was more efficient at both the free throw line and the perimeter as the Lady Jackets shot 55 percent at the line and 40 percent from the perimeter.

Jacksonville shot 37 percent at the line and 23 percent from beyond the arc.

The turnover battle worked in Jacksonville’s favor as the Lady Red Devils committed 15 total, but forced 24, 15 of which came in the second half that led to several easy buckets on fast break points.

Jackson led the Lady Red Devils with a game-high 14 points and five rebounds. Hill finished with 12 points and seven steals, with five of those steals coming in the second half. Nicole Bennett had a strong game for Jacksonville as she scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Two players finished in double figures for Sheridan. Bryanne Molts and Lauren Mitchell each scored 12 points.

SPORTS >> Bears hit boards against Nettleton

Leader sports editor

PARAGOULD — Sylvan Hills got off on a bit of a slow start, and never could totally get rid of the pesky bunch of Raiders from Nettleton in the first round of the class 5A state tournament. Poor shooting was the Bears’ main problem, but defensive aggression and tenacious rebounding made up for the off night of shooting as Sylvan Hills advanced with a 60-43 victory Wednesday at Greene County Tech High School in Paragould.

The Bears made just nine of 30 shot attempts in the first half, but held Nettleton to just five of 25. Sylvan Hills led 11-5 at the end of the first quarter. Nettleton’s John Nickle scored just seconds into the second quarter. Nettleton then had two trips to the free-throw line to cut further into the lead, but on each trip, missed the front end of one-and-one attempts. Those missed opportunities proved huge as Sylvan Hills guard Archie Goodwin scored the game’s next four points in rapid succession. He penetrated the lane for a driving floater, then stole the ball at midcourt and finished the transition with a massive dunk that forced the Raiders to call timeout with 4:39 left in the first half.

Sylvan Hills extended the lead to 24-13 by halftime. Goodwin alone had outscored the Raiders by one point in the half.

It was a physical game and one in which Goodwin, who is a natural slasher and used to getting into the lane and to the free-throw line, went to the line just twice the entire game, hitting one of three free-throw attempts.

Goodwin got all 10 of his second half points in the first two, and last two minutes. He hit a baseline fade-away with 6:17 left in the third, and didn’t score again until 1:53 remained in the game.

His bucket in the third made it 31-17. Junior Daylon Jones picked up the scoring duties late in the third. Jones scored six straight from 2:55 to 1:37 left in the third to push Sylvan Hills lead to 45-27.

The two teams traded baskets several times early in the fourth before Nettleton went on a 9-0 run that made it 49-40 with 3:02 left in the game.

Sylvan Hills point guard Dion Patton took it to the basket after a Bears timeout. He hit a floater in the lane and was fouled. The free-throw made it 52-40 with 2:39 left. Goodwin then scored the next five straight, starting with a baseline jumper, then completing a three-point play after getting fouled putting back an offensive rebound. The run made it 57-40 with 1:34 remaining and effectively secured the Bears’ advance to the quarter-final round.

Goodwin finished with 24 points and nine rebounds while senior forward Larry Ziegler finished with 14. Post player Devin Pearson finished with 11 rebounds. Nettleton’s E.J. Whitaker led the Raiders with 20 points.

Sylvan Hills improved the 23-5 and advanced to play Morrilton in the quarterfinal round. The Bears played the Devil Dogs at 10:30 p.m. Friday, after The Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >> Cabot girls shoot well in opener, semis next

Leader sportswriter

Deadeye shooting from the outside and pilfering hands on defense helped Cabot advance to the semifinals of the 7A state playoffs as the Lady Panthers routed Springdale Har-Ber 71-49 in the quarterfinals at Panther Arena on Thursday.

The Lady Panthers (25-5) forced 28 turnovers against the Lady Wildcats (22-10), and Cabot junior point guard Jaylin Bridges lit up the scoreboard with a game high 19 points that including five three-point baskets.

Bridges scored the first six points for Cabot with back-to-back threes to give the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game mid-way through the first quarter and hit from long distance twice more early in the third quarter to push the lead to 45-27 by the 6:29 mark.

“We were trying to get some steals when they were driving the lane,” Lady Panthers coach Carla Crowder said. “So that gave us an opportunity to get some steals to kind of get us going offensively, and then (Bridges) hit those threes to kind of calm everybody down.

“It’s the first game of state, so you have nerves usually.”

Melissa Wolff scored with a putback at the 2:47 mark of the first quarter to give the Lady Panthers an 11-5 lead, and then the senior and Arkansas signee made a three-point basket with 35 seconds remaining in the opening period for a 16-8 Cabot lead.

Wolff finished just behind Bridges with 18 points, and added nine rebounds and a game high six steals. All but one of Wolff’s takeaways resulted in points for the Lady Panthers, who committed just 10 turnovers of their own.

“We just did our normal routine on defense,” Crowder said. “We played three or four different defenses, and we got in foul trouble early, so we had to stick with zone for a while. We haven’t been in foul trouble all year, and we had several people in foul trouble, so we were trying to protect it.”

Cabot got more looks on offense and made the most of it with 59 percent (24 of 43) from the floor while the Lady Wildcats struggled at times and went 16 of 36 for 44 percent.

Sydney Wacker and Elliot Taylor swapped assists in the early going of the second quarter, as Taylor found Wacker inside for a jumper at the 7:02 mark that gave Cabot a 19-13 lead, and Wacker returned the favor on the next trip down to make it 21-13. Taylor finished with 12 points while Wacker had four points and a pair of steals.

Taylor picked up her third personal foul with 4:14 remaining in the first half and was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half, but senior Micah Odom picked up the slack with a three-point basket at the 3:54 mark to lift the Lady Panthers to a 28-18 lead, and went 3 for 4 from the free-throw line before the break.

Odom finished with 11 points for the Lady Panthers while junior guard Ally Van Enk added five points.

For Har-Ber, Summer Morgan led with 13 points while Caroline Eubanks added 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Lady Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals by beating West Memphis 55-35 in the opening round a day earlier.

Despite the fact that the game was played in the middle of the afternoon did not deter the Cabot faithful from showing up, as the Cabot stands were three quarters full while the student section went all the way to the top behind the East goal.

“It’s a little of an advantage,” Bridges said of the hometown support. “I hope they come out Saturday, too. They get us going when we can’t get ourselves going, like at the beginning, we started out sluggish, but the cheering and the loudness in the gym helps us get going.”

The Lady Panthers will face Little Rock Hall today in the semifinals to determine who will go to the state finals next weekend in Hot Springs. The Lady Warriors pummeled Fayetteville 60-27 in Wednesday’s first round before advancing Thursday with a 56-48 victory over West No. 2 seed Rogers.

SPORTS >> Red Devils fight for 48-34 win

Leader sportswriter

EL DORADO — After taking care of Lake Hamilton with ease in the first round of the 6A state tournament, the Jacksonville Red Devils faced a tougher challenge against Marion. Jacksonville struggled to find its offense early, but the Red Devils pulled away in the second half to get the 48-34 victory Friday in El Dorado and advance to the semi-finals.

At the end of the first quarter, Jacksonville narrowly led 10-9. By the end of the half Jacksonville was able to push its lead to five, leading 23-18.

Jacksonville came out hot after the break, and scored the first five points of the quarter, pushing the lead to 10 with 4:02 left in the third. As the third quarter closed, Jacksonville senior guard DeWayne Waller grabbed an offensive rebound and put-back to give the Red Devils their largest lead of the game at that point, leading by 12.

Marion’s defense was pesky in the first half, and didn’t allow Jacksonville to find its rhythm on offense. Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner had an explanation as to why his team had trouble scoring early.

“In the first half they jumped into a zone and we missed a lot of outside shots,” Joyner said. “I think that was the difference. We didn’t hit our outside shots very well.

“Later on I thought we executed and gutted it out. It was an ugly game because of the way it was called. It makes for ugly games when you call it like that. It wasn’t a fun game to watch and it wasn’t a fun game to coach.”

The Red Devils didn’t have any problems with foul trouble, but they ended the game having shot 33 free throws for 52 percent at the line. Marion got to the line 10 times, shooting 60 percent for the game.

Even though Jacksonville was able to get to the line often, it wasn’t necessarily what Joyner was looking for.

“It was frustrating for the kids because it interrupted the flow of the game,” Joyner said. “But if you can win ugly, you win ugly. We’ll take it. In the state tournament you take it any way you can get it. The game just had no flow to it.

“The officials let them play a little bit more in the third quarter. We had more flow in the third, I thought, and we ended up with more stops on the other end. It was just an ugly, grind- it-out game. This conference is predicated on athleticism, and you can’t use your athleticism in a game like that.”

In the fourth, Jacksonville out-scored Marion 11-9. Senior point guard Crushawn Hayes hit one of two free throws in the final seconds to set the final margin. Both teams were all over the boards through all four quarters, but Jacksonville out-rebounded Marion 27-23. Jacksonville also won the turnover battle, committing 15 while forcing 22 from Marion.

Waller led Jacksonville with 13 points. Justin McCleary finished with 10. Post player Tirrell Brown scored eight, while grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots. Warren Boyd was the only Patriot to finish in double figures as he scored a game-high 20 points.

Jacksonville will play a familiar foe, Jonesboro, in the semi-finals of the 6A state tournament tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Lady Bulldogs down Beebe in quarterfinal round of state

Leader sports editor

PARAGOULD — An old adage in basketball is that everything goes a lot better when you’re making your shots. The flip side to the adage is that everything seems worse when you’re not making shots. The latter is what the Beebe ladies endured in their state tournament quarterfinal matchup with Greenwood Friday at Greene County Tech High School in Paragould.

Greenwood, on the other hand, enjoyed the good shooting that seemed to make everything easy. The Lady Bulldogs couldn’t miss and Beebe couldn’t get anything to go in. It led to a big early lead for Greenwood and eventually a 71-44 loss for Beebe.

“We missed some shots early that would’ve kept us in it,” Beebe coach Greg Richey said. “Their point guard (Williams) is special. She can knock down threes but she can find open teammates or penetrate. She makes everybody better.”

Greenwood’s London Williams hit her first five shots of the game, including three, three pointers as Greenwood built a 24-9 just seconds into the second quarter.

Meanwhile Beebe’s leading scorer Jamie Jackson, went 1 for 7 from the floor in the first quarter and 3 for 14 in the half.

The Lady Badgers cut slightly into that margin by halftime. Greenwood led 37-23 at the break, but would quickly extend that lead to 43-25 two minutes into the third quarter, prompting a timeout by Richey.

That was due largely to continued turnover problems for the Lady Badgers, as well as Greenwood’s ability to get a player open for easy shots.

“I think maybe we were a little stunned but I think it may have been some fatigue too,” Richey said of Greenwood’s open shots. “They run so many at you and we don’t have as much depth as they do.”

Greenwood had just four steals in the first half, but Beebe committed 13 turnovers.

In the second half, Lundon Williams cooled off, missing all six of her shot attempts in the third quarter. Allie Barnes picked up right where she left off, hitting three in a row, including two three pointers. Turnovers and missed layups continued to be a problem as the Lady Bulldogs pushed the lead to as much as 58-34 with 55 seconds left in the third.

The Lady Badgers continued to battle, but the Bulldogs continued to extend the lead. With 2:33 remaining, Greenwood’s Sammy Richards got an and-one to make it 67-40. Beebe cut it to 23, but it reached 27 again with two free throws with two seconds remaining.

Jackson and Lundon Williams shared leading-scorer honors, each finishing with 20 points for their respective teams. Angelina Williams added 13 for the Lady Badgers.

The Lady Badgers finish the season 22-8 and return most of its key players next season.

“It’s a young team with some talented players coming up,” Richey said. “I’m excited about our future and I’m excited that Greenwood is moving to 6A.”

In Wednesday’s first-round game against White Hall, the Lady Badgers raced out to a 12-1 lead, but saw it almost completely erased by halftime. The Lady Bulldogs cut the margin to 22-21 by intermission, but Beebe dominated the second half, winning the game 64-38.

Richey wasn’t pleased with how his squad executed after jumping out to the big lead.

“That gave me a chance to get on them at halftime and I was really pleased with how they responded,” Richey said.

“The third quarter became a layup drill for Jackson. Beebe got steal and after steal, most of which turned into easy layups for Jackson or Miller.

Once Beebe’s lead got back into double digits, Richey called off the press, but the Lady Badgers still dominated. Three consecutive possessions saw Williams take entry passes, turn and score. White Hall had no answer for whatever Beebe wanted to do.

The Lady Badgers finished with 19 steals and forced 30 White Hall turnovers.

Jackson led all scorers with 21 points. Miller finished with 16 and Williams 13 for Beebe.

That trio plus guard Alexis Miguel all finished with three steals apiece.

Patience Walker finished with 15 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs.

EDITORIAL >> Looking back to a special year

When the Leader started its first edition in March 1987, publisher Garrick Feldman and managing editor Eileen Feldman had no idea that their work that year would be shortened by a second.

But that’s what happened as timekeeping officials shrank the year to bring it back into line with the Gregorian calendar.

The Leader wasn’t the only long-lasting media outlet to preview its goods in 1987. The Fox Broadcasting Company also debuted.

But the talk around the water coolers was, as it is today, about rising gasoline prices. At 89 cents a gallon fears were rampant that gas would break the $1.00 mark.

The stock market limped to a year-end close of 1938 after it lost 508 points in one day — Oct. 19th of that year.

To send a letter to your congressman or anyone else, the cost was 24 cents.

President Ronald Reagan and England’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were, for the most part, in charge of the free world.

The popular Ford Escort sold for $6,895 and the Honda Accord at $10,925 cost $1,700 more than the Ford Mustang.

Everyone enjoyed the multitude of hits off Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and Whitney Houston’s “Whitney” albums.

In 1987, the judicial system got its first conviction using DNA evidence.

It was a year of turmoil in the Middle East. An Iraqi missile struck the American frigate USS Stark, killing 27. Terry Waite, special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon.

It may have been just a coincidence, but 1987 was a good year for the Leader to start publication as it was the same year that disposable contacts first became available commercially.

The hot toy of the year was Teddy Ruxpin and sold for $49.99. For video gamers the top product was the Atari Prop System for $79.99. Game cartridges, like Ms. Pacman and Galaga were available for just $11.99 each.

Let’s not forget that 1987 was the debut year for Prozac and the birth year for Disney heartthrobs stars Zac Efron and Hilary Duff. And let’s not forget about Alf.

— Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> ‘Clinton’ no masterpiece

Here’s an assignment for local high school history and civics teachers: Show the recent PBS documentary about the Clinton presidency and discuss the program’s strong points and its weaknesses.

“Clinton,” the latest series of PBS presidential biographies, was no masterpiece theater but was still worth watching for an occasional insight.

The over-hyped documentary lasted four hours over two nights and covered too much familiar territory—Clinton’s childhood, college years, early campaigns and the long-shot run for the White House—but it broke no new ground and omitted key chapters from Clinton’s presidency.

There was very little about Bill Clinton’s long political career that we didn’t already know: Instead of presenting some 20 talking heads — three from the old Arkansas Gazette alone, as well as many friends of Bill and some enemies — the producers should have invited outstanding presidential scholars, historians and economists who could have better explained the Clinton presidency’s successes and failures.

There was nothing about the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993 or the administration’s ties to Wall Street. The attack kicked off America’s two-decades long war, but few Americans remembers much about the first attack or the financial collapse that followed 15 years later because, many believe, Wall Street convinced Clinton that financial deregulation would boost the economy. It did for a while, but the bubble inevitably burst.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich talked about Clinton’s shocking behavior with Monica Lewinsky, but said almost nothing about his successes. Economic adviser Robert Rubin, previously of Citigroup, said the Clinton administration helped create 20 million new jobs and left a $240 billion surplus. There were no fancy charts to back up the figures or an explanation of how the surplus disappeared.

Political adviser Dick Morris, the Clintons’ Rasputin, bragged about his polling skills and how he saved Clinton’s presidency. Writer Joe Klein said he was a rascal but fun to watch. More reporters and advisers followed, but the sound bites become tiresome.

The filmmakers avoided more weighty subjects perhaps because they were too complicated to cover in a television program. They rehashed Whitewater but had nothing new to say about it. Clinton said it was his worst mistake letting a special prosecutor look into Whitewater. The special prosecutors turned the probe into a long distraction, along with the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky investigations. A constitutional case could be made that the president, for example, should not be sued till after he leaves office. The Clinton documentary never discussed the constitutional issues affecting his presidency.

The investigations and lawsuits humiliated Clinton but kept him popular in most parts of the country. There was plenty of drama surrounding the impeachment proceedings, and then it was over.

We know Clinton is a talented politician who succeeded with the help of a spouse who usually outsmarted their opponents. A first-rate television biography about them still remains to be made.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD negotiations restart cordially

Leader senior staff writer

Neither side is offering up specifics, but negotiators for the Pulaski County Special School District and its two employee unions will continue contract mediation at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the district headquarters.

Negotiators for the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, the Pulaski Association of Support Staff and the district met for about four hours Thursday behind closed doors at the Arkansas Education Association.

The district is in fiscal distress in part because of a diminishing legal fund balance. And it would have ended this school year in the red if not for a one-time $15 million tax windfall.

The state Education Department took the district over in May, dissolving the school board and replacing it with a one-man board — Education Department Commissioner Tom Kimbrell.

It also fired Superintendent Charles Hopson and appointed Jerry Guess in his place.

Guess and PCSSD Chief Financial Officer Bill Goff want to cut the 2012-13 budget by about $13 million to increase the legal fund balance to about $8 million. District administrators have identified about $6.7 million in cuts and want to cut a similar amount from staff expenses to achieve the $8 million ending balance.

About 80 percent of the district’s $170 million budget is salary and benefits, so that attempt has brought the administration and unions into conflict, because nearly all the proposed cuts would come out of union pockets.

Guess says he’s still optimistic that he can negotiate successfully with the unions. PACT president Marty Nix told reporters after the Thursday meeting, “It’s a true dialogue. Everyone’s acting like grownups.”

The first bargaining session between PCSSD and the unions ended abruptly after 30 minutes last week.

The teachers have agreed not to take salary increases (other than step-grade and longevity increases) but Guess has said a zero increase doesn’t help cut $6.7 million.

The district also wants to consider policy changes that could save money, such as changing the leave policy, professional-growth classes, teacher evaluation rules and compensation for nonteaching duties.

The unions want to reduce cuts by aiming for a smaller legal fund balance and to cut central office staff and operating funds.

If mediators can’t help hammer out an agreement, the next step is for them to initiate a fact-finding phase.

But the district has an ace-in-the-hole with Kimbrell serving as a one-man board. If not satisfied with the mediated contract, he apparently could refuse to adopt it, decertify the unions as bargaining agents and, under state law, replace the unions with personnel policy committees, made up mostly by elected teachers and staff.

While the committees seem unlikely to give up all of the benefits, pay, policies and gains won by the unions over the years, many believe they will be more accommodating than the union representatives.

Teacher representatives to a PPC already have been elected.

TOP STORY >> Newspaper celebrates 25 years

Leader managing editor

In the first issue of The Leader on March 4, 1987, publisher Garrick Feldman said, “The North Pulaski Leader intends to be a mirror to the community — to report all that is newsworthy in Jacksonville, Sherwood, the air base and surrounding areas…We want to chronicle the events, both small and large, that are taking place here…The newspaper also promises to serve its advertisers well.”

He continued, “This newspaper will be about you and your neighbors, so let us hear from you if you have news to share with others.”

Twenty-five years later, The Leader is keeping its promise of delivering community news for an affordable subscription price and delivering consistent results for advertisers through a combination of mail (with its free edition, The Extra) and home delivery to subscribers in an expanded local area which now includes Pulaski County from Sherwood and Gravel Ridge to Jacksonville to Little Rock Air Force Base. The Leader is also serving all of Cabot and most of Lonoke County including Lonoke, Austin, Ward and Carlisle and the surrounding rural confines. In White County, The Leader serves Beebe, McRae, El Paso, Garner and Butlerville and to a lesser extent Searcy including many White County rural routes. The Leader’s reach also extends into Prairie County giving our advertisers an even bigger bonus for their buck.

By all accounts, The Leader has grown by leaps and bounds and we want to thank you, dear readers and also our advertisers for your steadfast loyalty to The Leader and to the American dream.

Some of our advertisers have been with us since the beginning, and to you we extend our gratitude and our wishes for your continued success in business. May we continue to grow together.

What publisher Feldman said then still holds true today, “Share with us our joys and sorrows — your proud moments and your sad ones. The news that ordinary people make is just as important to us as what their leaders do on city councils and school boards.”

And it still holds true today that “if you have an engagement or wedding announcement, send us the announcement and also a photo. If there is a birth in your family, send us a picture also.” Of course, times have changed in 25 years so we now accept all this by e-mail at or at But we still do some things the old-fashioned way — mailed submissions are still accepted and cards of thanks and obituaries are still free.

We love to cover our local schools and encourage teachers to let us know of their students’ accomplishments and awards as well as their own.

We still consider covering significant birthdays, centenarians in particular, and submitted photos are always welcome. Letters to the editor are always welcome. We want to hear the voice of the community.

We also pride ourselves on our local sports coverage including football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and soccer and also local news which impacts sports. Coaches comments and local submissions of news tips and photos help to give flavor to those pages.

As we said back in 1987, “This newspaper will try to serve all of its readers without fear or favor. The Leader intends to open its pages to everyone.”

We also want to extend a big thank you to the many on our staff including our son Jonathan, who joined our staff as an editor and who will help us continue to produce a strong family-owned and community-oriented newspaper.

We wish to thank our veteran reporters, Rick Kron, Joan McCoy and John Hofheimer, who rejoined the staff after a brief hiatus and a visit to Greece. All journalism award winners, they’ve helped make The Leader what it is today.

Also Christy Hendricks, our creative designer, as well as Jeffrey Smith, who has come a long way since his first days at The Leader and who’s made many friends with his Cabot and Beebe coverage. Sarah Campbell, an ASU-Jonesboro grad, has local roots in the area, which have helped her ferret out some outstanding local stories.

Sports editor Ray Benton’s attention to local sports is outstanding and caters to our greater local area with the help of veteran sportswriter Jason King.

We also wish to thank our advertising staff led by General Manager John Henderson and our Publications Manager Matt Robinson. Also invaluable members of the sales staff are Linda Hostetler and Susan Swift. You’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, through the idiosyncracies of the economy, its ups and downs.

We couldn’t have done it without you. You’ve all helped us get to where we are today.

There are many other staff members — designers, artists and photographers — who should be singled out for their loyalty and outstanding work ethic. And there are many more starting at the front office and on to the pressroom and mailroom, where the final product is prepared which arrives at your front door or in your mailbox. (We’ll introduce them all to you in a later edition.)

Readers, advertisers and staff, you have helped The Leader become what it is today. Continue to grow and thrive with us.

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a retrospective look at The Leader’s beginnings to where we are today. Watch for more installments as we celebrate 25 years in the business of delivering news and advertising.)

TOP STORY >> A memorial honors those who served in Vietnam

Leader editor

(This column appeared on March 4, 1987, in the first issue of The Leader. We’re reprinting the column as we mark our 25th anniversary.)

Wanda Shireman of rural Jacksonville remembers when she heard the news that her son, Paul Jr., had died in Vietnam.

It was in the summer of 1968, a year after he graduated from Jacksonville High School and six months after he joined the Marines. The war was raging and a couple of hundred Americans were dying every week. Paul Shireman Jr. fell during one of the worst years of the war.

“Two Marines came to the door to give us the news,” Mrs. Shireman recalled. “He died on July 29, but the mail was slow, and we first found out what happened from the Marines.”

Her husband said, “We received notification in the mail the next day that he was on patrol and had walked into some land mines and was killed instantly.”

He was 18 years old.

Mrs. Shireman said, “We were in the Air Force at the time and in the process of moving to Puerto Rico. We delayed everything. His body was shipped to us, and he was buried in the family plot in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, where we’re originally from.”

“He was the apple in his father’s eyes,” she added.

Her husband, who retired from the Air Force and works for the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department, said, “He was a good son. He was a good baseball player. He played Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion, and he made real good grades.”

Paul was the oldest of four children, and Mrs. Shireman said he went off to war because he thought it was his duty. “He always wanted to go into the Marines,” she said. “That was his decision.”

Shireman said his son used to work at the air base, but he didn’t want to join the Air Force as his father did.

“He and a friend decided to join the Marine Corps, and he asked us to sign for him, which he did,” his father said. “If I had to do it over again, I’d probably do the same thing.”

He paused and said, “Even though I was a military man, it wasn’t a war we could justify.”

The elder Shireman had been in the military for 28 years and understands why Paul wanted to serve his country. Yet it’s never easy accepting the death of one’s son.

“It came as a great shock,” he said. “You never expect it.”

Mrs. Shireman said, “It’s been almost 20 years. It takes time to accept it. We have to learn to live with it. As times goes by, it becomes easier.”

Although the reason may not be clear to the American people, young men from all over the country went off to war. A disproportionate number of them were from small towns, especially in the South.

They fought as well as they could. They were no less idealistic than their fathers who went off to war before them. No one could guess that we would not win in Vietnam.

More than 600 Arkansans were killed in Vietnam, many of them from this area. The Arkansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be dedicated 1:30 p.m. Saturday on the southeast corner of the state Capitol grounds. The black granite memorial lists all the casualties from Arkansas. Relatives of those who were killed will be recognized at the ceremony.

Gen. William C. Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. forces in Vietnam, will speak at the dedication, as will Gov. Bill Clinton.

The day’s activities will include a memorial service at 8:30 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Cathedral and a “Welcome Home” parade at noon ending at the Capitol.

The Shiremans have mixed feelings about the memorial since it reminds them of their painful past. Yet they are grateful that Arkansas has decided to honor its Vietnam war dead.

The elder Shireman said the memorial proves that his son and the others who died are not forgotten. “They didn’t give their lives in vain,” he said. “Somebody is still thinking of them.”

(Postscript: Paul Shireman Sr. passed away in 2004. Wanda Shireman passed away in June 2007.)

TOP STORY >> Sheriff’s race draws six candidates

Leader staff writer

Despite filing last week, Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson will not run again. His 10th year will be his last. Six lawmen are now running for his job.

He pulled his name from a list of candidates at 11 a.m. Thursday, one hour before the filing deadline, which opened the door for three of his top officers to file for his job.

Capt. Steve Finch and Lt. James Kulesa, both Republicans, and Chief Deputy Dean White, a Democrat, filed after Roberson pulled out.

Roberson said his actions were not calculated to hold the position for one deputy.

“I wouldn’t do that,” he said.

Asked if he supported a particular deputy for his job, Roberson said he did, but he isn’t saying which one.

The sheriff said he waffled for weeks before filing. Sometimes he wanted to run and sometimes he didn’t, he said. And filing changed little. Finally, he decided to finish this year and then devote more time to raising cattle.

Roberson had a heart attack three years ago. He says he is fully recovered and as strong as ever. But he is concerned about the effect another campaign could have on his health.

“A campaign is like a rollercoaster,” Roberson pointed out.

The three top deputies are all good men, the sheriff said, and all three are capable of doing the job. But he said he is angry with part-time deputy Jason Wilkinson and Austin Police Chief John Staley, who filed after telling him they wouldn’t run if he did. Staley and Wilkinson are Republicans. “I don’t do business like that,” Roberson said.

The sheriff didn’t comment on Democrat Steve Rich, the Pulaski County deputy who has run against him before.

Roberson said he has warned his deputies that they can’t campaign while on duty. And if they start bickering, they’ll have to take leave until the election. That could be until November since three deputies are Republican and one is a Democrat.

The sheriff said he won’t allow a campaign to hurt the department. “We’ve got too good of a department. We’ve come too far,” he said.

Roberson said for the rest of 2012, he’s the sheriff and he will keep doing his job.

“I’m going to give the county 100 percent like I always have and then let someone else have it,” he said.

Roberson said he is grateful to the voters who have let him serve.

“They gave me a good 10 years and I appreciate them,” he said.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TOP STORY >> Veterans recall opportunities, challenges

Leader staff writer

Two retired Air Force master sergeants recently discussed the importance of having an education, their military careers and the challenges they faced as blacks during the civil rights struggle.

J.B. Moody of Sherwood and Parnell Fisher of Jacksonville, both Vietnam veterans, spoke at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History in celebration of Black History Month.

Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Fisher also earned a Silver Star.

Edmond Davis, an American history and western civilization instructor at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, moderated the discussion before an audience that included Col. Brian Robinson, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, Jacksonville Alderman Reedie Ray and Arkansas Baptist students.

Parnell Fisher

Fisher was born in Wilmar in southeast Arkansas on Jan. 22, 1933. Three years later, his father, a sharecropper, moved the family to Bauxite in Saline County for a better opportunity working in the mines.

After the sixth-grade, Fisher could not attend Bauxite or Bryant schools because he was black. He had to ride a bus to Dunbar High School in Little Rock.

“I had to leave home early in the morning and came home late in the evening,” Fisher said.

He said that being the oldest child with two sisters and a brother, he was looked upon to set the tone for getting an education. His parents had an eighth-grade education. The minimum they required of their children was to get through high school.

Fisher dropped out from Dunbar in 1950 after the 11th-grade and joined the Air Force.

Fisher said he always wanted to fly. He said if he couldn’t fly, he would work on the planes and maybe get a chance to ride. The Air Force allowed him to experience flying for the first time.

Fisher was on the security forces guarding the planes. He said looking at the planes motivated him to put in a request to advance to an aircraft and engine mechanic. He said most blacks were assigned to medical, food service, supply or transportation roles.

Fisher said in the classroom he was one of two blacks. He did not let that deter him and focused all he could on the planes. He said the Air Force helped him meet many good people.

After he completed the 28-week aircraft and engine maintenance school, he was assigned to B-29 bombers as a scanner, watching the operating systems, the engine and flaps of the plane. He later moved to gunner, watching for hostile aircraft. Fisher then volunteered to be a boom operator on KC-97s, refueling planes in-flight.

He left the Air Force in 1954 as an airman second class. Fisher said there were few promotions at that time. He said his experience motivated him to further his education.

He returned to Arkansas and went back to school, working during the day and going to class at night. His family lived in Benton.

He earned his GED at Jones High School in North Little Rock. He then enrolled at Dunbar Junior College and transferred to Arkansas Baptist College, graduating in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

He was sent to Vietnam in 1966 as a loadmaster and gunner on AC-47s.

Fisher earned a Silver Star in 1967 for saving an AC-47 and the crew during a mission over Vung Tau in Vietnam. Fisher was tossing flares out of the plane when trouble occurred.

“We had a malfunctioned flare. The engineer and I were throwing flares out the door. The flare went off, the parachute went out and the cup knocked out the engineer. It was dark. I chucked a handful of chute and flare and the chute caught the edge of the plane.”

Fisher said the 22-pound flare burns hot and bright with 23,000-candlepower.

“My first thought was I had to get it out and used a knife to cut the shroud lines. I was in the slipstream. I felt someone grab my belt to help hold me in the plane,” Fisher said.

Later that same year, Fisher received the Distinguished Flying Cross with his crew for relieving another plane during an intense battle in Vietnam with ground troops and the plane.

“Education is a key. You can’t take away what you strived to learn. If you dream hard enough and long enough, you can make them come true,” Fisher said.

Fisher was affected indirectly by the civil rights struggle. One night while taking classes at Arkansas Baptist, he and some students were on a break across the street at the College Inn restaurant at 17th and High streets. A couple of white policemen were sitting on the corner wanting to know what they were doing there.

“Those guys were looking for trouble,” Fisher said.

Fisher bit his tongue and told the policemen they were going to class. It was the closest Fisher got to becoming physical during the civil rights era. Fisher said after that he wrote letters, attended church and prayed.

Fisher worked at Alcoa until being laid off and then worked at a plumbing company. Fisher decided the benefits of the Air Force were better than what he was doing and re-enlisted in 1959.

Upon re-entering the Air Force, Fisher was an in-flight refueler on KB-50s. Fisher was re-assigned in 1963 and entered C-130 loadmaster training.

After the Vietnam War, Fisher was transferred to vehicle maintenance.

Fisher retired from the Air Force on Oct. 1, 1977, as the vehicle maintenance superintendent at LRAFB. Fisher operated his own auto repair shop, Parnell’s Auto Service, until the mid-80s on Loop Road (where Marty’s Mufflers is today). He’s now the lead auto technician at the LRAFB’s auto skills center. Fisher and his wife, Vermond, have been married 52 years and they have three children.

“The service gave us a way out of a really hard life, simply because of the color of our skin. We had to prove to be twice as good as the next person, if they were white. We had to show determination. Do the best you know how. I tried to be a pioneer and tried to set an example, to see what is in the heart and in the soul,” Fisher said.

“The Air Force is a way of life with unlimited opportunities. I recommend any young person to check out what the Air Force has to offer. It was rewarding,” Fisher said.

J.B. Moody

J.B. Moody was born in Parkin (Cross County) on June 20, 1940. He was a son of a sharecropper and one of eight children. Moody was the first in his family to graduate from high school.

Moody did not graduate until he was 19 years old. Parkin’s school year was separated into terms so students could work in the fields, but they had to make up the classes during the summer. He said he was voted in high school as the most unlikely to succeed.

“I was determined to make a liar out of them,” Moody said.

Moody’s interest in planes began as a youngster while working in the farm fields. He said the C-47s would pass overhead and the hum of the propellers was mesmerizing.

“I wanted to be up there, and not down in the cotton field. I couldn’t see driving a tractor for someone else,” Moody said.

With limited opportunities, Moody joined the Air Force.

“My love for flying robbed me of my education,” Moody said.

He had dream of obtaining a four-year degree. He said people who worked normal hours could go to school, but a flier was gone on temporary duty assignment so often, that they could not attend classes on a regular basis. Later on Moody did earn an associate’s degree in flight engineering from the Community College of the Air Force.

Moody got a rude awaking in racial equality in July 1959 in Little Rock. After enlisting in the Air Force, he said the recruits had to stay in the city until they were sent to basic training. Moody said whites spent the nights in nice hotels and the blacks spent the night at local black families’ homes contracted by the government to provide boarding. He said it was strange staying at person’s home you didn’t know.

During basic training Moody said he had no problems and was treated well. He was one of three black students in his classes.

Moody was a crew chief and flight mechanic on C-123s, C-47s, C-54s, C-131 A-models and AC-130s. The flight mechanic job title was changed to flight engineer. As a flight engineer Moody did a pre-flight inspection and troubleshooting while the plane was on the ground. In-flight, Moody operated the systems of the planes.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Moody experienced racial discrimination and disrespect for service members. He said during the civil rights struggle he was arrested once and after the commanding officer got finished with him, Moody said that was enough.

Moody still bristles about racial inequality during in his stay at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, N.C.

“It still offends me,” he said.

While at Seymour Johnson, Moody was passed up for promotions. It took seven years for Moody to be promoted to staff sergeant.

He said it caused him to think about giving up his military career.

Moody saw anger directed toward the military during the Vietnam War.

He came home on emergency leave because his father was sick. He learned that if you wore your uniform on a commercial flight, servicemen would get a discount.

“A kid kicked me on the leg. It made me sick. I was serving the country and you are spitting at me and kicking at me. It was not a good feeling,” Moody said. But he said his parents thought his being in the military was great and were very supportive.

Moody received the Distinguished Flying Cross on Aug. 19, 1972. He was a crew member on an AC-130 gunship that destroyed supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Mekong Delta.

His favorite assignment was in Guam, where he was a hurricane hunter. Moody was a flight examiner and flight engineer on the WC-130, flying into the eye of typhoons.

Moody retired from the Air Force at LRAFB in 1986 after a 27-year career. It took 22 years for Moody’s rise in rank from airman first class to chief.

He worked for Interstate Airlines in Little Rock for a year. Then Moody taught the flight engineer training program at the base from 1987 until retiring in 2004.

Moody and his wife, Ella, have been married for 36 years. Together they have three children. Moody is a deacon at Saint Peter’s Rock Baptist Church in Cato.

Looking back, Moody said he wouldn’t change anything in his military career.

“Don’t give up. There will be people who will do their best to knock you down, but keep trying. I kept working hard and learned all I could about the job. I had to be better than good,” Moody said.

TOP STORY >> Ex-cop held for assault

Leader staff writer

A former Austin police officer was arrested Tuesday by the Arkansas State Police after allegedly sexually assaulting a prisoner in his custody.

William Tremaine, 28, is charged with third-degree sexual assault, a Class C felony.

He is being held in the Lonoke County Jail under a suicide watch. Bail will not be set until he goes before a judge, likely at the end of the week.

Bill Sadler, spokesman for the State Police, said Tremaine allegedly had sexual contact with a handcuffed female prisoner.

Austin Police Chief John Staley said Tremaine left the Austin Police Department after the allegations of sexual assault and that he had no details about the investigation.

Sadler said Tremaine lived in Ward, where he was taken into custody without incident.

TOP STORY >> Cabot alderman preaches in India

Leader staff writer

Kevin Davis is one of the conservatives on the Cabot City Council. He’s a no-nonsense alderman who questions spending and is worried about where the tax dollars go. But that’s the alderman.

Davis is also an evangelist, a back-to-basics believer in the Bible, who took his message to India this month and talked later about his experiences with the candidness and clarity of one who completely understands his message.

Davis has been an evangelist since 2001. His work has taken him to about 15 countries, usually as part of a group. But the trip to India was different. He raised money and went alone as a teacher of pastors.

“This one, the Lord took me there,” he said.

Davis was invited to India by a pastor he met two years ago on Facebook, P. Wilson Babu, founder of the Aurishaddai Church and the Truth Children Home, an orphanage in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, on India’s east coast.

The orphanage is home to approximately 35 children whose parents were killed in a tsunami five years ago.

Davis, who was in India between Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, got to help feed the children and he went with them to the beach. But he emphasized that visiting the orphans was not the purpose of the trip.

He called his message to the pastors the organic teachings of Christ.

“Bring healing and grow your church,” he told them.

Davis essentially told the pastors they had everything to gain and nothing to lose by praying for healing.

India has many in need of medical attention but few doctors and hospitals. Sick people are literally in the streets there, Davis said.

“I took them the Bible and showed them how Jesus prayed for the sick,” he said.

“Lay hands on them and see what happens. I had them pray for each other and the sick people on the street.”

Then he took part in open-air meetings and prayed for the sick himself.

“Healing and atonement came from the same blood,” Davis said.

“Seventy-five percent of Jesus’ ministry was healing and he sent his apostles out to heal the sick. There’s no difference between them and us. God wants to operate through mankind.”

Hindu is the primary religion in India and it is against Indian law for foreigners to proselytize there, Davis said.

His contact with the pastors was legal, he said, but he was not allowed to try to convert any of the Hindus to Christianity.

At one of the open-air meetings, a reported 35 were healed and five were converted to Christianity. The conversions alarmed the pastors, he said, and another meeting was canceled.

After that, Davis said he was careful to only tell his own story of salvation and to pray for healing for the sick.

He would leave the conversions to the Indian pastors, who could do that legally.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke QC to see mostly new faces

Leader staff writer

Even before the election is held, it’s clear that the 13-member Lonoke County Quorum Court will have a lot of new faces in January 2013.

At least three current members say they aren’t running and redistricting last summer created three districts with no incumbents for a minimum of six new members.

The filing deadline is noon Thursday.

Districts 4, 8 and 12 are the three districts with no incumbents. So far Republican Ernie Ernst, a former candidate for Cabot City Council, has filed in Dist. 4. Republican Tate House has filed in Dist. 8 and Republican Matt Sanders has filed in Dist. 12.

All those new districts are in northern Lonoke County which votes Republican.

Republican Brent Cannon has filed for the Dist. 1 seat currently held by first-term JP Joe Farrer. Farrer is running as a Republican for Arkansas House of Representatives Dist. 44, which had no incumbent when the state drew new lines. That new district includes Ward and Austin in Lonoke County and Rose Bud and Pangburn in White County.

In Dist. 9, JP Roger Lynch filed on Tuesday. JP Sonny Moery, who also lives in that district, announced last week that he wouldn’t run again.

Republican Barry D. Weathers II, son of JP Barry Weathers, who is not seeking re-election, has filed in JP Dist. 2, where JP Jannette Minton is stepping down. But former JP Larry Ridgeway, another Republican, has also filed.

Republican JP Henry L. Lang is in his second term and ran unopposed both times. But Republican Joshua McCann has filed against him for a third race in Dist. 3.

So far, Republican JP Tim Lemons is unopposed in Dist. 5. And Republican Lee Linville is hopeful that his name is the only one on the ballot in Dist. 6, where longtime Republican JP Alexis Malham is the incumbent.

Dist. 13 also is in the heavily Republican northern end of the county. JP Larry Odom is the Republican JP is that district. As of Tuesday, he had not filed but Republican Tim Yarboro had.

So far, only Republicans have filed for nine of the 13 districts. If nothing changes, the winners of those districts will be determined by the May 22 primary.

Among Democrats, no one has filed against JP Adams Sims in Dist. 7 or JP Bill Ryker in Dist. 10. And JP Mike Dolan in Dist. 11, who has been on the quorum court longer than any other member, has never had an opponent.

TOP STORY >> Lincoln Day dinner assesses GOP gains

Leader staff writer

Saturday night’s Lincoln Day in Cabot was all about the advances that Republicans have made in the county and the state.

The very partisan group also listened to Fox News contributor and Washington insider John Fund expound on the dangerous path the country is headed down.

After the meeting, Fund also gave his insight on the Republican presidential primary. “About 50 percent of the Republicans don’t like any of the candidates. The question will be—will their disdain for President Obama outweigh their dislike for the Republican candidate?”

Fund also predicted that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would be the vice presidential candidate, “hands down.” He also said the Supreme Court would declare “Obamacare” unconstitutional.

Lucas Minton, chairman of the Lonoke County Republicans, told the crowd of about 300 at Cabot Junior High South that it wasn’t long ago that Randy Minton was about the only Republican in the area.

“He was a lone wolf. I remember when we were up to five Republicans in office, and now we have 25 in office at the local or state level. That’s good news,” he said, adding that there was still room for more Republicans to join in. “We’ve not reached the filing deadline.”

Fund, the guest speaker, admitted to the crowd that even though he was from California, he was considered an eastern city slicker, and for just a minute he thought the fried okra served at dinner were miniature hush puppies. “Just for a moment though,” he said.

Fund hit on a number of state and national issues.

At the state level, he talked about how Arkansas had made advances from the one-party system of the Clinton years to now, when the Republicans have a strong voice. But he warned the Republicans to be vigilant of voter fraud that he say is sweeping the nation, in part, he said, because of Obama Administration rules that make it easy to get on the voter rolls and hard to get off.

“There are cases where there are more voters on the roll than there are people in a county based on the latest census,” he said.

Fund, author of “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy” and other books, said that 20 years ago in Arkansas, Mississippi County was known for its excessive voter rolls.

“Let’s just say they had some of the most patriotic dead people in the state voting,” he said.

He also pushed for identification checks for voters. “We use picture ID all the time, for driving, checking into a hotel, check cashing. We want it easy to vote, but hard to cheat,” he said, adding that “now it’s easy to vote and cheat.”

He told the crowd that he was not a partisan guy. “I take shots at both sides,” he insisted.

He told the Republicans that they needed to pay attention to the Tea Party.

“That’s a uniquely American phenomenon. They are basically leaderless and not organized. They are just a bunch of Americans fed up and not going to let politicians make all the decisions in a vacuum.

“Politics is too important to leave it to the politicians,” he said.

Exit polling from the 2010 election showed that 36 percent of voters were in agreement or identified with Republicans, 36 percent with Democrats, but 40 percent with the Tea Party.

Fund also told the crowd that Republican power runs in a distinct cycle, and he turned to a speech by Ronald Reagan in 1976 that predicted the cycle.

Reagan was defeated by President Ford for the Republican presidential nomination, but Reagan told his conservative followers that not only would he continue the fight but that he would win.

According to Reagan, Fund said, Democrats take control and the conservatives get squashed when two things happen. “We elect someone who violates our trust and the Democrats then try to govern from the left,” Fund said.

That’s what happened with Richard Nixon. “Because he violated our trust, we got Jimmy Carter, who came across as a moderate, but governed from the left, and when Democrats go to the left, it fails and just doesn’t work.”

Fund said it happened again 16 years later with the elder Bush. “He violated our trust when he said no new taxes and then we got taxed. That got us Bill Clinton. Clinton, in the beginning, tried to govern from the left and it wasn’t working and that gave us the revolt of 1994. Now, Clinton was smarter than Carter, and moved back to the center to get re-elected. But he did have some, shall we say, distractions that occurred,” Fund explained.

Then came George W. Bush, who did a lot of things right, but still spent and taxed too much.

“We got Obama. Remember he campaigned as a moderate, saying there were no red states, no blue states and we all sang Kumbaya and looked for hope and change.”

Fund said that even though Obama campaigned as a moderate, he went hard left almost immediately.

Fund called the birther movement—people doubting Obama’s citizenship—misguided.

“I’ve been to Hawaii. I’ve been to the hospitals and looked at the microfiche of the two state papers. His announcement is in there. He is an American citizen,” he said.

“Rather than look at where he was born, we need to be looking at where he came from. His mentors, particularly Saul Alinski. Alinski did his thesis on the Al Capone mob in Chicago and wrote and truly believed in his book, ‘Rules for Radicals,’” Fund said.

He did make one prediction that had the crowd smiling. “I’ve done bet-my-lunch predictions 63 times and been right every time. My 64th prediction is that the Supreme Court will overturn Obamacare this summer.”

SPORTS >> Can home court send Panthers to Summit?

Leader sports editor

Home court advantage belongs to the Cabot Lady Panthers as they play host to the 7A state tournament this week at the new Panther Arena.

The tournament starts today at 1 p.m. when Springdale Har-Ber and West Memphis take to the court in the first girls’ game, but the Lady Panthers will not see action until Thursday when they take on the winner of that game.

The Lady Panthers (24-5 overall) earned the No. 1 seed out of the 7A Central Conference with a 13-1 record that included a monumental victory over North Little Rock in early February.

The Lady Charging Wildcats were the last team to defeat Cabot a month before the Lady Panthers rolled off 11 straight wins to close out the regular season.

Senior leadership has carried the Lady Panthers through their successful run with a group that includes University of Arkansas signee Melissa Wolff, Sydney Wacker and Laci Boyett, while juniors Elliot Taylor and Jaylin Bridges have also made big contributions from their starting positions.

Taylor has played much of the season with a broken nose, but continues to be among the team leaders in scoring and rebounding.

Wolff continues to showcase her talents on both offense and defense while Boyett earned a reputation as one of the more hard-nosed players in Class 7A.

According to Boyett, the team began to realize its potential to the fullest when they participated in the Mansfield Rotary Invitational tournament in Dallas over the holidays.

“Down in Dallas is when I think everything just came together,” Boyett said. “Everyone on the team started clicking on the same cylinders, and that’s when I think we all realized it was within our grasp.

The Lady Panthers would be considered serious contenders regardless of the location, but playing at home will give them an added boost of confidence as the state’s premier teams converge on central Lonoke County.

“It will be a big help because we’ll have a lot of fans,” Boyett said. “The support in our home games has been great. When we got up west we didn’t have that, so it’s going to be very exciting.”

West No. 2 seed Rogers also has a first-round bye on Cabot’s side of the bracket, but perhaps the biggest threat in the top half could come from 7A/6A East No. 3 seed Little Rock Hall. The battle for supremacy on the lower half will most likely come down to West No. 1 seed Fort Smith Northside and Central No. 2 seed North Little Rock. Both have byes through the first round.

The Cabot boys’ team had to hold their breath in the final weeks of the regular season before ending up the No. 5 seed out of the Central Conference as the league race played out. The Panthers finished 15-8 overall but struggled during stints of their conference schedule after starting their conference campaign on a three-game losing streak, but ended up with enough points to beat out Little Rock Central for the fifth seed.

Cabot will face Springdale, the No. 4 seed out of the 7A West, today at 2:30 p.m. The two teams met back in December with Cabot winning 56-40.

The letdown would have been tremendous had the Panthers not qualified for state with the tourney being held in their back yard, but coach Jerry Bridges commended the efforts of his team throughout the season, as well as leadership from seniors Adam Rock, Justin McMahan, J.D. Brunett, Arthur West and Sam Howe.

“This is their reward for all the hard work they’ve put in,” Bridges said. “It’s a good experience for those five guys. They have come a long way – they’re the most improved team I’ve ever coached, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them.

“They’ve worked hard to get here, and they’ll keep working hard because that’s all they know to do.”

SPORTS >> Beebe teams begin quest for state title

Leader sportswriter

Beebe teams go to the 5A state tournament together for the first time since 2009, and for the Badgers boys team, it will also mark the first time in school history the team has been to state in back-to-back seasons.

A successful 10-3 run in the 5A-East Conference earned the No. 2 seed for the Badgers, under second-year coach Ryan Marshall. That pits them against Southeast No. 3 seed Watson Chapel in the first round today at 8:30 p.m. on the campus of Greene County Tech High School.

The Wildcats struggled at times and finished 7-7 in a conference dominated by Sylvan Hills and runner up Mills, whose only two conference losses were at the hands of the Bears.

But they had their necessary triumphs, including a three-game stretch at the end of January and into February when they downed North Pulaski, Crossett and Helena-West Helena Central.

They also split games with No. 4 seed Monticello but held the tiebreaker points needed to take the higher seed.

Beebe comes into the tournament with momentum after winning its last six conference games, including a 64-49 upset over Forrest City at home on Feb. 14. The Badgers last defeat goes back to Feb. 3 when they lost on the road at Blytheville against a team they dominated during the first meeting.

Experience will not be a factor for the Badgers with four senior starters including post player Dayton Scott, guards Brandon Fuller and Zach May, as well as forward Braden Jones. The final starting spot has been a rotation since junior starter Austin Burroughs has been out with illness. Sophomore point guard Tanner Chapman has taken up much of the slack, while junior guard Jake Schlenker has also put in several minutes.

Scott has been the rebounding leader for the Badgers while May provides the biggest outside-shooting threat. Fuller has become more of an offensive threat in recent games, while Jones’ specialty has remained tough inside defense.

The winner between Beebe and Watson Chapel will most likely face Alma, who is expected to easily surpass Southwest No. 4 seed Magnolia in the first round, in the quarterfinal round on Friday afternoon.

The Beebe Lady Badgers will face a scrappy team in Southeast No. 3 seed White Hall during the first round today at 7 p.m.

The Lady Badgers finished second to Paragould in the 5A East Conference chase after nearly knocking off the unbeaten Lady Rams in the league finale last week.

Beebe’s well-rounded arsenal of players includes 6-4 sophomore post player Angelina Williams, who gives virtually every opponent fits inside with her dominant-size advantage.

The college recruiting process is in full force with Williams, as well as junior guard Jamie Jackson, who is the most versatile of the group with inside/outside scoring ability.

Sophomore Kalela Miller has been Beebe’s leading scorer in many of the games during the final half of the regular season and can generate defensive plays at key times while senior guards Sarah White and Alexis Miguel give the Lady Badgers leadership in their final stint.

It is the first time back to the state tournament for the Lady Badgers since a trip to the semifinals back in 2009. Under first-year coach Greg Richey, Beebe fought to a 20-7 regular season record that included a championship at the Battle of the Brier invitational holiday tournament in December.

The winner between Beebe and White Hall will face the winner of Greenwood and Little Rock Christian at 1 p.m. on Friday.

SPORTS >> Bears set to make another run at No. 1

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears look to earn their second consecutive trip to the Class 5A finals when they begin state tournament play against Nettleton today at 2:30 p.m. at Paragould.

Greene County Tech High School is the location for this year’s tournament with a new gymnasium, marking the first time in four years the tourney will not be held at Alma.

The Bears (23-5) wrapped up another unbeaten run through the 5A-Southeast Conference last week, marking 29 consecutive victories going back to February 2010.

The tournament will also be a final farewell for the most talented basketball team in school history at Sylvan Hills, led by future Kentucky Wildcat Archie Goodwin, who comes into the tournament averaging close to 30 points per game. Goodwin is one of five senior starters on a roster full of experience and depth.

Goodwin, a natural scorer, sometimes shares point-guard duties with Dion Patton. Goodwin is considered by many to be one of the top shooters in the country, but guard Trey Smith sometimes gives the five-star recruit a run for his money when it comes to outside shooting, including a game-high 16-point performance in the league finale against Crossett last week.

Larry Ziegler provides the Bears with tough defensive play and can also create opportunities in transition just as Goodwin and Patton, but it’s the gritty inside work of 6-7 senior post player Devin Pearson that Sylvan Hills head coach Kevin Davis said can go unnoticed sometimes with the Bears’ fast-paced brand of basketball.

“Always Devin’s a warrior,” Davis said. “His teammates depend on him for that, and for three years now, he’s answered the call. He is absolutely a warrior in that paint.”

Nettleton, the No. 4 seed out of the 5A East Conference, finished with a 7-7 record in a top-heavy league. The Raiders played spoiler to GCT when they upset the Eagles on Feb. 7 during a four-game win streak that made the difference between making the tournament and staying home.

The winner of that game will play again Friday, when they take on the winner between Southwest No. 2 Little Rock Christian and West No. 3 Morrilton.

Also on the Bears’ side of the bracket is East champ Forrest City and West No. 2 seed Greenwood, while the top bracket features No. 1 seeds Alma and Camden-Fairview.

Key first-round matchups in the top half of the bracket include Southeast No. 2 seed Mills against East No. 3 seed Greene County Tech and East No. 2 seed Beebe versus Southeast No. 3 Watson Chapel.

A state championship is the only thing the Bears have yet to achieve, but Davis said the trait that sets his team apart even above talent is resiliency.

“Let’s give credit to the kids,” Davis said. “These guys have been so resilient. They went in and battled.”

SPORTS >> Devils cruise in opener

Leader sports editor

EL DORADO — It’s a well-known fact around central Arkansas basketball circles that Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner worries about every game his team plays. Playoff games only intensify the head Red Devils’ stress. But there was never any need for worry about Jacksonville’s first-round playoff game Tuesday at El Dorado High School. The Red Devils quickly and easily dispatched Lake Hamilton 80-34 to advance to the quarterfinal round.

It took just a little while for the Red Devils to get things into high gear. The Wolves hung close for a little more than half the first quarter, mostly because of silly mistakes and missed shots on easy attempts by Jacksonville.

“That’s just because it’s the first game,” Joyner said. “Nobody has really come out right off the tip and just hit lights out. Once they played and got in the game for a couple of minutes, they relaxed and then started executing really well. Everybody played pretty well tonight.”

Once the East No. 2 seed found its rhythm, it was all over but the crying for Lake Hamilton, which simply had no answer for Jacksonville’s size, depth or quickness. Jacksonville used its entire bench by the end of the third quarter and 13 different Red Devils scored. Getting young players on the floor is always a goal for coaches in the early rounds of the state tournament.

“You want to get that first one out of the way because the first one is always the toughest,” Joyner said. “Ask any coach here. They’ll tell you. You never know how kids are going to react. It’s a long trip down here, a new environment and everything is magnified because now if you lose, you’re done. Coming out and playing like we did and getting everyone involved was nice to see.”

Jacksonville (24-4) led just 9-4 when Joyner went with five new players halfway through the first quarter. The second five outscored the Wolves 11-5 to take a 20-9 lead into the second period.

Eight different Red Devils got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, but it was the inside duo of seniors Tirrell Brown and Xavier Huskey that really pushed Jacksonville out in front. Brown and Huskey combined for 10 points and six rebounds in the quarter.

Dustin House and Dwayne Waller each hit three pointers and senior James Aikens got three steals as the Red Devils built a 46-19 lead by halftime.

The worst was yet to come for Lake Hamilton. Senior guard Crushawn Hayes began to find his range from outside while Brown and Huskey continued to dominate inside. Jacksonville also out-rebounded the Wolves 20-2 in the quarter as it pushed its lead to 68-24 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville hit 23 of 54 two-point shot attempts and seven of 21 from three-point range. The Red Devils were 11 of 17 from the free-throw line.

Lake Hamilton was nine of 32 from inside the arc and two of 13 from outside. The Wolves hit 10 of 16 at the line. Dillon Jessup led the Wolves with 10 points, nine coming in the fourth quarter.

The clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter because of the sportsmanship rule that dictates a 30-point lead or more will enact a non-stop clock in the last eight minutes of the game.

Brown, Waller and Hayes each scored 12 points to lead the Red Devils in scoring. Huskey added 10 points. Brown and Huskey each had eight rebounds, as did post player Brandon Brockman.

Jacksonville also had 20 assists, with Aikens and Justin McCleary leading the way in that category with five each. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 51-16.

The Red Devils will play its quarterfinal matchup at 2:30 p.m. Friday against tonight’s winner of Benton against Marion.

SPORTS >> Cabot girls win Central crown

Leader sports editor

Nothing came easily, but the Lady Panthers got it done. The Cabot girls beat a determined and gritty Russellville team Friday at Panther Arena, 41-32, to clinch a No. 1 seed in the class 7A state tournament and earn their first conference championship in six years.

Little offensive continuity was gained by either team in the rough-and- tumble affair, but the Lady Panthers had an answer for every Cyclone charge en route to the victory.

Cabot coach Carla Crowder says team unity played a big factor in the long-awaited conference title.

“It’s exciting, I’m excited for this group of kids,” Crowder said. “This whole group has really worked hard. The seniors have banded together and the underclassmen have stepped up.”

As for the game itself, Crowder wasn’t totally pleased with how her team played, but didn’t bellieve Russellville’s physical game plan had anything to do with it.

“I don’t think that really bothers us,” Crowder said. “We just didn’t play very well. The seniors were a little uptight. But we went ahead and won. It’s better to play badly and win than play badly and lose.”

The two teams battled to a near stalemate in the first half, with the Lady Panthers taking an 18-17 lead into intermission.

Cabot opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run, including five points in a matter of seconds. Junior guard Jaylen Bridges hit Cabot’s first three pointer of the game. Senior forward Melissa Wolff then got a layup off a steal to make it 27-19 and force a Russellville timeout with 5:40 left in the third quarter.

After the break, the game hit another offensive lull as the two teams struggled to score.

Senior Laci Boyett scored Cabot’s next two points with six seconds left in the quarter. The good news for Cabot in that nearly six-minute scoreless stretch, was that its defense gave up just two points. The Lady Panthers led 29-21 heading into the fourth quarter. The beginning of the final frame was Russellville’s final thrust.

Kaylee Wiedower and Susan Taylor hit back-to-back three pointers to make it 29-27 just a minute into the fourth. Cabot buckled down again defensively and slowly regained control of the game. The Lady Panthers didn’t give up another point until 56 seconds remained in the game. Bridges hit another three pointer and Boyett made a layup to make it 34-27 with 3:30 left.

With 1:20 on the clock, Wolff caught Russellville napping. With all four of her teammates in the back court, Wolff missed the front end of a one-and-one. None of the four Lady Cyclones that were in the lane for the rebound reacted. Wolff was able to shoot the lane untouched for her own rebound and easy layup. That made it 36-27 and effectively ended Russellville’s hopes of a comeback.

Boyett said the seniors are especially happy about the 7A Central championship.

“We’ve all played together a really long time,” Boyett said. “Ever since we were in sixth grade this has been our goal and we know coach Crowder wants it as badly as us. It’s amazing playing with this team and it’s been a long time so we’re very excited.”

Wolff led the Lady Panthers with 17 points. She also had eight rebounds and four assists. Boyett scored eight points while junior Elliot Taylor had six points and nine rebounds.

The Lady Panthers will begin play in the class 7A state tournament at Panther Arena on Thursday. They will play the winner of today’s matchup between West Memphis and Springdale Har-Ber at 4 p.m.

Monday, February 27, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Budget deal gets closer

Legislative leaders and the governor’s office made progress toward a balanced budget agreement. 

By the end of the second week of the fiscal session, opposing sides were no longer disputing a difference of how to spend $21 million within an overall budget of $4.7 billion. They had narrowed their differences and were working for compromise on a dispute over a few million dollars in state agency spending.

One factor that made the negotiations difficult were differences of opinion over a basic premise of budgeting, a premise that is observed not only by government agencies but also by private sector businesses.  That is the philosophy — that it is unwise to use “one time” money to pay for ongoing operating expenses.

In the 2012 fiscal session, the issue came up when it was time to adopt the Medicaid budget for next year. Medicaid officials, who work for the Department of Human Services, predict a budget shortfall of more than $200 million in coming years. Medicaid’s long-term financial problems is a specter looming over this week’s budget negotiations between the governor and the legislature.

There is a group of legislators in favor of putting as much as $40 million of this year’s state surplus into Medicaid. It may not be enough to prevent a budget shortfall within the next couple of years, but it would be a strong step toward solving the problem.

On the other hand, there are elected officials who say that approach is only a band-aid because it allocates “one time” money from the surplus to pay continuing expenses in the Medicaid program.

Another thing to keep in mind, the issue of how to allocate “one time” money is not as clearly defined as it appears on the surface.  In spite of the troubled economy, and unlike many other states that are in financial trouble, Arkansas state government has had a surplus at the end of past fiscal years.  That is because of our tradition of conservative budgeting and because state agencies must cut spending proportionately if revenue declines because of a slowdown in the economy.

It raises the question: if the state consistently enjoys a surplus, should we consider the surplus “one time” money? There are some legislators who believe consistent surpluses are proof that taxes are too high. Others believe that surpluses should be set aside as a financial cushion to ensure that essential services are not cut during tough times.  Still others believe that surpluses should be spent to shore up Medicaid, prisons and education.

The majority of appropriation bills approved during the fiscal session authorize state spending for Fiscal Year 2013, which begins June 30 of this year. A few appropriations have been filed to fund agencies from now until the end of the current fiscal year. They include measures to pay $9 million to staff of state prisons for overtime and holiday pay that they have accumulated this year. 

Also, the appropriations would reimburse county jails about $2 million for housing inmates who should have been transferred to state prisons, but there was not sufficient space. A $1.4 million appropriation would expand a residential facility in Little Rock for inmates assigned to work crews in the capital.

A $3.4 million supplemental appropriation would use surplus to help the State Hospital comply with federal regulations.  It is a facility in Little Rock for people with mental illness.