Friday, March 16, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Expand Recycling

Jacksonville, with its high-performance recycling plant and the vast land expanse that once was Vertac and is now relegated to a brownfield, should consider marketing itself as a local leader in Arkansas’ green movement. The plant site received the federal brownfield designation, reserved for land complicated by environmental contamination once it is declared fit for certain types of reuse or redevelopment. Jacksonville chose to reuse the land for its recycling plant and has recently opened a police and fire training facility on the grounds.

Jacksonville sanitation workers make weekly pickups of recyclable materials including aluminum and metal cans, newspaper and magazines, corrugated cardboard and other boxes and plastics labeled 1,2, 3 and PET and HDPT.

We propose that by marketing itself to neighboring municipalities, Jacksonville could establish itself as a leader and innovator in recycling and could help to save the planet for future generations by simply cutting down on landfill use for one, among other positive actions.

Several neighboring cities, including Sherwood and Gravel Ridge, have active recycling programs managed by Waste Management, which carts off the neighboring city’s residential waste each week, sorting it offsite. Some smaller cities, Lonoke and Beebe, for example, have no organized recycling efforts and might be interested in some sort of collaboration.

Jacksonville could also market itself to its neighbors by expanding the process to include spent batteries, paint, household chemicals, irreparable computers and electronics (which are already banned from landfills). We think Jacksonville’s routes should be expanded to include businesses and also to include glass. Handy drop-off containers are located just beyond the gates of the recycling plant and are accessible day and night and weekends. But we would like to see the service expanded to accept glass for recycling.

City officials have said in the past that recycling glass is not cost-effective, would have to be stockpiled and because the landfill (blessed eyesore that it is) is in the city limits, Jacksonville does not pay tipping fees based on weight. This shouldn’t be the deciding factor in our opinion. Rather Jacksonville should look at overall aesthetics and to future generations when even more landfill space will be needed unless some creative solutions are implemented.

Perhaps Jacksonville could consider striking a deal with a glass recycling plant, which might want to relocate here or open a new location. Europe and Mexico recycle large quantities of glass turning it into attractive colored glasses, bowls and plates. It’s a thought. Europeans are eons ahead of the United States in recycling because landfill space there is mostly non-existent.

Jacksonville could kickstart a local market for recycled glass that could possibly be sold at local farmers’ markets and craft fairs. We don’t know what Little Rock is doing with theirs (Sherwood also recycles glass), but we’ve heard it’s just piling up. A Jacksonville glass recycling plant could pull in the product from all over the state.

Jacksonville should think about marketing itself as a centrally-located recycling center and begin to reach out to other municipalities seeking to capitalize on the reduce/reuse/recycle theme. The mantra is in vogue with those in the green movement and those who “think green” but outside of that small minority, recycling is generally complimented as in: “It’s nice that you are recycling your newsprint and aluminum cans,” but is not held to be an estimable activity but rather something that school children hear about in school.

At The Leader, we are active recyclers of waste newsprint and paper that comes back into the plant and also of large amounts of corrugated paper and boxes, for which there is a sizable market. The corrugated product is recycled into such things as insulation, largely replacing fiberglass, which is not only expensive but can cause extensive allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Repeated exposure can also provoke allergic response in those who have previously been insensitive to the product.

We also suggest that the city expand educational programs in schools and elsewhere educating children and their teachers on the reasons for and benefits of recycling. It’s a concept that is not always considered seriously.

We also would like to see the state implement the cash-back feature on glass bottles already in use in many other states, including Vermont, New York, Maine and Massachusetts.

We know that city officials have protested the recycling effort as not cost effective, but looking into the future, it may be the only way to go.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville’s graduation rate lags

Leader staff writer

A little more than one out of two seniors graduated from Jacksonville High School in 2011, and three out of four needed remedial courses during their first year of college.

According to public school report cards placed online Friday, barely half (53.4 percent) of Jacksonville High School’s seniors graduated last year, which is more than 30 percent less than Cabot or Beebe.

The troubled school of 945 students, of which 61.5 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch, also had 76.6 percent of its students who went to college needing remedial courses.

Jacksonville also had the highest grade inflation rate in the area at 16.3 percent, showing that report card grades didn’t match up with end-of-course exam scores. There were more good grades given on the report cards than received on state and federally mandated tests.

Updated online school performance data for the 2010-2011 school year are available for educators, parents and the general public to review, according to Tom Kimbrell, who heads the Arkansas Department of Education. 

The data show just 53.4 percent of Jacksonville seniors graduated, the lowest in the area. It was also nearly a 20-point drop from the 2009-2010 school year.

Beebe, with 900 students and 40.7 of those on free or reduced lunch, was the only high school in the area to see an increase in graduation rates. It went from 80.8 percent in 2010 to 85.1 percent in 2011.

Sylvan Hills High, with 825 student of which 43 percent are on free or reduced lunch, was slightly better than Jacksonville with a graduation rate of 60.7 percent, down 16 points from the previous year. North Pulaski High School, with 820 students and 45.1 percent of them on free or reduced lunch, had a graduation rate of 66.7 percent, down 12 percent from the previous year.

Graduation rates improved in Carlisle, the small high school in the area with 375 students 50.1 percent of them on free or reduced lunch, having 75 percent of its seniors graduating and Lonoke, with 550 students and 47.3 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch at 79.5 percent. Although Carlisle did see a 12-point drop and Lonoke fell by five points from the 2009-2010 school year.

Searcy, Cabot and Beebe all had graduation rates higher than 80 percent.

Searcy, with 1,110 students and 33.6 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch, was at 81.4 percent, down about nine points. Cabot, the largest school in the area with1,983 students and just 23.6 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch, was at 83.3 percent, down just three points from the previous year, and Lonoke High School led the local schools in 2011 with an 85.1 percent graduation rate, up five points from the previous year.

The remedial rate for those seniors graduating and going on to higher state schools ran from as high as Jacksonville’s 76.6 percent down to 33 percent of Searcy’s students needing extra help.

North Pulaski had a remedial rate of 66.7 percent, Sylvan Hills was at 65 percent, Carlisle had a 60.7 percent remedial rate, Lonoke was at 56.6 percent, Beebe was at 42.9 percent and Cabot at 34.8 percent.

After Jacksonville, North Pulaski had the highest grade inflation rate at 14.5 percent, followed by Carlisle at seven percent, Lonoke at 5.5 percent, Beebe at five percent, Sylvan Hills at 3.7, Cabot at 2.8 percent and Searcy High School had no grade inflation, according to the online information.

The 2011 Arkansas School Performance Report is a joint project of the state education department and the National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems (NORMES) at the University of Arkansas.

“We’re pleased to offer this service,” Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell said. “Schools must be accountable to the public and NORMES has done an outstanding job putting this data together in an easily understood format.”

Among other things, the report card includes information on school and district enrollment, graduation rates, free and reduced-priced lunch percentages, benchmark proficiency percentages and Adequate Yearly Progress status. 

The report card can be accessed at .

TOP STORY >> Greystone is getting back into full swing

Leader staff writer

The Melbourne businessman who bought the front golf course and clubhouse at Cabot’s Greystone Country Club for $650,000 says he intends to have the course open as soon as the sale is finalized in about 30 days.

Jim Cooper said Wednesday, five days after he bought the Mountain Springs course from Metropolitan National Bank, that the first thing he will do is get the weeds sprayed and get the clubhouse cleaned so he can see what other work needs to be done.

“We don’t know what we have yet,” Cooper said. “There may be some construction issues.”

Cooper said the course is in good shape considering that it has been closed for more than six months. Luckily, it was closed during the winter months when the grass wasn’t growing, he said.

“The Mountain Springs course has been maintained fairly well,” he said. “We may need to repair some bunkers and work on some drainage. But when we open, it should be in good shape.”

Cooper’s family has lived in Izard County for several generations, and he doesn’t intend to move to Cabot. But he said he has always liked Cabot and admired Greystone.

“If I lived in central Arkansas, this is where I would want to live,” he said.

Cooper, the owner of a golf course in Melbourne, said he remembers when Greystone Country Club was in its prime and that’s how he wants it to be again.

“Over the next couple of months, we’re going to get it back to where it was eight or 10 years ago,” he said. “That’s when it was at its best.”

Greystone had almost 250 members when the bank locked the doors and left instructions telling members how they could retrieve their property from the clubhouse.

“We want to get everybody back,” Cooper said.

Membership rates should be about what they were before the club closed, he said. The restaurant will serve snacks for the golfers. But it will likely be open only two evenings a week for dinner.

Cypress Creek, the back course, was sold to Steve Grimm, a Cabot businessman, for $415,000. Grimm says he intends to reopen that course but unlike the Mountain Springs course, Cypress Creek has not been maintained.

It closed in July 2011, reportedly because the green had been hit by a fungus. Grimm hopes to find investors to help him reopen Cypress Creek.

The two courses total more than 400 acres. And city officials have said they will not support rezoning to allow it to be developed. Cabot is known for the golf courses at Greystone and city officials say they won’t support using the land for anything else.

TOP STORY >> Pryor, Griffin: Let’s upgrade older C-130s

Leader senior staff writer

Avionics upgrades to older C-130s or no avionics upgrades, the future and the mission of Little Rock Air Force Base is secure, two members of the Arkansas congressional delegation said this week.

“There is nothing that’s going to call into question the primacy of LRAFB as the premiere C-130 base in the world,” according to Second Dist. Rep. Tim Griffin, even if the Air Force replaces the avionics modernization program with a less-expensive conversion.

“Regardless of the outcome of the AMP program, the future of Little Rock Air Force Base is secure,” Sen. Mark Pryor said.

In President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget, the Air Force wants to permanently chock the wheels on the decades-old, but just-being-implemented AMP, designed to bring aging C-130s into the 21st century with a digital cockpit and replace it with a less ambitious, less expensive upgrade.

Upgrade to meet

The Air Force must modernize its communications and navigation systems on the legacy C-130s to meet FAA standards and European standards or the planes will be excluded from many of the best and most efficient air lanes.

The Defense Department’s proposed 2013 budget closes out the C-130 AMP conversions with the installation of a fifth AMP kit, while providing $647 million toward the alternative, the communications, navigation, surveillance air-traffic management (CNS/ATM) program, according to Jennifer Cassidy, a Pentagon public affairs officer.

That program won’t have to be developed from scratch. Other Mobility Air Force aircraft, such as the KC-135 and KC-10, have a CNS/ATM program, according to Cassidy. The KC-10 has started the research and development phase of their program, while the KC-135 has completed its CNS/ATM program.

Demand answers

“After reviewing the Air Force’s proposal, the delegation and I joined forces to demand answers from the Department of Defense about their decision to eliminate the C-130 AMP program at Little Rock Air Force Base,” Pryor said.

“We need to make decisions that make economic and strategic sense, and I believe the AMP program is a cost-effective way to maintain the life of our aircraft.

“I believe in our C-130 mission,” Griffin said. “I like to talk about the Little Rock difference. I see nothing but continuing strength and growth for Little Rock Air Force Base. It’s so critical to everything we do, both on national security and emergency humanitarian response.”

He said the C-130 was “so capable and critical to basic function of the military. We’ll do everything we can to keep it so.”

In the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget, the Air Force terminates C-130 AMP and initiates a less complex/lower cost modification program titled, “Optimize Legacy C-130 Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM),” according to Cassidy.

Solicit proposals

The process would be the same as any other modification program for fair and open competition, she said. “The request for proposals will go out soliciting proposals for source selection. Development and testing phase will begin upon anticipated contract award in fiscal year 2014.”

The cost of converting another 221 C-130H aircraft to the AMP would be an estimated $4.1 billion, beginning in 2013 through the end of the program, Cassidy said.

The proposed 2013 budget contains $76.5M in research and development funding and $570.5M in procurement funding for the CNT/ATM alternative, she said.

But both Griffin and Pryor say its still to early to blow taps over the AMP program. “We’re still trying to get facts about this and figure it out,” Griffin said. “It’s my responsibility to do my own separate analysis.”

“I met with (Arkansas Air National Guard) pilots 189 at the base about AMP, potential alternatives, the pluses and minuses,” Griffin said. AMP gets rid of the navigator slot, which CNS/AMT doesn’t, he said. He has asked the Air Force for the costs of training, paying and retiring those navigators, but they’ve not yet provided that or other information he has asked for.

“I’ve got to believe that big decisions that have billions of dollars at stake are made based on thoughtful analysis and lots of research,” Griffin said.

Trust and verify

“It doesn’t seem we are asking for things that don’t already exist. It may be there’s a clear conclusion we can all agree on,” he added. “Trust and verify.”

The congressman said the Air Force talked about saving $2 billion. “There’s no doubt there’s some sort of cost savings in terms of electronics and capability. But once you include additional personnel cost of AMP light...The Air Force says they consider training and retirement costs, but we haven’t seen the data.”

Little Rock Air Force Base is home to 27 state-of-the-art C-130J transports, and eventual plans call for 134 of them throughout the military. But meanwhile, the Air Force wants to upgrade between 184 and 221 of the older planes.

“The capability of AMP light are substantially reduced,” he said, but “the president’s budget is just a conversation starter. It’s not definitive. What the Armed Services Committee thinks will probably win the day.”

Griffin said he thinks they can find other places in the defense budget to make cuts.

The fifth and final C-130 AMP is due to be completed and delivered to Little Rock sometime this month, Cassidy said. “No additional initial operational testing and evaluation for the C-130 AMP is planned, pending program termination approval.”

For now, those five planes are grounded.

“CNS/ATM will upgrade the avionics systems on the 184 Combat Delivery C-130s so that they will be able to meet the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) CNS/ATM mandate that starts Jan. 1, 2020. This program will ensure that our legacy C-130 fleet is modernized to ensure global access,” according to Cassidy.

By then, a majority of the 184 aircraft will have completed the upgrade. The Air Force will develop mitigation strategies for aircraft that have not completed the CNS/ATM upgrade by that date, she said.

TOP STORY >> Candy Bomber visits air base

Leader staff writer

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, the legendary Candy Bomber, was at Little Rock Air Force Base on Friday in recognition of the 314th Airlift Wing’s 70th year supporting combat airlift missions.

The wing has been at LRAFB since 1971.

“We have a hero among us. We could not be more proud that you are here,” Col. Mark Czelusta, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, said about Halvorsen.

Halvorsen, 91, became known as the Candy Bomber of the Berlin Airlift after the Soviets blockaded West Berlin from June 1948 until May 1949.

Czelusta said the day was humbling as the 314th recognized 70 years of excellence. The wing has always been a part of airlift missions.

The idea to drop candy came to Halvorsen after he met some children standing outside a fence at Tempelhof airfield in the American sector of West Berlin in July 1948 during Operation Vittles, which airlifted thousands of tons of food into the city. One of the children asked Halvorsen for chocolate. The kids hadn’t had any candy for several months.

Halvorsen gave the youngsters two sticks of gum, which they shared. The next day, he combined the candy rations of his crew. Halvorsen made little parachutes of handkerchiefs and and string, tied the candy in them and dropped them from his C-54 transport plane.

Word quickly spread about the candy drop and more children gathered by the airfield. Halvorsen said the children did not beg for the candy — they were grateful.

Soon the German youngsters would call Halvorsen “Uncle Wiggle Wings” as he wiggled the wings of his plane to let the children know he was going to drop his cargo of sweet treats.

“He touched the heart of an entire continent during a dark time in history,” Czelusta said.

Over the next 11 months, the airmen dropped 250,000 parachutes and 23 tons of candy. Candy companies in the U.S. donated tons of chocolate to support the effort.

Cargo planes made their drops every 90 seconds delivering food and supplies. The Soviets were shocked to see that the U.S. could feed thousands of hungry Berliners from the air.

The Soviets ended the blockade in May 1949, after the Americans airlifted thousands of tons of food and supplies into West Berlin.

Halvorsen, a native of Salt Lake City, earned his pilot’s license in September 1941. He flew in the Civil Air Patrol and the Army Air Corps.

He finished military flight training as a fighter pilot. He was transferred back to the Army Air Corps when transport pilots were needed to fly cargo planes during the Second World War.

He flew many planes, including the C-47 and the C-54. The colonel stayed with the Air Force for 31 years until retiring in 1974.

Halvorsen was named the commander of Templehof Air Base in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he and his wife Alta went to the Soviet Union as Mormon missionaries.

He said when he visits air shows in the U.S. and Europe, people come up to him with letters and the parachutes they caught when they were children.

“The connection is still alive today as it was then,” Halvorsen said.

He saluted the civilian population that supports LRAFB.

The Air Force award for outstanding air transportation support in logistics readiness is named the Col. Gail Halvorsen Award.

SPORTS >> Bison pound Patriots, sweep doubleheader

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle wasted no time putting runs on the board in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with Palestine-Wheatley as the Bison dominated the Patriots from the first inning en route to a 15-0 blowout victory at Carlisle to open 2A-6 Conference play.

The Bison got the job done early at the plate, scoring nine runs in the first inning as all but one Carlisle batter reached base safely in the inning. While Carlisle did damage with the bats, pitcher Tommy Inman kept the pressure off the Bison with a complete game, shutout performance.

“We had some guys step up and hit the ball. Austin Reed hit the ball real well, better than he has all year,” said Carlisle coach BJ Greene. “The pitching was good tonight. We hit the ball well. They made some plays, but we hit the ball pretty well tonight.”

Reed went 2-3 with two doubles in the first game for Carlisle, but he was one of four Bison with multiple hits in the game. Trey Wilson was 2-3 with two singles, Deron Ricks was 2-2 with a single and a double, and Inman was3-4 with four RBI’s, and was a home run shy of the cycle.

Carlisle scored four more runs in the second inning, and after being held scoreless in the third, Will Smith hit a hard grounder the opposite way with the bases loaded in the fourth that sent Tyler Young and Ricks home to make the score 15-0.

In the second part of the doubleheader, Carlisle didn’t come out as hot at the plate, but still put on a clinic as the Bison mercy ruled the Patriots 13-1 to end the second game in five innings.

Josh Mathis threw all five innings for the Bison, striking out 11 Patriots while only walking one. Mathis performed well despite overcoming illness.

“The pitching was good both games,” Greene said. “Josh has been sick, he’s been running a temperature and he’s been out of school for two days. So, he came in and played well for us.”

Carlisle wasn’t able to total nine runs out of the gate in game two, but the Bison scored four in the first, two in the second, and one in the third while allowing one run to lead 7-1. However, Palestine-Wheatley wasn’t as easy to put away in the second game as the Patriots did a better job connecting at the plate, and getting on base.

The Bison faced a bit of adversity in the bottom of the fourth, as the Patriots had two on with one out. Mathis responded to the challenge by striking out the next two batters to pitch his way out of the jam.

Carlisle put the game out of reach in the top of the fifth with a scoring rally started by freshman Dylan Brazeal, who hit a two-run double that the Bison built on from there. Leadoff hitter Chris Hart followed Brazeal with an RBI double. Wilson singled to drive in two more, and Deric Herring doubled to drive in Young for the final run.

“Dylan Brazeal did a good job coming in and pinch hitting for us for his first high school hit,” Greene said. “The only thing was we kind of coasted a little bit in the second game. We drug the game out a little longer than it needed to be, but I’m pretty proud of them.

“This group of kids since I’ve been here, they have a hard time playing a doubleheader, and that’s what stinks about our conference is it’s a doubleheader every time. They have to learn to play and not coast.”

Hart and Wilson each went 3-4 in the second game. Inman, Herring, Mathis and Reed all had two hits, while Smith, Brazeal and Hayden Hoover each had one hit. The doubleheader victory improves Carlisle’s record to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville run-rules Falcons

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s youth showed early against crosstown foe North Pulaski as the Falcons were the aggressive team early on.

After a slow start, the Red Devils got back into the flow of the game and eventually took over and beat North Pulaski 13-3 Thursday at Hickingbotham Field in Jacksonville.

University of Arkansas signee D’Vone McClure has taken on more of the workload in his senior season, as the centerfielder and future Razorback is now a regular on the mound.

McClure pitched all five innings and got the win, but struggled in the first inning as North Pulaski’s top of the order did damage early. Alex Broadwell got things going for the Falcons with a leadoff single to start the game. Broadwell then stole second, and after a bunt single that led to two throwing errors on the same play, Broadwell easily crossed the plate. Another run was added in the inning to give North Pulaski the first two runs of the game.

North Pulaski (2-6) was very active on the bases, something head coach Jeremy Brown wants to constantly emphasize.

“One thing I try to teach these guys is we want guys to make plays at this level,” Brown said. “At this level, guys aren’t as accurate in the outfield, or as accurate in the infield. So, we’re going to run, we’re going to steal, we’re going to drop bunts, because kids are still learning at this level.”

McClure scored Jacksonville’s only run in the bottom of the first. In the second, the Red Devils put four more runs on the board, and three more in the third. North Pulaski scored its final run in the top of the third after cleanup hitter Austin Allen singled and drove in Broadwell.

After a scoreless fourth inning, McClure began Jacksonville’s scoring rally in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single that brought Will Wright home. Jesse Harbin followed with a line-drive single into right center, sending Tanner Burks across the plate to give the Red Devils double-digit runs.

Freshman outfielder Court-land McDonald hit the ball almost in the exact spot as Harbin did to drive in two more, and David Williams ended the game with an infield single that sent Harbin home to give Jacksonville (3-5) the mercy rule win.

Even though the defending 6A state champions earned the decisive win, head coach John Burrows wasn’t pleased with the slow start.

“We didn’t come out like I told them we needed to come out,” Burrows said. “I knew they (North Pulaski) were going to come out ready, and I tried to explain that to them before the game. But when you’re young, sometimes you have to touch that stove no matter how many times you tell them not to.

“So, we touched it, and then we played a little bit better after that. That’s part of being young. They’re learning a lot of things for the first time, and they’re getting better. I don’t know if we went forward today, but we didn’t move backwards either, I believe. We’re just young and we need to keep working on everything.”

McClure, McDonald and Williams each had two hits for Jacksonville. Harbin had the best night at the plate, going 3-4 with three RBI’s.

SPORTS >> Panthers beaten by Pointers, Cyclones

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team has suffered a tough week of play. The Panthers dropped their conference opener 1-0 at Van Buren on Tuesday, then fell 11-1 at home to Russellville on Thursday to fall to 0-2 early in the conference season.

“We’re just not swinging the bats like we were early on,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “The pitching overall has been a little better than I was expecting, but we still have to score more than zero runs.”

After Tuesday’s loss, junior right hander Ryan Logan held both of Cabot’s losses, despite pitching well.

“We’ve gotten him one total run in his last two starts,” Fitch said. “We’ve lost those games 2-1 and 1-0. I’m very pleased with how Ryan’s pitching. We have to give him some help, any of them for that matter. We have to start scoring runs again.”

Van Buren’s lone, game-winning run was unearned. Logan gave up just two hits to the Pointers, but both came in the same inning. With one out, two strikes and runners on first and third, a Van Buren batter whiffed on a squeeze bunt, striking out and leaving the runner at third stranded over halfway to home plate. Cabot catcher T.C. Carter rose and threw to third instead of instigating a rundown, allowing the base runner to score. The runner on first tried to get to second, but was thrown out from third to end the inning.

Thursday’s loss to Russellville started going wrong in the second inning, then fell apart in the fifth.

Tied at one in the third, Cabot first baseman Zachary Patterson dropped a low throw that would have been the third out, allowing two runs to score to make it 3-1.

No one scored again until the fifth inning, when Russellville put eight on the board to end the game early. Base hits, walks and a couple more Panther errors aided the Cyclone’s victory.

“It’s like that play in the third inning just took the wind out of our sails,” Fitch said. “We just didn’t seem to have any energy after that.

“This team is young, but they were ultra young last year and just kept getting better and better. This year it seems like we’ve regressed the last three games. I told the varsity that starting jobs are going to be up for grabs.”

Cabot, 5-3 overall, begins play in the 16-team, three-location Central Arkansas Invitational next Thursday. The tournament will be played at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock, Little Rock Christian Academy and Benton High School.

The Panthers open the tournament against Vilonia at Benton at 2:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Bears get victories, nearly a no hitter

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills opened conference play with a doubleheader sweep over Crossett on Tuesday. The Bears beat the Eagles 3-2 and 5-0 to improve to 6-2 overall and start 2-0 in the 5A Southeast Conference.

Sylvan Hills pitcher Connor Eller came as close as possible to a no-hitter without getting one in game two. He had two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Crossett got a double to break up the no-hitter.

Eller also got the save in game one, facing just one batter.

Control became a problem for Sylvan Hills pitching in the seventh inning. Sylvan Hills relief pitching hit the first Crossett batter and walked the second. After a strikeout, another Eagle was hit, loading the bases with one out.

Connor Eller took the mound to face Crossett’s two-hole hitter, who had accounted for two of the Eagles’ four hits in the game.

Eller got the batter to hit comebacker two him and the Bears with 1-2-3 for the double play to end the game.

Crossett jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of game one against starting pitcher Lance Hunter. The Bears scored two in the bottom of the second and never trailed again as Hunter cruised to the sixth inning.

Sylvan Hills added a run in the fifth inning to make it 3-1, but Crossett scored in the top of the sixth to make it a one-run game again.

The Bears will take part in the Central Arkansas Invitational next week. The tournament includes 16 teams and will be played in three locations on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Sylvan Hills’ first-round game will be at 2:30 p.m. Thursday when it will take on the Fayetteville Bulldogs at Little Rock Christian Academy. Other sites for the tournament are Benton High School and Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock.

SPORTS >> Devils on pitch, beat NP

Leader sportswriter

It didn’t take long for Crushawn Hayes to find his soccer legs.

Hayes, a senior and two-sport standout at Jacksonville, is only a couple of weeks removed from a long basketball season, but made his presence known on the soccer field with four quick goals against North Pulaski as the Red Devils rolled to a 7-2 victory at Falcon Stadium on Thursday.

Hayes did not enter the game until 20-minute mark of the first half, and by 15:35 he was already on the scoreboard to increase Jacksonville’s early lead to 3-0.

But he was far from done.

He scored again less than 30 seconds later and was close again at 12:27. His next goal came at the 29-minute mark to complete a hat trick, and Hayes added one more for good measure at 32 minutes to give the Red Devils a 6-0 halftime lead.

“It just came to me – it was a good game,” Hayes said. “I had open lanes. My partners were passing it to me, and I was finishing. Our speed had a major impact. We like to rush. We’re a fast-tempo team.”

David Soury and Edwin Hernandez gave the Red Devils early momentum as Hernandez scored from straight ahead in the third minute and Soury connected with his third shot on goal at 21:43 to give Jacksonville a 2-0 lead before Hayes entered the game and blew things wide open.

“It was a great first half,” Red Devils coach Quentin Sereal said. “We wanted to jump on them quick, and we just kind of coasted from there. Kudos to our midfield, we kind of controlled the game from the start, so it was a very good job by our midfielders.”

The time slotted for the second half was cut in half due to Jacksonville’s hefty lead, but the Falcons avoided a shutout with two late goals from Ulysses Arries and Zack Maier.

The busiest player on the field was North Pulaski goalkeeper Connor Thamen, who stopped a number of early attempts as Jacksonville attacked from all sides. But once Hayes entered the game, Thamen found himself target to an endless barrage of strikes from left, right and middle.

Hayes’ first goal was a high shot that went directly over Thamen’s head, and his second was a low bouncer into the left corner. His third went right and in the middle while his final shot was also low and left.

“He’s one of our key players,” Sereal said of Hayes. “A lot of times, they key in on him from the beginning of the game. So we wanted to bring him off the bench to kind of catch them off guard, and it seemed to work.”

David Aguirre scored Jacksonville’s only goal of the second half when Thamen played out close to the penalty arc and lost his footing, allowing Aguirre to gently tap in the final goal of the night for the Devils..

“I think the most important thing is that we have something we can build on now,” first-year Falcons coach Jeff Osbourn said. “Previous seasons, I don’t think the team has had a solid foundation or philosophy to build on. I think we kind of know where our strengths are now, and we definitely know where our weaknesses are, so I think I know what direction we need to take.”

Both teams will be off until March 27 when North Pulaski plays at Batesville and Jacksonville is at Searcy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TOP STORY >> Commander sees growth

Leader staff writer

Col. Brian Robinson, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, predicts more personnel at the base, which would reduce deployment times for overworked airmen.

He was the guest speaker for the Cabot Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

“By and large, if the proposal that has been put forward in the (2013 fiscal year) budget plan goes forward with this portion approved, Little Rock Air Force Base is going to see net growth of about 6 percent in terms of personnel. So, at Little Rock Air Force Base, we’re not going to see downsizing,” Robinson told the full house at First Baptist Church.

That 6 percent is the 370 active duty airmen the Air Force plans on sending to the 19th AW. Another 790 people will form a new Reserves unit here. That means a gain of up to 1,110 airmen for LRAFB, pushing the number of military personnel above 8,000.

The 370 airmen are “going to relieve some of the burden on what we called our deployed time, the amount of time away and the amount of time back, because our crew ratio is going to go up by about a factor of 2.5 crews per aircraft assigned.”

More will be demanded of the 314 Airlift Wing, which trains C-130 crews for the Air Force and allied nations.

“With regard to the 314th, it’s going to give them more manpower to increase the training we see coming in the next year and a half. They’re going to be expected to produce more C-130 crew members than they do today,” Robinson explained after the luncheon.

He told the luncheon guests that most airmen deploy for 179 days, which is about six months. Some are gone for 120 days, which is about four months, and others are away from home for a year. The base has been on steady deployment since September 2001.

Robinson said, “Some civilian positions, a small amount of those, roughly 10 percent of that, will go away. Frankly, those are coming back from positions that we brought on as we back filled active-duty members who went forward into Afghanistan and Iraq. The theory is that those active-duty will be back and fulfill those duties.”

LRAFB released its economic impact analysis this week. According to the report, the base had a total economic impact of $780 million in 2011, an increase of about $2 million from 2010.

That number is double from a little over a decade ago. In 2000, the economic impact was $351 million.

Robinson briefly spoke about what is happening with the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at LRAFB.

“(The 189th is) only going to see a small reduction at Little Rock Air Force Base. It’s a different story out of Fort Smith. They are going to see a significant change in their mission. Our mission here is going to stay the same. We’re still the training center of excellence for C-130 air crews and maintenance.”

According to next fiscal year’s proposed defense budget, the Air Force may cut 10,000 airmen and 65 C-130s, including one C-130 from the 189th AW and two C-130s from the new Reserves unit in the next five years.


The Air Force recently announced that it would spend $9.36 million on up to 18,000 iPad 2s to replace the bags of paper and navigation charts pilot and navigators carry.

“All of our crew members, air crews, will get them,” Robinson said after the luncheon. “It’s about reducing reliance on paper. It’s a cost-cutting measure. It’s also leveraging the technology to help our guys be able to prepare for their missions, study for their missions and execute their missions.

“One of the big points is, right now, they’re required to carry about an 80-pound publications kit aboard the airplane. It has all their aeronautical navigation charts. (The iPad 2s are) a lot easier to tote, and also that’s another 80 pounds we won’t have to carry on the aircraft. So, it’s fuel savings, or, if we have to watch every ounce of capacity of the airplane, that’s 80 pounds of something else, cargo or passengers, we can carry.”

Robinson told the crowd at the luncheon that the Air Force is trying to be more efficient and continue providing the services airmen and their families need.

He said, “We’re going through a services transformation. Our challenge is about 80 percent of the population at LRAFB actually lives in the community. So a lot of that support that they get they get is from the community. I honestly don’t have any preference where they get their support, one way or the other. I care about whether they have it. The confidence factor, the trust factor is the baseline, the expectation, is met.

“If something does emerge and they always do, they know who to call quickly for support. My job and (314th AW commander Col. Mark Czelusta’s) job is to make sure that your needs, your family’s needs are largely met while they’re here. So that when you’re in Afghanistan during a mission, you can focus on your mission and not have to worry too much about what’s going on back here.”

Robinson said when troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, which is planned for 2014, airmen will return to training as they did in the 1980s and 1990s after the Cold War.

He said airmen have been in the fight for the past 14 or 15 years. Some don’t know anything else, and they will be constantly preparing for a fight instead of engaging in one after troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

“Thank you for your support. Our airmen rely on it,” Robinson said.

TOP STORY >> Golf courses to reopen after sale

Leader staff writer

Greystone Country Club-- sold Friday afternoon for $1,065,000, or $215,000 more than the previous bid that a bank rejected a week earlier.

The new owners say they will reopen the golf courses that have been closed for eight months and will not develop the land for other purposes.

Mountain Springs, the front course with the clubhouse, went to Jim Cooper of Melbourne, owner of Coopers Hawk Golf Course and nursing homes for $650,000.

An employee at Cooper Management Corporation in Melbourne said Tuesday that Cooper was out of the office and could not be called. But an employee at the golf course said the plan is to reopen.

Cypress Creek, the back course, went to Cabot businessman Steve Grimm for $415,000. Grimm says he intends to reopen the course, but it needs a lot of work and he doesn’t know if it will reopen this year or next.

Grimm was part of a group that included Greystone residents, who were the high bidders on the back course on March 1, when both were auctioned for Metropolitan National Bank. By late afternoon on March 2, the bank had rejected that bid, as well as the bid on the front course, turning down $475,000 for Mountain Springs and $375,000 for Cypress Creek.

Grimm said many from the Greystone group joined him in trying after March 2 to buy the courses, but in the end he alone made the deal with the bank. Now he is looking for investors and believes those same people will be involved.

Grimm, 62, moved to Cabot from Stuttgart in 2000. He said he’s a golfer but not a very good one. However, owning a golf course has been on his “bucket list” for some time.

He said he is only a little concerned that this is not the right economy to go into such a venture.

“With the economy the way it is and gas prices, Greystone is in a slow phase but I think it will turn around. It’s a long-term investment.

“I have this vision that we will have a beautiful course out there,” Grimm said.

The courses are zoned residential, and city officials have said they will not rezone for commercial development or approve residential subdivisions.

Jack King and Bill Minton owned and operated the country club until they defaulted on a $1.2 million loan from Metropolitan National Bank. The club reportedly lost 100 members in 2010 and was falling $40,000 short of needed revenue every month.

Property owners, most of whom were not members of the country club, said their property values declined 30 percent when the club closed.

TOP STORY >> Mayor is fine after surgery

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert was out of his office for three days recently for elective heart-bypass surgery.

A cardiac surgeon at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock replaced one blocked artery and four that were marginal, Cypert said in a phone interview on Monday, 10 days after the surgery.

On the fifth day after the bypass, he was back at work, but it was 10 days before he sent a press release about the surgery in which he encouraged adults to lead, promote and be examples of a healthy lifestyle for children and teenagers.

The mayor, 70, said he kept quiet about the surgery because he didn’t want anyone making a fuss over him. And he knew the procedure is routine now. There was never any doubt in his mind that he would be out of his office for only a few days, he said.

Monday morning, he was back to his old routine: breakfast at Jane’s Kitchen and in his office by 6:30 a.m.

“Don’t be alarmed at things your health-care professional may find from time to time,” the mayor said in the press release that went out to newspapers, staff and elected officials on Monday. “Potential problems detected early can often be remedied with no long-term effects.

“Late in 2011, my annual physical and a routine nuclear stress test revealed some potential heart blockage. After thorough diagnosis, I decided it would be more long-term, lifetime-quality effective to deal with through elective and preventative heart-bypass surgery, a very common and fairly safe procedure called cardiac-artery bypass grafting.

“Stents were not projected to be as effective. I made the decision to take a short period of time off and schedule the surgery. The minimally invasive, state-of-the-art surgery was tremendously successful, and I was back scheduling activities within three days after surgery. My cardiovascular team at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock is highly professional, extremely knowledgeable and experienced and provides top-quality health care and services,” he said.

“Please eat healthy and maintain the best weight for your height. Exercise regularly in a program that best fits you, and schedule periodic preventative maintenance physicals and lab work,” Cypert said.

TOP STORY >> JP candidate pleads no contest

Leader staff writer

Toby Troutman, a candidate for Lonoke County Quorum Court charged with felony forgery, pleaded no contest in circuit court Monday to a lesser charge of misdemeanor theft of property and was placed on probation for one year.

It is unclear whether the plea will prevent Troutman from running.

Prosecutor Chuck Graham said the original charge against Toby Troutman came out of a divorce hearing from former Lonoke County JP Jodie Troutman.

Toby Troutman was charged after Jodie Troutman complained to a detective with the sheriff’s department that on June 15, 2011, Toby forged Jodie’s signature on an insurance check for storm damage in the amount of $8,579.38, a fact that Toby admitted on Aug. 29, 2011 in Judge Barbara Elmore’s court.

But in the end, “She got the money,” Graham said, adding that a felony charge for a disagreement during a divorce was not something he wanted to pursue.

To the surprise of many Republicans, Toby Troutman filed as a Republican for JP Dist. 1 against Brent Cannon, who is also a Republican. Troutman is the son of former Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, who served several years and always ran as a Democrat. Jodie Trout-man served as a Democrat on the quorum court.

A misdemeanor conviction that showed a lack of honesty or integrity could prevent him from running for office and his opponent would run unopposed and win in the May primary.

But Jerry Shepard, a Republican and one of two lawyers on the three-member Lonoke County Election Commission, said Tuesday that Troutman was not technically convicted of anything. As a first offender, Troutman invoked Act 346, the First Offender Act of 1975, which put the case on hold. If he completes probation, the charge and record could be expunged.

Still, Shepard said, “There is case law that would indicate that Troutman should be removed from the ballot.”

Whether Troutman is allowed to run is not a question that will be answered by the election commission, Shepard said. Anyone who wants him off the ballot would have to sue in circuit court and a judge would decide.

Shepard said he learned from talking to officials with the office of the Arkansas Secretary of State that the commission could sue to keep Troutman off the ballot. The Lonoke County Republican Committee or any resident also could sue, he said.

Lucas Minton, chairman of the Lonoke County Republican Committee, said earlier this month that a policy of the Republican Party prevents the committee from supporting one Republican candidate over another. However, the committee is allowed to tell voters which candidate they “do not recommend.”

Troutman was represented by Hubert Alexander. In addition to probation, Troutman was ordered to pay $715 in fines and court costs.

Toby and Jodie Troutman are still married. A hearing in their divorce case is set for June 13.

SPORTS >> Bears set bar, break records

Leader sportswriter

It was a record-setting weekend for the state finals with more than 40,000 people showing up at Summit Arena during the three-day span. The stands were half full at the start of the Cabot-Fort Smith Northside girls 7A final, but by the third quarter, the stands were almost full in anticipation of the Bears-versus-Comets game that followed.

Sylvan Hills and Mills drew the biggest crowd of any of the 14 games with 5,639 in attendance. The only other game to draw a crowd larger than 5,000 people was the 7A boys final where 5,311 people watched MVP David Berrete lead the Warriors to their second-consecutive state championship with a 41-31 victory over Fayetteville on Friday night.

Archie’s last stand

Goodwin and his teammates faced criticism following last year’s state title game loss to Alma for failing to shake hands after the game, but he left Summit Arena this year with the Most Valuable Player award and Sylvan Hills’ first ever basketball state championship.

The difference was night and day in terms of performance on the court and his demeanor after the game.

Instead of walking off the court with a towel draped over his head, Goodwin stayed at the exit for a number of minutes to sign autographs for youngsters who had converged on the southeast corner of the Summit Arena floor.

Goodwin finally got to the rim for a dunk with 3:17 left to play to give the Bears a 55-42 lead, and kept his cool moments later when Mills guard Jerale Lovelace tackled him from behind to prevent another one.

His percentage behind the three-point line was an even 40 percent (4 of 10) while he went 7 of 17 from the floor total. His free-throw numbers were the weakest of the totals at 9 of 16. He also pulled down four defensive rebounds and three offensive boards, while committing five turnovers.

Ziegler in the zone

Larry Ziegler was one of only three players to play more than 30 minutes along with Goodwin and Mills guard Braylon Spicer. The senior made himself a factor early with a lay up at the 4:41 mark of the first quarter and another transition shot with 2:16 remaining. Ziegler had nine points total along with seven rebounds. He has been the team’s steady Eddie all season, bringing consistent play and calm nerves to an intense and emotional team.

Here we go again…

The familiarity between the two 5A Southeast Conference teams added to the hype of the final. The championship game was the first at a neutral site this season, but the game progressed much like the two regular-season games with the Bears jumping out to a lead of over 20 points before the Comets came back in the final minutes to make it close.

“These guys, they all know each other,” Mills coach Raymond Cooper said. “They’ve known each other probably since elementary school, and they’ve played summer ball against each other. It’s just two teams that are use to each other, and we get out there and go after each other.”

General Patton

Dion Patton stayed in the game 29 minutes, and played the entire second half with bleeding and significant swelling inside his upper lip after taking an elbow to the mouth while fighting for a loose ball late in the first half.

The senior point guard had eight points, three assists and three steals, and scored on a pair of transition lay ups in the pivotal third quarter for Sylvan Hills.

Leaving a legacy

The college-recruiting frenzy that encircled Goodwin was only part of the story for a senior group that set record attendance at nearly every home game over the past two seasons.

The group was successful as freshmen, winning the River City Conference championship. Their move to varsity the following year was a year of development, and the Bears just missed qualifying for the state tournament.

But their 14-0 runs in the 5A Southeast Conference the next two years along with two straight finals appearances set a high bar for future Bears teams.

“I think it’s because of these seniors,” Davis said. “Let’s give these guys credit where credit is due; 28-0 over two years of conference play, won 17 in a row two years in a row. Seventeen straight basketball games – that’s resilience.”

SPORTS >> Morris bids adieu as champ

Leader sports editor

Six senior Lady Panthers won a state championship their last time on the court for Cabot High School. There was also a touching but bittersweet moment in the last minute of Cabot’s 51-41 win over Fort Smith Northisde when junior Lauren Morris checked into the game. It was her last game too. Injuries forced Morris’ playing days to an end about a month ago, but her team wasn’t about to let her miss the opportunity to get in the title game if at all possible.

Morris walked to center court and huddled with her teammates, then walked back towards the Cabot bench. She stood in front of coach Carla Crowder and watched as the last 41 seconds were played essentially four on five.

Some in the crowd were calling for Morris to enter the game, and it was in Crowder’s plan all along as long as the game made it possible.

“Bless her heart she’s been through so much,” Crowder said. “She’s such a great kid, and we all love her so much. She’s worked so hard and fought through so many injuries. We wanted her to have that and enjoy that moment in the championship game.”

Morris, who has been playing basketball competitively since nine years old, has blown out both her anterior cruciate ligaments in the last three years. She has had four surgeries and lost part of one meniscus tendon. Finally bone spurs in her femur, caught by arthroscopic surgery in February of this year, caused her doctor to advise her to give up basketball.

Morris tore the left ACL in January of 2009, the middle of her eighth-grade season. She had surgery to repair that knee and another cleanup surgery a month later. After about a year of physical therapy and rehabilitation, she began playing again.

Then in September of 2010, she tore her right ACL and had reconstructive surgery to repair that one. She began playing again in spring of 2011. She played AAU basketball all summer and played about two-and-a-half quarters a game in junior varsity this season. She was even beginning to see a few minutes of playing time in varsity games.

She had been a key player at Cabot Junior High North, along with classmates Jaylin Bridges and Elliot Taylor, who started for the Lady Panthers all season this year.

“I felt like I was right there, about to break through where my playing time would start to increase,” Morris said. “We have six seniors leaving so I was really looking forward to getting on the floor and making real progress and contributing to the team.”

Then, on Feb. 6, one knee gave out again in practice.

“It didn’t really feel like an ACL because I’d been through that, and I knew what that felt like,” Morris said. “But I’ve also been through enough to know when it’s bad. I just sort of knew this was bad.”

Morris was unable to walk off the floor unassisted.

Because of all the surgeries, an MRI wasn’t conclusive, but her doctor thought he spotted something wrong and wanted to scope the knee. That’s when the spurs were discovered.

“It’s difficult,” Morris said of stepping away from the game. “It’s just the smart thing to do. The doctor said if I keep playing, he can’t say when it will happen, but it will happen again. He said next time it could really cause some lifelong problems.”

The toughest thing for Morris were the comebacks. In a strange and retrospective way, she’s grateful for the second injury.

“Coming back from those injuries, nobody really understands it until you’ve done it,” Morris said. “Coming back the first time was rough. Physically but mentally too. When you get back out there, they say you’re afraid but I really wasn’t. Everybody else was. Every time I would fall or anything, they would all freak out. You’re really trying to work hard and everybody is so worried about you. It’s understandable, but it starts to get to you. This last time, my family and coaches and friends were all really on board with me. I feel like I gained that respect back.”

She knew she’d gained that respect when she was told to check in with seconds left in her final game.

“Coach Crowder just came up and said ‘if you want to go, go.’” Morris said. “I wanted people to know I wasn’t quitting. To be able to get out there one last time, to be made part of that, it was just a really big thing. It showed that people understood that. But mainly it showed that coach Crowder really cared, my team cared, coach (Charles) Ruple, all of them. Everyone in the stands wanted me to get that chance. It was a special thing.”

SPORTS >> Mills surge no problem, Bears get championship

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – Sylvan Hills had seen it before - Mills making a furious charge to turn a near blowout into an exciting finish. They’d withstood it before, too. On Saturday, the Bears drew from that experience and held off a late Mills surge to win the class 5A state championship 59-54 at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs.

Sylvan Hills controlled 75 percent of the game. Mills dominated the last 25 percent. By that time, the Bears had built a huge lead that the Comets couldn’t overcome. Mills cut a 21-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to just six with 50 seconds left, then forced a turnover to take possession with 30 seconds to go. The Comets forced two more turnovers after that, but missed both of their field-goal attempts and one of two free throws as the Bears held on for the victory.

“It was a little taxing, I’ll be honest with you,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said of Mills’ fourth-quarter run. “But you have to be ready for those runs like that. You have to be ready to be able to step up when the pressure mounts. So I thought our guys were able to stay at it. I just tried to keep our guys focused on dominating the whole game. And boy did it help us early building a big lead like that.”

The players apparently weren’t as worried as their coach. The Bears had beaten Mills twice this season, each time by six points. When the Comets began forcing turnovers and making baskets late, the Bears didn’t feel the stress.

“I don’t think so because we’re a resilient team,” Sylvan Hills guard and championship game Most Valuable Player Archie Goodwin said. “We just had to stay calm because we knew they didn’t have enough time to come all the way back. We just needed a couple of key shots. We got those and fortunately we were able to win.”

Both teams missed a lot of opportunities at the free-throw line. Sylvan Hills could have put the game out of reach early on if it had made more than 18 of its 32 free-throw attempts.

The Bears hit just six of 14 attempts in the fourth quarter and made just one field goal. That bucket was an important and exciting one.

A scramble for a loose ball ended with the ball in Goodwin’s hands out on the left wing and no one guarding him.

Goodwin drove to the basket where Mills’ Jerale Lovelace tried to set up to take a charge, but was too far underneath the basket to get the call. Goodwin had an open lane to the rim, where he skied for a one-handed slam that made it 55-42 with 3:17 left to play.

Goodwin said it was the most memorable shot of his two championship games.

“Just because last year I didn’t even get a dunk,” Goodwin said. “To end our last year with a bang like that was nice.”

Sylvan Hills started hot from outside. Even when shots weren’t on target they went in. The Bears hit three-straight three pointers in the first two minutes, including one that banked in from about 25 feet that made it 9-1.

“We try to take what the defense gives you,” Davis said. “I have full confidence in these guys shooting the basketball. We want to shoot open shots. I tell them all the time I need makers and not shooters, but if it’s our shot, I want them to take it

Mills charged back to make it 14-10 by the end of the first quarter, but the Comets were stuck on 10 points per quarter until the fourth.

Mills’ senior guard Shaquan Fletcher hit a layup just 11 seconds into the second quarter to make it 14-12, but the Comets didn’t get another basket until the 3:15 mark. A key reason for that was the defensive play of Bears’ point guard Dion Patton. Patton smothered Mills’ leading scorer Braylon Spicer all game long. Spicer averaged 30 points per game against the Bears in the two regular-season meetings, including 37 in the most recent one. Patton, who usually guards the opposing point guard, switched to the two-guard Spicer for this game.

“It was really important,” Davis said of shutting down Spicer, who finished with six points. Everything was running through him.”

Pointing to Patton, Davis continued. “This guy behind me, man, give him credit. He took (Spicer) out of the ball game.”

Mills coach Raymond Cooper also gave Patton credit.

“What they did was put their best defender on (Spicer). What we didn’t do well was execute as a team like we should have to create shots for him.”

Sylvan Hills lead was 33-20 at halftime, and they extended it to 21 points by the start of the fourth by outscoring Mills 18-10 in the third.

Though the run fell short, Cooper was not surprised by the 24-8 charge his team made in the final period.

“The one thing I know is that they’re going to play from buzzer to buzzer” Cooper said. “We’re not the biggest or most physically imposing team around. At the end of the game, we had one guy six feet tall on the floor. Those are the guys that brought it back, because their hearts are seven feet tall.”

The game was extremely physical and the pace was slowed by the 50 fouls committed, 26 by Sylvan Hills and 24 by Mills.

Goodwin led all scorers with 27 points and had seven rebounds. Shyheim Barron led Mills with 17 points while Markale Lovelace added 16. Both players had nine rebounds to lead their team. Devin Pearson led the Bears with nine boards. Larry Ziegler scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Davis took one final moment to acknowledge the seven seniors that formed the nucleus of the team for the last two seasons.

“I think credit is to our seniors,” Davis said. “Lets give credit where credit is due. 28-0 last two years in conference, 17 game winning streaks two different seasons. They were focused, and I thought they were ready.”

SPORTS >> Dominant defense lifts Cabot to first state title

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – A season full of noteworthy achievements concluded in history-making fashion as the Cabot Lady Panthers claimed the first basketball state championship in school history with a 51-41 victory over Fort Smith Northside in the Class 7A finals at Summit Arena on Saturday.

Senior Melissa Wolff earned Most Valuable Player following a performance that included a game-high 22 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals for the University of Arkansas signee. Wolff was near flawless in her shot selection as she went 7 of 9 from the floor and was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.

And for head coach Carla Crowder, it marked the fourth overall state title of her career. Crowder, who wrapped up her eighth season at the Lady Panther helm with the 7A crown, took Cabot to the finals in 2004 at the end of her first season and finished runner up before two trips to the semifinals in 2006 and 2011.

“This is an exciting time for us,” Crowder said. “Our girls have worked hard for years, and we’re so excited to be here and to have won this championship. It was a tough game, and we enjoyed being on top.”

Wolff made a pull-up jumper and converted a three-point play after being fouled on the shot to give Cabot a 47-38 lead with 3:32 remaining and pulled down a defensive rebound on the other end. That led to a putback by Wolff to stretch the margin to 11 and essentially put an end to Northside’s final gasp.

“This is the way I wanted to go out with us winning a state championship,” Wolff said. “We had a great team, and I just wanted us to finish strong.”

Laci Boyett backed up Wolff’s dominating performance with 10 points, but it was a pair of first-quarter steals, both of which led to transition points by Wolff, that set Cabot’s defensive tone early.

“I was just playing defense, and took the opportunities I was given,” Boyett said. “Luckily, we had people running down the floor to get lay ups off of it.”

The Lady Panthers led 27-21 at the half and added to their lead early in the third quarter when junior point guard Jaylin Bridges made a three-point basket at the 7:13 mark to make it 30-21, and Elliot Taylor added a free throw to give Cabot a 31-21 lead with 5:42 remaining in the third.

Senior forward Sydney Wacker kept Cabot going in the fourth quarter when the Lady Rebels started making a comeback run. Wacker took an assist from senior Micah Odom and scored inside with 6:13 remaining to give the Lady Panthers a 42-33 lead, and followed a three-point basket by Northside’s Bria Caldwell with another inside shot, this one assisted by Wolff, to increase the margin to 44-36.

It was noted at the press conference afterward that Bridges and Wacker, both coaches’ daughters, and Taylor, daughter of Arkansas Activities Association executive director Lance Taylor, had all grown up around basketball and seen many big games before becoming a part of the Lady Panthers varsity program.

“It’s overwhelming,” Taylor said. “It still hasn’t hit me quite yet. I’ve seen numerous teams lose and win, I’ve heard the Champions song over and over, I’ve seen the best of the best, and it’s just crazy that I’m here now.”

Odom, Wolff, Wacker and Bridges celebrated with high fives at midcourt as Taylor stepped to the line with 16 seconds remaining and Cabot holding a 50-41 lead.

That’s when Crowder pulled them off the court to make way for Maddie Smith, Sarah Fowler, Shauna Mertins and Lauren Morris.

Odom finished with seven points while Taylor had five points and six rebounds, and Wacker had four points. For Fort Smith Northside, Kilah Cummings led with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“First of all, I would like to congratulate coach Crowder and Cabot,” Lady Grizzlies coach Rickey Smith said. “They played an outstanding basketball game. Wolff is a dominating player, but I think the difference in the basketball game today was their defense. They had us rattled all night.”

The new Panther Arena has been open for less than three months, but the 2011-12 Lady Panthers team has already given the school plenty of banner material with a win in their own pre-holiday tournament, a 7A-Central Conference title and now the first state championship for basketball in CHS history.

“They have been so focused all week,” Crowder said. “And we try to stay relaxed. They’ve been focused all year, but all week they’ve been really focused. And this group set a goal, and we worked hard.

“They’ve done a tremendous job for us, and there is not a single one of them or a parent who has complained. Our fans have just embraced us, and they helped us get here.”