Friday, January 25, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Dismang plan will cost more

Avoiding the appearance that they are collaborating in any way with President Obama and his despised health-insurance reforms is forcing a few Republicans into painful circus contortions. They may need a doctor.

Take our neighbor, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who swore to fight Obamacare however he could. But there were few opportunities for people like Dismang once the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the law was fully constitutional in all but one aspect. (The senator and fellow Republicans did succeed last year in stopping the state of Arkansas from overseeing the insurance market for Arkansas policy buyers, which means they will have to shop for insurance on a national exchange supervised largely by the federal government. If an Arkansas policy holder has a grievance against his insurance provider next year, he will have to take it up with bureaucrats in Washington, not a state office run by the governor.)

But the Supreme Court gave the Republicans one opening. The final part of the Obamacare package to insure all Americans shifts the poorest working adults—those whose family incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 a year for an individual)—into Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that pays for medical care for children, the disabled, the elderly in nursing homes and a few other groups that cannot afford medical care or insurance. Their incomes are so low they cannot afford insurance premiums at any price.

The Supreme Court said Congress could not require states to participate in Medicaid, so any state could opt not to participate in the program for poor adults, leaving everyone insured but those. From 215,000 to 250,000 Arkansans would be left out.

Republicans leaped at the chance en masse last summer, vowing to keep their states and the working poor out of that program. But that soon became logically nonsensical, no matter how much you hated Barack Obama. For three years, from 2014 until 2017, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the medical costs of the working poor, minus small copays and deductibles the states might charge the patient who gets care. Billions of dollars will flow into the state, pulsing through the economy and lifting state tax receipts by millions of dollars a year. And, of course, low-income workers will have better health and security, and hospitals — including those in Jacksonville and Searcy — and other providers will be saved all the charitable care they now provide and avoid passing those costs on to people who are already insured.

If they participate, states will begin shouldering a small part of government costs in 2017. After 2020, the state will bear 10 percent, Uncle Sam 90 percent. So Republicans—or at least many of them—leaped at that opening. Even if it’s only 10 percent, the state budget cannot stand the extra Medicaid costs starting in 2020, they said, so it is better not to take Medicaid and to leave the 250,000 stranded without insurance.

But the state Human Services Department, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Rand Corporation in separate studies all concluded that the state budget would be better served by taking Medicaid and eventually paying 10 percent than by not taking it. Obamacare shifts part of the state’s costs under the children’s health insurance program to Washington, and the state will lose that huge saving if it foregoes the Medicaid expansion for adults.

What to do? Arkansas Republican leaders early this month came up with another possibility. Maybe we ought to allow the government to cover those working poor, or at least the poorest of them, those under the poverty line, but not those up to 138 percent of the poverty line. That group—the not quite desperately poor—could buy private insurance on the Obamacare market and get federal help paying for it. That way, Republicans could say they blocked a part of Obamacare and didn’t do too much harm.

But the federal government said the obvious. The law doesn’t allow states to write their own Medicaid programs. The Supreme Court said a state could take the Medicaid expansion or leave it.

Enter Sen. Dismang with another contortion. If the state rejects Medicaid or if it can somehow get the federal government to let it take Medicaid only for the desperately poor, he said, the state could pay the individual share of the private-insurance premiums on the Obamacare market for those between 100 and 138 percent of poverty while the federal government paid the rest.

Wait! Wasn’t the whole idea to avoid additional state costs, not enlarge them? Under Dismang’s notion, starting next January and forever thereafter, the state (that is, Arkansas taxpayers) would pay up to $300 a year in private premiums for those Arkansans who bought insurance (and more as premiums inevitably rise) plus the millions of dollars it would cost the state to administer the premium program. It should be mentioned that Dismang’s plan would raise overall health-care costs because private insurers pay more to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other providers than does Medicaid even while insurance companies take greater profits. Dismang’s plan would make one group much happier: the insurance industry. It’s hard to imagine any other group, including taxpayers, being happier.

That seems also to include Jonathan Dismang. He was not sure he would support Medicaid even if his ideas were adopted.

TOP STORY >> Death penalty sought for pair

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham will seek the death penalty for two men arrested this week in the shooting death of Hurbert Dewayne Jackson, whose body was found on the side of Bevis Road off Hwy. 15 last Saturday.

Jeremy Deshaun Davis, 29, of Lonoke was arrested Monday. Nicholas Ryan Holloway, 23, of Beebe was arrested Thursday. Graham said both will be charged with capital murder. Davis will also be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm.

Kayla Nicole Miller, 22, of Beebe, Davis’ girlfriend, was also arrested Monday.

She is charged with hindering apprehension, a Class B felony.

Davis and Miller appeared before Circuit Judge Sandy Huckabee on Friday morning for a bond hearing. Davis was denied bond. Miller’s bond was set at $250,000.

A bond hearing for Holloway is set for Tuesday morning.

All three are held in the Lonoke County Detention Facility.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said all three arrests were in Beebe with the assistance of the Beebe Police Department and the Arkansas State Police.

Staley won’t release the motive for the shooting of Jackson, 27, of Little Rock because the case is still under investigation.

The case was investigated by Capt. Steve McCoy, Cpl. Steve Morgan and Investigator Matt Edwards of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.

TOP STORY >> Colonel will be named general

Leader senior staff writer

Just a year after Col. Brian S. Robinson assumed command of the 19th Airlift Wing, President Barack Obama has nominated him for promotion to the rank of brigadier general.

Such nominations are made by the president after consultation with the secretary of defense, and must be confirmed by the Senate.

“I am truly honored to be nominated for promotion to brigadier general,” said Robinson. “This would not be possible without the support of my wonderful wife, Maureen, my family and the tremendous airmen I am privileged to serve with here at Team Little Rock.”

As host wing commander at the primary C-130 base in the world, Robinson is responsible for organizing, training and equipping the personnel who operate, maintain and sustain more than 90 C-130 aircraft.

The wing provides combat-ready forces to meet the combatant commanders’ requirements globally. He ensures support for combat, contingency, and humanitarian requirements while providing for the health and welfare of more than 12,000 personnel and families at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Typically, an Air Force commander at LRAFB serves for two years before rotating out to a new assignment. Although previously brigadier generals have commanded at the base, in recent years colonels have commanded. If Robinson is confirmed by the Senate, the actual promotion may not occur until his next posting. If the past is any indication, that would occur in about a year.

There is no information about either the timing or the nature of Robinson’s next assignment, according to Arlo Taylor, public information officer for the 19th Airlift Wing.

When Robinson assumed command from Col. Mike Minihan last January, he said, “I embrace the opportunity to serve and lead, and to ensure that the Black Knights and their families are adequately prepared to for the task ahead.

“We will continue to exercise our mission safely, effectively and professionally. with an eye on innovation, to be as efficient as operationally feasible and to face many challenges that are before us of us.”

At that ceremony, Minihan warned, “Smokey, every day of your command we’ll be in combat. Every hour, every minute, every second for the next two years, you will have somebody in harms way.

Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force, spoke of Robinson’s success in southwest Asia.

“Smokey epitomizes combat airlift,” Ramsay said.

He started in C-130s and transitioned to the larger C-17 Loadmaster.

“Robinson literally wrote the book on combat tactics and deployment of the C-17,” Ramsay said. “He is the first weapons instructor course graduate in the history of C-17 to command a squadron.”

Robinson’s most noteworthy accomplishment was when his wing got the daunting task in 2003 of figuring out how to insert an entire aviation brigade — the 173rd of Italy — into Iraq. It had never been done before with the C-17s.

“The mission was textbook,” Ramsay said.

He was awarded the bronze star, pinned on by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Before taking command at Little Rock, he was executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base.

Robinson was previously assigned to the Pentagon and was vice commander at the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston, S.C.

His operational assignments represent the full range of tactical and strategic airlift and aerial delivery, according to his official Air Force biography. He commanded an airlift squadron and a deployed expeditionary airlift squadron.

He also held staff assignments at Air Mobility Command, U.S. Central Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Robinson graduated from Philadelphia University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and received his commission after graduating from Air Force Officer Training School in December 1987 at Lackland AFB, Texas.

He has master’s degrees in military operational arts from Air University and in human-resource development from Webster University and a master’s degree in national resource strategy from National Defense University.

His career as a pilot began in 1989 after earning his pilot wings at Vance AFB, Okla., followed by a position as a T-38B instructor pilot.

Robinson is a command pilot and weapons officer with more than 4,300 hours in airlift and trainer aircraft.

TOP STORY >> Mayor emphasizes people

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher emphasized people over buildings in his four-page state-of-the-city address to the city council Thursday night.

“In reviewing 2012, rather than brick-and-mortar projects coming to the forefront as accomplishments, and there were some, they tend to take a back seat to the difficulties we experienced with the deaths and tragedies at the beginning of the year,” he said.

The mayor cited the death of Mike Simpson, the head of the water department, the fire deaths of a family of five, the death of a first responder and the injuries suffered by two others when they were struck by a vehicle.

Fletcher called Simpson’s death a shock that left a void.

“Mike greatly served the city through his leadership as Jacksonville Water superintendent. The ease with which he led the water department as it secured the future water sources for Jacksonville for years to come is even more appreciated today,” he told the council.

The mayor then recalled the events of March 19 when “in response to an emergency run on Hwy. 161 three of Jacksonville’s finest were run down, resulting in the tragic loss of Capt. Donnie Jones, who was a 32-year veteran with our fire department. “

Fletcher went on, “Fire engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo were both critically injured. Officer DiMatteo fought through the pain of his own broken body to locate and retrieve his radio to call for help. His heroic action has been credited for saving Fire Engineer Bowmaster.”

The mayor also told the council that in that same week, the city lost a family of five — a young mother and her four children — to a home fire that deeply affected and touched everyone in the city.

“This past year we also saw the end of service of three great citizens of Jacksonville in their elected position as aldermen. Marshall Smith with 31 years of service, Robert Stroud with 12 years of service and Linda Rinker with eight served the citizens of Jacksonville unselfishly and honorably. Their only motive was the betterment of this great city and the city is better because of their service,” the mayor said.

“We tend, as leaders, to get caught up with projects and sometimes have to be reminded that our job is about people and 2012 certainly brought us to that point,” he added.

The mayor then quickly went on to highlight achievements during the year, including the reopening of the Community Center pool after it had been closed for almost a year for repairs.

“The city saw our fire rating decrease from a three to a two after much hard work by our fire department under the leadership of Chief John Vanderhoof. This decrease provides more savings on fire rates through reductions in insurance rates for citizens,” Fletcher said.

He also talked about the growth of single family homes construction. Permits tripled from 2011 to 2012. He was also pleased to announce that the city police, fire and emergency communication system had been switch over to digital and was now a part of the Arkansas Wireless Information Net-work. “This system will provide us coverage statewide for our first responders and for he first time our departments will be able to talk to other agencies such as the air base, emergency management and other cities,” the mayor explained.

The mayor was also proud of the soon-to-be opened public safety building. “It will house the 911 communications operations, the Jacksonville Police Department, Jacksonville code enforcement and Jacksonville training office for fire and police, three large classrooms and a 3,000-square-foot safe room. This facility will serve as a source of pride not just for the departments housed there, but the entire community,” Fletcher said.

The mayor also made a strong push for Jacksonville’s continued effort to get its own school district.

“For the first time this past year, the state of Arkansas Board of Education and the Pulaski County Special School District together publicly stated their support for an independent Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district. Many things make this proposal attractive as it is definitely a win/win situation for all involved,” he said.

Fletcher added that the preliminary figures for a nearly-completed feasibility study show that Jacksonville can more than adequately support its own schools.

He added that in September ground was broken for Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School’s new College Preparatory Academy on North First Street. It is set for completion by the next school year.

In the area of economic development, Fletcher said the city was poised for great things.

“Due to Jacksonville’s central location and amenities, as well as being the home of Little Rock Air Force Base and benefiting from its annual economic impact of around $780 million, there is much attraction to our city that other cities don’t benefit from,” the mayor explained.

He added, “We need to be wise in promoting our assets including the fact that our city is also home to six universities that one can get everything from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree.”

Fletcher told the council that the shooting range is moving forward and should have major economic impact on the city.

Plus, he added that the city is still working on plans for the Wooten Road property, better recognized as the 445 acres the city wanted to donate to bring in the state fair.

Fletcher closed by quoting President Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

He added, “Our service will not be to burn or bide time, but to use it to build a thriving, healthy city with opportunities for those who want better for themselves.”

SPORTS STORY >> North Little Rock takes two at the Hangar

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock got a 7A/6A East Conference sweep at Mountain Home on Tuesday. The Bombers stayed with the Charging Wildcats for a little more than a half, but couldn’t find an answer when North Little Rock got hot from the outside in the third quarter. The end result was a 69-51 victory for the Wildcats. North Little Rock’s long-range shooting forced Mountain Home (7-10, 2-3) to extend its defense in the third quarter, and that’s when the Wildcats also began to find room inside for easy baskets.

North Little Rock (17-1, 5-0) pushed a 31-26 lead at halftime into a 52-36 lead by the end of the third quarter. Senior guard Gary Vines sparked a quick run to begin the period. Mountain Home scored the first bucket of the second half, but Vines then scored three-straight baskets, including a three pointer, followed by a transition bucket by Nick Scott that made it 38-28 in less than a minute. The two teams played evenly from there until senior forward Thomas Alexander hit two deep three pointers to spark an 8-0 run to end the frame.

Alexander led North Little Rock with 16 points while Dayshawn Watkins scored 13 and Kevaughn Allen 10. Mountain Home’s Jack Schmitt led all scorers with 24 points.

The Lady Wildcats turned a one-point deficit with two minutes left in the first half into a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter in their 56-49 win. Trailing by 26-25, North Little Rock ended the second quarter with a 6-0 run to go into halftime with a five-point lead. The Lady Wildcats then opened the third quarter with a 14-4 run to go up 45-30 with three minutes remaining.

Mountain Home pulled to within 51-47 with two minutes left in the game, but could only manage one more bucket and had to foul to extend the game. North Little Rock (11-4, 4-1) hit 5 of 7 free throws in the final 90 seconds to seal the victory.

Nine Lady Wildcats scored with senior point guard Sasha Giles leading the way with 11. Jasmin Mays and Kyra Collier scored nine each for North Little Rock.

Katie Kapler led Mountain Home (12-6, 2-3) with 19 points while Briana Leonard added 13 for the Lady Bombers.

North Little Rock hosted Little Rock Central last night after The Leader deadlines. The boys and girls will play their makeup game at Searcy on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot shoots well in fourth league victory

Leader sportswriter

Valuing each possession was the key in the Lady Panthers’ 48-37 conference win over Jonesboro on Tuesday at Panther Arena.

Cabot (12-4, 4-1) and Jonesboro (2-18, 0-5) each finished the 7A/6A East contest with a total of 38 shots from the floor, but the Lady Panthers made 53 percent of those shots, bettering the Lady Hurricane’s 34 percent.

“Yeah, it was pretty good,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder about her team’s shot selection. “We just wanted to focus on doing things right and getting on the boards and rebounding. I thought we did a pretty good job. Our defense did a pretty good job. We just have to execute better.”

Cabot began the game with an 8-2 scoring run, but the Lady Hurricane scored the next six points to knot it up at 8-8. Senior point guard Jaylin Bridges drained the first of her five three pointers with 1:04 to play in the opening quarter to put the Lady Panthers back up 11-8.

Jonesboro got another basket in the final minute, but Elliot Taylor scored on a highly-contested layup with 3 seconds to go, putting Cabot up 13-10 at the end of the first. The Lady Hurricane trimmed Cabot’s lead to one on a free throw by Susannah Kelley 33 seconds into the second quarter, and the score remained at 13-11 until the 5:15 mark.

Senior two-guard Ally Van Enk scored the first points of the second quarter for the Lady Panthers after a Jonesboro turnover, giving Cabot a 15-11 advantage. The Lady Hurricane responded with a 5-0 scoring run to take a 16-15 lead with 4:12 to play in the half.

However, Cabot closed the half with an 8-0 run, capped off by a last-second layup by sophomore post player Alyssa Hamilton which gave the Lady Panthers a 23-16 lead at the break. Hamilton, Taylor and Abbey Allgood combined for five steals in the second quarter that led to easy buckets for Cabot at the other end.

The Lady Panthers pushed their lead to 10 in the second half on another three pointer by Bridges, but Jonesboro made another run. The Lady Hurricane cut Cabot’s lead down to 29-24 as the third quarter wound down, but the Lady Panthers closed the quarter with a 4-0 run to take a 33-24 lead into the final frame.

Cabot carried its late third quarter run into the fourth by scoring the first five points of the quarter, pushing the lead to its largest of the evening at 38-24. Jonesboro trimmed it back down to single digits with consecutive threes by Morgan Malugen and Terrica Steele. But by the 2:00 mark, the Lady Panthers held a 46-32 lead.

Jonesboro cleaned up the score as the final seconds ticked away, and Taylor scored the final basket of the game inside the paint with five seconds to play.

“Every game is closer than I want it to be,” Crowder said when asked if the game was closer than she had anticipated. “I always like to win big if we can. (Jonesboro’s) a good team, well-coached. We need to work on our turnovers and getting better passes. We need to get to the line more. We only got to the line nine times.”

Cabot made 3 of 9 shots (33 percent) from the free-throw line and missed its first six attempts. Jonesboro was 5 of 8 from the line (63 percent). Both teams made 38 percent of its threes and committed 18 turnovers in the game. All of Cabot’s three pointers were made by Bridges, who led all scorers with 15 points.

Taylor put together a solid game, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. Hamilton scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. Van Enk and Allgood scored four points apiece.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils escape PA

Special to The Leader

Intensity was high all night in the Alex Hugg Gymnasium, but the Jacksonville Red Devils (12-3, 5-0) found themselves victorious on the road against the Pulaski Academy Bruins (6-5, 3-2) at the end of overtime with a final score of 68-65.

Despite Jacksonville’s victory, Coach Victor Joyner was not pleased with the team’s performance. “[We] didn’t come out with any fire or any grit. Got out-hustled, got out-scrapped,” Joyner said.

There were many lead changes throughout the game, and the biggest lead of the night was the five points Jacksonville scored immediately following tip-off. That lead was quickly topped by Pulaski Academy hitting back-to-back threes. The Bruins continued to rain down threes all night long, hitting 4 of 6 in the first quarter and 10 of 18 on the night.

The Red Devils didn’t fare as well from beyond the arc, hitting only 3 out of 10, and those three all came from senior Aaron Smith. However, their inaccuracy from deep was counter-balanced with their success in the paint.

Senior Justin McCleary led the Red Devils’ scrappy, fast-paced offense from point guard almost all game long. He had assists to nearly every Red Devil who scored from the field.

When senior Khaleel Hart drove to the basket, there was a good chance it was going in. He led the team in points with 15, followed closely by senior Brandon Brockman with 12. McCleary had 11, junior Sergio Berkley had 10, and Smith scored 9.

Jacksonville out-rebounded the Bruins throughout, but missed many second and third chance shots which could’ve given them much better control over the flow of the game.

The Red Devils had an opportunity to wrap things up in regulation. Senior Kevin Richardson was subbed in during the fourth quarter and made a clutch steal which led to a layup that put Jacksonville ahead by three.

But a costly foul at the buzzer from the otherwise reliable McCleary sent Bruin Chase Snider to the line for three shots and a chance to tie the game.

Snider hit all three to lock the score at 57 and send the game into overtime.

The Red Devils began overtime with a 5-point run, but Bruins senior Brandon Brady answered quickly with a deep three. Jacksonville put two more on the board from the free-throw line, but Brady hit yet another three. McCleary went to the line for the last time and hit both free throws to put Jacksonville’s lead at three with just 12.1 seconds left in overtime. The Bruins missed the at-the-buzzer three-point attempt to give The Red Devils the 68-65 win.

Joyner was not pleased with the officiating throughout the night, which he said leaned heavily in favor of the Bruins.

“When you’re not getting any calls or any help and you have a game with that much diversity. You have to work that hard to get one foul,” Joyner said. “But my kids fought with some adversity, and they came out and did what they needed to do. Because that [officiating] was ridiculous.”

Joyner added that his team has some work to do before it continues conference play.

“Everything. We have to work on everything. We have to work on their mental focus, mental toughness.”

The Red Devils hosted Sylvan Hills on Friday, and they play a makeup game against Little Rock McClellan this evening with the Lady Red Devils tipping off at 3 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke’s boys top Cardinals, take first

Leader sportswriter

It was business as usual in 2-4A Conference play for Lonoke on Tuesday as the Jackrabbits mopped up the floor with Stuttgart in a 66-31 mercy-ruled victory at the LHS gymnasium. It wasn’t business as usual on Thursday. The Jackrabbits toppled top-ranked Dollarway 59-55 on the road to snap the Cardinals’ 17-game winning streak and move into a tie for first place.

Junior Jamel Rankin scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Jackrabbits back from a nine-point deficit at the end of three. Lonoke went to a full-court trap and forced several turnovers, including four steals by Rankin.

Rankin finished with 26 points, with Blake Mack adding 13 and Reid McKenzie 10 for the Jackrabbits.

Dollarway (17-2, 9-1) holds the tiebreaker over the Jackrabbits by virtue of its 65-39 win over Lonoke in early December.

In Tuesday’s game, Lonoke (13-4, 8-1) marched out to a fast 7-0 lead and led by as much as 13-2 in the first quarter before Stuttgart came back early in the second period with a 9-2 run that briefly made it a game. The Jackrabbits shut out their guests over the final 3:13 of the first half while racking up 16 unanswered points to take a commanding 35-18 lead at the break.

The mercy rule was finally reached with mostly subs on the floor for Lonoke with 6:24 remaining when Zack Risner scored inside to give the Jackrabbits a 60-29 lead.

“We jumped on them early and then kind of relaxed,” Jackrabbits coach Dean Campbell said. “Against good teams, you can’t do that. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, we did some good things. We turned up the pressure in the second quarter and got some turnovers. We continue to try and work on our press a little bit.

“I wasn’t overly excited at halftime even though we had made a run. We do that way too much. We still have way too many valleys on our play.”

Some might rule a coach being so upset following a blowout win as slightly nit picky, but for Campbell, it’s all about staying focused on the big picture.

“It is, but we expect to try and make a run into the state tournament,” Campbell said. “If you don’t have extremely high expectations, it’s kind of hard to do that. All along, we’ve talked about it, and our expectations are a lot higher than they think they can really do at times.”

Junior guard Blake Mack did all the damage for Lonoke in the early going with a three-point basket to start the game, followed by three trips to the free-throw line that generated four more points to give the Jackrabbits a 7-0 lead with 5:54 remaining in the opening quarter. Mack hit another three to start the second quarter, and closed out the half in show-stopping fashion with a transition dunk with 33 seconds remaining on his way to a game-high 17 points.

“He does that,” Campbell said. “He plays in spurts and can score in bunches, but with what he does for us offensively, he has to improve defensively, because he could be unbelievable for us defensively. Once he matures into that role of being a defensive-minded guy, then all that other offensive stuff comes easier.”

The Ricebirds cut Lonoke’s lead to 19-17 with 3:45 left to play in the first half following a three-point basket for guard Kenneth Avery, but Risner got the Jackrabbits going on a scoring run that went unanswered for the remainder of the second quarter with a putback and a free throw, followed by a basket for Mack at the 2:49 mark that made it 24-17. Senior Dra Offord then hit his second three pointer of the night to put Lonoke back up by double digits.

Darrius McCall added a basket with 1:34 left in the half to make it 31-18, and hit another shot just before the buzzer for a 35-18 ’Rabbit lead at the break.

Lonoke shot 43 percent from the floor (22 of 51) and held the visiting Ricebirds to 25 percent (13 of 53).

Offord added 14 points for Lonoke while McCall finished with nine points and Risner seven. Risner, Mack and post player Reid McKenzie shared top-rebounding honors with six boards each. For Stuttgart, Avery led with 12 points while post player Chris Hooks finished with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

The Jackrabbits played a Southside Batesville last night after deadline. They will take on Marianna at home on Tuesday. Lonoke won the first meeting with the Trojans 53-37.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears thwart Falcon rally

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills picked up its first conference win of the season Tuesday, holding off a fierce comeback attempt and beating nearby rival North Pulaski 62-57 in Sherwood.

“I told my guys I needed some fighters,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “When they started coming back on us, I could see it in their faces. In games past, we’d be right in it until late and then just sort of fade away. I told my guys I need to see fighters that won’t give in when it gets to those final minutes. I think we saw some guys grow up a little bit today.”

The Falcons charged back from down 34-15 at halftime to within 43-37 less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Then came the turning point in the game. The Falcons had the ball with the chance to get closer, but turned it over.

Sylvan Hills (5-8, 2-4) got a five-point possession thanks to aggressively attacking the offensive glass. Ronnie Hinton missed a baseline jumper, but David Johnson got the rebound. He missed his first attempt; Darius James got the rebound and missed. Johnson got another rebound, hit the bucket and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but James got the rebound, found Hinton on the wing, who nailed a three pointer to make it 48-37.

“Absolutely that was a key possession for us,” Davis said. “You see the life come back to us. They got it close a few more times after that. The difference was now we know we can fight them off. That was a huge possession.”

The Falcons were shorthanded in the first half. Starting forward Aaron Williamson missed the entire game after the senior was ejected from the Little Rock Christian game the previous Friday. Junior guard and the team’s leading scorer Joe Aikens was suspended for the first half by coach Roy Jackson for undisclosed reasons. Whether due to the absence of two every-day starters, or to some other reason, the Falcons were terribly out of sync on offense the whole first half. Freshman RaShawn Langston scored over half the team’s points with eight. Only one other North Pulaski starter scored a basket in the first half.

Sylvan Hills wasn’t much better in the first quarter, but the Bears caught fire from three-point range in the second. Sylvan Hills made five threes in just six attempts in the second period.

Hinton went 3 for 4 in the second while DeMonte Davidson came off the bench and drained two attempts. Hinton finished the game 5 of 6 from three-point range and the Bears hit 8 of 13 combined.

They were 9 of 36 from two-point range for a total of 42 points from the field. The Falcons hit 22 of 53 two pointers and 2 of 8 threes. The scoring difference came at the line.

North Pulaski (8-8, 2-3) played aggressive defense throughout. It created some points but it also sent the Bears to the line 39 times, where they made 20. The Falcons were just 7 of 10 on free throws.

Many of Sylvan Hills’ free throws came late in the fourth quarter when the Falcons were forced to foul in an attempt to lengthen the game.

The Bears could have put the game away earlier, but made just 9 of 22 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.

Aikens sparked and led the Falcons comeback attempt and finished as the game’s leading scorer despite not playing the first half. He finished with 21.

Langston scored 16 and grabbed nine rebounds while Eric Mouton added nine points for the Falcons.

Hinton led the Bears with 17 points while Johnson and Trajan Doss scored nine each. Johnson led all players with 11 rebounds while Darius James finished with eight boards.

Sylvan Hills out rebounded North Pulaski 38-28.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Is it the end for PCSSD?

The state Education Department will supervise the Pulaski County Special School District for three more years if the state Legislature extends the current law from two years to five years of state control.

According to an exclusive report in The Leader last weekend by veteran staff writer John Hofheimer, the state Education Department and the district’s interim superintendent claim PCSSD is still too sick to stand alone. Let’s just say the district is on life support.

According to state law, if PCSSD is not out of fiscal distress by July, the state can disband the district, annex it to another or move various schools to other districts. The state Education Department would rather wait three more years before it decides to break the district up once and for all. You won’t hear much sympathy for preserving the Pulaski County district in the Legislature or anywhere else.

State law now allows only two years of supervision by the Education Department, but Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell of Cabot told us he will ask the Legislature to give him three more years — a total of five — to fix ailing school districts in fiscal distress. There are three such districts around the state.

Besides PCSSD, Dollarway and Helena-West Helena school districts are in fiscal distress and being run by the state, with Kimbrell acting as a one-man school board. Even after two years of state oversight, it doesn’t appear that any of those districts will solve their financial problems at the end of the school year, as had been hoped, especially the Pulaski County district.

Kimbrell and Jerry Guess, now in his second year as acting superintendent, believe their work is far from over.

“At this point, I’m not convinced the district is ready to be turned loose,” Kimbrell said.

Here’s one state bureaucrat who has earned his pay, although we would prefer local control of our schools, especially in Jacksonville. The Cabot, Beebe and Lonoke districts are doing just fine without the state breathing down their necks. Sherwood, too, is doing well, but its future remains uncertain if Pulaski County is broken up.

A death sentence for the county district might make it easier for Jacksonville to end up with its own district, depending on when the state Education Department releases PCSSD from oversight. The state should disband the county district anytime before 2016 and move its various parts into Little Rock, North Little Rock and Jacksonville.

Five years of state supervision is not exactly a rosy scenario, although it does improve Jacksonville’s chances of getting its own district. Kimbrell said breaking up PCSSD won’t necessarily lead to the creation of a new Jacksonville district. The courts have the final say on that matter, but that’s what both the state and district have said is the eventual goal: Let Jacksonville start with a clean slate. The other areas of PCSSD would do just fine in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Kimbrell told Hofheimer that in addition to asking legislators to amend state law to give the state five years to correct fiscal problems at troubled school districts, he would seek other changes, such as a law requiring the training of school board members in proper administration of their offices.

The PCSSD school board, before it was disbanded almost two years ago, was sadly lacking in leadership. The board was divided between pro- and anti-union members. Neither faction knew how to help run a school district or hire competent superintendents.

PCSSD failed to adhere to a good set of fiscal policies and procedures as required by the state Bureau of Legislative Audit. What’s more, the troubled district has not built a healthy and sustainable budget carryover in several years. It’s amazing they didn’t shut down the district a long time ago.

In 2011, a state audit uncovered serious fiscal problems at PCSSD, but there’s no reason to expect much progress since then. A new audit is being reviewed and could be published as early as Feb. 13, according to Larry Hunter, deputy legislative auditor for educational institutions.

The likelihood of the district losing $20 million a year in state desegregation funding will complicate the district’s financial problems, Kimbrell said.

He is hoping that when the state does stop its $20 million infusion of desegregation money to the district, the money will be phased out over at least two or three years. Otherwise, expect the district’s finances to worsen.

TOP STORY >> Medicaid issue still undecided

Leader senior staff writer

With legislators settling into committee assignments, many of them learning the ropes for the first time, Medicaid expansion is on everyone’s minds, but not yet on the agenda.

It seems likely that some form of Medicaid expansion — part of President Obama’s controversial Affordable Care Act — could be passed this session.

Expansion would add 250,000 people to Arkansas’ Medicaid rolls, but with initial federal help, would save the state $100,000 in 2015, growing to $500,000 a year by 2021, according to Dr. Andy Allison, state Medicaid director.

That’s largely because the state Medicaid match, currently 30 percent, would be reduced at first to zero percent, then growing to 10 percent over time.

Half of Arkansas’ pregnancies are covered by Medicaid, so the state pays 30 percent of those costs. But under the new plan, the federal government would pay 100 percent the first three years of the plan, and then gradually up to 10 percent of that cost would be borne by the state.

Republican opponents to the expansion say those projections are incorrect and some suggest that changing the income eligibility, the expansion would be available to fewer people and more affordable.

Dr. Joe Thompson, the state health director, spoke to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Tuesday. Members heard about the amount of uncompensated care at UAMS and the amount of help it would get from so-called Obamacare and Medicaid expansion.

The Medicaid expansion is part of the president’s Affordable Care law and would serve four currently unserved, uninsured pools of clients —Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, increased hospital benefit coverage, limited coverage for 19- to 64-year-olds and a limited package of benefits for those 65 or older not served by Medicare.

State Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, says Medicaid expansion is currently as-signed to the House Public Health Committee to which he is assigned.

He said that so far he’s not seen evidence that Republicans would seek to alter or replace the bill.

“I’m sure other options and variables will come out of that,” Perry said. “They will probably start taking shape over the next two or three weeks.”

Perry said that reducing eligibility for the program would reduce the cost, “but how many other underserved people would be left (uninsured).”

The state owes the federal government about $300 million in Medicaid matching money, and the state will have to use surplus general revenue funds to pay that off, according to state Rep. Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke.

Some legislators want a special session to deal with Medicaid expansion, according to Rep. Patti Julian, D-North Little Rock. They have asked to governor to get a ruling from Washington on whether partial Medicaid expansion is an option. She said early indications are that it is not.

They also are trying to get the numbers nailed down better. Some have challenged the numbers put forward by the state.

Otherwise, legislators have just been taking care of a bunch of housekeeping appropriation bills.

McCrary, who is on the House Transportation Committee, said a bill to include the White County portion of U.S. Hwy. 67 as part of Arkansas’ Rock ’n’ Roll Highway was voted out of committee Tuesday with a “do-pass” recommendation.

Several area legislators had not returned calls by deadline.

TOP STORY >> Ex-Cabot teacher gets prison term

Leader staff writer

Eleven months after she was arrested for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old former student, Stacy Stracener has been stripped of her teaching license and sentenced to six years in prison.

Stracener, 37, pleaded guilty in December to 11 counts of sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree. Circuit Court Judge Sandy Huckabee sentenced her Tuesday morning. She is currently held in the Lonoke County Jail awaiting transfer to a state prison. She will be eligible for parole in about two years.

Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot School District superintendent, filed the complaint that led to her arrest.

The Arkansas Department of Education revoked her teaching license earlier this month.

Public sentiment has been predominantly on the side of Stracener’s family since she was arrested in February 2012 after the boy’s mother contacted Cabot School District.

Some speculated in conversations with this reporter that the boy was a willing participant since he told about the 13 sexual encounters only after his mother found text messages between Stracener and him.

“Shame on her and shame on him,” was one comment from a Little Rock TV station blog.

But Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said that state law holds teachers, like jailers and foster parents, to a higher standard.

Although he felt the pressure from the community to recommend probation for Stracener because she has children, Graham said he always told her that a plea agreement would include time in prison.

The actual plea agreement was for 15 years in prison with nine suspended.

“She was a teacher having sex with a child. We’ve got to draw some lines,” Graham said in December after she pleaded guilty.

If Stracener had been a man and the victim a girl, people may have viewed it differently, he said.

But the law does not make such a distinction. The victim was a child, he said.

At the time of her arrest, Stracener was no longer the boy’s teacher. She was a family friend.

The evidence against her included DNA taken from her car and records from her phone and the boy’s phone.

TOP STORY >> Construction rebounds in communities

Leader staff writer

Area construction has clearly rebounded from the lows of 2011. Cabot’s commercial construction was up nearly tenfold from 2011 to 2012, and overall building permit values were up 300 percent.

The value of construction in Jacksonville more than doubled from 2011 to 2012 and in Sherwood it came close to doubling.

Lonoke and Ward also saw increases. Only Austin had a drop in construction values.

In Cabot, even though three fewer permits were issued in 2012, compared to 2011, the value more than tripled.

In 2011, Cabot permits for single-family homes and commercial projects came to $14.7 million, but in 2012 it shot up to $52.3 million.

Cabot commercial projects alone went from $4.2 million in 2011 to $40.6 million in 2012. A gated apartment complex project valued at $22 million, plus school facilities and a new Dollar General led the commercial boon.

Single-family home permits jumped about $1 million, going from $10.5 million to 11.7 million in 2012.

Construction permits were up by more than 100 in 2012 and the value of work nearly twice that of 2011 in Sherwood. In Jacksonville the number of permits jumped by 58 and the value jumped by 110 percent.

In 2012, Sherwood issued 652 building permits worth $42.8 million, compared to 535 permits worth $23.8 million in 2011. For Jacksonville, 228 permits were issued in 2012 with a total value of $28.9 million, compared to 170 permits worth $13.2 million in 2011.

Six of eight categories of Sherwood building permits were up in 2012, especially commercial construction, up over 400 percent from 2011 and single-family construction up 50 percent.

Commercial construction came in at $11.3 million in 2012, compared to $2.1 million in 2011.

Single-family home construction went up from $13.7 million in 2011 to $21.9 million in 2012 with 144 permits being issued.

Commercial remodeling in Sherwood was up, based on permits, going from $5.7 million to $6.9 million; home remodeling moved up slightly from $1.5 million in 2011 to $1.7 million in 2012, swimming pool permits went up from $211,000 to $475,000 and the value of fence permits went from $289,000 to $353,000.

Only storage building permits fell slightly, dropping from $190,000 down to $154,000.

For the second year in a row, Sherwood issued no multi-family construction permits.

Sherwood finished the year on a high note issuing 25 permits in December worth a total of $1.5 million compared to 36 permits in December 2011 worth just $577,000.

In Jacksonville, five of the seven permit categories showed improvement from 2011 to 2012.

Commercial permits jumped from $5.6 million in 2011 to $10.2 million in 2012; commercial remodeling jumped from $2.8 million to $6.5 million; single-family home permits went up from $3.4 million to $9.8 million, multi-family permits jumped from none in 2011 to $875,000 in 2102; and remodeling permits moved up from $660,000 to $989,000.

Permits for additions such as sheds, pools, room additions and garages dropped, falling from $726,000 in 2011 to $601,000 in 2012. No permits were issued for HUD rehabs in either year.

In Lonoke, the value of construction jumped from $3.4 million in 2011 to $11.4 million in 2012. For the year, 39 permits totaling $11.4 million, mostly miscellaneous permits such as remodels, room additions, fences and sheds but 2012 permits also included four homes, a McDonald’s, a Waffle House and a gym for the school district.

Ward issued eight less permits in 2012, but the value jumped by $600,000. In 2011, the city issued 76 permits, including 46 for single-family homes, worth $3.5 million. In 2012, 68 permits were issued, including 57 for homes, worth $4.1 million.

Austin saw almost a $2 million drop in permit value from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, the city issued 58 permits, 57 for homes and one for a new Dollar General Store, valued at $7.2 million. The year before, the city issued 76 permits, 75 for homes and one for a daycare, valued at $9 million.

Dollars figures weren’t available for Beebe, but permits jumped by more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2012.

In 2011, the city issued 52 permits, including 28 for homes, two for duplexes and three for commercial projects. In 2012, permits jumped to 83, including 45 for homes, two triplexes, three apartment complexes and 10 commercial projects.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bison win three in as many days

Leader sportswriter

Last week was a busy one for the Carlisle Lady Bison as they played three games in three days and won all three.

On Thursday the Lady Bison beat rival Des Arc in a 2A-6 Conference game and on Friday they beat Brinkley 40-33 to improve to 8-2 in conference.

The win on Friday avenged a loss earlier in the season to the Lady Tigers, and on Saturday the Lady Bison got a hard-fought 49-40 win over Conway St. Joseph in a tough nonconference game at Bison Arena.

“We’ve played three days in a row,” said Lady Bison coach Jonathan Buffalo. “We played a make-up with Des Arc and we were able to do pretty much what we wanted in that game. We had a more physical game Friday night with Brinkley. They beat us at their place by 10. So that was a big game for us.

“We matched their intensity and were able to come out with a seven-point win. And tonight, against a team that is consistently good and consistently competitive, always there around the end in the regional and state tournament. That was a quality win for our basketball team.”

In Saturday’s game, Carlisle narrowly led Conway St. Joseph 10-9 near the end of the first quarter, but Sloane Henderson came off the bench and scored the last four points of the frame to give the Lady Bison a 14-9 lead.

Carlisle carried that momentum into the second quarter and built a 22-11 lead over the Lady Bulldogs after starting the quarter with an 8-2 scoring run, but by the end of the half Conway St. Joseph (11-11, 4-1) cut the Lady Bison lead to 22-18.

The third quarter was similar to the second as Carlisle opened with a 5-1 run, capped off by a pair of free throws by Faith Walker with 4:19 to play in the quarter.

The Lady Bison led 29-21 midway through the frame, but Conway St. Joseph trimmed the deficit to three points as the quarter wound down. How-ever, Carlisle’s senior two-guard Callie Hillman drained a three pointer and junior post player Breanna Young scored on a rebound and putback to give the Lady Bison a 35-27 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

The Lady Bison pushed their lead to double digits early in the fourth and maintained that lead for the majority of the period. Just before the buzzer sounded, Conway St. Joseph’s Taylor Welch hit a three to cut the final score to single digits.

The Lady Bison continue to control their own destiny. If they win their final four conference games, they’ll lock up the conference championship, a feat they were unable to accomplish a year ago.

“We have four games left,” Buffalo said. “Four conference games and I told them we have to get better every day at every aspect of the game. We have to get better handling the basketball. We have to get better as far as shot selection in certain situations. There’s always room for improvement.

“We’re in the home stretch. We’re 12-7 (overall), 8-2 in the conference, sitting tied for first place. So we’re in control of our own destiny. We win the next four and we win a conference championship.”

Walker led all scorers with 12 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds. Young finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Hillman scored nine points and Henderson added eight.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons pull away for big road victory

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons got a crucial conference road win Friday, beating Little Rock Christian Academy 59-42 in west Little Rock. The game was close for most of three quarters. North Pulaski began to pull away late in the third and ran away with it in the fourth. In other words, it went just as Falcon coach Roy Jackson scripted it.

“I knew they didn’t play too many people so we wanted to play a lot of guys, keep the pressure on them and wear them down,” Jackson said. “I think in the third quarter they started getting a little tired. But it was nip and tuck most of the way. They haven’t won any games in conference yet, but they’re a capable team. They have some things that can hurt you.”

A three pointer by junior Joe Aikens broke a tie just before the halftime buzzer, and gave the Falcons a 24-21 lead heading into intermission.

A couple of occurrences forced Jackson to go a little deeper into the bench than even he expected. Starting post player Aaron Williamson was ejected and junior guard Fred Thomas got into foul trouble early and sat for extended periods. That allowed a couple of players to step up that Jackson was glad to see.

“Andrew Wilson stepped up really well,” Jackson said. “Him and Steven Farrior are the two that really stand out in my mind as coming on and having a really good game. I’ve really been wanting Andrew to come around. I played him in a junior varsity game earlier in the week and he did really well. I think that gave him some confidence and he carried that over into this game. Hopefully he can keep that going.”

Wilson sparked the run late in the third that was the first step in the Falcons taking control of the game. His two buckets off offensive rebounds gave North Pulaski (8-7, 2-2) a nine-point lead at 41-32.

The victory gives the Falcons the odd statistic of being 2-0 on the road and 0-2 at home so far in league play.

“You always want to take care of home court but we had two of the tougher teams in here so far,” Jackson said. “So it was important for us to get this win on the road and try to even things out. I think the kids felt like their backs were against the wall. We stressed the point of playing hard every possession offensively and defensively. I think they grasped that and really played well.”

Freshman Rashawn Langston led North Pulaski with 17 points while Aikens finished with 14. Sam Dunkum led the Warriors (3-11, 0-4) with 12 points.

North Pulaski traveled to Sylvan Hills on Tuesday after The Leader deadlines, and will host Little Rock McClellan on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls’ rally beats Blue Devils

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers kept pace in the 7A/6A East Conference with a close 40-36 victory at West Memphis on Friday.

The Lady Panthers improved to 11-4 overall with the win, and 3-1 in the 7A/6A East. They are tied with North Little Rock for second place in the league standings – a game behind unbeaten Little Rock Central.

Senior forward Elliot Taylor led all scorers for the Lady Panthers with 18 points while Jaylin Bridges added seven points. The Lady Panthers shot 41 percent from the floor compared to 47 percent for the Lady Blue Devils.

Cabot led 11-10 at the end of one quarter, but West Memphis rallied back in the second to take a 19-17 lead at halftime of the defensive-oriented game. The Lady Panthers fell further behind in the third quarter before dominating the final quarter 17-6, including an 8-for-10 performance at the free-throw line. They also stepped up their defensive effort in that time by limiting the Lady Devils to three field goals.

“I think our experience made a difference late in the game,” Lady Panthers assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “We never lost our cool. We felt like we were going to win, even when we were behind. We played tough and went after loose balls. We also got some big rebounds and hit our free throws late.”

Senior Abbey Allgood led rebounding with five boards and also had three steals for the Lady Panthers.

The Panther boys team was not as fortunate as they fell to the Blue Devils 45-30 on Friday. The loss dropped the Panthers to 6-9 overall and 1-3 in the 7A/6A East Conference.

“It helps to make shots,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said. “They did and we didn’t. I don’t think it was a case that they were 15 points better than we were, we just couldn’t get any shots to fall for us.”

Hunter York was a bright spot for Cabot as he went 50 percent (5 for 10) from three-point range to lead the Panthers with 15 points.

“He has been a bright spot for us,” Bridges said. “I’m getting a lot of confidence in him. We just didn’t hit much early on.”

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 12-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and led 22-10 at the half. At the end of the third quarter, the advantage had stretched to 34-15 before the Panthers doubled their total amount of points in the final eight minutes.

Bridges emphasized shooting during Monday practice. His praise of his team’s defensive efforts is equaled by his frustration when it comes to shooting.

“We’re shooting that son of a gun everywhere but in the hole,” Bridges said. “But we’ll keep plugging. We’re playing really well on the defensive end, but it’s tough for us when it comes to scoring points. I’ve never had that.”

SPORTS STORY >> GCT no match against Badgers

Leader sportswriter

Senior forward Austin Burroughs started the job and junior point guard Tanner Chapman finished it as Beebe overcame a sloppy second half on both ends to take a 67-47 victory over Greene County Tech at Badger Sports Arena on Friday.

The Badgers stayed unbeaten in 5A East Conference play with a strong start led by Burroughs’ 14 first-quarter points, and a 9-of-10 performance by Chapman at the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.

Beebe (12-4, 4-0) shot 15 for 26 from the floor for 58 percent, scoring nearly half its total points at the stripe while the Eagles (7-9, 1-4) went 18 for 30 for an even 60 percent. The poor officiating from the girls’ game that proceeded carried over into the boys’ matchup, as the Eagles turned in a defensive effort that gave the game a physical tone.

“I was really proud of them,” Badgers coach Ryan Marshall said. “Tech came in with their backs against the wall. This was a game they had to win, and I thought our kids were really more intense and outhustled them in the first half. I thought we got after it defensively.

“The way they defend and their physicality caused it to get ugly at times. I thought we matched it and made them look ugly too. The game being the stretch that it was, sometimes the officials get relaxed and let a lot of the bumping go on. It was what it was, and we knew it was going to be that way.”

For all the questionable calls and more specifically no calls, it was a routine call by the officials at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter in which longtime Eagles coach Scott Bowlin sealed his early exit from the game when he disputed a foul. He did not let the first technical-foul call against him deter him from continuing to argue his case, and at one point appeared to calm down before going on another tangent that got him ejected.

Things went smoother for the Badgers in the first quarter as Burroughs took over the game early with four free throws followed by four unanswered field goals, including a transition dunk at the 1:55 mark that got the home crowd on its feet and gave Beebe a 12-4 lead.

The Eagles cut into Beebe’s lead in the second quarter and trailed 24-16 at halftime, but the Badgers got a boost from senior guard Jake Schlenker early in the third quarter on the way to a commanding 43-26 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Schlenker converted a basket and free throw at the 6:27 mark to make it 30-16, and followed that with a free throw and a defensive rebound that led to another shot with 4:32 remaining in the period. It was Burroughs who went to the line following the incident with Bowlin for four technical shots, as he converted the final three to give the Badgers a 39-21 lead.

“I thought he showed a lot of great leadership,” Marshall said of Burroughs. “Offensively, he carried us in the first half. He’s such a special kid, not just basketball wise he’s good to have on the team.”

Both teams reached the double bonus early in the fourth quarter, and Chapman took advantage with repeated trips to the foul line. Chapman finished with 12 points, all of which came off of free throws.

Burroughs led all scorers with 28 points while Schlenker added eight points. For Greene County Tech, Andrew Hovis led with 14 points and Heath Matheny had nine points.

With a 4-0 start in conference, the Badgers have established themselves as early contenders in the 5A East.

“I think getting out to a 4-0 start is big,” Marshall said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good situation. We’re not to where we’re looking around thinking, ‘gosh, we’ve got to win.’ I’m extremely proud of them.”

Beebe traveled to Wynne last night for a game played after Leader deadlines. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition.

The Badgers and Lady Badgers stay on the road later this week when they travel to Nettleton on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils, ladies pound Cougars

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville struggled a bit early, but got things together fairly quickly to rout Helena-West Helena Central 78-51 on Friday at Central High School.

Facing a large and loud student section, Jacksonville senior Justin McCleary scored the first nine points of the game on three consecutive three pointers to quiet the crowd. The Cougars answered with the next seven points, but the Red Devils took over from there.

“We didn’t play the best mental game we could’ve played,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “It was a different atmosphere, they have that rubber floor. My kids were just out of sorts early on. We were making unforced turnovers we don’t usually make. We had a chance to put them away pretty early but the unforced turnovers let them back in it.”

The Cougars did have an inside force that made things difficult for Jacksonville. Jouvan Donald’s post play forced Joyner to go deep into his bench after all his post players got into foul trouble.

“We didn’t have an answer for him,” Joyner said. “He got all three of my post players in foul trouble. Once they all got into foul trouble, we just had to switch to a zone and force them to make outside shots.”

But it was Jacksonville (11-3, 4-0) that got hot in the second half, especially shooting guard Aaron Smith. Smith is the team’s best outside shooter, but went 0 for 5 from behind the arc in the first half. He caught fire in the second half and ended leading the team with 21 points.

“Once Aaron started knocking down those threes, they had to extend their defense and that opened up some lanes to get to the basket,” Joyner said. “They stayed in that 1-3-1 defense the whole game and you can’t pass up open shots. It was just a matter of somebody starting to hit a few of them and opening things up for us.”

Smith’s barrage came at the start of the fourth quarter. Jacksonville led 42-25 at halftime. They managed just 13 points in the third quarter, but held HWHC to five, and led by 25 to start the fourth. The Cougars best offensive quarter was the last one, but the fast-pace suited Jacksonville as well and the Red Devils had an answer for every Cougar rally.

McCleary finished with 17 for Jacksonville while Donald led Central with 14. Frederick Bedford scored 13 for the Cougars (6-7, 2-2)

The Lady Red Devils (11-4, 4-0) had barely broken a sweat before their game with the Lady Cougars (4-9, 1-3) was all but over in their 74-36 win. Jacksonville’s guards harassed Central into numerous turnovers, then converted near flawlessly in transition. It all led to a 30-4 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“The press was really working well early,” Lady Red Devil coach Katrina Mimms said. “Once we got the ball we had people shooting the lanes and filling it out wide. We got a bunch of layups and we shot it really well.”

Sophomore Shakyla Hill led the way with 19 points while juniors Keke Alcorn and Tiffany Smith scored 13 and 12 respectively. The team’s leader in scoring average, Jessica Jackson, scored 11 points.

Mimms was pleased to see her team put up big offensive numbers without relying on Jackson to carry most of the load.

“Keke Alcorn has been in double figures now in these last few games,” Mimms said. “The good thing about that is she’s done it in different ways. Here she got a bunch of layups. In other games she’s been hitting from outside. So it’s a good thing to keep her confidence up and keep her shooting it. And I think Tiff (Smith) is starting to shoot the ball really well.”

Jacksonville hosts two games this weekend. The boys and girls will face Sylvan Hills on Friday with the girls starting at 6 p.m. On Saturday, they play their makeup with Little Rock McClellan with the girls tipping things off at 3 p.m.