Friday, February 01, 2013

EDITORIAL >> State gambles $132 million

Gov. Mike Beebe presented us last week with another illustration of how hard times make beggars of us all. Good times, too, for that matter.

Beebe’s long-awaited announcement of the “largest economic development project in Arkansas history” was this: If Arkansas taxpayers will give a group of investors some $132 million from the state treasury, a few largely unidentified investors, headed by a venture capitalist named John Correnti, will build a steel mill on the Mississippi River at Osceola that will one day employ 525 people earning an average of $75,000 a year. That $132 million is money the state would otherwise spend on public schools, colleges, prisons or healthcare services like Medicaid—or streets and roads if the state chose.

The theory is that the taxpayers eventually will get their money back because all those new workers at Osceola will pay income, sales and excise taxes back into the state treasury and there also will be other jobs created by the steel mill’s activity. Not much will come from the company itself, Big River Steel LLC, because it will enjoy income and sales tax exemptions as part of the deal with the state.

Corporate welfare like this (and like bank bailouts) does not sit well with a lot of people, us among them, but the fact is that this is the game states must play now or else sit on the sidelines. Everyone is hungry for jobs and industry, and investors learned a quarter-century ago that they could get states, particularly Southern states, to compete with each other in tax giveaways and thus lower their startup or moving costs by hundreds of millions of dollars. Arkansas entered the game timidly in the 1980s, but it was nearly always outbid for the big projects by Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee or the seaboard states. (Just Thursday, Gov. Beebe agreed to lay out $1.75 million of our taxes for an Internet marketing company that wants to move its offices from New York City to Conway, where it plans to put perhaps 30 people to work this year.)

Arkansas became serious in 2004 when we amended the state Constitution to authorize the legislature to give away hundreds of millions of dollars through grants and tax-backed industrial bonds for a really, really big project. This is the state’s first really, really big project. The legislature must vote for it before the state can issue the general-obligation bonds.

Twenty-four hours after the congratulations and rejoicing at the governor’s big ceremony at the Capitol, the euphoria dissipated just a bit. We learned that Mr. Correnti has left a trail of jilted economic-development suitors in Mississippi and Ohio. The Osceola steel mill was supposed to be built at West Point, Miss., near the Alabama border, but Correnti pulled out because the local people could not negotiate low enough electric rates with the utility serving the region. The Mississippi legislature voted to give him $75 million in incentives for a silicon-purification plant that would bring high-paying jobs to Lowndes County. Correnti missed a Dec. 31 deadline to put $150,000 in escrow to show he could go forward with the plant.

Headline in the Columbus, Miss., paper on Jan. 5: “Jilted!: Collapse of Silicor project is latest of Correnti’s empty promises.”

Correnti was in a group that did start a steel company at Columbus, but the company fired him after it went into operation. He became CEO of Nucor Corp., the big steel company down the road from Osceola in Mississippi County, but Nucor fired him. He got a job with Bethlehem Steel, but Nucor bought the plant and fired him again. The president of the Lowndes County, Miss., Board of Supervisors said this week that Correnti wants to start a plant a few miles from Nucor at Osceola because he has a vendetta against Nucor. But who knows?

Nucor reportedly is gearing up to fight legislative approval of the grants and loans to Correnti’s group. You can see why Nucor might be a little miffed. The taxpayers put up very little for Nucor’s startup, but it will now compete with a company with a truly massive subsidy from the state.

We don’t yet know who Correnti’s investors are, except the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which is putting up $60 million for part ownership of the mill. Correnti is reputed to be a great salesman. George Hopkins, the director of the Teacher Retirement System, saw the chance to invest in Correnti’s mill as a virtual gold mine for retired teachers. The teachers will reap a huge return on the investment in just four years, he said.

Someone should tell Hopkins about deals that sound too good to be true. Existing steel mills are running well below capacity. Business economists were speculating where the mill’s business would come from. Six years ago, Arkansas and Mississippi County in particular were in the bidding for the biggest steel plant built in the United States in the past 40 years, by ThyssenKrupp AG, the German conglomerate. Mobile, Ala., won the bidding war. ThyssenKrupp is pulling the plug on the $11.8 billion investment, owing to high production and transportation costs and intense competition. The plant is for sale, reportedly for $1 billion.

The point is only this: The legislature and the state’s economic development agency should exercise extraordinary diligence in vetting this project before committing taxpayers to these mammoth subsidies. That includes an ironclad commitment from all the investors—escrowed cash—that assures the construction of the plant and a rigidly vetted business plan that shows realistic prospects for sales. Legislators must consider worst-case scenarios in these cases. That $132 million commitment from the taxpayers? It could be much more if the company goes belly up and defaults on $50 million of bonds. Your income and sales taxes would pay the bondholders.

Let’s be confident that it really is the deal of the century. John Correnti’s word is not enough.

TOP STORY >> Group switches to shortened fly week at LRAFB

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Nearly a year ago, the 19th Operations Group at Little Rock Air Force Base reduced its flying week from five days to four, leaving one day a week dedicated to training.

Group leaders said the switch has led to increased training rates and improved deployment readiness, while saving hundreds of flight hours and taxpayer dollars.

Lt. Col. Toby Sernel, 19th Operations Group deputy commander, said the change came about after examining the efficiency of the group’s five-day flight week.

“What we saw with the five-day fly week was that … our flying and training were not as efficient as they could be,” said Sernel.

The group determined that with a little flexibility, it could simultaneously improve training and make more efficient use of flying hours. So, every Friday is dedicated to training.

“What we wanted to do was come up with a way to improve our deployment readiness,” Sernel said. “We wanted to improve the training that our C-130 members were getting at our four flying squadrons here.”

Previously, the 19th Operations Group dedicated just one day to training a quarter, which led to bloated schedules and not enough time, Sernel said.

“They (the old training days) were jam-packed with stuff,” he said. “Maybe we got 30 minutes to do two hours of training on top of 30 minutes to do another four-hour training block. It really wasn’t very efficient or effective.”

Allowing for a training day every Friday has led to more relevant, focused and thorough training for the 19th OG, from the group level to the squadron level down to the individual, Sernel said.


After nearly a year of flying one less day a week, Sernel said he thinks the airmen of the 19th OG are even better prepared to go to war than they were before, while saving time and money.

“We’re getting the same, if not more focused, training in those four days,” he said.

“Our crews are more prepared for (Central Command Area of Responsibility) now than they were a year ago. We’ve saved 640 flight hours in calendar year 2012,” Sernel said. “We’re doing what we can to make more effective and efficient use of our flying training hours; those are expensive hours.”

Sernel said the 19th OG typically completed 95 percent of its training requirements in years past.

From July through December the group produced a 98 percent completion rate. He credits this to increased focus in training.

“We’re getting more precise, more focused, more realistic training on par with previous year’s completion rates in four days,” said Sernel. “That’s a good thing.”

“We’ve increased training 12 to 14 fold of what we had before,” he said. “The benefits extend to everyone throughout the group.”


While more time for training and interaction at a ground level is a good thing for airmen and their supervisors, decreasing the flight week from five to four days means packing what was previously five days of work into four.

To execute this plan required innovation and focused planning, and it’s a challenge the 19th OG met, Sernel said.

“What we did was pack five days worth of flying into four days,” he said. “To do this we had to focus on certain events on certain days. In a lot of ways this made us improve our planning because a four-day fly week requires greater focus and planning at the group and squadron level.”

The benefits from the four-day fly week extend from the top down, said Sernel. 19th OG airmen, at the group and squadron level, are getting more time for professional development.

Another added bonus is the group is able to maximize the use of the flight simulators on base, a move that allows flyers to log realistic training while saving taxpayer dollars.

While the move to a four-day fly week has benefited the 19th OG immensely, Sernel said the innovative program extends benefits to other groups on base as well.


“The Maintenance Group and the Mission Support Group reap benefits,” he said. “They have more time to take care of training, more time to take care of airplanes. They have more time to focus on what they need to do on that day.”

More time for training, improved efficiency of mission and training time, and helping their airmen improve their careers is what the move was all about, Sernel said, and nearly a year into the switch, the plan appears to be working.

“There are benefits at all levels,” he said. “Commanders get more time with their people. Supervisors get more time with their flights, whether they’re loadmasters, or pilots or (aircrew flight equipment) technicians. There are a lot of support agencies in the ops group that get time with their supervisors they wouldn’t get every week if we flew five days a week.

“By taking a break, I think everyone would say it’s a good thing to get more time with their leadership, getting more time to do what we call unit maintenance,” Sernel explained.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood mayor hails jobs growth

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman touted several accomplishments of 2012 in her state of the city address at Monday night’s council meeting.

She said, “We are experiencing new growth and new business development. Our city continues to grow and expand.”

In January 2012, the city and the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce paired up to hire economic development director Kelly Coughlin.

Coughlin helped Custom Air-craft Cabinets, a woodworking and upholstery manufacturer that supplies private and corporate aircraft companies globally, move from North Little Rock to the old National Home Center in Sherwood.

The expansion was announced in August. CAC held a grand-opening ceremony Wednesday.

The company is adding 150 jobs at $15 to $20 an hour, and it invested $5.9 million in the move. CAC, which was founded in North Little Rock in 1989, employs more than 290 people.

Also, under Coughlin’s tenure, Buffalo Wild Wings built a new restaurant on Silver Creek Drive off Warden Road. It opened for business in December.

Buffalo Wild Wings is the largest sports bar chain in the country, according to franchise owner Steve Howard.

The restaurant brought 120 jobs to the area.

Other new businesses that came to Sherwood in 2012 include the Kum and Go gas station at 3400 E. Kiehl Ave., Mapco gas station at 10340 Hwy. 107 and McDonald’s at 9053 Hwy. 107.

The mayor said, “It has proven very beneficial to have a business development contact to assist new businesses.”

Hillman then spoke about the Parks and Recreation Department, noting the soccer club has almost doubled in size. It hosted 216 games this year.

She said, “The Greens at North Hills experienced its best year,” but didn’t go into details.

More than 10,000 cars visited the Christmas displays at the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights. The art room at the Duran Youth Center was remodeled with a $10,000 Central Arkansas Planning and Development District grant.

Hillman was pleased that the Sherwood Animal Shelter placed 97 percent of adoptable animals with new families.

The shelter received two grants. The first will allow it to provide every adopted animal with a collar and ID tag. The other grant will help fund spaying and neutering services.

The mayor said the senior center had another successful year. One of the highlights was that 10,000 meals were delivered to elderly residents by Meals on Wheels.

Hillman praised the computer service department, which developed, maintained and enhanced several in-house written applications.

She deemed the redesign and launch of the city’s website as one of many achievements.

Hillman mentioned the employee Health & Fitness Fair, which 190 workers and 19 vendors attended. Free flu shots were offered and 95 of the city employees took advantage of the opportunity.

The Arkansas Municipal League helped Sherwood start the health and wellness program for employees. The program gives every city worker a free pass to work out at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center.

Employees who go at least 12 times per month in a six-month period earn a day off. The first six-month period ended in November and 14 employees received the extra day off.

Hillman said the district court dealt with more than 23,700 cases and contributed $2,526,684 to the general fund.She added that Sherwood experienced a nine percent decrease in property crimes and a 26 percent decrease in crimes against people/violent crimes.

The mayor reminded the council that curbside recycling was implemented in 2012. The program has an 80 percent participation rate.

Hillman said the amount of building permits increased. The value of the permits was up to $42,781,030 compared to $23,751,750 in 2011.

The mayor noted that the state Highway Department also resurfaced East Kiehl Avenue.

Hillman said all manholes have been visually inspected and all of the collection system was tested with smoke or close circuit televising.

The mayor concluded, “2013 has the promise of new business growth as well as more residential development.”

She said the half-cent sales tax on gas that Arkansas voters approved will help the city with street improvements this year. Engineering work is under way for improvements to Maryland Avenue and a new traffic signal is planned for Kiehl Avenue and Oakbrooke Street.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons fight way to league win

Leader sports editor

A breakout game for sophomore point guard Ilycia Carter came at the perfect time as the North Pulaski Lady Falcons got their first conference win on Thursday, beating Helena-West Helena Central 64-59 at the Falcon’s Nest in Jacksonville.

The Lady Falcons have been on the cusp on getting their elusive first conference win, and finally put it together on Thursday, avenging a 56-37 loss at West Helena in early January.

Carter scored a career-high 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out five assists and picked up three steals.

“We talked about her just shooting more,” North Pulaski coach Stacey Dalmut said. “She said before the game she was going for 10 points. She obviously did a lot better than that. She shot the ball well tonight when really no one else was.”

Indeed both teams shot poorly in the fast-paced game. There were 152 shots taken between the two teams. The Lady Cougars made just 34 percent on 25 of 72 shooting, but North Pulaski was even worse. The Lady Falcons were just 23 of 79 from the floor, but won the rebounding battle 51-44 and made nine more free throws than their opponent. They only made 16 of 26 attempts, but were 9 of 12 in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Carter made 5 of 6 in the final frame.

The game saw several lead changes, but North Pulaski trailed most of the way. Carter hit a three pointer with 33 seconds left in the first half to give the Lady Falcons their first lead of the game at 26-25, a score that held until intermission.

Central (4-8, 2-5) took control of the inside and of the game in the first quarter when North Pulaski center Cathy Waylan picked up her third foul in less than three minutes.

Central’s Shadaezha Baker came off the bench and dominated inside and the Lady Cougars took a 14-9 lead into the second quarter, largely on the strength of a 21-14 rebounding advantage. North Pulaski (4-11, 1-6) began to reverse that trend in the second quarter, outrebounding Central 16-5 as it gained its first lead.

The Lady Falcons pushed their lead to 30-26 early in the third quarter, but Central went on a 10-2 run for a 36-32 lead with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.

That deficit grew to six at 44-38 with 15 seconds left in the quarter, but Carter scored four points before the end of the frame to make it 44-42 and send the Lady Falcons into the final period with the momentum. Carter hit two free throws with 14 seconds on the clock. Central then rushed a shot at the other end. Carter got the rebound with five seconds left and went the distance of the floor to hit a floater as the buzzer sounded.

The run kept going in the fourth. Raigen Thomas made one of two free throws to make it a one-point game. Talisha Nation then got a layup to put the Lady Falcons back in front with 6:45 remaining. Freshman Kiarra Evans then got a steal and an assist to Waylan, who was playing with four fouls, for a 47-44 lead and forcing a Central timeout. The break did the Lady Cougars some good. They scored the next four points after the timeout to reclaim the lead at 48-47 with 5:10 remaining. Waylan then hit one of two free throws to tie the game and it was back and forth from there.

Neither team got more than two points of separation, including one series where the lead changed hands on four consecutive baskets. Carter scored with 50 seconds left to put the Lady Falcons up 59-58. Central missed at the other end. Thomas got the rebound and the outlet to Carter, who was again fouled, and again hit two free throws for a three-point lead.

Waylan picked up her fifth foul with 15 seconds left and Baker hit one of two free throws for the Lady Cougars’ final point. Carter was fouled. This time she missed her second shot.

Central got the rebound and called timeout trailing 62-59 with 11 seconds left on the clock.

But a huge mental lapse cost the visitors a chance at winning the game. The official handed the ball to Central’s inbound passer, but no one moved or broke for the pass.

Finally Kymberlee Collier broke towards the half-court line, but it was too late and Central was called for a five-second violation.

Again Central fouled Carter and again Carter hit both free throws to set the final margin.

Evans finished with 14 points and six rebounds for the Lady Falcons. Thomas, also a freshman, scored seven points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Collier led Central in scoring with 22 points.

Delana Bedford scored 13 while Baker scored 11 and grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds.

SPORTS STORY >> North Lady Panthers beat South, take first

Leader sportswriter

A solid third quarter on both ends of the floor helped the Cabot Junior High North Lady Panthers beat Cabot Junior High South 39-30 Thursday at Panther Arena to improve to 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference.

Cabot South entered the game unbeaten in conference play with a 5-0 record. The North Lady Panthers’ only loss in conference play came against Conway White on Monday. According to North coach Jeremy Halbrook, slowing down South playmakers Anna Sullivan and Leighton Taylor was what needed to happen in order for his team to be successful.

“We had to stop number three for them (Taylor) and number 25 (Sullivan),” said Halbrook. “They’re their best two players. We did an excellent job. They were undefeated coming into this game and we had one loss. This was a tiebreaker for the conference. Our focus was to try to win all four quarters. I think we won three out of the four. They maybe outscored us by two in the last quarter.

“Last time when we played them we had a 10-point lead going into the half, but our third quarter was bad. But we outscored them tonight 10-2 in the third quarter. I’m proud of them. We had a good week of practice. It was a good win.”

The two respective teams went back and forth in the first quarter, but North ended the quarter with a 9-8 lead. North opened the second quarter with a 5-0 scoring run, capped off by a three pointer by Lily Sinclair with 1:45 to play in the half.

North led 16-11 in the final seconds, but Sullivan stole the ball on North’s end of the court and took it the distance for a contested layup, but missed. However, South’s Heather Hill was there for the rebound and putback to cut the deficit to 16-13 at halftime.

Sullivan scored the only basket for South in the third quarter. Rachel Allgood, CoCo Calhoon, MaKenzie Sexton and Sinclair combined to score 10 points in the quarter to give South a 26-15 advantage heading into the final frame.

The South Lady Panthers were able to cut North’s lead to seven twice in the final six minutes, but that was as close as they’d get. Allgood made two free throws with 4.9 seconds to set the final score.

North finished the game 18 for 27 at the free-throw line (67 percent) and made 3 of 8 three pointers (38 percent). South outrebounded North 19-16, but shot 58 percent at the free-throw line and 17 percent from three-point range. South finished with 17 turnovers. North committed 13.

“We’re a second-half team and I really felt like we could overcome the turnovers,” said South coach Lori Harmon, “but when we went to the line and didn’t finish, I think that hurt significantly. And the strategy of having to foul at the end, they stepped up there and knocked them all down, and that continued to make us sink further and further behind.”

Sinclair led all scorers with 14 points. Allgood scored seven. Sexton scored six. Calhoon added five and Maddie Rice scored four. For South, Sullivan led the way with 10 points. Sarah Davis and Hill scored five apiece. Taylor finished with four.

In the boys’ game, the South Panthers improved to 10-8 overall and an even 3-3 in conference play with a 40-25 win over North. South’s Holdyn Barnes led all scorers with 14 points. Teammate Hunter Sutherland also had a solid game, scoring 10 points, seven of which came in the first six minutes.

The freshmen North teams host North Little Rock’s Ridgeroad on Monday at the North gym. South’s freshmen teams also play Monday at Benton.

SPORTS STORY >> LR Central takes two game lead in the East

Leader sports editor

Little Rock Central successfully put some distance between itself and the rest of the league with the way it ended the first round robin of play in the 7A/6A East girls division. The Lady Tigers beat Cabot 51-41 Tuesday in Little Rock to move to 7-0 and take a two-game lead over three teams tied for second place at 5-2. Cabot, North Little Rock and West Memphis are those three teams, and the Lady Tigers beat them all in succession.

Central’s Taylor Lewis started the game against Cabot the same way she started the game against North Little Rock the Friday before, on fire from three-point range.

Lewis hit a pair of three pointers in the middle of the first quarter that pushed a 6-5 game into a 12-5 Lady Tiger lead over the Panthers. But it would take until the final three minutes of the game before Central could seal the game against the hard-nosed Cabot squad.

Every time Central (15-4, 7-0) pushed out to a decent margin, Cabot stormed back. Lewis hit two more three in succession in the second quarter to give her team a 25-18 lead, but Cabot sophomore Alyssa Hamilton scored six-straight points. Central’s Amy Ruffin then scored and Cabot hit one of two free throws.

The Lady Panthers had three possessions to tie or take the lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and committed two turnovers. Central’s Chloe Washington then scored to make it 29-25 and Cabot was never within three points again.

Turnovers and missed free throws plagued Cabot from beginning to end, especially at the beginning of the first and third quarters. Cabot had five turnovers before it took a shot from the floor in the first quarter, then committed four-straight turnovers to start the second half.

After Central led 29-25, Cabot (12-5, 5-2) missed three consecutive free throws in the final 90 seconds of the first half. Lewis then converted a three-point play at the buzzer for a 32-25 halftime lead.

The third quarter was very physical with little offense by either team. Cabot’s four turnovers allowed Central to stretch its lead to 36-25. Cabot closed the margin to seven by the end of the quarter when Ally Van Enk hit a shot at the buzzer that made it 40-33.

A long weather delay with 39 seconds left in the third quarter allowed both teams to rest, and it seemed to favor the Lady Panthers once play resumed.

Cabot’s defense made things difficult for Central early in the fourth quarter. The Lady Tigers didn’t score a point until the 2:54 mark and didn’t score a basket until 2:37. But Cabot had only managed four points in that time and still trailed 40-37 when things fell apart.

The foul at 2:54 was the fifth on Taylor. Washington made one of two, but Cabot lost the rebound out of bounds. Alaysia Ready scored on the ensuing possession to make it 43-37. Ruffin then got a steal and hit two free throws after being fouled. After being held scoreless for more than five minutes, Central scored five points in 24 seconds to take an eight-point lead with 2:30 remaining and regain control of the game.

Cabot continued to struggle from the line, missing the front end of two more one-and-one free-throw attempts. Central capitalized on the poor shooting and stretched its lead to as much as 49-37.

Lewis led all scorers with 17 points while Ruffin scored 10 for Central. Hamilton led the Lady Panthers with 15 points while Taylor scored 12 despite the foul problems.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe boys dominant in blowing out Forrest City

Leader sports editor

Forrest City entered Badger Arena without star 6-foot-9 junior Trey Thompson, but still no one would have imagined the Badgers would dominate the first-place Forrest City Mustangs the way they did. Beebe controlled every phase of the game, especially in the second half, in cruising to a 60-35 win over what was the league’s only remaining unbeaten team.

“We were just totally out of sync and weren’t getting anything accomplished in the second half,” Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton said. “We went a long stretch there in the third quarter where we didn’t make a basket at all, and you’re not going to accomplish anything like that. Beebe was very intense and played excellent defense, and we just did nothing to answer it.”

Forrest City’s best run was right after the opening tip off. The Mustangs ran out to a 6-0 lead, but Beebe answered with a 14-3 run before Forrest City scored at the buzzer to make it 14-11 heading into the second frame.

The two teams traded baskets for most of the second quarter and the Badgers took a 27-21 lead into intermission. After that is when things began to go wrong for the visiting team.

Forrest City made the first basket of the third quarter at the 7:34 mark. Its next basket was a wild one from well beyond the three-point line by Trey Hutchison that banked in at the buzzer. There were just three made free throws in between. Beebe didn’t run away with it, but was solid enough to push out to a 42-29 lead by the start of the fourth quarter.

Beebe senior Austin Burroughs led the Badgers most of the game, but junior Tanner Chapman took over in the fourth quarter. Chapman scored the first points of the final frame with 6:21 left. Almost all of the next four minutes of play took place at the Badgers’ end of the floor as Forrest City’s frustration began to manifest.

Forrest City turned it over at half court. Chapman was then fouled by Terion Smith, who also drew a technical for angrily protesting the call. Chapman hit three of four free throws for a 47-29 lead. Beebe then held onto possession until the 4:37 mark when Hutchison clotheslined Chapman at midcourt, drawing a flagrant foul.

This time Chapman hit them both, then got open on the inbounds pass for a layup and another foul. With 4:33 left in the game, Beebe led 52-29 and the ball had scarcely been on Forrest City’s end of the court.

The Mustangs finally scored when Hutchison made a pair of free throws. Their first basket of the fourth quarter, and only their third of the second half, came on a Dwain Whitfield layup with 2:59 left in the game that made it 57-33.

“I thought our defensive intensity was great and our offense executed really well late when we got the lead,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “We shot free throws really well. Chapman stepped up big at the line tonight.”

Chapman finished with 21 points. He scored 15 in the fourth quarter with 11 of those coming on 13 free-throw attempts. Burroughs finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“He’s the guy teams and coaches around this league talk about trying to stop when they talk about Beebe,” Marshall said of Burroughs. “He’s making a name for himself as one of the best players in the conference.”

Hutchison and Gervove Barton led Forrest City with seven points each.

SPORTS STORY >> Comets shoot down Devils

Leader sportswriter

Mills University Studies handed Jacksonville its first loss in 5A Central Conference play this season with a 50-44 upset win Tuesday at the Galaxy in Little Rock.

The Red Devils trailed the majority of the game and managed to make a run late, but the Comets had an answer for nearly every Jacksonville basket, especially in the fourth quarter. A lack of poise and execution in the game plan is what Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said determined the outcome of the game.

“Poise,” said Joyner. “Poise and patience – we didn’t have any, point blank. That’s what lost the game. We never shot like that. Like I said, poise, even at the free-throw line. Poise and patience – that’s the bottom line. They came out in the first half and just forced it and didn’t do anything. This is the first time all season they didn’t follow the game plan that I put up. That wasn’t my game plan.”

Mills (10-8, 4-3) started the game with an 8-2 scoring run, but Jacksonville (14-4, 7-1) battled back to take its first and only lead with 55.6 seconds to play in the opening quarter on a free throw by Aaron Smith. Smith’s free throw put the Red Devils up 13-12, but Shaquon Fletcher and Omar Avance scored the final four points of the frame to give Mills a 16-13 lead.

Fletcher led all scorers with 20 points. Twelve of those points came at the free-throw line. Mills made 17 of 24 shots at the line (71 percent) and made 42 percent of its shots beyond the arc.

Jacksonville had a less than stellar night at the line, going 12 for 23 (52 percent), and had an off night from three-point range, making just 2 of 12 attempts (17 percent).

Nykel Worthern made the first Jacksonville three pointer at the 6:28 mark of the second quarter that tied the game at 16-16. But turnovers hurt the Red Devils in the next two minutes.

Mills scored four straight points off of Jacksonville turnovers to take a 20-16 lead midway through the quarter, and by halftime the Comets led 26-21.

Mills pushed its lead to double digits with 5:06 to play in the third quarter on a rebound and putback by Devin Campbell, making the score 36-26. Jacksonville trimmed the deficit to five as the quarter wound down, but with four seconds on the clock, Avance drained his fifth three pointer of the game in as many attempts to give the home team a 41-33 lead.

A pair of free throws by Fletcher put Mills back up by double digits at the start of the fourth, but Jacksonville steadily chipped away at the lead from there. After Fletcher’s free throws, the Red Devils outscored the Comets 11-4 to make it a three-point game with 49 seconds to play.

Unfortunately for the Devils, they weren’t able to score again. Fletcher made 3 of 4 free throws in the final seconds to set the final score.

“The first time we played them we executed and got the best shot possible, made them play a little defense on their end,” Joyner said of his team’s win over Mills earlier in the season. “Well, the first half, there was a lot of forcing. No poise, no patience. They’re a running team. They weren’t getting turnovers to get extra possessions. We were giving it to them with quick shots and forcing the ball.”

Jacksonville and Mills each finished the game with 18 rebounds, but the Red Devils’ 16 turnovers were three more than the Comets committed.

Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 10 points. Sergio Berkley scored nine and Smith added seven.

The Red Devils played host to Little Rock Christian yesterday after deadlines. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Congratulations, Col. Robinson

Col. Brian S. Robinson, the 19th Airlift Wing commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, has been nominated by President Obama for promotion to brigadier general and should be confirmed by the Senate soon. He’s a strong leader who has proved himself here at the Rock and in the Middle East. In 2003, Robinson inserted into Iraq an entire aviation brigade of C-17s — the 173rd of Italy — which had never been done before. He was awarded the bronze star, pinned on by Vice President Cheney.

Robinson, who has been commander at LRAFB since last January, came here from Scott AFB in Illinois, where he was executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command there. The Air Force gives us their best.

Robinson joins a long list of commanders at the base who became generals while serving here or at their next assignments. Gen. Gregory Otey, who previously commanded the 19th Airlift Wing and is now at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, and Gen. Charles Hyde, former commander of the 314th Airlift Wing now at Ramstein AFB in Germany, were recently promoted to general. We’re certain that Col. Mike Minihan, who commanded the 19th Airlift Wing, and Col. Mark Czelusta, who lead the 314th AW, are in line for promotion. They’re great men who deserve their first star.

EDITORIAL >> Democrats’ best hope

Dustin McDaniel’s political career crashed to the bedroom floor last week, leaving the Democratic Party to contemplate an uncertain future without an anointed candidate for the 2014 election. Parties nowadays like to go into election years with the nominations for major offices pretty settled, thus husbanding money for the big race in the fall.

It was supposed to be the popular attorney general vs. Republican Asa Hutchinson, a three-time loser in statewide races who thinks his time has finally come. But McDaniel announced last week that he was withdrawing from the race to concentrate on rebuilding his life after a highly publicized adulterous affair with a Hot Springs lawyer. McDaniel revealed the affair—a brief one, he said—in December when people in the media started inquiring about it. The Hot Springs lawyer’s ex-husband accused her of an affair with McDaniel in legal custody pleadings and got the media interested. His whole family having now experienced the pitiless glare of the political strobe lights, the husband regrets the whole thing.

McDaniel soldiered on for a few weeks, emphatically assuring everyone that, affair or not, he was in the governor’s race to stay. Voters have sometimes overlooked politicians’ philandering, and sometimes they have not. Arkansas voters forgave U.S. Rep. Wilbur D. Mills’ cavorting with the nightclub stripper Annabella Battistella—for one election—but they didn’t forgive their old hero, Gov. Orval E. Faubus, for dumping his wife for a tart with a beehive hairdo, although he gave them three chances, in 1970, 1974 and 1986. In McDaniel’s case, it became clear that his dalliance was not going away in voters’ minds, perhaps because it was complicated by a killing in the Hot Springs woman’s driveway.

The attorney general won’t be re-entering the race next year after time has healed the wounds—voters would not overlook such hypocrisy—but we would not be surprised to find him running for Congress in the district centered in his hometown of Jonesboro.

McDaniel’s withdrawal is not necessarily bad for the Democratic Party, which now has a chance to find a perfectly new leader, as it did in 1970 when the voters plucked young Dale Bumpers, totally unknown, from a field of seven better-known politicians.

Who could it be? Handsome Bill Halter, the former lieutenant governor who took on Sen. Blanche Lincoln in her own primary two years ago, is running. So is John Burkhalter, a rich businessman who is close to Gov. Beebe. So might Mike Ross, who left Congress this month for a career as an energy lobbyist and executive. There is talk that young Chris Thomason of Hope, a former legislator and prosecuting attorney who now runs a community college, will run. Shane Broadway, a former state legislator who lost a race for lieutenant governor in the Republican landslide of 2010 and who now directs the state Department of Higher Education, is entertaining the idea.

The Democrats’ best hope, we believe, would be Will Bond, who accepted Gov. Beebe’s plea two years ago to command the moribund state party in the face of a Republican financial onslaught and an intensely hated (in Arkansas) national standard bearer, Barack Obama. Alas, it will take a draft to get the reluctant Bond into a race that he does not care to make.

What a refreshing contrast Bond, unscarred by scandal or defeat, would make to Hutchinson, who lost big three times, in 1986, 1992 and 2006, but who would be bankrolled this time by the gun makers, the Koch brothers and the billionaires club. Voters deserve such a choice, but they aren’t likely to get it.

TOP STORY >> Cabot chamber honors its top members

Leader staff writer

At its 52nd annual banquet, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce had a tie—the first one anyone can recall—in the voting for its person of the year, so the group honored two Friday night.

A firefighter and a National Guard sergeant were both recognized as the member of the year and an interior decorating firm was selected as the business of the year.

Fire Capt. David Walton, 33, who has lived in Cabot since he was four, was nominated by Vikki Parker. In her nomination letter, Parker said Walton exhibits what she believed “to be the example of what a Member of the Year is. David has been at all our events in the city to serve in any way that he can in whatever capacity he is needed. He truly has a servant’s heart.”

Parker went on to say that Walton “helps at Cabot Fest, hands out our Air Force fliers, is always there to help with Relay for Life and so many times he helps maintain our chamber sign by cleaning it and keeping it in working order. In my opinion David Walton is Member of the Year hands down.”

Walton was shocked when his name was announced. “All of us who were nominated were told to be there, but I didn’t know what I was nominated for or who nominated me. I don’t do these things I do for publicity, I do them because I enjoy them and I love Cabot,” Walton said.

The fire captain, who is celebrating his 15th year with the local department, firmly believes Cabot is the place to be. “I work two jobs and they are both in Cabot and anything someone wants to do can be done right here in Cabot,” he said. Walton is so strongly connected to Cabot that he married a Cabot girl. They have one daughter.

Walton said he really enjoys being an ambassador for Cabot and has put together a “Best of Cabot” display for the last four air shows, meaning nearly a million people have seen what Cabot was to offer. “We have a permanent invite to the air show and I plan to be there as long as possible,” he said.

Walton added that as a firefighter he sees a lot of tragedies but says no community comes together and helps others like Cabot. “You should have seen the outpouring of help and donations after the Cabot Junior High North fire a few years ago or even the recent round of storms and the damage they caused. It ties in with what outgoing chamber president Teresa Durham said repeatedly during the evening, “Our motto through actions and deeds is ‘Cabot Cares.’”

But Walton wasn’t the only member to be honored, as judges decided, and the chamber agreed, that Sgt. First Class Robbie McDonald was also member of the year.

Billye Everett, the chamber’s executive director, said it’s the first time since she’s been connected with the chamber that there’s been a tie and she couldn’t be prouder. “And no one else can recall a time before that,” she said.

McDonald was nominated by Gina Quattlebaum. She said McDonald, a member of the Army National Guard, “truly has a heart to serve.”

She went on, “Not only is he the first to volunteer for any Chamber event, but also volunteers and participates in many other civic events. Sergeant McDonald, a deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist, is always willing to help in whatever capacity needed whether that is taking out the trash or participating in planning the event, nothing is too big or too small.”

McDonald, who lost his wife a few years ago to cancer, said he’s always had a giving heart and enjoyed helping others, but has stepped it up since her death. “Losing her just made me look at life more preciously,” he said.

The sergeant is a newcomer to Cabot, arriving in town in 2009 to run the armory. But it didn’t take him long to get active in the church and the community. His church involvement spread to civic involvement and working at the armory got him involved with the chamber. “People here are really military friendly. We have lots of retirees in the area and with the base nearby, the city has just treated me like I’ve always lived here,” McDonald said.

As the father of two boys, he is excited about the strong school district and its relationship with the community. “The school district here is just awesome,” he said.

Accepting the award Friday night, McDonald simply said, “I just like to help. Thanks a lot.”

The chamber’s business of the year award went to Nina Butler Interiors.

Nina Butler, who will celebrate her 27th wedding anniversary later this year, started her interior design business in 1981. It is a full service decorator shop.

“I have been blessed to see my small business grow over the years by striving to offer superior customer service,” Butler said.

As busy as it keeps her, Butler finds time to stay active in the community. She serves on the Cabot Scholarship Foundation committee, Centennial Bank advisory board and the Cabot Panther Foundation advisory board.

Like McDonald, she is very active with First Baptist Church and served two terms on the State of Arkansas Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board.

Butler said, “Cabot is my home town and I find it rewarding to work and volunteer with the fine people of this community. It is special to know that my son was the third generation in my family to graduate from Cabot Public Schools. The Cabot Chamber of Commerce, area churches and our Cabot Public Schools have always networked to build our community. She added, “I am thrilled to be able to work in my hometown with contractors and customers who I think of as friends.”

Besides recognizing the member and business of the year, the chamber also had a changing of the guard, with Durham turning over the gavel to new president Karen Madding.

Other chamber officers for 2013 include Mark Stocks as president-elect, Jeff Spann as vice president and Kenneth James as treasurer. Board members are James Hertzog, Karen Knight, Stephanie May, Priscilla Morris and Vikki Parker.

TOP STORY >> Cabot schools in drill for shooting scenario

Leader staff writer

Cabot school officials are preparing students and staff for the worst hide-and-seek scenario ever.

The classrooms at Cabot Junior High South on Tuesday went dark for a lockdown drill. Teachers locked the doors and students worked at keeping silent for 10 minutes. They kept away from windows as if an intruder was stalking the hallways.

The practice could save lives if an armed gunman decided to attack a school.

With the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut still fresh on their minds, school administrators, police, fire and emergency first responders reviewed crisis management plans with lockdown drills at Cabot High School, Junior High South, Middle School South and Stagecoach Elementary.

“The variables are different at all 15 sites. Each building presents unique challenges. It’s not a one size fits all,” Superintendent Tony Thurman said.

Thurman said students of different age groups have different demeanors. Students need to understand the seriousness of the drill. “This is your life at stake here,” Thurman said.

Junior High South Principal John West said the school annually reviews the crisis emergency plan, but the Connecticut school shooting brought school safety and security into the limelight.

“Some think it could happen tomorrow. Some think it could never happen,” West said.

Law enforcement and school officials reviewed building maps and communication methods. They jiggled door locks and noted where a person could hide inside and outside the building. They looked at securing the school office and the electrical supply closets.

West said one of the challenges for a lockdown plan is at least 75 students have to go outside the main building to the activity building or to the career and technical building.

After the drill, officials discussed ways to improve safety. The intercom can only be heard in the classrooms not in the hallways or outside the building. That needs correction, they agreed.

A severely disabled student in a special education class cannot be in the dark. The staff must devise a way to blacken a window without turning off the lights in the special education classroom.

Police Chief Jackie Davis said the lockdown plan allows different agencies to work together and get feedback. Cabot police, along with Austin and Ward police departments, Cabot and Ward fire departments, MEMS emergency medical technicians and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office attended the lock down drills.

“Everybody is a willing participant,” Davis said. He said the police department plans to hold more tactical drills.

TOP STORY >> Amidst fears, firearm sales spike in area

Leader staff writer

Local gun-shop owners are having trouble keeping weapons on their shelves because customers are up in arms about proposed federal legislation to regulate their sale.

The gun-control debate was sparked by the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and seven adults.
One of the guns he used was a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Lanza committed suicide as police were closing in on him at the school.

Tom Denniston, the owner of Fort Thompson in Sherwood, said, “We’ve been totally swamped ever since the shooting. People are worried about new laws. It’s putting them in a frenzy or panic.”

J.D. Beldon, owner of Cabot Gun and Ammo, agreed. But he said this started the day after the November election when guns from two of his distributors were sold out.

Beldon said, “The biggest thing is it’s created a frenzy. We have so many people buying up all they can.”

He added, “Prices have skyrocketed.” Beldon said people are selling a $700 gun for $2,000 because of the increased demand.

According to Beldon, most of the recent customers want AR-15 rifles and high-capacity handguns. “I can’t replace the stock I’m selling,” he said. Beldon has 40 percent less inventory than he would typically have.

Denniston said the panicked customers are people he sees regularly — stay-at-home moms, schoolteachers, farmers and others.

He continued, “Customers are saying, ‘It’s our Second Amendment right. Why are they penalizing me? What did I do? I pay my taxes.’”

President Barack Obama executive actions that do not need congressional approval. They give current gun-control laws more teeth as well as address school safety and mental health.

Obama also asked Congress to require background checks on all gun sales, reinstate a ban on “military-style assault weapons,” ban magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds and levy higher penalties on straw purchasers.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks on buyers. Straw purchasers are people who buy guns for individuals who wouldn’t be allowed by law to own a gun.

But Arkansas legislators are moving in the opposite direction, toward less gun control.

The state Senate on Monday voted 28-4 for a proposal that would allow people with concealment licenses to bring their guns into places of worship. The proposal has been sent to the House for approval.

The House voted to support a resolution asking that the federal government not encroach on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Jan. 19 was Gun Appreciation Day. Beldon, of Cabot Gun and Ammo, said his store had an above average turnout — more than 100 people compared to between 70 and 80. But he said the range part of his business has been slow lately because people don’t want to waste their ammunition in case a federal law is passed that limits how much of it they can buy.

Denniston, of Fort Thompson, dis-agrees with most of the federal government’s push to strengthen gun control, but supports making private sellers run background checks on buyers. Beldon feels the same way.

Beldon explained that gun dealers like him have to apply to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for a three-year license. Every licensed dealer uses the same federal form to conduct a background check on each customer. The penalties for putting the wrong information on that form include fines and jail time, Beldon said.

He added, “Universal background checks is not a bad thing.”

Denniston said, “You can’t fix crazy. Any kind of gun legislation isn’t going to stop (mass shootings). I think we’re fine. If you can’t keep guns out of criminals’ hands, a law-abiding citizen should be able to have them.”

Denniston said gun sellers are trying to rename what people refer to as “assault rifles” like the AR-15 to better reflect how most owners use them. He calls them “modern sporting rifles.”

“They’re great to shoot. They’re fun at the range. It’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the people,” Denniston said.

Beldon said the AR in “AR-15” was never supposed to translate to “assault rifle.” He said the “AR” is an abbreviation for “ArmorLite,” the company that produced the first M-16.

Beldon said ammunition for the AR-15 rifles “used to be reasonably priced” and they have collapsible stocks. That means that a 6-year-old could use the same gun as his dad, Beldon explained.

He said the collapsible stock allows people to adjust the gun according to their height.

Beldon said, “Ninety-nine percent of Americans are good gun owners.”

Denniston said gunlocks and safes are popular items at his store. Denniston suggested that people who feel strongly about not having any more restrictions join the National Rifle Association.

“That is our voice in Congress. They carry a big stick,” Denniston said.

He added that having an armed police officer at school is “probably a good idea.”

Beldon said, “I don’t know if it’s going to stop anything from happening.” He added that if armed guards are placed at schools they should be “true trained professionals.”

Beldon’s store also provides concealed carry classes. He said the classes are booked for two months, which is not the norm.

He said the instructors have had an average of 200 students when they normally teach about 60.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle stuns No. 1 Lions

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s recent success was enough to carry over into a huge upset over top-ranked Clarendon, as the Bison leaned on their strong outside shooting in a 77-69 victory at Bison Arena on Friday.

The Lions (14-2, 9-2) came into the contest as the No. 1 team in Class 2A, but needed a victory over Carlisle to fend off Hughes for the 2A-6 Conference championship. But foul trouble, combined with an off night from the floor offensively, hampered the visitors, who spent the entire night trying to play catch-up after falling behind 38-29 at the half.

For the Bison (10-6, 8-4), the victory marked their fifth straight in league play after a difficult start to the season for the William Rountree-coached squad. They now have a chance to finish as high as third in theinal 2A-6 season standings.

“I thought we would play well,” Rountree said. “I thought we had an opportunity playing at home. They’re very good, but that’s our fifth conference win in a row. We’re playing better, and I said last year when we were mediocre that I liked this team. I just had a feeling we would play well.”

The triumph did not come without its share of hard feelings, however, as emotions ran high on the court for both teams at times – including the post-game greet, and the significant Clarendon crowd began to jeer in the fourth quarter as three of its top players exited the game early with five personal fouls.

Tensions elevated at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter when Bison forward Deron Ricks and Clarendon guard Jamen Jackson tangled up while fighting for a loose ball. Ricks ended up on top of Jackson during the fray, and Jackson got back to his feet aggressively after taking exception to the tie-up situation.

“I didn’t think we ever let it get away from us,” Rountree said. “We’re not going to back down. We’re pretty high spirited ourselves. Every once in a while you’ll take a guy out of the game, but we held our own.”

The biggest story for the Bison was their 47 percent three-point shooting (8 of 17). They stood just 2 of 6 at the half, but went over 50 percent in the second half at 6 of 11. Overall, Carlisle shot 52 percent (24 of 46) from the floor while holding the Lions to just below 50 percent at 30 of 62.

The most important of the threes for Carlisle came during a stretch in the third quarter. Clarendon closed the gap to 40-37 by the 5:46 mark, but the Bison responded with four consecutive three pointers. Senior point guard Chris Hart started the run with a three from the left wing with 5:06 left in the period, followed by a three from the other side by leading scorer Dathan Hill to make it 46-42.

The Lions finally pulled even with 3:07 remaining in the third with a lay-in by sophomore Richard Knox to make it 46 all, but Austin Reed responded for Carlisle with a trey at the 2:46 mark to give the lead back to the host at 49-46. Hill closed out the three-point run for the Bison with 2:05 remaining with a shot from the corner to boost the lead to 52-48.

Shot selection proved to be the biggest difference throughout the game for Carlisle, which hit its first six shots of the second quarter, with the first miss not coming until the 2:32 mark when Hart was just off on a three-point attempt. The Bison went 7 of 11 in the second quarter and 12 of 23 in the first half.

“We’ve got a lot of guards,” Rountree said. “To be fair, the guy who has probably improved the most over this stretch that we’ve been playing pretty good has been Edwards inside. And Clayvon, just by his presence in there, opens it up.”

Hill led the Bison with 19 points while Hart added 17 points and five rebounds. Austin Reed had 16 points and four rebounds while his brother Braden Reed finished with 12 points. Edwards rounded double-digit scorers for Carlisle with 11 points and five rebounds.

For Clarendon, Knox led all scorers with 21 points while Styleen Tyler added 19 points.

The victory marked the first time in four seasons that Carlisle has knocked off a top-ranked team, dating back to a regional-tournament victory over Abundant Life back in 2009.

“We haven’t done that in a while,” Rountree said. “It tells you how good our league is. I told the guys we’ve set the bar now to where if we go into the district tournament and stub our toe, or can’t make our way out of regionals, people are just going to say, ‘that win over Clarendon was just a fluke.’”

Carlisle played at Palestine-Wheatley last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot earns eight medals at wrestling tournament

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panther wrestling team fared well in their first invitational-tournament appearance of the season with a third-place overall finish at the Central Baptist College Invitational hosted by Greenbrier High School over the weekend.

The host Panthers and North Pulaski High School were the only 5A schools participating in the 16-team event with the rest of the bracket made up of 7A/6A programs.

Cabot ended up with eight medalist performances in the light and middle weight classes, including a first-place finish for Tyler Kurz in the 182-pound division. Kurz went 4-0 over the span of two days, including three victories by fall and the championship win by decision over the top seed from Little Rock Catholic.

“Tyler wrestled really well,” Panthers coach Jason Rogers said. “His first three wins were all by falls, and he won 10-2 on points in the championship match.”

Other top performances for Cabot included a third-place finish for Austin Dye in the 106-pound division, second place for Hayden Mills in the 113-pound class and a third-place finish for Michael Morgan at 126-pounds.

Erik Cooley took third place in the 132-pound weight class, Bryce Mitchell finished second in the 145-pound class and Cody Pugh finished third in the 152-pound division. In the 160-pound class, Kyle Wheeler finished second.

“We wrestled well,” Rogers said. “We lost some I thought we should have won, but we also won a few I was concerned about. It was a good tournament for us, and we have some big tournaments coming up.”

Cabot hosted Beebe and Riverview last night, and will take part in the 7A/6A East Conference tournament at Searcy this Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers right the ship, top Raiders

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers boys and girls teams both picked up important 5A East Conference road victories at Nettleton on Friday. The Lady Badgers remained undefeated in league play with a 48-31 rout over the Lady Raiders while the Badger boys team got back on track with a close 54-51 decision over a talented Raiders squad.

The hard-fought victory for the Badgers (13-5, 5-1) could not have come at more crucial time following a tough, 40-point blowout loss at Wynne three days prior.

Nettleton took an early lead in the first quarter before Beebe came back to take control in the second quarter to lead 32-26 at halftime, a lead that turned out to be the biggest advantage of the game.

The Raiders briefly overtook their guest early in the third quarter, but a time out by Beebe coach Ryan Marshall to rally the troops was effective in getting momentum back on the Badgers’ side.

“It was by far our best team effort,” Marshall said. “I don’t want to say that was a must-win for us, but after what happened in Wynne, it was kind of a character check. They all played extremely well. I told them afterward that with the exception of the Alma game in the state tournament last year, that was probably our biggest win as a program.”

Junior point guard Tanner Chapman and senior forward Austin Burroughs shared leading-scorer honors with 19 points each. Marshall also noted the strong defensive effort of senior guard Vann Kersey.

“We took charge about the middle of the second quarter,” Marshall said. “We really started to find a good rhythm. I think going up by five with two or three minutes to go, and especially with the ball in Tanner’s hands, we started to feel pretty good about things at that point.”

Following the Badgers’ first mercy-ruled loss in nearly three seasons at the hands of Wynne last Tuesday, Marshall was pleased to see his team turn things around quickly as the first round-robin of 5A East play comes to a close.

“I don’t know if it was a relief as much as it was a satisfaction,” Marshall said. “I thought I knew what we were made of, and to see them respond was kind of a confidence boost in knowing that we were spot on with what we believed about them. It was also a confidence boost for the kids.”

The Lady Badgers improved to 15-5 overall and 5-0 in the 5A East as Jamie Jackson led the way with 23 points while junior guard Kalela Miller added 10 points. Madison Richey had five points, with four points for Mackenzie Bingham and three points each for seniors Kelsie Brockway and Whitney Emison. The victory marked the ninth straight for Beebe.

The Beebe teams hosted Forrest City last night in a pair of 5A East Conference make-up games that were canceled back on Jan. 15.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls shoot out lights, beat Lady Lions

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers couldn’t miss early in Friday’s home game against Searcy, and the result was a lop-sided 59-31 victory in a 7A/6A East Conference game. The Lady Panthers hit 10 of 12 field-goal attempts in the first quarter including 5 of 6 three-point attempts. Point guard Jaylin Bridges hit four of those three pointers on four attempts.

Cabot coach Carla Crowder was excited about her team’s shooting performance.

“It makes everything easier for sure,” Crowder said. “It’s amazing how much smoother everything else goes when you’re making all your shots.”

Cabot led 25-10 by the end of the quarter, but the rout had to wait for the second half. Foul trouble suddenly began to plague the Lady Panthers. Starting post player Alyssa Hamilton picked up her third foul with just two minutes elapsed in the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, leading scorer Elliot Taylor committed her third foul. With their two leading scorers for the season on the bench for most of the second quarter, Cabot scored only nine points and the lead grew by just one point to 34-18 by halftime.

While Cabot (12-4, 5-1) enjoyed success from outside in the first half, hitting 6 of 7 attempts from three-point range, they went inside in the third quarter to blow the game open. The Lady Panthers started the third quarter with a 6-2 run for a 40-20 lead in a minute and a half.

Taylor then picked up her fourth foul with 5:35 left in the third quarter and never re-entered. That hurt Cabot’s press, but the Lady Panthers continued to shoot lots of layups thanks to excellent ball movement in the half-court offense.

“I thought we executed really well,” Crowder said. “We moved the ball around and created open shots. We work on that in practice and we executed it well tonight.”

Hamilton stayed out of further foul trouble in the third quarter, and she was the prime beneficiary of Cabot’s offensive execution. She scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the third quarter, mostly on open jumpers in the lane or layups. Cabot had 18 assists in the victory with Bridges leading the way with five.

Searcy had no foul trouble at all. In fact, Cabot didn’t shoot a free throw until near the end of the third quarter. Cabot hit 5 of 6 attempts in the game while Searcy made just 6 of 13.

The Lady Panthers finished the game hitting 24 of 46 shot attempts for 43 percent. They were 6 of 10 from three-point range.

Searcy made 12 of 46 attempts for 26 percent. The Lady Lions were 1 of 13 from behind the arc.

Hamilton led all players in scoring and rebounding. She had nine boards to go with her 18 points. Bridges scored 15 while senior post Ally Van Enk scored nine points and had seven rebounds.

Searcy’s 6-4 post player Angelina Williams finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.

Cabot played a big game at Little Rock Central on Tuesday to close out the first round robin of league play. Central was undefeated heading into that game and was a game ahead of the second-place Lady Panthers.

Details of that game will be in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. Cabot stays on the road on Friday with another big game at North Little Rock, the only league team to beat Cabot so far.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils slip past Lions

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville took a big step towards a conference championship on Saturday, barely escaping a home game with Little Rock McClellan with a 63-60 victory and finishing the first round robin of the 5A Central competition in first place with a 7-0 record. The Red Devils and Crimson Lions entered the game with 6-0 conference records, and played like two teams equally matched.

Jacksonville never trailed, but never had complete control of the game either. The Red Devils stretched out double digit leads three times. McClellan battled back to within a point each time, but was never able to take a lead.

“That was just toughness,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “They just battled. They were facing a team with some strengths we don’t have. They were facing a team making a charge and threatening to take over the game, and they fought them off. That game was won with mental toughness.”

Senior guard Kevin Richardson only scored two baskets coming off the bench, but they were back to back and they were two of the biggest buckets of the game.

The Lions had battled back from a 12-point deficit to pull within 57-56 with 2:33 left in the game. After a defensive stop they had possession with a chance to take the lead, but Richardson flashed into the passing lane on a McClellan skip pass, leaped high into the air for the steal then took it the distance for a layup at the other end.

McClellan’s Tronsayne Ellis hit two free throws to again make it a one-point game with 1:17 to play. Jacksonville missed its first attempt at the other end, but Richardson went high for a tip in that bounced high off the backboard and fell in for a 61-58 Jacksonville lead with 39 seconds remaining.

Ellis missed at the other end and Jacksonville’s Sergio Berkley got the rebound. Berkley got trapped on the baseline immediately after coming down with the long rebound, and Jacksonville caught a break.

Two whistles almost blew simultaneously at the 12-second mark. One official was going to call jump ball, but the other had just signaled timeout for Joyner, who was calling it from the bench.

Aaron Smith was fouled with 10 seconds left after the timeout and hit them both. McClellan scored and called timeout with three seconds remaining. Jacksonville got the inbounds pass in to Justin McCleary, who simply turned and threw high into the air and towards and open spot on the floor to run out the clock.

One of the strengths Mc-Clellan has that Jacksonville doesn’t is size, but that didn’t show up in the final statistics. The Red Devils (13-4) dominated the inside, outrebounding the Lions 35-15 and getting a combined 27 points from its post players while holding McClellan to just 14 points in the paint.

McClellan coach Chris Threatt zeroed in on the rebounding totals, but with a positive spin.

“When you consider we rebounded that poorly and only lost by three points on their home court, it means we were successful at taking some things away from them that they’re used to getting,” Threatt said. “If we can correct that and not let any other part of our game suffer, it should put us in good position to have a different outcome next time.”

The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Lions (12-6, 6-1), after starting the season 2-5 against a brutal schedule.

Jacksonville got its first double-digit lead with an 11-3 run early in the second quarter that made it 24-14. A few minutes later the lead grew to 30-19, but McClellan closed the first half with a 7-0 run to make it a four-point game. Jacksonville opened the second half with a 9-1 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 39-27 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.

McClellan answered immediately with an 8-2 run and never trailed by more than six the rest of the way.

The Lions were sparked by their bench. Davion Givens led the comeback in the third quarter by hitting four of his five three pointers. He finished with a team-high 15 points. Ellis led the charge for the Lions in the fourth, scoring nine of his 11 points in that final frame.

Aaron Smith led Jacksonville with 18 points, including hitting all three of his three-point attempts. Sophomore post player Kanaan Jackson and senior post Khaleel Hart each scored 10.

Saturday’s game was a makeup for the two team’s scheduled Jan. 15 game that was postponed due to bad weather. It was Jacksonville’s second win in two days. The night before the Red Devils put an emphatic end to Sylvan Hills’ brief winning streak, punishing the Bears 78-34 at the Devils’ Den.

McCleary led the Red Devils with 16 points in very limited minutes. Jackson scored 13 and Douglas Matthews added 11. A total of 13 Red Devils scored in the game.