Friday, February 15, 2013

TOP STORY >> Byrd dies, Shorter soars

Leader editor

Donald Byrd, one of finest jazz trumpet players of the second half of the 20th Century, died earlier this month at the age of 80. Some of his fans might not even have known he was still around, having given up the limelight in middle age when he concentrated on music education. They had remembered him as a hard-charging musician in the 1950s and 1960s who changed directions around 1970 and started making more commercial music that harmed his reputation in some jazz circles.

Byrd, a Detroit native, made his first great jazz recordings in the mid-1950s, when he was still in his early 20s. He sounded like an old pro, when he led a group on “Byrd’s World” on the Savoy label with Frank Foster, the Count Basie veteran on tenor saxophone, Hank Jones on piano and Paul Chambers on bass. A year later, he recorded for Prestige with the great John Coltrane and Hank Mobley on tenor, Elmo Hope on piano, Philly Joe Jones and drums and again Chambers of bass.

For the next 15 years, Byrd appeared on several outstanding LPs, most of them for the Blue Note label. He was not among the top tier of trumpet players at Blue Note, where Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Dorham were the trumpet stars, but he was up there with Blue Mitchell and Charles Tolliver, and they were good enough.

Byrd played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers — Blakey was a great spotter of talent — and also recorded with such Blue Note stars as Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Lou Donaldson and others.

Byrd was a fine leader of his own small groups, and he also co-led with the baritone saxophone player Pepper Adams. “The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd-Pepper Studio Sessions” from Mosaic in 2000 helped boost Byrd’s image as a hardbop player with younger listeners and older fans who’d forgotten how good he was.

He also nurtured new talent, especially the piano player Herbie Hancock, who appeared on most of Byrd’s mid-period records, including a couple of the Byrd-Pepper sessions, as well as “Free Form” with tenor saxophone player Wayne Shorter, “A New Perspective” with Hank Mobley again and “I’m Trying to Get Home” with Stanley Turrentine on tenor.

By the end of the 1960s, Byrd must have tired of bebop — playing hard takes its toll on a musician — and anyway, by the end of the 1960s, jazz was struggling. So he moved into R&B, fusion and funk and made some serious money, especially with “Blackbyrd,” Blue Note’s biggest seller.

He also became an educator and stayed out of the limelight by the 1980s. Rappers sampled his music, and he must have lived comfortably on the income from his record royalties. From all accounts, Byrd was an unassuming musician even when he led his own groups. He loved to teach and leaves behind a legacy of first-rate jazz from the 1950s and 1960s that will be heard for generations.

Amazingly, the aforementioned Wayne Shorter is recording for Blue Note again after a 40-year absence that took him into similar territory that Byrd inhabited in the 1970s: Shorter’s group Weather Report with Joe Zawinul on keyboards was perhaps the most influential fusion group of the era, but he has returned to more traditional jazz.

Shorter plays tenor and soprano saxophone on “With-out a Net,” his newest from Blue Note, which is as daring as anything he has done during his illustrious career.

His definition of jazz is “I dare you.”

He’s never been afraid to walk a tightrope for more than 50 years, starting with the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra and the Jazz Messengers. He made his biggest mark with Miles Davis in the 1960s.

Along the way, he led several important recording sessions on Blue Note. Before that, in the early 1960s, he co-led sessions on the small VeeJay label with Lee Morgan, whose collaboration is available on the astonishing “Complete VeeJay Lee Morgan-Wayne Shorter Sessions” from Mosaic.

Shorter is also heard on two other important Mosaic box sets, “The Complete Blue Note Record-ings of Art Blakey’s 1960 Jazz Messengers” and “The Complete Plugged Nickel Sessions” with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.

In his 80th year, Shorter is better than ever. “Without a Net” is a compilation of live recordings made in Europe in 2011 with a brilliant quartet that includes the Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and Shreveport’s own Brian Blade on drums.

One lovely tune was recorded in Los Angeles with the Imani Winds quartet.

Some of the music is traditional jazz, much of it is free form and all of it is brilliant. After 55 years, Wayne Shorter continues to explore new sounds, taking new ideas from his collaborators, and in the meantime, reinventing the venerable Blue Note label, which has been issuing glorious music since 1939. May it continue for another 74 years.

TOP STORY >> Cabot tax meeting to push extension

Leader staff writer

Representatives from the various groups who want Cabot voters to extend the existing one-cent sales tax to pay for about $40 million in improvement projects met Tuesday evening as a task force to talk about possible pitfalls to the tax passing and how to avoid them.

They decided to concentrate on explaining and promoting the $8.2 million sewer project and almost $19 million in parks projects because they are the most misunderstood. And they agreed to all work together to get all the projects approved because as Gary Walker, chairman of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, said, “United we stand; divided we fall.”

A new library in the old Knight’s building on Main Street for $2.6 million needslittle elaboration, Mayor Bill Cypert said. The demand for library services is growing and the entire shopping area where the Knight’s building is located could eventually become an education center for Cabot.

The North interchange to improve traffic flow has been talked about for a decade. The only new part is that the city will have to pay half the cost, $9.5 million.

But people are confused by plans to build a combination baseball park and water park, the mayor said. No one disagrees that the city needs a new baseball park, but they equate a water park to facilities like Wild River Country. So from now on, the water park will be called an outdoor swimming pool complex to replace the existing outdated, outdoor pool.

The need to expand the six-year-old community center is also a point of contention for some voters.

When the mayor and representatives from the task force begin meeting this month with the various organizations and groups that could pass the tax, they will explain that the community center was too small when it was built and that there is no place in Cabot large enough to accommodate groups of more than 500.

As for the sewer project that will increase capacity for growth in the Hwy. 5/Greystone area, it is for economic growth, the mayor said. And economic growth will benefit everyone and allow the city to provide better services for everyone, he said.

The mayor called that project, which includes collection improvements over much of the city, “the key to economic development in Cabot.”

The tax would also pay for a $500,000 drainage project to stop homes from flooding in the Highlands area. Paul Davis who lives in the Highlands said at 77, he’s too old to deal with a home that keeps flooding.

But he also said residents there don’t understand the sales tax extension, and they are concerned about it.

To clear up confusion about what it’s for and how much it will cost, the mayor has scheduled five town hall-style meetings from Feb. 26 until March 26.

Also on the calendar are meetings with the following organizations: Civitan, Rotary Club, Cabot Junior Auxiliary, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Cabot chamber general membership luncheon, Cabot/Jacksonville Tea Party and the Cabot Homebuilders Association.

The mayor has requested that representatives from the task force attend the meetings especially representatives from the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission and the Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission.

The mayor said the most important point to get across is that the tax is not a new tax, it is a tax extension.

If voters approve it, they won’t pay more than they do now. Furthermore, Cabot’s population is about 25,000 but its trade area has a population of about 61,000.

So the money borrowed in bonds to pay for the various projects will be repaid by everyone who shops in Cabot, not just Cabot residents.

The original one-cent sales tax was passed in 1999. It paid for water wells, a water treatment plant and a line to deliver the water to Cabot. Cypert credits that tax with allowing Cabot to continue growing.

Then in 2005, the tax was extended and additional bonds were approved to pay for more work such as the community center, the railroad overpass that connects Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38, the animal shelter and street improvements.

In everyday language, loans for those projects were refinanced in 2005 and more money was borrowed to pay for the 2005 projects. But to use the accurate terminology that is used on ballots, the bonds were “refunded” and voters approved new bonds.

Ken Kincade, an accountant and vice-chairman of the parks commission, said he thinks it would be better when talking to voters to use terms that apply to their lives.

Most people understand that they can refinance their homes to get lower interest rates and maybe even borrow more money for remodeling.

Essentially, that’s what they will be doing April 9 when they vote to refund the existing bonds and then vote yes to new bonds for new projects, Kincade said.

And if they vote no to the refunding or refinancing their loan payment doesn’t go away, but they might miss a chance at a lower interest rate, and they don’t get projects like the new baseball fields, swimming pool and two new softball fields.

In addition to the meetings that have been scheduled, brochures to explain the tax and the projects it would support will be passed out to voters. And the mayor has asked the task force to provide volunteers to stand at intersections with signs promoting the tax extension during the week of early voting and on April 9.

TOP STORY >> Longtime fire chief retires

Leader staff writer

Chief John Vanderhoof will say goodbye to the Jacksonville Fire Department next Friday after being there most of his life.

The chief will leave just shy of 43 years of service and the last 15 as the chief. The official record says 42 years and 10 months; the chief says it has been for a lifetime.

“Even before I was officially with the fire department, I was always at the fire department with my dad. My dad worked his way up to assistant fire chief and was with it when it was an ordnance plant fire department and then stayed when the city took over,” the chief said.

“I spent a lot of days and nights here as a youngster and teen,” he added. “I usually spent Saturday night at the station and then came home Sunday with my dad in time for church and then fried chicken.”

The chief joined the department as a firefighter on May 15, 1970, after joining the Marine Corps.

Vanderhoof really had no plans to be a firefighter. “I did a stint in the Marines, got out in February and was still looking for something to do.”

“I actually had an interview that day with Remington. They were just started up. But a few days earlier I stopped by the station and asked Chief (Wayman) Schmitt and Wilbur Smart what it would take to be a firefighter. They said show up here instead of Remington on the 15th, and that’s what I did.”

City records show him as a temporary firefighter for one month, before he took and passed the civil service test.

It didn’t take long for the future chief to figure out what his dad had known — that firefighter was not a job, not a career, but a lifestyle.

During his almost 43-year stint, he never took a sick day. “Were there days I was sick? Yes, and I had to be literally carried onto the truck.”

He recalls one day Chief Smart made him go home. “I had the mumps, but I made that day up later,” Venderhoof said.

“Back then, there was nothing like getting on the back of engine’s tailboard and seeing that fire and knowing that we were doing good. It was a sense of pride that I still have today,” the chief said.

He added, “We were more aggressive back then. We didn’t have all the safety equipment and health knowledge that we do now. We’d arrive, rush in, fight the fire and come out hacking and blowing soot out of our noses.”

The chief said in a college English class he took after he joined the department he had to write a descriptive paper. “Naturally, I wrote about the adrenalin and the rush and the pride of going to my first fire,” Vanderhoof said.

It certainly wasn’t about the pay — back then it was $325 a month, plus a $50 clothing allowance,now, starting pay is now $2,815 a month. Another way to look at it, the chief started at $1.35 an hour, compared to today’s rate of $11.73. When Vanderhoof started with the fire department, there were only 15 firefighters and now there are 65.

The chief had originally planned to retiree in May, but moved it up. “I love to fish and the crappie will be spawning soon and I want to be there,” he said.

“I’ve been here my whole life and now it’s just time for me. I’m 65 and want to enjoy whatever time I have left with my wife and family and fishing. My wife wants us to travel and we like antiquing and will do more of it,” the chief said.

He spent most of the week telling each fire shift about his decision.

Vanderhoof said the department would be in excellent hands.

“The people under me, the battalion chiefs, have all been trained to do my job and any one of them will do it well. It’s been a wonderful career, but now it’s time do something different.” the chief said.

Vanderhoof is proud of his 15 years at the helm of the department. “The key is to have a vision, then planning comes into place. Does it happen overnight, no, but it does get done.”

He cited as an example the recently opened state-of-the-art public safety training facility off Marshall Road.

“I first envisioned that in 2000, and it’s taken 13 years to come to fruition. At first we looked at land across from Fire Station No. 1 (on Redmond Road), then the old sewer plant, before getting land for it on the old Vertac site,” the chief explained.

He added that it took a lot of work and the support of the people to get it done.

In his career the chief has done everything from hoseman to engineer to cook to CPR and mouth-to-mouth. He has no idea how many lives he’s saved. “You didn’t think about that, you just did the job the best you could.”

About the cooking — he was the chief cook on his shift for a number of years. “They just liked my cooking. Nothing fancy. If I had my choice it would be beans, fried ‘tators and corn bread,” he said.

The roles are reversed at home. “I like to cook, and do sometimes, but mostly my wife cooks, and I clean up. We make a pretty good team.”

Vanderhoof has outlasted three mayors, working on his fourth. When the chief started in 1970, it was Mayor John Harden welcoming him to the fold. He was promoted to driver in 1976 and received a $15 pay raise, going from $700 a month to $715. A little over a year later he became captain and was shaking hands with Mayor James Reid. When Vanderhoof became shift commander, now called battalion chief, in 1993, Tommy Swaim was mayor, and it’ll be Mayor Gary Fletcher signing off on the chief’s retirement paperwork.

“My wife retired a year ago and she’s ready to travel. We’ll probably visit out west and into New England, but only when I’m not fishing or visiting the stations,” the chief said.

He doesn’t look upon his departure as retiring. “I’m having the privilege of joining the elites — those chiefs and great firefighters that have retired before me. They live on in the firefighters’ memories and we look back at what they have done to help create this great fire department of ours.”

Speaking of memories, the chief took a look back in the departments’ logs, which date back to the end of World War II, and looked up the November day he was born in 1947. “And there it is, my dad’s name with a notice by the chief that he was out for family illness; that was me being born.”

For the chief, 2012 was a tough year that may have hastened his retirement. He lost an on-duty firefighter — the first for the department — when a driver purposely swerved to hit first responders working an accident. He also had to deal with the smoke inhalation death of a mom and her four children. Both incidents happened in March.

“But it was also the year that we achieved a Class 2 fire rating. That took a lot of effort and a number of years to achieve.”

What will the chief not miss?

Probably the paperwork work. “The job is essential the same, but the paperwork is now massive. When I first started it was a ledger with the names of who was on duty and what fires occurred.”

Fletcher said Vanderhoof is a visionary. “He had and has great ideas for the department and city. He will leave a legacy.”

Fletcher went on to say that “Vanderhoof did not just fill the position of chief, but lived and expanded it. He will be hard to replace. He has a great, strong work ethic that he has passed on to the department and to his family. Our 911 director, Tabby Hughes, is his daughter and she has that same work ethic.”

The mayor added that Vanderhoof has had a positive, dramatic impact on the department.

TOP STORY >> Tailor Medicaid to fit Arkansas, legislators say

Leader senior staff writer

Thirty-five percent of Arkansans are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and that’s just “unacceptable,” according to House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot).

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that going whole hog on Medicaid expansion is the best idea, Carter told The Leader on Friday.

“We’ve got to work a lot harder to get that number to where people are able to ...have more success and prosperity and live better lives,” he said.

Carter and state Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe), who joined Carter in the interview, agreed that as Republicans, they were not supportive of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But since it became law and has been upheld by the Supreme Court, they say they want to see how the law can be best tailored to suit Arkansans.

Carter said that by reading between the lines, it appears that there is flexibility in implementation.

Through Gov. Mike Beebe, that question has been posed to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.


“This is probably the most important decision that any General Assembly has made for a long time,” Carter said. “I mean for the next 10, 20, 30 years of our state’s future — if we get this wrong...well, we can’t get this wrong.”

Toward that end, the General Assembly is about to contract with an independent auditing firm to try to nail down numbers — the numbers of new Medicaid recipients and the cost over time to the state of providing Medicaid under the new rules.

Many legislators are not comfortable with numbers they are getting from the Congressional Budget Office nor from the state Department of Human Services.


Currently, about 208,000 Arkansans receive Medicaid, but under the president’s plan that number could grow by a factor of eight to 1.6 million, Carter said.

The cost of Medicaid expansion would be nothing for the first three years, but by the end of 10 years, Arkansas would be paying 10 percent, the federal government the balance. Currently, Arkansas pays 30 percent of the costs of the 208,000 recipients.

In the first full year of expansion, the new Medicaid would cost the state $1 billion a year, according to Dismang.

“We need to make sure we are looking at the long-term,” he said. “We need to have agreed-to numbers.”


If the state doesn’t participate in Medicaid expansion, families earning 100 percent to 138 percent of the poverty level would still qualify for a Medicaid subsidy that would cap their monthly premium at $14 to $26.

By way of example, a family of three earning $32,040 a year would qualify for the subsidy. Carter said that subsidy disappears if the state approves the Medicaid expansion.

Carter said that somewhere in the debate, legislators get down to the question of whether they keep spending on Medicaid, or whether they spend more money on education and better tax policy to create more jobs and opportunities.


Medicaid expansion is not the only big issue Carter and Dismang say needs review by an independent auditor. They cite the proposed $125 billion state subsidy in support of the the Big River Steel Mill at Osceola (Mississippi County).

“I’m optimistic about it,” Carter said. “We haven’t seen the economic analysis from the (Arkansas Industrial Development Commission) yet. When we get that analysis, we’ll do due diligence.

The proposal includes a $75 million construction grant from the state and a $50 million loan.

Barring discovery of a red flag, both Carter and Dismang say it seems like a good thing, and highly recommended by AIDC.

While a large number of bills have been filed this session, there hasn’t been much action. Dismang said each session develops its own rhythm.

SPORTS STORY >> North girls playing for league title

Leader sportswriter

Revenge was both sweet and productive for Cabot North as the junior Lady Panthers avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Conway White with a 39-32 victory in the semifinal round of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament at Panther Pavilion on Thursday.

The Lady Panthers (18-5) will take on Conway Blue in the championship game today at noon at Panther Arena.

It was the third matchup between the two teams, as the Lady Wampus Cats came into the game with the confidence of two prior wins, but could not find a handle on defending dynamic North guard CoCo Calhoun. Calhoun dominated both offensively and defensively with a game-high 16 points, along with a number of key steals and defensive rebounds that made the biggest difference in the game, particularly in the second half.

“We’ve been playing team basketball since the beginning of the year,” North coach Jeremy Halbrook said. “Since the first of the year, we’re 10-1 now. The way we’ve been executing, playing team ball, I couldn’t be any happier. Yesterday, when we found out we were playing Conway White, I told the girls that’s who I wanted to play, because they’re the only team we have not beat on our schedule this year. It’s nice to get a little revenge. I’m very proud of the girls.”

North and Conway Blue were co-conference champs during the regular season, making today’s final a true winner-take-all matchup.

The Lady Wampus Cats rushed out to an early 6-0 lead before Cabot came back on the strength of Calhoun, who made two free throws and a three-point basket to close the gap to one by the 2:02 mark of the first quarter.

The two teams battled to a 20-20 tie at the half before White took a 23-20 lead to open the second half. Calhoun responded for the Lady Panthers with three-consecutive baskets to hand the lead back to Cabot at 26-23 by the 3:42 mark.

“She’s been a good leader this year,” Halbrook said of Calhoun. “Her work ethic is real good. She’ll probably be a player that gets to move up at the end of our year and play with the high school. Overall this year, her competitiveness and will to win, it has made everyone else better.”

Lily Sinclair gave Cabot a late boost when she made a three-point basket with two minutes remaining to give the Lady Panthers a 34-30 lead. From there, North went 5 of 10 from the free-throw line and held Conway to a single basket.

While Calhoun is the undeniable breakout star of the team, Halbrook was quick to point out that North’s success has been a collaborative effort this season.

“My point guard, Rachel Allgood, she does an excellent job controlling the tempo,” Halbrook said. “We had a big three-point shot there by Lily Sinclair. In the last five games, Lily has stepped up. If she had played like this all year, we would probably be unbeatable. Maddie Rice has done a really good job as well. She’s improved. At the beginning of the year, Maddie was timid with the ball, but she’s learned to relax and play. My post player Claire Eifling, she’s done her part.”

Eifling added nine points for the Lady Panthers while Sinclair finished with eight points. Allgood had four points for Cabot North.


It was a rubber match with big implications as Conway Blue pulled off a second-half comeback to down Cabot South 43-38 in the semifinal round of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament at Panther Pavilion on Thursday.

The two teams split their two regular-season conference games, but Conway (18-3) got the last word with a strong defensive performance in the second half.

The Lady Panthers dominated the first half and carried a 28-18 lead into the break, but the Lady Wampus Cats held their hosts to a single point in the third quarter and 10 points in the entire second half with an improved defensive strategy that denied South from getting into the paint for easy looks.

“We’ve been playing good defense, but we had to get on to them a little bit at halftime,” Conway Blue head coach Marlon Williams said. “Cabot is awesome. They’re a good team. We were just trying to keep them out of the lane. They’re really good at getting in the lane and getting easy buckets, and they will out work you any day. We just tried to make sure that we worked hard and boxed out and keep them off the boards, and that helped us in the end.”

Conway Blue will face Cabot South in the championship game today at noon at Panther Arena.

Heather Hill sent the Lady Panthers into the break with a 28-18 lead at the half when she drove in under the basket from the right side and scored just before the buzzer for her only points of the game. Anna Sullivan and Chloe Ban led Cabot North with 11 points each while Leighton Taylor and Sarah Davis each had five points for the Lady Panthers.

For Conway Blue, guard Alexis Tolefree led with 20 points while Futra Banks had 13 points.

Sullivan gave the Lady Panthers their largest lead of the game at the 5:16 mark of the third quarter when she hit the front end of a two-shot foul to make it 29-18, but Cabot South went scoreless for the remainder of the period. In that time, Conway Blue made up major ground primarily with a transition-based offense.

Banks cut the margin to 29-27 with a basket and free throw at the 3:14 mark, and tied the game at 29-29 with a bank shot inside with 2:55 left to play in the period. Banks wrapped up the frame by hitting the back end of a two-shot foul to give the Lady Cats their first lead of the game, 32-31, heading into the final quarter.

Ban finally ended the scoring drought for South when she scored on a putback with 4:25 left to play to cut Conway’s lead to 32-31, but Tolefree responded for the Lady Wampus Cats with a long-distance three pointer. Sullivan cut it back to one with a basket and free throw, but two more free throws from Tolefree made it 37-34, and an inside shot by Charlena Green made it a two-possession game.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbit boys top Southside at district

Leader sports editor

NEWPORT – The Lonoke Jackrabbits get their rubber match with Pine Bluff Dollarway at 7:30 p.m. today in Newport. The Jackrabbits handled Southside-Batesville 68-49 in the semifinals of the 4A-2 district tournament without the help of head coach Dean Campbell, who was in Newport earlier in the day, but had to be taken home because of illness before the tournament games began.

Lonoke assistant coach Heath Swiney stood in as head coach while girls coach Nathan Morris sat in as assistant. Swiney was pleased with how the squad reacted to not having its head coach.

“I think the kids showed a lot of maturity to go out there and play hard like that with their head coach not on the bench like they’re used to,” Swiney said. “They played very good in spots. We didn’t rebound very well but the kids stepped up and made important shots at the right times and stayed in control.”

Southside briefly held a 3-1 lead in the first moments of the game, but Lonoke scored five straight and never trailed again. The lead was up to 15-8 by the end of the first quarter.

Darian Young hit a three to start the second quarter to give the Jackrabbits a double-digit lead, but the rest of the second period was even. The Southerners began to penetrate and dish effectively, creating several open layups.

Lonoke began to struggle with its half-court offense, relying on the outside shot and getting to the free-throw line. The lead was eight at 26-18 at halftime, but the Jackrabbits would pull things together in the second half.

Lonoke led 30-21 with five minutes left in the third quarter when it made its first big run. It appeared the game was about to become a blowout when the Jackrabbits went on a 7-1 run for a 37-22 lead with 3:40 left, but Southside answered with four quick points off two Lonoke turnovers.

The Jackrabbits’ owned turnovers increased when they increased the pace of the game, but the up-and-down action still benefited Lonoke much more than the rough and rugged Southerners. Southside tried on a couple of occasions to make it a very rough and physical game, but Lonoke did not get caught up in it.

After a scoring drought of nearly three minutes, Lonoke’s lead was down to 37-26 with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

Post player Reid McKenzie then scored four straight to push it back to 15. Southside added a free-throw to make it 41-27 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Lonoke opened the fourth with a 6-1 run to take a 47-28 lead. Southside answered with its final and best run of the game.

With 2:51 left in the game, Lonoke’s lead was down to 50-40, but the Southerners had little left in the tank. Instead of trying to run out the clock, like it had when Southside made its charge, Lonoke went back to pressure. The leg-weary Southerners couldn’t handle it.

The Jackrabbits had scored no more than 15 points in any quarter, but scored 16 in a period of a minute and 35 seconds to take a 66-45 lead with 55 seconds remaining. The highlights came at the 1:15 mark. Blake Mack got a steal and mid-court and converted an acrobatic layup while being fouled.

He missed the free throw, but stole the ball under the goal and flushed it home with 55 seconds remaining for Lonoke’s biggest lead. Southside scored the next four points, but Mack got one more dunk, this time in transition, to close the show with a bang.

Mack led the Jackrabbits with 22 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. He also recorded five rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots. Point guard Jamel Rankin was the most consistent player throughout the game. He finished with 21 points and five steals and four assists. McKenzie came off the bench to score all 11 of his points in the second half, and grab a team-high seven rebounds.

Jake Henderson led the Southerners with 12 points while Taylor Ellis scored 10.

Lonoke and Dollarway split during the regular season with each team winning on the road.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot bowling teams win both state championships

Leader sports editor

Cabot High School brought home two state championships from the state bowling meet this week in Fort Smith. The boys won their second-consecutive state title while the girls brought home their third championships in the last five years.

The Cabot boys were the heavy favorites and did not disappoint. They had everyone back from last year’s championship team, and made an emphatic statement in the conference meet in the days leading up to state.

As a warning shot to the rest of the state, the Cabot boys broke the overall state record by more than 200 pins at conference, scoring 4854 and eclipsing the old mark of 4614. Each of the top five scorers at conference were Cabot bowlers. That set the tone for state.

The highest individual scorer for Cabot, Chris Brown, missed out on an individual medal, finishing fourth overall by two pins with a score of 716, but the Panthers still set the team record for a state meet, scoring 4790 and easily beating second-place Bentonville by 624 pins. That margin of victory is also a record for a state meet, beating the old one by 15 pins.

“The boys’ championship was no surprise,” Cabot coach Mike Nash said. “With everyone back from a state championship team, you expect to do well. It may have been a little bit of a surprise that they dominated the way they did, though.”

The top 16 scorers made All State and the list included four Cabot bowlers. Joining Brown on the All-State team were Kenny Pederson, Jace Jennings and Cayden Cook. Dylan Wilson finished one pin out of the top 16 with a 645 and Adrian Nicholas was 20th, making the Panthers the only team to put all six bowlers in the top 20 of 104 bowlers.

In the girls division, senior Shelby Smith tied a state record by becoming the second bowler in state history to win the individual championship three consecutive years. She didn’t score as high as last year’s state record performance, but the rest of the Lady Panthers stepped up in a big way to aid the title run.

“We talked about how important it was to start fast,” Nash said. “And the girls did that. Everyone except Shelby bowled their highest score in the first game. That put the pressure on everyone else to have to play catch up while we still had our best bowler yet to bowl her best game. That was really important for the girls to execute like that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils sweep Helena

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils and Lady Devils got easy wins on Tuesday, sweeping Helena-West Helena Central in a pair of 5A Central Conference games at the Devil’s Den. Five Red Devils scored in double figures in the boys 82-58 win. Despite the 24-point final margin, Jacksonville broke the mercy rule barrier by taking a 63-28 lead midway through the third quarter.

“We were a little sluggish to start, but that’s to be expected when you have unusual circumstances like we had,” Jacksonville assistant coach Jerry Wilson said. Wilson coached the game in the absence of head coach Vic Joyner, who missed to due to illness. “Plus Helena is very athletic. It takes a little while to get used to how athletic they are.”

Jacksonville led by just three points midway through the second quarter, but blew it open with a 43-11 run from late in the second quarter to midway through the third.

Justin McCleary led the way for Jacksonville with 16 points, including 13 in the second half. Aaron Smith scored 11 while Sergio Berkley, Brandon Brockman and Keith Charleston all scored 10 points for Jacksonville.

Senior post player Frederick Bedford led Central with 22 points while Anthony Lewis scored 14.

Jacksonville is now 11-1 in conference play and can wrap up the league’s No. 1 seed in the state tournament with a win in either of its final two games. It can secure an outright conference championship by winning both games or by McClellan losing either of its final two games. The four playoff spots are locked in the boys’ division. Jacksonville and McClellan are the likely top two seeds. Pulaski Academy entered last night’s game at Jacksonville a half game ahead of Mills for third place. The Comets, the only team to beat Jacksonville, still have to make up the Jan. 15 postponement at North Pulaski on Thursday. The Bruins won 44-35 at Mills on Jan. 25, and host the Comets to close the regular season next Friday.

The Lady Red Devils got practically no resistance in their 82-27 victory. Jacksonville led 29-4 after one quarter and 71-18 after three periods. Jessica Jackson led the way with 22 points. Merkela Bryles added 13, Tiffany Smith 12 and Shakyla Hill 11.

The ladies’ division is settled with two games to go. No matter what happens, Jacksonville will be the No. 1 seed, and will be outright champs with one more win. Little Rock Christian Academy is the two seed with Pulaski Academy third and Sylvan Hills fourth.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers control 5A East title race

Leader sportswriter

The 5A-East Conference basketball landscape has changed and Beebe is the new architect – on both sides of the conference standings.

Tuesday night, the Beebe Badgers, who have been step-for-step with Forrest City all season long in conference play, took their biggest step of the season by holding off the Mustangs 61-55 at Mustang Arena.

The win gave Beebe sole possession of first place in the boys standings and dropped the Mustangs to second place. Each team has three games left to play.

Beebe would have to drop two of their final three games and Forrest City would have to win out for the Mustangs to have a shot at winning the outright league title. and the top seed into the Class 5A state tournament.

If the Badgers win out, the league title and No. 1 seed into state is theirs. A straight up tie for first place at the end would mean a co-championship, but it would give Beebe the No. 1 seed into the state tournament.

Forrest City’s Trey Thompson led all scorers with 29 points Tuesday, but beyond that the 6’9” junior forward had little to no help. Senior guard Terion Smith, off the bench, was the next high man for the Mustangs with eight points.

Forrest City’s remaining four starters contributed a total of 12 points. Thompson added eight rebounds to go along with his point total.

From the floor, the Mus-tangs connected on just 17 of their 44 shots and were 4 of 16 from the three-point arc.

Austin Burroughs led Beebe with 22 points, 13 of that in the first half, which included four three-pointers. Jake Schlenker added 11 points for the Badgers, while Tanner Chapman had nine and Zach Baker had eight.

Forrest City led 19-14 after one period, closing out the quarter with a 14-2 run.

Beebe used a pair of scoring runs in the second period – a 7-2 spurt after Forrest City tied the game at 23-23 – to lead 32-26 at the half. The Mustangs grabbed a 38-37 lead, but missed their next nine shots, and the Badgers scored the final seven points to regain a 44-38 cushion to start the fourth period.

“I thought that stretch, going 0 for 9, was the turning point in the game,” said Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton.

After cutting Beebe’s lead to four points in the first two minutes of the final frame, Beebe pushed the margin to 52-42 with less than two minutes to play. A rebound and putback by Dwain Whitfield got the Mustangs within three at 53-50 with a minute left. A Jared Gowan layup put Beebe’s lead at 57-50 with 44 seconds to play.

Still, the Mustangs refused to fold, getting within four points at 59-55 with five seconds left, after a Thompson three. Chapman hit two free throws to ice the game for the Badgers, who hit 9 of 11 free throws in the fourth.


Kalela Miller and Jamie Jackson combined to score 58 points Tuesday night to lead the Beebe Lady Badgers past Forrest City’s Lady Mustangs 81-66 at Mustang Arena.

The win keeps the Lady Badgers unbeaten in the 5A-East Conference at 11-0 and clinches a class 5A state tournament berth, with three games remaining.

Forrest City drops to 3-8 in the East and into sixth place with three games left to play.

Miller led with 34 points (11 points in the first and fourth periods and 13 in the second period) while Jackson added 24 points – 11 of that in the fourth.

The two teams battled to a 15-15 tie to end the first period before Beebe took a 10-point lead into halftime. Forrest City got within four at 49-45 late in the third period on a long two by Mary Burks. The Lady Mustangs were within six points with 4:37 to play in the game, before Beebe used a 20-to-11 run to close out the game.

Burks and Jakayla Burke led Forrest City with 15 points while Dominique Dillard and Nikima Chatters had 12 each and Jabrisha Hawkins had 10.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win third straight, defeat Central

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers won their third straight 7A/6A East Conference game Tuesday with a lopsided 63-35 decision over Little Rock Central at Panther Arena.

The win avenged last month’s 49-47 loss to the Tigers at Central High School. Cabot has showed steady improvement since the beginning of the season, especially in the post. Junior 6-foot-4 post player Michael Smith played his best game as a Panther, scoring a career-high 25 points.

“They beat us at their place 49-47, and I thought we played OK then,” said head Panther Jerry Bridges. “We’re executing our stuff well and we’re getting good shots. Michael Smith, I’ve been seeing progress the past 10 days. He’s coming on and I’m really happy for him, but I just thought our team did a good job of working together and getting the good shot.”

A three pointer by Jake Ferguson 46 seconds into the game was the start of a 13-2 Cabot scoring run. At the end of the quarter, the Panthers led 18-8 before Smith scored on a rebound and putback to give the home team a 20-8 lead.

Cabot (10-12, 5-6) pushed its lead to 15 on an and-one play by Smith at the 5:15 mark of the second quarter, but Central (6-13, 3-8) responded with a 12-0 run to cut the Panther lead to 25-22. With 2:02 to play in the half, Ferguson ended Cabot’s scoreless streak with a baseline three, which sparked a 7-0 run to close the half. The Panthers led 32-22 at the break.

“We went through that one stretch where we got out of our nature,” Bridges said about Central’s second-quarter run. “We settled down and Jake Ferguson hit a big three for us that really helped us, and we got back to doing what we do.”

The Panthers committed half of their 12 turnovers during the Tigers’ run in the second quarter. Central also totaled 12 turnovers, but committed eight in the second half. At the start of the third quarter, Cabot pushed its lead to 16 as Smith scored the first six points of the second half from his post position.

Smith was a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third, scoring eight of the Panthers’ 19 points in the period. Central scored seven points in the period on three field goals, and at the end of three, Cabot led by a comfortable 51-29 margin.

“When I realized I had already put 13 points up in the first half I was like all right, well, let’s give me the ball and let’s score,” said Smith. “But, you know, it’s a team effort and that’s what really helped out. We lost by two at their place, but we knew that we wanted this win, because we want to get to state and that’s our team goal. Everybody is playing like a team and that’s what’s helping us.”

Like the previous quarter, Smith scored the first basket of the fourth, and made two free throws to give the Panthers a 55-29 lead before sitting the rest of the game. Cabot outscored Central 12-6 in the final quarter to set the final score.

Cabot dominated the paint through all four quarters, outrebounding Central 25-12. The Panthers made 13 of 17 free throws for 76 percent, and 4 of 10 three pointers for 40 percent. Central made 6 of 11 free throws for 55 percent, and 1 of 9 three pointers for an abysmal 11 percent.

Ferguson finished with eight points. Kyle Theilemier added six, and Bryan Shrum, Clayton Vaught and Nick Thomas each scored five points for Cabot. Kyle Nelson led Central with nine points.

The Panthers continued 7A/6A East play against West Memphis yesterday at home after deadlines, and will travel to No. 2 Jonesboro on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

EVENTS >> 2-13-2013


The Literacy Council of Lonoke County is now offering spring semester classes at its Cabot office, 114 N. First St., suite E inside the Cabot Mini-Mall.

Americans or foreign-born residents who would like to learn to read English better should register by calling 501-843-7323.

Classes and materials are free.

“Illiteracy fuels unemployment and poverty. Over 45 percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma. It is estimated that 20 percent of Arkansans read below the level considered necessary to deal with current societal reading issues,” according to a news release from the Literacy Council of Lonoke County. The group also needs volunteers to work as tutors and in its bookstore. Call 501-843-7323 for details.


The Woodlawn Community Center will have a cornbread, bean and fried-potato supper at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 as a fundraiser for the Woodlawn Extension Homemakers Club.

Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for kids under 10 years old.

The Woodlawn Community Center’s seniors will provide desserts. The center is at Hwy. 31 north.

For more information, call 501-676-3695.


The Jacksonville Sertoma Club’s third annual Father-Daughter Banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

It is an evening for dads and their daughters to spend time together with dinner, dessert and dancing. The event is not limited to fathers though. Girls can bring their grandfathers, uncles or male role models. Men dress in suits or slacks and a nice tie and daughters will be in glamorous formal wear.

Daughters will receive tiaras and will have their pictures taken with their dads. A silent auction will also be held.

The event encourages youngsters, teens and adults to spend the evening with their dads.

Tickets are $35 for a father and one daughter, $45 for a father and two daughters and $50 for a father and three or more daughters.

Tickets are available by calling Mary Twitty at 501- 912-9422 or Valarie Perry at 501-529-3685.

Jacksonville Sertoma provides hearing aids and financial assistance for people of all ages, from elementary school students to adults.


The Miss Greater Jacksonville Scholarship Pageant and the Miss Greater Jacksonville’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will be held Feb. 23 at the Jacksonville Community Center. The pageants are preliminary competitions for the Miss Arkansas and Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen Pageants to be held in Hot Springs in July.

Participants must be residents, students or full-time employees of Faulkner, Grant, Lonoke, Jefferson, Perry, Pulaski or Saline counties for at least the last six months.

Miss Greater Jacksonville contestants must be 17 to 24 years old. Entry forms can be found online at and at Outstanding Teen contestants must be between 12 and 17 years old. Entry forms can be found online at

The pageants will be held on the same day as the Miss Greater Jacksonville Junior Pageant. The contestants will compete in beauty, with optional talent and photogenic portions. Junior age groups are baby miss for 18 months and under, toddler miss for 19-35 months, wee miss for 3 to 4 year olds, tiny miss for 5 to 6 year olds, little miss for 7 to 9 year olds and petite miss for 10 to 12 year olds.

Contact Sharon Boyd for entry forms by calling 501-982-3898 or e-mailing Feb. 15 is the deadline.


The Jacksonville Care Channel thrift shop will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the first Saturday of the month. The store is at 201 N. Elm St.

For more information, call 501-982-4647.


South Bend United Methodist Church will hold a spaghetti supper from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 as a fundraiser for its JAM (Jesus and Me) youth group. Tickets are $5 and also includes bread, salad, dessert and a drink.

The church is at Hwy. 294 at Shelton Road.


Gov. Mike Beebe will be the keynote speaker when Cabot’s Open Arms Shelter holds its first Child Abuse Awareness Banquet and silent auction at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4.

KARK anchorman Bob Claussen will emcee the event and Sondra Burnett, a Southern Gospel songwriter and singer, will perform.

Dinner sponsors are being sought. Sponsors who donate $500 will have the company’s logo displayed continuously on a video screen throughout the event, their company logo displayed on a company table placard and the company’s logo will be printed in the program. Included are eight tickets to the dinner and auction.

Table sponsors will have their company name displayed at the table on a placards and eight tickets to the dinner.

Individual tickets are $25.

Those who attend will receive a blue lapel ribbon to wear during April, National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

To become a sponsor or for ticket information, contact Executive Director Nancy Hamlin at or call (501) 676-6166, Rhonda Harps at or call (501) 690-3916, or Rhonda House at or call (501) 843-9460 or (501) 259-0509.


The Ward Public Library will have an e-book lunch and learn on Friday, Feb. 22. Participants should bring their e-readers. The library will provide lunch. It is at 205 Hickory, Suite 100. Call 501-941-3220 to make a reservation.


An AARP Driver Safety Class will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church on MacArthur Drive in Jacksonville. The cost of the class is $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers.


Gold City, a Southern gospel quartet, will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7 at First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in Ward. There is no admission charge, but an offering will be collected.

For more information, call 501-843-3336.

OBITUARIES >> 2-13-2013


Silas Benjamin LeGrow, 90, of Jacksonville and Cabot passed away on Jan. 15 to his Lord and to those who went before him.

He was a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, a World War II veteran and a POW survivor of the Bataan Death March and of Japanese prison camps.

He was born on Aug. 12, 1922, to Benjamin and Mary Whalen LeGrow at Bauline, Newfoundland, Canada, a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast of the island.

Both parents passed away before he turned 7. He was adopted by his Aunt Florence. He immigrated to America, arriving in Vanceboro, Maine, on Aug. 28, 1929. He lived with his aunt in Tampa, Fla., where he grew up and went to school.

After finishing school, he went with his cousin to Toledo, Ohio, and wound up joining the Ohio National Guard in November 1940. He was assigned to Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion. After training at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Polk, La., the battalion was ordered to the Philippines by Gen. Patton.

They arrived in November 1941, only to be attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 8. They fought back for almost four months before their capture in April.

They were forced on the infamous Bataan Death March. Surviving the march, he suffered 39 months as a POW in Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, then on a hell ship and finally the camp at Hoten, Mukden, Manchuria, until being liberated by the Russians in August 1945.

He returned to the States and convalesced in the hospital for eight months before finally returned to Tampa. He married his sweetheart for life, Edna L. Lewis, of Tampa on Dec. 29, 1946. He became a U.S. citizen on Jan. 14, 1947.

They were later stationed at Fairchild Air Base in Spokane, Wash., Tachikawa Air Force Base in Japan and Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland, his birthplace, before returning stateside to Little Rock Air Force Base, where he worked at base supply as non-commissioned officer in charge. He retired from the Air Force after serving his country for 27 and a half years.

He settled in Jacksonville with his family of five sons. He went to work at Hollis and Co. in Little Rock for a short period, then at Great Plains Bag Co. in Jacksonville, where he would retire again. He was a lifetime member of VFW Post 4548 in Jacksonville. He was president of Jacksonville AARP for three years. He was also president and a lifetime member of Arkansas Retired Military Association in Jacksonville.

He loved serving his community and sharing with friends. He was a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville and spent many Sundays and gatherings as a member of the chapel family at LRAFB.

He spoke with many about his experience as a POW, visiting schools and local groups.

He went on a very special trip to Russia with his wife, Edna, and other ex-POWs that was led by former Sen. Blanche Lincoln and UAMS staff to meet Russian World War II veterans and officials during Russia’s Veterans Day ceremonies and celebrations in 2002.

He loved working in his yard all day and his garden in the spring and summer and especially loved fishing with his sons at Greers Ferry Lake, the Little Red River and float trips on the White River.

He was preceded to Heaven by his parents, Benjamin and Mary Whalen LeGrow; his son, Michael Wayne LeGrow, at 12; brothers, Roland and Wilson, of Newfoundland; brother-in-laws, Frank and Randolph Lewis, of Tampa, and a sister-in-law, Ruth and her husband Lewis Davies of Cocoa, Fla. His living loved ones are his loving wife of 66 years, Edna; his son, Robert (Bob) LeGrow, who is an Army veteran and his wife Kay of Hernando, Miss.; a grandson, Brett LeGrow and his wife Jennifer; great grandchildren, Brooke and Blake; his son, Howard LeGrow, of Jacksonville amd Cabot, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam; his son David (Dave) LeGrow, an Air Force veteran, and his wife Kathy of West Plains, Mo.; a grandson, Aaron, of San Diego, Calif., and his son Kenneth (Ken) LeGrow of Jacksonville and Cabot; his sister, Anita (Nita) Gaulton and family of Stephensville, Newfoundland; his cousin, Miriam Engelbrecht, of St. Johns, Newfoundland; a sister-in-law, Martha and her husband Lewis Schulteis and her husband Ed of Kansas City; a brother-in-law, George Lewis and wife Stella of Cocoa, Fla., and his many nieces and nephews and many great friends, especially Monroe and Ola Flucas and neighbors Ron and Jeanette Quisenberry.

Memorials may be made to the LRAFB Chapel or a charity in his name. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Roller-Owens Funeral Home Chapel in North Little Rock.

Interment will follow at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.

A fellowship gathering will be held after the services at the Jacksonville VFW.


Cheryl Kay Ouzts, 58, of Lonoke passed away Feb. 9 at her home. She was born June 9, 1954.

Survived by her husband, Larry Ouzts; one son, John Bright, of Sacramento, Calif.; two stepdaughters, Tonya Ouzts and Sarah Ouzts, both of Cabot, one grandchild and five step grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Cremation arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Theodore Edward Hines, 94, of McRae went home to be with his Lord and Savior surrounded by his family on Feb. 8.

He was born Jan. 19, 1919, at Fox. He was a member of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Beebe.

Mr. Hines was a World War II veteran serving in the Army Air Force and was a 32nd-degree Mason. He worked in civil service at Little Rock Air Force Base until retirement. He then worked as an electrician in Beebe and surrounding areas. He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather.

Mr. Hines is survived by four daughters, Joan and her husband Clint Crump of Branson, Mo., Judy and her husband Ken Coffee of McRae, Cleta and her husband Doug George of Heber Springs, and Reta Hines of Branson, Mo., 11 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Charlie and Ella Griffith Hines; his wife, Dovie Branscum Hines; a daughter, Jan Hines Wittenburg Faubus; a son-in-law, Gov. Orval Faubus; a son-in-law, Don Wittenburg; a grandson, Ricky Don Wittenburg, and six brothers and two sisters.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Higginson Trinity Pentecostal Church of God Building Fund, 100 Rachel Drive, McRae, Ark. 72102.

The funeral was Feb. 11 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Fox Cemetery. Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Vance G. Williams, 83, of Jacksonville passed away on Feb. 11. He was born Oct. 26, 1929, in Jefferson County, Ga., to the late William S. Williams and Jesse Williams.

He was a retired master sergeant in the Air Force who served during Vietnam and the Cold War.

He later retired from the Postal Service.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Lou Williams.

He is survived by his children, David Williams and his wife Annabelle, Kevin Williams and his wife Alice, and Lorane Mancini, and one granddaughter, Mary Ann Carter-Neyland.

A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville with military honors.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Frederick Lee (Freddy) Spears, 58, of Beebe died Feb. 11.

He richly and deeply loved his family and his friends. Freddy was always available to lend a helping hand to those in need.

He is survived by his father, Fred Spears, of Beebe; brothers, Greg of Memphis, Jim of Vilonia, Tim of Ward, and Gary of Beebe; a sister, Honey Jo Spears, of Beebe; a close friend, Jeremy Mar-chant, many nieces and nephews and numerous family and friends.

Freddy was preceded in death by his mother, Jean Spears, and grandfather Richard Gerome Bayles.

His family asks that memorials be made in his honor to carry on his caring and loving spirit to Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, P.O. Box 3964, Batesville, Ark. 72503; Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 2222, Little Rock, Ark. 72203; Gideon’s International, P.O. Box 1165, Searcy, Ark. 72145, or Arkansas Hospice, 14 Parkstone Circle, North Little Rock, Ark. 72116.

A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, Feb. 16 at Ward City Hall, 405 Hickory St. with a time of fellowship and pot luck to follow at 1 p.m.

Cremation arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Ruth Ida Fletcher, 89, of Fairfield Bay passed away Feb. 8 at Clinton. She was born Oct. 30, 1923, in Warren to the late Euert and Louise Durham.

She was also preceded in death by her husband, John Gould Fletcher; a brother, Eugene Durham, and a sister, Martha Sue Culbertson.

She was a member of Fairfield Bay Baptist Church and past president of the American Business Women’s Association.

She is survived by a son, John Fletcher, of Conway; a daughter, Nancy Fletcher, of Fairfield Bay, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 6 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Thomas Funeral Service. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at Fairfield Bay Baptist Church.

Cremation arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Madeline J. Frizzell Harrington, 73, of Austin went home to be with her Heavenly Father on Feb. 10.

As a member of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, Madeline loved her church and church family more than can be expressed. She was a devoted Christian lady, who not only taught her children and grandchildren the love of Jesus, but also tried to share it with everyone she met. Employed as a realtor and an income-tax professional, she always worked hard for her clients and treated them as she said she would want to be treated.

Madeline is survived by her children, Cynthia Sims and her fiancé Ronnie Guyot, of Ward, and Dennis Harrington of Austin; three very special grandchildren, Whitney Sims, Zach Harrington and Jacob Harrington; a brother, Otha Frizzell, of England, and several very loved nieces and nephews.

Madeline was preceded in death by her parents, Otha and Mable Frizzell, and two sisters, Shirley Halley and Doris Blackwell.

Memorials may be made in Madeline’s name to Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 301 Bill Foster Memorial Hwy., Cabot, Ark. 72023.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Cabot with burial in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

EDITORIAL >> Best, worst in legislature

Arkansas legislators who oppose the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program for the working poor would rather put an added burden on small businesses and hospitals that can least afford another tax hike.

Yet these same legislators continue to waste millions of dollars of taxpayers money with questionable expenses. In addition to the personal perks, such as charging the state rent for their offices in their homes and businesses, dozens of lawmakers have given themselves gold-plated health-insurance programs that they would deny their fellow Arkansans.

Fifty-two of 100 members of the Arkansas House of Representatives and 21 of 35 state senators think they are entitled to a benefit normally reserved for full-time state employees. They are abusing the system by electing to be on the state health-insurance program.

As for their personal expense account, it was reported Sunday in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that these part-time legislators have been racking up millions in per diem, mileage and expenses: $3.87 million last year and $5.06 million in 2011. The worst offender was former Sen. Randy Laverty (D-Jasper), who charged us, as taxpayers, $52,894 for travel out of state and to state meetings, expenses and per diem.

It must be pretty nice to get that on top of their annual salaries for basically a three-month job. Laverty, it goes without saying, now has a cushy state job.

Lawmakers earn $15,866 except the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore, who get $17,771.

Even our senators have been racking up the dole. The local rank-and-file public servants don’t earn anything near the $40,747 that Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) sought in 2012 reimbursements, including $2,021.37 for a June energy conference in St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada. That must have been a nice little vacation from the heat of Arkansas. What did they really learn there?

Perhaps our legislators can explain their reimbursements.

What did Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) submit for his $37,274?

At least the local members of the House of Representatives are on the bottom end of the reimbursement list. House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) had submitted only $7,050 for reimbursement by the time the list was complied. Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) had $8,979 and Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) $10,147.

Rep. John Edwards (D-North Little Rock) and former Sen. Ruth Whitaker (R-Cedarville) did even better: They claimed zero expenses last year. They belong on our honor roll of true public servants.

Upon hearing of expense account abuse and other monkey business, we thought state voters really ought to impose tougher term limit controls, reducing the number of years legislators could serve. Instead of letting them serve three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate, why not limit legislators to two terms in the House and one in the Senate? Four years and they’re out.

Additionally, legislators should not be appointed agency directors and on boards as soon as they leave office. Make them ineligible for at least as many years that they have served in the Legislature. The same thing would apply for jobs as lobbyists. The Legislature shouldn’t serve as a revolving door to corporate jobs or to political patronage.

Former Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway is the latest political insider to move from the Capitol to a cushy job as lobbyist for the University of Central Arkansas in his home town. The former music teacher will make $132,000 a year to ask his erstwhile colleagues for more money for UCA, a public institution that has a record of hiring well-connected politicians — remember Lu Hardin and Allen Meadors? — who will always spend lavishly on themselves and their inner circle until the law makes them stop.

Sadly, we can have the toughest term limits, but many of these folks just keep going through the revolving door and getting on the public payroll as if these weren’t hard times enough. A recession? They never heard of it.

TOP STORY >> Cabot High School grad Grammy-award winner

Leader managing editor

Former Cabot resident Laura Inman is featured on “Life and Breath: the Music of Rene Clausen,” which garnered two Grammy awards Sunday for the Phoenix Chorale’s artistic director, Charles Bruffy.

Inman, who has been a part of two other Grammy awarding-winning albums, said it was exciting and gives the groups a chance to expose their music to the public.

“Once people hear it they fall in love with it. It’s beautiful music and singing and wonderful direction,” she said.

Bruffy won for his work on the album with the Kansas City Chorale, according to a story in the Phoenix daily paper, the Arizona Republic.

Dr. Inman, who has a doctorate in choral conducting, is a 1995 Cabot High School graduate and the daughter of Paula Inman and the late Dr. Fred Inman of Cabot and the granddaughter of the late Dr. Fred and Sara Inman of Carlisle.

She has been nominated for a Grammy 10 times on four different albums.

“The first time we won a Grammy was in 2007 with a joint recording of the Phoenix and Kansas City chorales. Then in 2008 we won Best Small Ensemble Performance with an album released by the Phoenix Chorale,” she said.

“There have been just so many talented people I’ve been able to work with and learn from and it has added to the depth of my life,” she said.

Inman is assistant professor and conductor of choral and vocal ensembles and vocal studies at Georgia Tech School of Music in Atlanta, moving there this past year from Phoenix.

She sang with the Phoenix Chorale for 11 years and was often a guest singer in the Kansas City group. Both chorales are directed by the same conductor.

An interview in the Georgia Tech School of Music Website noted that “Life and Breath” was nominated for two Grammy awards for best chorale performance and best engineering on the Chandos record label.

It won Grammys for both.

Inman said, “The nominees were announced Dec. 5. I had actually just landed in Dublin, where I was singing in a three-week tour with the Irish group Anúna, I didn’t have internet access for nearly a day after the news broke. I was thrilled when I heard and so happy for Kansas City. It’s always an honor to be nominated among so many amazing musicians and to participate in the festivities.”

Inman said in the interview, “I’ve been involved in music as long as I can remember. My family was very musical, played various instruments, sang in choirs, and we always had a variety of music blaring from the speakers, from Béla Fleck to Bach. I began studying voice seriously at the University of Louisville, where I earned a degree in music education, as I’ve always loved to teach. I continued studies at Arizona State University and earned a master’s and doctorate in conducting.”

“Phoenix was a fantastic place for me as a singer, as well,” she continued. “Shortly after moving to Arizona, I auditioned and sang for 11 years in a professional choir, the Phoenix Chorale, directed by the extraordinary Charles Bruffy. Charles also conducted the Kansas City Chorale, which is how I became connected with the group,” she said.

Inman will be joining a Manhattan chorale and will tour New York and Chicago in May and April. She’ll also sing with the Irish group again.

She holds degrees from the University of Louisville and Arizona State University, where she recently completed her doctorate. Dr. Inman served two years as the assistant director of the Phoenix Symphony Chorus and served five years on faculty at Veritas Preparatory Academy in Phoenix.

As a professional singer, she sang 11 seasons as a soprano in the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale. She appeared on the Phoenix Chorale’s two Grammy Award-winning albums, “Grechaninov: Passion Week” and “Spotless Rose” and also on the Grammy-nominated album “Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works.”

She also appears on the Phoenix Chorale’s newest album featuring the music of Ola Gjeilo and the Kansas City Chorale’s newest album featuring the music of Rene Clausen, both released this spring.

She performed with the Phoenix Chorale at Lincoln Center and in South Korea at the Incheon International Choral Festival.

Dr. Inman received her doctorate in choral conducting in 2008 from the Arizona State School of Music in Tempe, Ariz. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Chorus America and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Leader staff writer Rick Kron contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Newspaper’s outdoorsman will lead Ducks Unlimited

Leader editor

Matt Robinson of Cabot will be the next chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited. He was elected to serve in 2014 during the conservation group’s state convention on Saturday in Little Rock.

“I am so excited. I’m going to work hard to make Arkansas the No. 1 fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited. I want us to continue to do well, and I’ll try hard,” Robinson said.

The 35-year-old newspaper executive, who is The Leader’s publications manager, has been a volunteer since 1999 for the largest wetlands conservation group in the world. He is the youngest-ever chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited.

“We are trying to preserve our hunting heritage. I have a 12-year-old son. Without DU, who knows if he’d be able to hunt when he’s older?” Robinson said.

Volunteers like Robinson help organize numerous fundraiser dinners across the country that contribute millions of dollars that is used for protecting habitats that are vital to boosting duck populations.

“There are 88 (Ducks Unlimited) chapters in Arkansas,” he said. “There are 21 banquets in District 10 alone,” which Robinson chaired for four years. He’s well known in the area for organizing the dinners and auctions in Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood and Little Rock.

At the state convention this weekend, “I looked out and saw all these people who welcomed me into this group. And they’re going to let me lead them for two years,” he said.

He joined the group shortly after graduating from Jacksonville High School with encouragement from Phillip Carlisle of First Arkansas Bank and Trust and Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson.

“They still help me,” said Robinson, who started out selling tables at the dinners to area businesses.

Ducks Unlimited has a strong track record of spending its members’ donations on conservation projects and not on administrative expenses.

Last year, 83 cents of every dollar raised went to conservation. Only 3 percent of donations were used for administration, 16 percent on fundraising and 81 percent went to protecting waterfowl habitat. And often every dollar raised is matched six times by the federal government.

Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 to help restore wetlands that were badly damaged by the Dust Bowl, the ecological disaster in the ’30s caused by poor farming practices over more than a century.

“Our money is spent in North America and in the prairie potholes so that we can enjoy the winter flight of the birds here,” Robinson said.

“If it’s good for the ducks, it’s good for every living being,” he said.

“With more than one million supporters…DU has raised more than $1.5 billion and conserved nearly 11 million acres of critical wildlife habitat across North America. Wetlands are nature’s most productive ecosystems, but the United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres every year,” according to its website.

TOP STORY >> Voting set on power utility in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council on Monday approved by a 5-2 vote a petition requesting a special election.

May 14 is the tentative date when voters will decide whether to repeal an ordinance that renewed the city’s contract with North Little Rock Electric through 2032, according to the Pulaski County Election Commission. The utility services 7,500 Sherwood residents.

The election will cost $25,000, according to the commission.

Don Berry, spokesman for COST — Citizens of Sherwood Together, the grassroots organization formed by the petitioners — said he didn’t expect the aldermen to vote at the meeting.

“It was a very pleasant surprise. We’re delighted that the citizens will get to vote on the issue,” he said.

Aldermen Charlie Harmon and Tim McMinn voted against the measure.

Both expressed concern that the ordinance that was required by law to be attached to the petition was in 3- or 4-point font size and printed with four pages on each 8-by-11-inch piece of paper. McMinn suggested that people who signed the petition might not have looked at the attachment because it was difficult to read.

Berry said Tuesday, “The only thing that was reduced in size was the franchise agreement. I thought it was a last ditch effort by North Little Rock to suspend the council’s pas sage determining sufficiency.”

He was referring to an e-mail North Little Rock’s city attorney Jason Carter, the interim general manager of the utility, sent to the council on Monday afternoon.

In the e-mail, Carter states that the petition is invalid because the law requires a “full and correct copy of the measure on which referendum is ordered,” and COST’s attachment was “reduced to one-fourth of the actual size.”

He concludes the e-mail with, “While I firmly believe that COST’s referendum petition is flawed, I will respect whatever decision the Sherwood City Council may reach regarding this matter. If the Sherwood City Council calls for an election, I will prepare to inform Sherwood’s citizens about the benefits of our franchise agreement. If the Sherwood City Council agrees that the petition is deficient, I will prepare my litigation team to defend in any legal challenge.”

Alderman Marina Brooks abstained from Monday’s vote.

It has been suggested that the electric decision is a conflict of interest because her husband, former Alderman Tom Brooks, owns Cinergi Contractors and recently entered into a contract with the city of North Little Rock to build sidewalks.

The alderman said previously that lawyers were consulted and they told her that her voting on the issue is legal.

Had she abstained from the vote when the council renewed the contract, the measure would still have been passed, by a 5-2 instead of a 5-3 vote.

Before Monday’s vote, residents who wanted to speak were given five minutes each to express how they felt about the electric decision and the petition.

John Boles of 1300 Corn-flower Lane questioned what petitioners hoped to gain with this election and accused COST leaders of having hidden agendas.

“The issue is not whether it’s Entergy, First Electric or North Little Rock Electric. I feel like we’re being misled on this whole thing,” he said.

Boles said people have been telling him that Sherwood is taking the $470,000 from North Little Rock and using it on The Greens at North Hills golf course.

The $470,000 a year he was referring to is a tariff the utility pays Sherwood in addition to a 4.25 percent franchise fee, which generates about $600,000 a year.

The utility’s excess revenues are returned to the local government via North Little Rock’s general fund. The $470,000 for Sherwood also comes out of those revenues.

Boles said he didn’t believe the rumor about the golf course was true.

The mayor said the $470,000 goes into Sherwood’s general fund. She said it is spent on a wide variety of things, including street repairs and police department salaries.

Kim Ferguson of 802 Autumnbrook Circle said her North Little Rock Electric bill is 14 percent higher than that of Entergy and First Electric.

She also said the process the council used to choose a provider “seemed like a big rush.”

Alderman Mike Sanders defeated Ferguson’s husband, Bob Ferguson, in the November race for Ward 1, Position 2. Kim Ferguson said that is why she started attending council meetings and getting involved in the electric issue.

She joined COST and started circulating the petition because several of the group’s members were financial management professionals and analysts.

“They’re looking toward the future. They’re looking at the big picture,” Ferguson said.

She said the council chose the $470,000 instead of the residents it is supposed to represent.

“I feel the council voted to put money into the city’s budget instead of for individual families,” Ferguson added.

Amy Sanders of 708 Wildwood Ave. said no one had addressed what another utility would have to pay for North Little Rock Electric’s infrastructure if Sherwood did switch providers. Sanders said that cost, which could be as much as $20 million, would be passed on to ratepayers.

She served on a citizen’s committee appointed by the mayor. The group recommended Sherwood stay with North Little Rock Electric.

“To me it was black and white. Why should we change when nothing is wrong?” Sanders asked.

Charlie Wood of 210 N. Devon Ave. said he works for Entergy and knows the business.

Wood argued that the other two utilities have to receive approval from the state to raise rates while North Little Rock Electric only needs to have a few board members agree that the utility needs more money from customers.

He also said, “(The $470,000 is) a real need. It’s not right to take it out of my pocket like a hidden tax.”

Wood added that he would vote to stay with North Little Rock Electric if the utility offered customers the same refunds the other two providers offer their customers. But he said he didn’t think that was probable.

Roger Bynum of 202 Dogwood Lane said, “I believe it’s very inappropriate that a certain segment of the population pays so much more (for electricity).”

Bynum said North Little Rock Electric customers shouldn’t have to contribute more money to Sherwood’s general fund than the rest of the residents, which they are doing through the utility’s $470,000 tariff.

Robert Hardin of 212 Katye Lane, the next speaker, agreed with Bynum.

Lou Mangrum of 8500 Pennwood Drive and Rod Radlein of 1613 Britney Drive were in favor of sticking with North Little Rock Electric.

Radlein said rates don’t matter and that fees, like those Entergy passed on to cover damage caused by the Christmas Day snowstorm, are more important when it comes to electric bills.

He said Entergy’s and First Electric’s infrastructure is aging and ratepayers will be footing the bills for repairs and upkeep later. Radlein said, “Most of (their infrastructure is) older than everyone in this building.”

He added, “It just doesn’t make any sense (to change providers).”

Several who agreed with the two men said North Little Rock Electric was more reliable during an outage crisis, like an ice storm, than Entergy.

Ferguson said Entergy and First Electric have a reliability rate of 99 percent in Sherwood while North Little Rock Electric could not provide her with any figures.

Karilyn Brown of 335 Alanbrook Ave. said North Little Rock Electric is a “cash cow” for Sherwood’s neighboring city. She said, “There were so many thoughtful and intelligent people who had concerns (about the electric decision).”

Deb Flynn of 108 Heather Drive said she signed the petition because she wanted her opinion on the matter to be heard. “Why can’t we invest in this? Let us at least have a voice,” Flynn said.

Several North Little Rock Electric customers at the meeting who wanted to stay with the utility asked how it was fair that everyone in the city, regardless of who their provider is, gets to make that choice for them.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye said the electric decision affects all residents because most of the city’s public buildings have North Little Rock Electric. She said all residents would be impacted by a change of utility providers in those buildings.

But Heye acknowledged that North Little Rock Electric customers would see the impact of a change in providers more than everyone else.

Heye also said the city should have hired an independent expert with “no dog in the hunt” to help the council choose between the three electric providers.

She pointed out that no one on the council and no one on the citizen’s committee is an expert in that field. She suggested that the information provided to Sherwood officials by the competing utilities, including technical details, was confusing and taken at face value.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers fall, boys win on road

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s late-season surge continued at Mountain Home on Friday as the Panthers coasted to a 47-30 victory over the Bombers, led by another strong defensive performance. The win also gave the Panthers (9-12, 4-6) a season sweep over Mountain Home in 7A/6A East Conference play.

“I don’t want to jinx us but we’re playing better,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We shot the ball better and I feel like we have a chance to win a few of these games left. The more we win the more chance we have of improving our seed in the state tournament.”

Senior post player Michael Smith led the Panthers with 20 points. Cabot was 15 of 19 from the foul line for the game, including a perfect 12 of 12 in the final eight minutes, and came back from a nine-point deficit in the opening quarter to lead 25-20 at the half. The Panthers extended their lead into double digits late in the third quarter, and held the Bombers to just 10 points in the entire second half.

Kyle Thielemier added nine points for Cabot while senior point guard Bryan Shrum had six points. Senior forward Clayton Vaught finished with five points, with three for Hunter York and two each for Adolpho Iglesias and Ryan Stafford.

The playoffs are not yet a certainty for Cabot. North Little Rock is undefeated and Fort Smith Northside is 8-2. Every other 7A team in the 7A/6A East and Central conferences have four wins or fewer. Cabot, Conway and West Memphis are all 4-6. Little Rock Central is 3-7, Catholic is 2-8 and Fort Smith Southside is 1-9.

Cabot hosted Central last night in a crucial game for both teams. The Tigers beat Cabot by two points at Central two weeks ago. After that the Panthers host West Memphis then travel to Jonesboro and Searcy next week to close league play.

“Jonesboro is going to be tough at their place,” Bridges said. “We know that, we’ve talked about it. But every win we get from here on out just betters our chance at a higher seed. We went a long time without ever making the playoffs and right now we’re going for our fifth or sixth straight appearance. We just want to keep winning as much as we can and establish more and more tradition.”

The Lady Panthers were not as fortunate and fell to the Lady Bombers 50-48 in overtime Friday.

The thriller served as redemption for Mountain Home after a 22-point loss to Cabot two weeks ago at Panther Arena. The Lady Bombers improved to 16-7 overall and 6-4 in 7A/6A East Conference play while the Lady Panthers fell to 13-7 overall and 6-4 in conference play.

Cabot led the entire way until the Lady Bombers pulled ahead for the first time midway through the fourth quarter.

Mountain Home led 49-45 with less than a minute to play in overtime when senior Jaylin Bridges hit a three-point basket to make it a one-point game. The Lady Bombers added a free throw to set the final margin before Cabot missed on a pair of close-range shots to end it.

Senior Elliot Taylor led Cabot with 14 points while Bridges added 12 points. Ally Van Enk had eight points while Danielle McWilliams and Alyssa Hamilton each finished with six points for the Lady Panthers. Katie Kapler led all scorers for Mountain Home with 23 points.

Despite the winning record, the Lady Panthers still have some work to do to get into the playoffs. Little Rock Central is the only undefeated team in the East or Central. Northside is in second place at 8-2.

North Little Rock and West Memphis are tied for third at 7-3. Southside and Cabot are at 6-4 and three games ahead of seventh place Conway, who is 3-7. Mount St. Mary’s in 1-9 and mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

If the Lady Panthers win just two of their last four, they will lock up a playoff spot, but they must avoid a tie with Conway because the Lady Wampus Cats hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their win over Cabot in December.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats, Jonesboro dazzle in showdown

Leader sportswriter

A 30-point night from Thomas Alexander led the top-ranked Charging Wildcats to a 75-63 win over No. 2 Jonesboro in Friday’s much anticipated 7A/6A East Conference showdown at North Little Rock Arena.

North Little Rock (21-1, 10-0) led by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter, but by the 2:03 mark of the fourth, Jonesboro (20-4, 8-2) cut the margin down to six. After scrambling fora loose ball underneath the basket, senior reserve center Cameron Williams ended North Little Rock’s scoring drought with a two pointer inside the paint that pushed the lead back to eight.

Williams grabbed a defensive rebound on the Golden Hurricane’s next possession and set up a three pointer by Alexander with 1:23 to play that all but ended Jonesboro’s chance of a comeback.

“We just stepped up and made plays,” said North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice about his team. “I thought we played hard. I thought we did a pretty good job defensively on the half-court end. That’s something we’ve been working on a lot. I knew it was going to be an up-and-down game. It looked kind of scary for a little while when they came back after we were up 16, 18. But Jonesboro is a good team.”

The respective teams traded leads eight times in the first quarter, but North Little Rock was the team on top at the end of one, leading 17-15. Alexander scored North Little Rock’s first six points of the game.

The first field goal came on a layup after a steal at half court, and the next two field goals came on tip-ins.

“Coach told me at the beginning of the game that he wanted me to come out with a lot of energy, so I had to do it for him,” said Alexander. “Last game I had a tech, so I had to make up for it. I wanted to come out with energy, get on the ball and play great defense, and we got the win.”

Alexander’s 30 points led all scorers. He also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked three shots. Eight of Alexander’s points came in the second quarter as NLR pushed its lead to 36-28 at halftime.

A basket by Gary Vines 21 seconds into the third quarter pushed the Charging Wildcats’ lead to double digits, but Jonesboro quickly cut it to six with a 4-0 run. Consecutive threes by Alexander and Dayshawn Watkins put the Wildcats back up double digits, leading 44-32. NLR built on its lead from there.

With about two and a half minutes to play in the period, North Little Rock led 54-36. But Jonesboro closed the quarter with a 5-0 run, capped off by a baseline three pointer by Malcolm Lockhart with less than a second on the game clock, which trimmed the Wildcat lead to 57-45.

Jonesboro slowly but surely chipped away at the lead in the final eight minutes. A bucket inside the paint by sophomore post player Aaron Washington made it a six-point game as the Wildcat lead dwindled to 68-62. Washington’s bucket forced Rice to call timeout with 2:03 to play.

After the timeout, Williams made his second field goal of the quarter and Alexander drained the three that sealed the win for North Little Rock. With 18.4 seconds on the clock, Vines made a pair of free throws to set the final score.

The Wildcats finished the game 27 of 51 from the floor (53 percent), 14 of 21 from the free-throw line (67 percent), and 7 of 16 from three-point range (44 percent). Jonesboro was 23 of 55 from the floor (42 percent), 15 of 29 from the charity stripe (52 percent), and 2 of 13 from beyond the arc (15 percent).

The Golden Hurricane finished with nine turnovers, with only three in the second half.

North Little Rock committed five more turnovers with 14, but was the better team on the boards with a 32-27 advantage.

Watkins finished second in scoring for North Little Rock with 15 points. He also had six assists. Vines and Kevaughn Allen scored nine apiece. Williams had eight. Kahron Ross led Jonesboro with 19 points.

North Little Rock continued conference play yesterday at home against Searcy and will travel to Marion on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears show growth with comeback on the road

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears picked up a pair of conference wins last week. On Friday the Bears handled visiting and winless Little Rock Christian Academy 52-36, but it was Tuesday’s game that showed real growth from the inexperienced squad.

The Bears made the long road trip to Helena to take on the Central Cougars. After trailing by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, the Bears clawed their way back to force overtime, and went on to win 76-71.

“That’s the kind of game that shows that a young and inexperienced team is growing,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “There have been other games this year when we’ve gotten down like that, and just didn’t show we had what it takes to fight back. Well they fought back in this one, and did it in what’s traditionally a very tough place to play.”

Junior guard Ronnie Hinton is finding his range from outside. He hit five three pointers in Tuesday’s win, including two in the overtime period. He finished with a game-high 20 points.

Armoni Armond added 20 points and 11 rebounds at Helena. The same duo led the Bears in their win on Friday against Little Rock Christian.

Armond finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Hinton drained four more three pointers to finish with 13 points.

“Deion Patton hit for 38 percent on three pointers for us last year, and that’s about the best we’ve ever had,” Davis said of his departed point guard. “Ronnie is hitting at about the same percentage, maybe even up around 40 percent, and he shoots a lot more than Deion did. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve had here.”

Davis is also very pleased with the progress that Armond has made this year, and believes he has even more to look forward to.

“He’s become a double-double guy for us every night,” Davis said. “And I don’t think he’s really tapped his potential yet. He’s got a chance to be a special player.”

The Lady Bears, who are 7-4 in league play, also played two hard-fought games last week. They beat Central 50-45, then lost at home to Little Rock Christian Academy (9-2) 57-46.

Despite the loss, the Lady Bears have a playoff spot locked up. With only three league games remaining, Sylvan Hills is four games ahead of fifth place. They played a big game last night against Pulaski Academy after deadlines. A win would mean a tie for third place in the conference standings with the Lady Bruins, and the seedings would go to the tiebreaker rules.

Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville barely gets by Sylvan Hills

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville freshmen boys team won the River City Conference tournament championship on Monday, beating Sylvan Hills 49-46 in a thrilling overtime finish.

Jacksonville won the regular-season championship as well and was the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Sylvan Hills got the two seed, but has been playing without its starting point guard for most of the season since varsity coach Kevin Davis moved Cordy Winston up to the varsity team.

Despite the loss of a key player, the Bears rallied and had the top seed and tournament host on the ropes late in the fourth quarter.

Each team missed numerous free throws and field goals in the final minute to send it to overtime tied at 42. Jacksonville got the faster start in the extra three-minute period, scoring six-straight points and taking a 48-42 lead with 1:32 remaining, mostly due to offensive rebounds, an area Sylvan Hills had dominated the entire game.

“I think they just got tired at the end,” Jacksonville coach Tirrell Brown said of Sylvan Hills. “We played a lot more guys and they’re basically down to seven total players. They’re starting point guard was moved up to varsity and I think they lost another kid to injury. But they basically couldn’t substitute and had about three guys that played the whole game.”

Jacksonville (15-2) missed five of its last six free-throw attempts in the overtime period, but offensive rebounds and putbacks made up for four of them. After guard LaQuan Smith made his first two free throws for a 44-42 Jacksonville lead, D’Marcus Hinton and Fonzell Jones followed missed free throws with putbacks that gave the Red Devils a 48-42 lead with a minute left in the overtime period.

“I talked to D’Marcus and said you’ve got to compete – just compete,” Brown said. “You’re 6-foot-4 – compete. The team as a whole, Sylvan Hills is a lot more competitive than we are. That’s sort of been our Achilles heel all season. We’re more talented, but they compete a lot harder than we do and that’s why they almost won this game.”

Sylvan Hills’ Jaylen Wright got a short jumper to cut the margin to four. After a defensive stop, Wright followed two Jabari Brewer missed free throws with an offensive rebound and putback that made it 48-46 with 19 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville fouled Smith with seven seconds left, who hit one of two. Sylvan Hills (16-4) called timeout with five seconds remaining to set up a final shot. Kaylon Love got a good look at a three pointer, but his shot was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.

The Bears had several chances to win the game in regulation. With the score tied, the Bears missed a three pointer, got an offensive rebound and was fouled. They missed the front end of the one-and-one, but again got the rebound. Wright missed a shot but Kaleb Williams got the rebound and dished out to Love, who missed a mid-range jumper as the buzzer sounded to send the game to overtime.

Jacksonville began to pull away late in the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills answered quickly. The Red Devils scored the first bucket of the second quarter to cap a 12-1 run that gave them a 14-7 lead. Sylvan Hills answered with a fast 6-0 run that made it 14-13 and the game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way. Neither team led by more than three points until Jacksonville took the six-point lead in overtime.

The Bears won the battle of the boards 28-20 against the bigger Red Devils. Wright led all players with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Both teams had a balanced scoring attack. Samuel Williams added nine for Sylvan Hills while Jaylon Jordan scored eight. All seven Bears got on the scoreboard.

Smith led Jacksonville with 12 points, half coming from the foul line. Hinton scored 11 and fellow post player Jones added 10 for the Red Devils. Brown was pleased with how his team worked the ball inside for good looks.

“Our ball movement and offensive execution has been pretty consistent all season,” Brown said. “Sylvan Hills played us a 1-3-1 and that’s what you do against that defense. You try to move the ball and get good looks for your inside guys. We did a pretty good job of that and the post guys made their shots. It’s always important to finish.”

The Bears knocked off White Hall on Saturday to get to the championship while Jacksonville put away Watson Chapel.