Friday, December 27, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ titles tops year’s best

Leader sportswriter

The first part of 2013 was a period full of various amounts of success and accomplishments for sports teams and individual athletes from this part of the state, so much so that not all of it could be fit into this column.

But here’s a look at the top local sports stories from January through June with the top story of the entire year being Jacksonville High School’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams winning the class 5A state championships in March.

Both the Red Devils and Lady Red Devils showed why the city of Jacksonville is a basketball hotbed, as both won the state championship in their respective classification on the same day – March 8 at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.

It was the second state championship in school history for the Red Devils, who beat Alma 56-53, and the second in five years. The Jacksonville boys won the school’s first state title in 2009, when the Pulaski County school participated in class 6A.

The Lady Red Devils’ state championship was their first in school history, and they had a slightly easier time in their matchup than the boys did, beating two-time class 5A state runner-up Paragould 54-43.


The MVP in the girls’ state title game leads to the next top story, Jessica Jackson signing with the

University of Arkansas. Rated as high as the No. 7 recruit in the country, Jackson was being recruited by every major university out there.

She made a verbal commitment to the Razorbacks in the summer of 2012, but made it official on April 19 by signing her national letter of intent. As a true freshman, Jackson has led the Razorback women to a 12-0 start, and leads the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.3 per game. She also has a team-high 19 blocks.

As a senior at Jacksonville, Jackson led the Lady Red Devils to a 26-4 record and a perfect 14-0 record in 5A Central play.

She averaged 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks per game in her final high-school season, and earned WBCA All-America honors in addition to all of the top accolades within the state.

Though she kept her ears open to serious pitches from other major universities close by, such as Texas, Texas A & M and Kentucky, just to name a few, she never wavered from her dream to play for the Razorbacks, and she’s the primary piece to a team that’s on the rise in the SEC.


Another Jacksonville native that made headlines this year is former Red Devil football standout Demetrius Harris, who in late April signed a three-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

What made Harris’ signing so unique is the fact he spent his entire collegiate career on the hardwood instead of the football field, as he played four years of basketball for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Harris, who plays tight end and is listed as 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, according to the Chiefs’ official website, spent his whole college career playing basketball because he thought his dreams of playing football were shot down because of a low ACT score.

Chiefs’ general manager John Dorsey, who is in his first season as the team’s GM, found out about Harris two years ago when he was a scout for the Green Bay Packers.

A tip was given to Dorsey while at an Arkansas high school all-star game about an Arkansas player who fell through the cracks a couple of years before and who was playing college basketball in the Green Bay area.

Dorsey sent Chiefs’ scout Ryan Kessenich to Milwaukee to evaluate a personal workout for Harris and to interview him on April 5, which gave Harris one week to prepare. Harris dazzled in everything but strength drills.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, the second fastest of all tight ends this year. He displayed a 36 1/2 vertical leap and did a 10-2 broad jump, which were both in the upper ranks of the tight end position. His shuttle runs and cone drills were just as impressive.

Before signing with Kansas City, the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens all wanted private workouts with Harris. Scouts or coaches from nine other teams came to his pro-day workout on April 13.


Another Pulaski County native that took his game to the professional level, albeit in basketball, is former Sylvan Hills High School and University of Kentucky basketball standout Archie Goodwin, who was drafted 29th overall on June 27, originally by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Goodwin was the second-youngest player in this year’s NBA draft, and after being selected by the Thunder, his rights were traded to the Golden State Warriors and then the Phoenix Suns, the organization for which he currently plays.

A 2012 graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, Goodwin led the Bears to their first ever state basketball championship and was one of the top-rated players in the class of 2012.

While attending Sylvan Hills, he was twice named Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas, and was named to the McDonald’s and Parade All-American teams as a senior.

In his one year at the University of Kentucky, Goodwin led the Wildcats in scoring as he averaged 14.1 points per game. After his one-and-done collegiate career, Goodwin shined in the NBA summer league. During that stretch, his best game was a 22-point, 4-rebound performance against the Memphis Grizzlies – a game Phoenix won 100-88.

The Sylvan Hills native has yet to log significant minutes as a pro, but is seeing more and more time on the floor as the season progresses. His best game yet as an NBA player came last month against the New Orleans Pelicans.

In that game, Goodwin played a season-high 17 minutes and scored 6 points on 3 of 7 shooting and added three rebounds and three blocks to his stats.


The final top story that made its way into this column is the legacy that 2013 Cabot High School graduate Tyler Kurz left for wrestlers across the state. It’s a legacy that no one has matched. In February, Kurz became the first four-time state wrestling champion in the brief five-year history of Arkansas High School wrestling.

In his final match as a Panther, Kurz defeated Edwin Santos of Rogers High School to win the 182-pound division in the 7A/6A classifications. Kurz won his state titles in four different weight classes, moving up significantly in weight each year.

Before capturing the 182-pound championship, Kurz won the 112-pound title as a freshman, the 125-pound title as a sophomore and the 145-pound title as a junior. Kurz finished his senior season with an 18-1 record, with his only loss coming to Santos in an earlier meeting. What a perfect setting to avenge an only loss.

Kurz is currently wrestling for Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabbits destroy Des Arc

Leader sports editor

Though head coach Nathan Morris thought his team’s performance was far too sloppy, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits enjoyed an easy win in the first round of the first Goldfish Classic.

The Lonoke girls pummeled the much smaller Des Arc Lady Eagles 50-21 at the Gina Cox Center on Thursday.

“We’re not going to get mad at a win, but we’re going to have to play better than that if we’re going to have any success against the better teams in our classification,” said Morris. “There are some factors I think played into it. We had a little layoff and you sort of expect things to be a little off at first. This is just our second game here in the new arena. It’s the first one since the first game of the year, so we’re still getting used to this environment. I tell you though, this has been a great turnout this first day. Things are going really well.”

Lonoke enjoyed a vast size advantage at every position. Even 5-foot-5 Jarrelyn McCall, Lonoke’s shortest starter, stood over her defender by a few inches, and was as tall as Des Arc’s starting post players. Despite the size disadvantage, the Lady Eagles continuously forced the ball inside, either throwing it in to post players or penetrating and shooting wild and often blocked or altered shots. The result was a 0-for-13 effort in the first quarter as the Lady Jackrabbits built a 17-0 lead.

Things only got worse from there. The Lady Jackrabbits came out in the second half much more focused and executed well. They scored 12 points in the first 2:30 of the third quarter and Morris pulled his starters with 5:15 left in the period. At that point, Lonoke led 43-4. When the starters left the game, Des Arc had made just 2 of 23 shot attempts and had not attempted a free throw. The Lady Eagles made 5 of 16 shot attempts the rest of the way and hit 6 of 10 free throws.

Lonoke won the rebounding battle 27-17, but Morris was still disappointed in the number of second-chance shots Des Arc got, even though very few were successful.

“Rebounding is still a factor,” Morris said. “We haven’t done that very well this year. We never got into our sets because we were pushing the ball the whole time, and we looked extremely uncomfortable when they pressed us.

“It was a good game to have after a break. We still got the win and hopefully we can leave it behind us. We know what we need to work on and we have to improve on it quickly because everything starts to count here pretty soon.”

McCall and Amanda Sexton led Lonoke with 12 points each.

In other first-round games, Estem demolished Hazen 47-17. Batesville and Bald Knob played the most exciting game of the first round. The Lady Pioneers had a 12-point lead in the third quarter, and then had to hold on for dear life to win 51-49. In the other first-round game, perennial 2A power England defeated Lonoke’s 4A conference mate Stuttgart 57-31 to advance in the winners’ bracket.

Lonoke’s semifinal game against Batesville was played last night after Leader deadlines. The tournament championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. today.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers take care of North Crowley in Texas

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot ladies opened the annual Mansfield Spring Creek Barbeque Invitational tournament in Mansfield, Texas with a dominant 51-33 win over Fort Worth, Texas school North Crowley on Thursday, but lost Friday morning to top-seeded Mansfield Timberview 43-27.

Cabot (7-3) trailed Mansfield Timberview (15-5) 23-17 at halftime yesterday, but the Lady Wolves outscored the Lady Panthers 14-2 in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead into the fourth period.

Timberview is one of the toughest teams in the state of Texas, as four players on the Lady Wolves’ roster have signed Division-I scholarships to schools Kansas, Texas Tech, Arizona and Southern Methodist University.

“We did a really good job against them in the first half,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “They play as good a defense as anybody we’ve seen in the last two years. They play man-to-man and they press you.”

Sophomore guard CoCo Calhoon led the Lady Panthers offensively against the tournament’s No. 1 seed. She finished the game with 13 points.

In the tournament opener Thursday night, the Lady Panthers were tied with North Crowley 10-10 at the end of the first quarter, but outscored the Fort Worth, Texas school by seven in the second quarter and nine in the third to pull away.

At the half, Cabot led 28-21 and 41-25 at the start of the fourth. The final period was played more evenly as Cabot emptied its bench, but the Lady Panthers still outscored North Crowley 10-8 in the period to set the final score.

Cabot used 13 players in its rotation Thursday and nine different Lady Panthers scored in the game. The Lady Panthers normally use an eight-player rotation, but wanted to get other players some valuable experience and keep the starters fresh for the tournament because Cabot will end the Texas invitational Saturday with four games under its belt.

“We’re in pretty good position with the young players we have,” Ruple said. “We’ve seen some outstanding competition and we really played well in the first game and that gave us a chance to play Timberview. It’s all mental. We’re hoping we can leave here a little bit better and we hope that’ll carry over.”

Calhoon earned leading scorer honors in Thursday’s game as well. She finished with 12 points. Fellow sophomore and starting point guard Leighton Taylor also finished in double figures. She scored 11 points.

Anna Sullivan scored seven points. Juniors Alyssa Hamilton and Danielle McWilliams scored six points each. Maddie Willhite scored three. Sophomores Sarah Davis, Claire Eifling and Lily Sinclair added two points apiece.

The Lady Panthers played Springdale Har-Ber yesterday after deadlines, and will close the tournament with an 8 a.m. game today. Cabot will open the New Year on the road at Morrilton next Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke wins Goldfish opener

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits put on a stellar defensive effort in the first quarter of their tournament-opening game against Des Arc, and they needed to. The Jackrabbits missed their first nine shots of the game and neither team scored in the first half of the first quarter, but Lonoke finally began to find the range en route to a 52-41 victory in the first round of the Goldfish Classic on Thursday at the Gina Cox Center.

The team’s leading average scorer, guard Jamel Rankin, missed his first six shots. Second-leading scorer, post player Blake Mack, missed the game with illness, and it took a bit of time after a short layoff for the tournament hosts to find their way offensively. In the meantime, the Lonoke defense was stifling, holding the Eagles to just one field goal the entire quarter and taking a 13-3 lead into the second frame.

“You kind of expect that in the first game back from a break,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “I don’t know if you expect it to that extent. That was a pretty ugly start for both teams. The good thing is, you can always play good defense, and we managed to do that until we finally started finishing on offense.”

Another starter, guard Darrius McCall, suffered a bruised knee early in the second quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Des Arc scored the first points of the game when guard Andrew Childers hit a transition layup with 3:55 left in the first quarter. The Eagles’ lead lasted 20 seconds and was the only one they had the entire game.

Lonoke guard Cedric Cooney cut to the basket on a give-and-go, took a pass from Darian Young and hit an open layup to tie it with 3:35 left. He then got a steal and a layup for a 4-2 lead that Lonoke would never relinquish.

Des Arc had good reason to be rusty as well. The class 2A football state runners-up were playing their very first game of the season with the entire team intact. Des Arc’s 6-foot-2, 210-pound point guard Danerryen Spencer, who is the team’s leading returning scorer, went 0 for 8 from the floor and scored just one point in the first half.

He found his range in the second half and single-handedly kept the Eagles from being blown out. He finished with a game-high 21 points on 7 of 17 shooting in the second half, and was 6 of 9 from the foul line.

Des Arc managed just three made shots in the second quarter as Lonoke pushed its 10-point first-quarter lead to 26-13 by halftime. And before Spencer could get going in the second half, Lonoke opened the third quarter with a burst of scoring that put it in control of the game.

Rankin and Tykel Gray each got steals that led to transition baskets, and Young hit back-to-back three pointers that gave Lonoke its biggest lead of the game at 38-17 with 4:30 left in the third. That’s when Spencer began lighting up the scoreboard, scoring 20 of his 21 points in the final 13 minutes of the game.

Spencer’s outside shot was not falling, and he got all his points through penetration and getting to the free-throw line. Campbell thought his team could have done a better job of stopping that penetration.

“We have to do a better job of stepping over and taking a charge,” Campbell said. “We just didn’t do it. As well as we played defense in the first half, that’s the one thing I was really disappointed about in the second half. We let him get to the rim way too easily.”

Once the game was in hand, Campbell went to his bench early in the fourth quarter and finally got what he was looking for from sophomore Yancey Cooney, who stepped over from his help side and took a charge from the formidable-sized Spencer.

With two starters out and the leading scorer having an off-shooting night, Young stepped in to provide most of the offense for Lonoke. He finished with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 5 of 8 from two-point range.

“You know we can go three and sometimes four deep with guys who can all be the scorer if we need them to be,” Campbell said. “Tykel came through for us at Southside and scored eight points in the second quarter when we were struggling a little bit. His defense is getting better too. He’s quick and active and gets some steals for us. I’d like to see that steal to turnover ratio tip to one side a little bit. Right now it’s about even, but he’s getting better and better.”

Gray finished with five steals in just three quarters of play on Thursday. Despite hitting just 3 of 17 shot attempts, Rankin finished with 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Lonoke. Spencer added 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double.

In other first round games, Watson Chapel hammered Hazen 82-46 with C.J. Robinson dropping in 23 for the Wildcats. England managed to hold on after blowing a 25-point lead to beat Bald Knob 57-52, but it was the Bulldogs’ Elijah Conley that led all scorers with 29 points. In the tournament’s opening game, Stuttgart beat Batesville 44-39 with Lamarion Luckett leading a balanced Ricebirds’ attack with 10 points.

The semifinal round was played last night after deadlines. The final round resumes today with the boys’ championship game set for 6:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Our choice for VA home

Why should Cissy Rucker, director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, pick Jacksonville for the site of the proposed $22 million veterans’ home?

No one has put it better than Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, who succinctly said, “It’s the perfect fit.”

It’s the perfect fit because of the people, and that doesn’t always come through in portfolios, presentations and paper packages. For more than 60 years, the people of Jacksonville have shown that they love the military.

It started in 1954 with the city leaders joining together to donate the land for Little Rock Air Force Base. In recent years, residents voted in support of a tax so the city could contribute $5 million for a state-of-the-art joint education center for airmen and civilians — the only one of its kind in existence.

Rucker and her staff should take a close look at the two proposed sites for the new veterans home — one outside the air base and another on Military Road — and make a decision soon.

The city has won the Abilene Trophy twice in four years for its outstanding relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base. Jacksonville is a military town, and the veterans’ home belongs here.

Look at the number of times the city and state have worked together to come up with ways to let traffic flow better in and out of the base, and just look at the entrances to the base. You don’t see liquor stores, businesses that rip off military members or peep shows — like the ones other cities have near their military bases.

But there is a shopping area close by that is convenient for base members. Tree-lined Vandendenberg Boulevard is a site to behold, and the city has worked hard through ordinances and zoning to help keep it that way.

Look anywhere, talk to anyone and the answer will be the same: Jacksonville loves its military — active duty, veterans, retirees and those in need, like the people who will live in the veterans’ home.

The mayor is right. Without a doubt, Jacksonville is the perfect fit, and the whole city is hoping the state’s Veterans Affairs Department agrees.

Arkansas veterans will be the winners if Jacksonville is the department’s final choice.

TOP STORY >> Kids go shopping with police

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Police Department and the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16 recently hosted the department’s annual shop with a cop program at the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter.

The department has held the event for over 25 years.

This year, 19 children in need were nominated by their schools to participate in the Christmas shopping event.

Each child was paired up with a member of the police department. The children were given $150 each to purchase gifts for themselves and their families. After a morning of shopping, the youngsters and officers had breakfast at McDonalds.

“They get to have Christmas. It is a real blessing. It’s been a really hard year. This program is amazing,” participant Sian Eckman said.

School resource officer Jeremiah Terrell said it was his first time participating in the shop with a cop program. He said it was a very rewarding experience.

Gloria Estrada said the shop with a cop program definitely helped her because she is a single mom with three children.

Her son, Peter, got a T-Rex dinosaur and her daughter got a pony.

“I wouldn’t have bought the T-Rex for my child because they are expensive for me,” Estrada said.

Amanda Williams said, “It is a blessing. I have five children at home and am taking care of a grandbaby 80 percent of the time. She lost her little brother a few months ago. We didn’t really have money for Christmas.”

Williams continued, “We are thankful for the Jacksonville Police Department. They help with guiding the children in the right direction. (The children) were in the junior police academy and they enjoyed that a lot. (The officers) are always helping out, always at the schools talking with them.”

She also thanked Jacksonville High School’s student council for helping support the shop with a cop program.

“It was fun. My kids love officer Corbin and requested her,” Williams said.

Lt. Jason Garcia said, “It is one of my favorite things every year. You help folks in the community have a better Christmas that may be having a hard time. This is the biggest thing the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) does. We do it every year. It is a big thing the public remembers all year round. I love it. I like to see the kids’ smiles on their faces. It really means a lot for them. It makes it worth it.”

TOP STOEY >> Lawsuit: ‘difference of opinion’

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman calls a recent $200,000 lawsuit filed against the city a “difference of opinion.”

Central Arkansas Risk Management Association (CARMA) filed the suit last week in Pulaski County Circuit Court. CARMA claims it loaned or advanced the city $300,000 above the compensation it paid under the insurance policy for tornado repairs and the city only paid back $100,000.

The case will be heard by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray, but no date has been set yet.

Hillman said the consensus of the original agreement was to pay back what the city could. “We believed the rest of the debt was forgiven,” she said.

Hillman said either she or a representative from the city attended all the CARMA board meetings until the city left the insurance carrier for a Municipal League plan in April 2012. “Nothing was ever said to us at those meetings,” she said.

Hillman added that the agreement was to review the money situation within a year and the insurance board never did that.

She said the current board is not the same board the city worked with originally. When Benton left the insurance group, it also had problems with CARMA over premiums owed, the mayor noted.

Hillman said insurance runs the city about $275,000 annually. It was important to have better coverage and higher limits than what was offered by CARMA, the mayor continued. “That’s why we moved to the Municipal League,” she said.

The money CARMA gave the city came after an EF2 tornado, on April 3, 2008, damage Sherwood’s sports complex, the high school, other city facilities and about 100 homes. An EF2 tornado can have winds up to 135 miles per hour.

“FEMA was very slow in providing help, plus we weren’t adequately or properly protected to cover the loss,” the mayor explained.

Hillman, along with former Mayor Bill Harmon, went to CARMA and got the $300,000. In the meantime, they told the insurer that they would work with FEMA.

FEMA finally came through with some assistance, but not nearly enough funds.

“I recall that meeting, and all the municipalities and entities were worried that they weren’t adequately covered either,” the mayor said.

Hillman said CARMA claims it sent out notices for the city to review its coverage. But the mayor said someone should have come out from the insurer and reappraised the city’s needs.

“Our coverage was not adjusted for rate of inflation,” she explained.

CARMA states in its lawsuit that the city did repay $100,000 to the association in February 2010, but the city did not answer a June 28 letter from the association demanding the remaining $200,000.

Hillman said the city has 30 days to answer the lawsuit and hasn’t decided on a response.

She said that the damage at city facilities from the tornado was more expensive than what the city’s insurance policy covered. The additional money were necessary for repairs, Hillman noted.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: Jubilation, jostling, jobs

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a five-part series looking back at 2013. It was compiled by Leader staff writer Rick Kron.)

Jubilation, jostling and job changes were news themes from April through June as a group jostled to get signatures for a new school district, principals and others got jobs or lost jobs and events like Easter egg hunts and festivals brought jubilation to those who attended.

And sequestration — the automatic federal budget cuts — made everyone jumpy.


• School district dreaming: Jacksonville took one step closer to getting its own school district as a feasibility study claimed that the city could finance its own district.

• Tasty benefit: The Taste of Lonoke County event helped raise funds for the Lonoke County Safe Haven Shelter.

• Easter eggs: Sherwood and other area communities, churches and civic groups sponsored Easter egg hunts for children.

• Big splash: Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Depart-ment was named Therapeutic Recreation Program of the Year for its pool lessons and Natural Resources Programs of the Year for its youth fishing programs.

• A “no-brainer:” During a speech at a fundraiser in Cabot for the Open Arms Shelter, that’s what Gov. Mike Beebe called his decision to expand Medicaid.

• Let’s drink to that: A bill allowing communities with dry areas to vote on the issue to allow or not allow alcohol passed the state Legislature and was signed into law by the governor.

• Tax stays: Cabot voters extended the city’s one-cent sales tax to pay for numerous projects, including a new library and a highway interchange.

• Cities’ reach shortened: A bill signed by Gov. Beebe limited a city’s developmental control from five miles beyond its city limits to just one mile.

• Squadron buys toys: The 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base collected nearly $2,000 worth of toys for burn patients and others at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

• Lonoke exit work starts: Construction work started on a $7.8 million I-40 interchange at Hwy. 89 on the northwest side of Lonoke.

• Flippers flop: Jason Wilkinson, a two-time president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and former C-130 pilot Grant Exton, both of Austin, filed bankruptcy and owed local banks and investors hundreds of thousands of dollars when their idea of flipping houses flopped.

• Plastic payments: The Lonoke County Quorum Court approved the idea of letting residents pay taxes, fines and marriage-license fees with credit cards.

• Keeps electric provider: A grassroots Sherwood group that pushed for a special election after the council decided to let North Little Rock Electric continue to provide energy to the city faced a rival grassroots group that agreed with the council.

• Sherwood wants to leave too: Sherwood city council passed a resolution supporting the idea of breaking away from PCSSD and forming its own independent school district.

• In praise of food: Food Network’s star Maneet Chauhan stopped in at North Pulaski High School, praising the culinary program and its students.

• Just a sliver: Only Lonoke really benefited from the $130 million the state made available for school construction by receiving $1.1 million for heating and air repair at the primary school.

• Sweet strawberries: About 2,000 enjoyed the annual Cabot Strawberry Festival despite the threat of rain.


• Cabot roast: Bobby Doyle, a longtime educator and director of the Special Olympics, was roasted at a benefit hosted by the Cabot Education Foundation, which provided 80 scholarships for Cabot students this year.

• Mrs. Arkansas: Quynci Joyner of Jacksonville was crowned Mrs. Arkansas International and competed in the Mrs. International contest in Chicago in July.

• Make-A-Wish book: Cabot’s Sharon Hawkins published “Once upon a Wish,” a book about her son, Dakota, who died at the age of 15 after a long battle with leukemia.

• WWII vets get wish: More than 80 World War II veterans, all over the age of 80, flew free of charge to Washington to see the memorial dedicated to them. They all enjoyed a one-day whirlwind trip.

• Perfect attendance: Cabot senior Talen Evans went through kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school — 13 years in all — without missing a day.

• North Little Rock wins: By a 2-to-1 margin, Sherwood residents voted to keep North Little Rock Electric as the electric company for about 7,500 Sherwood customers.

• Losing 11 days: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made it clear that the sequester will cut 11 days of work and pay for civilian workers at Little Rock Air Force Base. Furloughs began in July.

• Going to the dogs: The Beebe School Board approved a program that placed a therapy dog in Badger Elementary as a way to encourage students to improve academically and socially.

• Not running: House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) decided not to run for governor as the office was being vacated by Gov. Mike Beebe. Both are term-limited.

• Improper comments: Jacksonville District Judge Robert Batton was reprimanded by the state’s Judicial Discipline Commission over remarks he made about a black defendant.

• Historic gas station: The Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood was placed on the state’s list of places that most need preservation. It was estimated that it would take $150,000 to restore the building.

• Beaver bounty: The Lonoke County Quorum Court, which had previously increased the price of beaver pelts to $30 to keep the beaver population under control, lowered the reward to $20 because officials believed trappers were bringing in pelts from other counties.

• Double-digit growth: Austin led area cities in population growth based on new census figures. The small community near Cabot jumped up 23 percent in two years.


• New fire station: Cabot broke ground on a new $1.2 million fire station off Hwy. 5 between Greystone and Magness Creek. (See page 1A for an update.)

• Director steps down: Cabot Chamber of Commerce Director Billye Everett announced her retirement after leading the chamber for seven years.

• Vertac still in the news: A federal judge ruled that the old Vertac site must still be monitored for contaminants even though the site is clean and home to the new police department and training facility.
 Less money: Military officials said 650 civilian workers at Little Rock Air Force Base would lose 20 percent of their pay by being furloughed for 11 days.

• Big jump: Marc Sherrell, an assistant principal at Blytheville Primary School, was hired as the new principal of Lonoke High School.

• A Cabot North Belt: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert continued to push his plan to bring the North Belt farther north and connect it with Hwy. 5.

• School leaders ousted: The Jacksonville Middle School principal Don Booth and assistant principal Sharon Hawk were fired, but officials with the Pulaski County Special School District never explained why.

• Base big bucks: Despite talks to end sequestration and a weak economy, LRAFB added $963.5 million into the central Arkansas economy last year — up from the previous year.

• New VA home: Jacksonville began its efforts to become the site of a new home for a veterans by pledging to donate 57 acres.

• New wing leader: Col. Patrick Rhatigan became the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at LRAFB as Col. Brian Robinson was promoted to brigadier general and transferred to Scott AFB, Ill.

• Efforts fall short: Efforts to collect enough signatures to support a Jacksonville school district fell short and were not presented to the state Board of Education as planned. The petition had enough signatures later that summer.

• Negative results good: The Cabot School District, in its first year of random drug testing, checked nearly 500 of its 1,600 high school students and only 13 tests were positive.

• Respected JHS principal leaves: Henry Anderson, who was principal of Jacksonville High School for two years, left for a Little Rock position. The district brought Bill Barnes out of retirement to run the school.

• First responder honored: Another name was added to Jacksonville’s Fallen Heroes Memorial Garden. Police Capt. Bill Horn, who died on duty in 1982, was added to the memorial alongside Fire Capt. Donald Jones, who was killed while on duty last year when a driver ran him over while he was responding to an accident on Hwy. 161.

• New hospital head: Cindy Stafford became chief executive officer for North Metro Medical Center.

• Range gets more funds: The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotions Commission allocated $230,000 to pay for construction of the $3 million sports-shooting range on Graham Road.

• Rough start for FestiVille: Heat and rain kept the crowds away from the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation’s attempt to revive an annual festival after the city’s chamber of commerce canceled Wing Ding.

• Pay raise: The Sherwood City Council voted to give city employees a 3 percent raise after reviewing the budget.

• Bond issued for projects: Cabot finalized the sale of $42 million worth of bonds that will be used to fund parks and other recreation projects, a new library and an interchange.

• Deadly shooting: Two Jacksonville police officers were placed on administrative leave while the department reviewed their actions in the shooting death of a man they said threatened them with a knife.

Monday, December 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Ignorance no excuse, Mark Darr must resign

You can say this, if nothing better, about Lt. Gov. Mark Darr: He has better political instincts or gets better advice than the chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, who after a year continues to try to cover up bungling in the university’s free-wheeling fund-raising division.

Laying out all the facts for everyone to see is always the best policy but one rarely followed in public or private life. When you do, the bleeding is painful but tends to end in short order.

So when a Democratic blogger dug into the records and reported that Darr had violated the law in converting public and campaign funds to his personal use, Darr rushed to the state Ethics Commission to report that he had made some “mistakes” on his campaign reports and that he had just discovered that he was ignorant of the law when he reimbursed himself for “expenses” in running around the state as the man waiting to succeed Gov. Beebe if he drops dead before he retires officially Jan. 15, 2015.

Everyone gives Darr some credit for the alacrity with which he confessed, but, alas, it has proved to be not enough. It was enough for the Republican Party, which has joined ranks behind him. The poor man made a bunch of mistakes, the state Republican chairman and Republican legislators said this week, but he did it out of ignorance and not with any intention to steal. His attorney, Dan Greenberg, the son of the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, explained that Darr had simply made “mistakes in disclosure” rather than doing anything really crooked and that he had apologized for them.

That was good enough for colleagues in the party and for the editors at the Democrat Gazette for a good while. None of them called for Darr to resign as they all had demanded when state Sen. Paul Bookout of Jonesboro, a Democrat, confessed to converting campaign funds to his personal benefit or when state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, another Democrat, owned up to taking $6,000 from an investment adviser who had gotten investment business from the treasurer’s office. Both resigned; the Democratic Party had demanded it.

But the state legislative auditor concluded this month that Darr had illegally claimed reimbursement from the state treasury for travel expenses from his home in northwest Arkansas and elsewhere and the staff of the state Ethics Commission concluded that he had wrongfully converted a total of some $44,000 of public and campaign money to his personal use. The state Ethics Commission—half Democrats, half Republicans—has yet to weigh in on the findings. The commissioners hold the power to slap his wrists or punish him more severely.

The punishment should be the same as for Book-out and Shoffner. That was resignation—insisted upon by a united Republican Party and by the editorial page of the Democrat Gazette in both cases. Breaking months of silence on the Darr matter, the newspaper last week ruefully called upon Darr to resign. He said he has no intention of leaving the office. When liberal blogger Matt Campbell first reported Darr’s many reporting “mistakes,” Darr did quit the Republican race for Congress from the Fourth Congressional District but not his job.

Are Darr’s financial misdeeds so grievous that they require his removal from office unless he is actually convicted in a court of violations of the law? The precedents go both ways, but the recent precedents—the cases of Bookout and Shoffner—decisively dictate his resignation. Neither Shoffner nor Bookout has been convicted of anything.

But he ought to resign for a better reason than any legalism: ignorance. He and his defenders have pleaded it.

We have a lieutenant governor for one reason: to have someone in waiting who will step in as a statewide elected official in the rare emergency of a governor’s dying or leaving office short of an election. When voters created such an office some 85 years ago, they did to have someone in waiting. It was not a full-time job and paid only $2,500; to give the officeholder some menial duty the law empowered him to preside over the state Senate the few days a year it is in session. He has no power over legislation or anything else. He recognizes the senator who is to speak next and orders the clerk to call the roll when debate on a bill ends. That’s it. When the lieutenant governor doesn’t want to go to the Capitol, the president of the Senate stands in for him and the Senate happily does its work anyway.

Lt. Gov. Nathan Gordon, the war hero who held the job for two decades after World War II, had no staff, collected his $2,500 and nothing else and stayed away from the Capitol and from trying to meddle in the governor’s affairs. Until Darr, other lieutenant governors followed the example.

Though he has no duties other than sitting on the Senate dais, Darr has a $400,000 budget and pays four executive assistants $350,000 to send out press statements for him—one praised Exxon Mobil for its handling of the big Mayflower oil spill—and to keep up his political contacts around the state.

But if his real job is to be ready to step into the governor’s office in an emergency and run the state for a while, he needs to have a demonstrated competence in government and to be at least minimally knowledgeable about government service. He and his friends acknowledge that he doesn’t have that knowledge. He didn’t even know what the law required on a public official’s financial reporting and what the law required a lieutenant governor to do about his travels.

It’s time to quit.

TOP STORY >> Young girl asks Santa for a very special gift

Leader editor

(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.

“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids got to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.

But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”

A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who had seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into.

“There were two cots to sleep on and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a potbellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.

“The girl was seven or eight years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.”

He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.”

Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper. Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.”

But that wasn’t what the girl wanted.

“The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’

“I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds.

“I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had.

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father.

Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice place to live in. You can’t lose hope.

TOP STORY >> 2013 IN REVIEW: It was a year to remember

(Editor’s note: This is the first of a five-part series looking back at 2013.)

Murder, mayhem, money and mush carried us through March as a number of individuals were charged in murder cases; Sherwood’s effort to keep North Little Rock Electric caused a lot of mayhem; cities looked to taxes to get money, and melting ice and snow provide the mush.


• Power outage: More than 15,000 area residents were in the dark after a late December 2012 storm dumped a foot of ice and snow locally. Most residents were back in the light by the first week of January.

• Lonoke County’s new sheriff cleans house: When John Staley took over the department on Jan.1 he dismissed all the deputies except Lt. Jim Kulesa.

• Locals want change: A grassroots group in Sherwood gathered signatures asking that the city’s decision to keep North Little Rock as an energy provider be voted on by the residents. The drive ended up short 137 signatures.

• Storm debris lingers: During the first week of January, Jacksonville Public Works removed 1,200 cubic yards of storm debris. Cleanup efforts continued for months in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

• Sexual harassment firing: The Sherwood Civil Service Commission upheld the police chief’s recommendation to fire Sgt. Josh Adams for sexual harassing a female colleague and other professional misconduct.

• Police car hits home: A Sherwood police officer crashed his vehicle into a home on Wildwood Avenue while in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. The officer suffered minor injuries.

• Jacksonville pioneer dies: Martha Boyd, 90, the city’ first female police officer, a longtime council member, director of the Miss Jacksonville Pageant for 20 years and a private investigator died.

• Defense cuts: Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Tim Griffin and Gov. Mike Beebe all worked so that Little Rock Air Force suffered minimal damage from federal budget cuts.

• Sexual harassment classes: To help clean up problems in the Sherwood Police Department, Chief Jim Bedwell holds retraining classes and announces “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment.

• Snow day: Another blast of winter weather causes schools and businesses to close early. Luckily the storm passed quickly and it did not turn into an extended vacation for students.

• Bridge swap: Lonoke took over a portion of Hwy. 89 from the state in exchange for the highway department covering the city’s $600,000 share for a $9 million I-40 overpass.

• Honoring Martin Luther King Jr: Jacksonville’s NAACP and the city partnered for a day of service to honor the late civil rights leader.

• Teacher jailed: Cabot teacher Sherry Stracener is sentenced to six years in prison on 11 counts of sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
• Colonel makes good: Col. Brain Robinson, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, was nominated to become a brigadier general by President Barack Obama. The Senate later confirmed the nomination.

• Death penalty sought: Lonoke County Prosecutor Churck Graham announced that he would seek the death penalty for Jeremy D. Davis, 29, of Jacksonville and Nicholas R. Hollaway, 23, of Beebe in the brutal death of Hurbert D. Jackson.

• Skateworld becomes flea market: New owners of the closed skating rink signed a two-year lease an option to buy the building.

• Rapid-fire gun sales: Local gun shops were having trouble keeping guns and ammunition in stock as customers feared the school shooting Newtown, Conn., would cause the government to restrict sales.

• Upscale apartments: Work started on a $22 million upscale apartment complex in Cabot. Work continues on the project that will include 300 apartments because of a change in building contractors.


• North Belt moving north: Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert asked area mayors to support moving the forever-stalled project closer to Cabot.

• Banquet cut short by tornado: Jacksonville’s annual chamber dinner was cut extremely short when tornado sirens and cell-phone alerts sounded. As the meal ended, everyone left before the speakers were set to start.

• Bibles and guns: Debate begins over the safety of churchgoers having concealed guns. The Arkansas Legislature passed a bill allowing churches to decide whether to allow worshipers to carry guns.

• Slavery exhibit: The Museum of American History in Cabot features local papers, notices and other items from the slavery period.

• Chamber honors: The Sherwood Chamber recognized its man and woman of the year, plus five others for outstanding work and dedication.

• Charges possible: Special prosecutor considered murder and assault charges for Christopher Reynolds, 34, who shot Ernest Hoskins Jr., an employee of his home-based company.

• New festival: Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Depart-ment announced it would hold Festiville one year after the chamber of commerce pulled its sponsorship of the Wing Ding festival.

• Vote set: Sherwood accepted petitions to vote on an electric provider for a large portion of the city. The council set a May election date for residents to decide whether or not to keep North Little Rock Electric, which voters supported.

• Sewage money: Cabot asked for a vote to support extending the city’s 1-cent sales tax to finance $8.2 million sewer upgrade and millions of dollars for parks and new library.

• Lucky duck: Matt Robin-son, publications manager for The Leader is elected to be the next state chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited.

• Fire chief retires: John Vanderhoof retires as Jack-sonville fire chief a month shy of his 43rd year with the department. He was chief for 15 years.

• Nevada training: The 41st Airlift Squadron spent time in “All for our Country” state practicing in high altitude and desert condition readying for deployment to Afghanistan.

• PCSSD discipline: A report showed black students in the Pulaski County Special School District were disciplined more than whites. Black students make up 44.2 percent of the district but made up 63 percent of the students who were suspended.

• LRAFB shines: Sen. John Boozman called the base “the superstar of the world for C-130s” as he worked to reduce budget cuts facing the base.

• Not a pretty face: Cancer survivor Rick Bender, 50, whose face is disfigured from mouth and throat cancer talked to Cabot High School students about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

• Still too high: In its third attempt to get reasonable bids for the construction of the shooting sports facility, Jacksonville reviewed 10 bids. The lowest — at $2.5 million — was still $200,000 above the city’s desired cost.

• Sequester cuts: Little Rock Air Force Base’s budget would be slashed by $2 million if sequestration goes into effect. The military would take about half of the planned $2 trillion in automatic cuts.

• Taxing water: Sherwood approved a 4.25 percent franchise tax on Central Arkansas Water because it charges the city more than its neighbors.


• No RVs: The Beebe City Council rejects plans for a new RV park off Hwy. 64 over fencing, length of RV stays and concerns that it would attract criminal activity.

• Reading the voters: The Cabot City Council unveiled designs for a new $2.6 million library planned for the city enticing voters to support extending the city’s 1-cent sales tax.

• Bid on target: Jacksonville accepts $2.55 million bid to build a shooting-sports range. Stonebridge Construction of Jonesboro agreed to reduce its previous bid by adjusting its plan.

• School gun scare: Tyler Hansen, 29, of Sherwood was charged with two felony counts of communicating a false alarm after saying there was a gunman at or near Sylvan Hills Middle School.

• New fire chief: Jacksonville hired Alan Laughy, an assistant fire chief at Little Rock Air Force Base, as fire chief.

• Shooting charges reduced: Christopher Reynolds, the Ward man who shot and killed his employee pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Murder charges were not filed against him.

• Principal retires: Lonoke High School Principal Phy-naus Wilson announced his retirement after 36 years in education, the last 11 as head of the high school. In 2011, he was abruptly fired and parents and students successfully rallied to have him reinstated.

• New parks director: Cabot hired John Crow from 30 applicants to head the parks and recreation department and oversee efforts to get voters to approve $20 million in taxes for new park projects.

• Honoring first responders: A group of Jacksonville residents banded together to develop a Fallen Heroes Memorial Garden to be built at the new police department on Marshall Road to honor people who died in service to the city.

• The late Fire Capt. Donald Jones, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while working an accident on Hwy. 161, inspired the memorial.

• Sequestration strikes: Congress failed to strike a deal forcing automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Beebe schools braced for a $200,000 hit, the air base prepared to furlough 650 civilian workers and reduce all areas of training. Later in the month the Pentagon postponed the furloughs.

• Suspect sane for trial: Bryce Allen, 48, who drove around emergency vehicles and struck and killed a firefighter and seriously wounded a police officer in March 2012 was declared fit to stand trial for first-degree murder charges.

• Pool wrecks center: Cabot requested bids to replace the community center’s roof that deteriorated making it unsafe after the dehumidification system for the indoor pool didn’t work. Repairs were expected to cost $700,000.

• Star of “The Voice” visits: Cody Belew, a contestant on the popular TV show, came home to perform for Beebe High School’s Project Graduation. He is a 2003 Beebe High graduate.

• Drink up: State Sen. Jane English and others introduce a bill to the Legislature that would allow cities like Jacksonville and Sherwood to vote to allow alcohol sales in dry areas if enough residents petition for a special election. Sherwood is about 50 percent dry and Jacksonville is 90 percent dry.

• Lumbering on: Whit Davis, with three central Arkansas locations including Jacksonville and Cabot, marked its 60th year in business in March.

• Senior centers struggle: Federal and state budget cuts caused concerns for senior centers and their programs. Because of a projected five-percent federal cut, 24,000 fewer meals were expected to be delivered in central Arkansas.

• Happy birthday, Sherwood: City officials and groups used March to prepare activities for the city’s 65th anniversary on April 22.

• Random drug tests: The Austin City Council requires random drug testing for paid and unpaid city workers.

• Flood buyout: Sherwood votes to use general fund money to pay its portion of a FEMA program to buy homes in the city that repeatedly flood.

• Lonoke limelight: The Lonoke School Board members toured the $9.3 million Cox Center, a 54,000 square –foot multipurpose facility, as it neared completion.

• Jacksonville School District: Details are released about facilities and operating cost for a new school district.

• The Pulaski County Special School District said it would give Jacksonville 12 substandard campuses (two are already closed) and seven of the campuses are so bad the sate has recommended closing or replacing them. A study showed it would cost about $37.2 million to run the district annually, but it would get $38.5 million in revenue.

TOP STORY >> Austin killing captured on security tape

Leader staff writer

The Dec. 19 shooting death of an Austin woman was caught on tape.

Charles R. Bryant, 38, told State Police investigators that he shot and killed his wife Sharae Bryant, 34, after she shot him. But the surveillance tape that investigators retrieved from his home shows that he shot her in the head and then shot himself, presumably to support his claim of self defense.

Special Agent Kevin Webb with the Arkansas State Police wrote in the affidavit for Bryant’s arrest that the tape from the outside surveillance camera showed Sharae Bryant putting the couple’s infant daughter in a car seat in a white Ford Expedition before going back into the couple’s home at 30 Watercrest Lane in Austin.

At about that same time, the tape showed Charles Bryant getting something from his red Dodge pickup and then going back inside.

The tape then showed Sharae running outside followed by Charles, who chased her around her vehicle.

“When Elizabeth Sharae Bryant reached the driver’s door, Charles Byrant approached (her) and the surveillance recording showed him stand over her and shoot (her) in the head,” Webb wrote.

“Charles Bryant then walked approximately 10 feet away. The surveillance recording then showed (him) shoot himself in the center area of his body. (He) fell to the ground. (He) crawled back to the body ... and it appeared that he placed something by her body. (He) crawled back to the area that he shot himself and laid down,” Webb wrote.

Sharae Bryant was pronounced dead at the scene after emergency personnel and police found her in the driveway beside her SUV at 8:34 a.m. Charles Bryant was interviewed at Springhill Baptist Hospital in North Little Rock, where he was treated and released for a gunshot wound in his side.

A short time later, he was arrested for capital murder and taken to the Lonoke County Jail, where he is being held without bond until his plea and arraignment set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.

According to the affidavit for Bryant’s arrest, he told Lt. Stacie Rhodes with the State Police that he and his wife had argued before he took his two sons to school, leaving the oldest son and the infant daughter at home with her.

When he returned, his wife put the baby in the SUV and at some point, she also took a holstered 9-mm semiautomatic pistol from a nightstand drawer and then went outside. He followed with a .380 semi-automatic pistol.

Once outside, Charles Bryant said Share Bryant shot him once and he returned fire, shooting her one time in the head.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, who was among those who responded to the 911 call about the shooting, immediately turned the case over to the State Police. Staley said Bryant had been a reserve deputy until about a week before the shooting, when he resigned.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ladies split pair at White Hall tourney

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Badgers finished 1-1 at the Relyance Bank Classic at White Hall on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, Beebe beat Fordyce 62-53, but on Saturday, the Lady Badgers gave up a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to lose 56-51 to Lake Hamilton.

At the end of the first quarter on Saturday, the game looked as if it could go either way as Lake Hamilton (4-2) narrowly led 11-10. Beebe (4-2), however, had the better showing in quarters three and four, and looked to be on its way to another win at the end of three.

Beebe led 26-19 at halftime, and 43-33 at the end of the third quarter. Lady Wolves center Kori Bullard, who’s being recruited by every university in the state other than the University of Arkansas, led a 6-0 run for Lake Hamilton to open the fourth quarter.

That cut Beebe’s lead to 43-39. The Lady Badgers did everything they could from that point on to fend off the Lady Wolves, but Lake Hamilton seemed to have an answer for every Beebe basket down the stretch.

Lake Hamilton got to within one point of Beebe’s lead on a three-pointer from the corner by Kylie Frazier, which made the score 49-48 with 3:10 to play. Bullard gave the Lady Wolves their first lead of the second half on an and-one with 2:31 remaining, which put Lake Hamilton on top 51-49.

Beebe leading scorer Kalela Miller tied the game at 51-51 on a basket inside the paint, but Lake Hamilton retook the lead seconds later on an easy layup by Hailey Humphreys, which was set up by a Bullard pass from the baseline.

With 29.1 seconds to play, Lake Hamilton went up 55-51 on a pair of free throws by Frazier, who also set the final score with another free throw – the last one came with 8.8 ticks remaining.

“I thought we came out good in the second half,” said Lady Badgers’ coach Greg Richey, “and we had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Then we gave up 23 points in the fourth quarter.

“I think the combination of some bad decisions, playing last night and being short on the bench today – then No. 33 (Bullard) started hitting some shots. Their No. 10 (Frazier) was hitting shots over in the corner and it just kind of steamrolled a little bit. We got behind and we couldn’t get a shot to go.”

Beebe was without four of its players on Saturday for various reasons. Lake Hamilton was easily the deeper team as it had 24 players dressed out compared to Beebe’s nine.

That depth combined with fresher legs was noticeable in the fourth quarter as the Lady Wolves outscored the Lady Badgers 23-8 to take the game.

Lake Hamilton narrowly won the rebounding battle 28-26, but committed five more turnovers than Beebe did, finishing with 26.

The free-throw shooting was comparable as Beebe finished 12 for 18 from the line for 67 percent. The Lady Wolves were 10 for 14 from the stripe for 71 percent.

The Lady Badgers could only manage one three-pointer in the game on 1 of 10 shooting. Lake Hamilton was 3 for 9 from three-point range for 33 percent.

Bullard led the way offensively for Lake Hamilton. She scored 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Frazier scored 15 and Humphreys added 11.

For Beebe, Miller scored a team-high 15 points. Gracie Anders scored 11 points for the Lady Badgers. Kassidy Elam added 10.

The Lady Badgers will play next in their own holiday tournament at Badger Sports Arena against Pulaski Robinson on Friday at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils turn back Trojans

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys basketball team took a step in the right direction Friday, beating the Hot Springs Trojans 80-65 for its second-consecutive win before the Christmas break.

Maintaining sizeable leads has been a problem for the Red Devils this year, and while the Trojans did put together a nice run after falling behind by 23, the Red Devils never let them get any closer than nine in the fourth quarter on its way to the home victory.

“What happened was all three of our big men got into foul trouble and we had to go with a four-guard lineup,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We hadn’t practiced a four-guard lineup, so we had kids out of place and not really able to get in sync with where we were having to play people. That’s the bottom line on that. Once we were able to weather that storm, we got some post men back in there, and we got back to playing like we had been.”

After dominating most of the first half and taking a 43-26 lead into intermission, Jacksonville held a 46-30 lead when Hot Springs coach Rodney Echols drew a technical foul for too demonstratively arguing calls.

Red Devil senior Sergio Berkley hit one of the two technical free throws. On the ensuing possession, he drained a three and was knocked to the floor on the shot. The subsequent free throw made it 51-30 with 5:36 on the clock.

After a defensive stop, guard Tyree Appleby dropped in a bucket to give Jacksonville its biggest lead of the night with 4:49 left in the third. From that point, the Trojans scored 12 unanswered to finish the quarter.

They also scored first in the fourth quarter to complete a 14-0 with 7:47 left in the game. But that was as close as they would get.

Red Devil post player Damarion Freeman got an offensive rebound and putback 11 seconds later. He was also fouled on the play and the free throw put Jacksonville back up by 12 at 56-44. Junior forward Kerry Knight then scored four-straight, the second bucket a layup after a penetrate and dish by Devin Campbell that put the Red Devils back in command with a 60-44 lead.

Hot Springs briefly cut the margin to 10 at 62-52, but a 12-foot-baseline floater by Appleby started a 6-0 run and Hot Springs never seriously threatened again.

“Appleby’s minutes have been going up because he’s a heady little basketball player and he plays with poise,” Joyner said of his lone freshman.

After Appleby’s bucket, Berkley missed a mid-range jumper, got his own rebound and missed again. Knight then got that rebound, missed, rebounded again and scored for a 14-point, Red Devil lead.

“I thought Kerry Knight stepping in there with our post players in foul trouble, and banging inside and getting some big baskets was big plus,” Joyner said. “We’re looking for people to step up and he stepped up for us in that situation.”

Campbell then finished the run with a steal and a layup that made it 68-52 with 3:50 left to play. Campbell led all scorers with 29 points, including 18 in the first half. Berkley added 23 and Appleby scored 10 for Jacksonville, 6-3.

The Red Devils will play in the SEARK Invitational, and also opens with tournament host Monticello at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Joyner will be looking to work on executing against zone defenses better, which his teams have seen more of this year than in years past.

“With these new rules where you can’t touch anybody, teams are having to play more zone,” Joyner said. “We’ve seen a lot of 1-3-1 and we’re going to have to get better executing against that.

“We also need to find a defensive stopper inside. Right now we don’t have that stopper back there to guard that goal and turn back some shots. We need to see some people step up and do that for us.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears overcome deficit

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills boys’ basketball team got an impressive win over Watson Chapel on Friday. The Bears fought back against a Wildcat team that burst out of the gate to take a 64-52 victory at home.

Chapel raced out to a 15-4 lead in the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills responded with nine unanswered points to make it 15-13 with 1:56 left in the period. But the run didn’t stop there. Chapel took a 17-15 advantage into the second quarter, and scored first in the second quarter for a four-point lead.

Sylvan Hills then reeled off 10-straight points for a 25-19 lead. Chapel finally stopped the streak, but Sylvan Hills guard Marlon Clemmons drained a three pointer to complete a 24-6 run that gave the Bears their biggest lead of the first half at 28-21 with four minutes on the clock.

Chapel called timeout and the margin stayed between five and seven points for the next three minutes, but the Wildcats ended the half the same way they started it. With Sylvan Hills leading 32-27, Chapel’s Datreon Lindsey scored six-straight points in the final 43 seconds to send the visiting team into intermission with a 33-32 lead.

“Overall, I’m pretty pleased with where we are from a consistency standpoint,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “But I was disappointed with how we finished the half. We had a lot of substitutions in there and we didn’t play with much calmness. I think we were a little too excited about being back home and got a little carried away with playing for “me” instead of playing for the team. But we came back and did a much better job in the second half, substitutions and all.”

The first half of the third quarter saw each team trading baskets and one-point leads, and it was an exciting display of athleticism that sparked the Bears and sent them on the run that gave them control of the game.

Senior guard Ronnie Hinton shot a 15-foot fade away from a tough angle on the baseline and slightly behind the backboard.

The shot missed everything, but post player Amani Armond flew in from the opposite side, caught it as it sailed over the rim and slammed it home, exciting the crowd and sparking a run.

The dunk gave Sylvan Hills a 39-38 lead and was the sixth lead change of the quarter. Chapel briefly led again at 42-41, but after a bucket by post player David Johnson put the Bears back in front with the eighth lead change, sophomore guard Cordy Winston got a steal, a layup and added a free-throw for a 46-42 Bears’ lead, and they would never trail again.

Sylvan Hills closed the quarter with a 10-2 run and took a 51-44 advantage into the final period of play. Johnson became the go-to man early in the fourth. He scored the first five points for Sylvan Hills in the quarter, and all five were off assists by Armond.

“I think our inside play is really showing some progress,” Davis said. “David is being more assertive and he’s got some good moves down low. I think as a sophomore he was a backup role player. As a junior he was a starter and I think he was like, ‘OK I’m a starter now, what do I do? Now he’s a senior and I think he’s made his mind up that it’s time to play like a senior.

“And with Armani coming on and really playing well lately, it’s giving us a one-two punch down low that’s really becoming effective.”

Hinton led all scorers with 18 points. Johnson finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Winston added 14 points, four assists and three steals, while Armond had eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

Xavier Young led the Wildcats with 13 points while Lindsey scored 10. Post player Ben Marcus had nine points and 13 rebounds. Chapel won the rebounding battle 31-27. Sylvan Hills was 21 of 58 from the floor for 36 percent, and were 17 of 25 from the free-throw line. Chapel was 19 of 49 from the floor and 12 of 14 from the line.

The key statistic was the turnover difference. Sylvan Hills had just eight turnovers, and none in the fourth quarter. Chapel had 20 turnovers, 11 of which were Sylvan Hills steals.

The Bears, 5-2, play Mountain Home at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Bomber Invitational at Mountain Home.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers get two victories at White Hall

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers went 2-0 at the Relyance Bank Classic at White Hall over the weekend with a dominant 53-25 win over Beebe on Friday, and a close, 40-36 win over the host team on Saturday.

In Friday’s matchup with the class 5A Badgers, the Panthers led 22-14 at halftime before putting the game away comfortably in the final two quarters. Saturday’s matchup was a much tougher challenge.

The score was tied at 10-10 at the end of the first quarter. White Hall (3-7) started the game with a 10-5 run, but Cabot (6-2) added a basket before senior point guard Hunter York drained his second three-pointer of the quarter to tie it up at 10 apiece.

Neither team found any separation in the second quarter, but the Panthers led the Bulldogs 21-17 at halftime. In the third quarter, White Hall took a 25-23 lead on a baseline three-pointer by Will Johnson with 3:59 remaining in the period.

Cabot added a basket before retaking the lead on a transition bucket by senior post Michael Smith that made the score 27-26 in Cabot’s favor.

The Panthers had possession in the waning seconds of the third quarter, but while setting up their final play, White Hall’s J’Breun Steen stole the ball and took it the distance for the go-ahead layup with six seconds remaining.

Steen’s bucket should have been the final points of the quarter, but Jaylen Spicer stole the inbound pass and after missing his first shot attempt after the steal, he got his own putback at the buzzer to put the host Bulldogs up 30-27 heading into the final eight minutes.

White Hall added to its lead by scoring the first four points of the fourth quarter, which put the Panthers at a 34-27 deficit. Cabot responded with eight-straight points to retake the lead. The run started with a much-needed three-pointer by Garrett Rowe, and ended with another three from Rowe that put the Panthers back up 35-34 with 1:57 to play.

With 50 seconds remaining, White Hall retook the lead, 36-35, on a baseline jumper by Jake McNulty. Cabot added the next score with 21.3 seconds remaining on a putback by sophomore Hunter Southerland to make it 37-36 Panthers.

Cabot’s defense held, and White Hall had to foul and hope the Panthers missed their free throws. Rowe was sent to the line after the inbound pass, and made the first, but missed the second attempt.

The Bulldogs got the ball past half court where they then called timeout to set up one final play. However, there was miscommunication on the inbound pass, and White Hall threw it out of bounds across the court, giving the ball back to Cabot.

With 1.4 seconds remaining, Southerland made 2 of 2 free throws to set the final score. It was a hard-fought, well-deserved win for the Panthers, especially considering they had to overcome some tough officiating throughout the game, whether it was not getting a foul call or being called for a traveling violation when indeed there was no traveling violation.

“We knew it was going to be that way coming down here, I’ll tell you that right now,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges after the game. “We knew coming down here we weren’t going to get many calls. You might as well buckle up and get ready to overcome that.

“I was proud of my kids because we faced adversity. Garrett Rowe stepped up and hit two big threes. Hunter Southerland had a big putback and two free throws at the end. I was really proud of those guys for stepping up for us. You’re going to have games like that. Last year, we would’ve lost that.

“We’ve got some grit about us, and I told them at halftime we’ve got to grind this one out because we weren’t playing well. We weren’t clicking very well. I thought at the end of the third quarter we got out of character, but we could’ve lost that and we’re going to take it as an early Christmas present.”

Cabot outrebounded White Hall 25-14, but committed one additional turnover than the Bulldogs did, as the Panthers finished with 16. Neither team shot well at the free-throw and three-point lines. Cabot was 3 for 8 from the line for 38 percent, and 5 for 19 from three-point range for 26 percent.

Conversely, White Hall was 3 for 11 from beyond the arc for 27 percent, and an abysmal 6 for 22 from the stripe for 27 percent.

Southerland led all scorers with 14 points. York and Rowe scored nine apiece. Tyler Pirson led the Bulldogs with 10 points, while teammates Jordan Lawson and Steen added seven apiece.

The Panthers play again Friday at the Beebe Holiday Tournament against Harding Academy at 2:30 p.m. at Badger Sports Arena.