Wednesday, January 15, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Satisfaction in Jacksonville

Mick Jagger and Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. attended the London School of Economics about a quarter of a century apart and seem to have come away with different takes on satisfaction.

In 1969, the Rolling Stones released their classic rock song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”
Marshall, by approving a proposed desegregation-agreement settlement, assured that all five major parties to that agreement before him in U.S. District Court got a large measure of satisfaction.

In the main, Marshall approved the settlement between the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts, the attorney general’s office representing the state Board of Education and the Joshua Intervenors.

This settlement does not end efforts to finish desegregating PCSSD, but it clears away many other issues while recognizing that the district and the Joshua Intervenors have work to do in several areas before the district is finally unitary.

Among major components of the settlement were language which ends, following the 2016-2017 school year, more than $1 billion worth of desegregation funding, and which paves the way for Jacksonville-area voters to decide whether or not to break away from PCSSD and start their own school district.

It was not Marshall’s doing that the five sometimes adversaries came together with a hard-negotiated settlement, but he gets credit for recognizing the agreement as fair, reasonable and adequate, and for acting quickly to approve it.

Other aspects of the desegregation case have lingered months before other judges, but Monday morning Marshall held a hearing in which he heard from those objecting to parts of the settlement—no one said they wanted the settlement to fail—and heard opening remarks from attorneys for the parties.

In the afternoon, Marshall heard from a smattering of witnesses from the settlement signees. He recessed court at 3 p.m. and returned at 3:30 to bless the settlement and explain his decision.

Even those who had objected to the settlement expressed nothing but praise and appreciation for Marshall, who conducted himself with humor and humanity.

Chris Heller, representing Little Rock; John Walker, representing the Joshua Intervenors; Attorney Gen. Dustin McDaniel and Scott Richardson, representing the state; Steven Jones, representing North Little Rock, and Sam Jones and Allen Roberts, representing PCSSD sang in harmony on the issue of the global settlement, the heavy lifting and adversarial negotiating settled late last year.

The alternative to recognizing the settlement was a two-week legal battle sure to be expensive and disruptive.

Prior to court Monday and before donning his robe, Marshall came and mingled with the plain folks (well, OK, the lawyers and school officials) warmly greeting them, shaking hands and visiting.

Perhaps this is a Southern mannerism by a judge born in Memphis in 1963. Marshall is an Arkansas State graduate, holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and graduated from Harvard Law School.

Appointed by President Barack Obama, he became judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on May 6, 2010, succeeding Judge Bill Wilson. Marshall clerked for U.S. District Judge Richard Arnold, of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is a time of celebration for dozens of people who advanced the baton toward the finish line for a stand-alone Jacksonville district. Inevitably over the 30-year effort, some have died — most recently attorney Ben Rice, who worked tirelessly on behalf of Jacksonville. Rice passed away March 12, 2013.

“Will Bond’s legislation guided the process,” according to Patrick Wilson, attorney for the Jacksonville Foundation.

Wilson and Daniel Gray, spokesman for the Jacksonville Education Foundation, are among the latest to champion the cause. Before Bond, his mother, former state Rep. Pat Bond, worked on the district. Also Dr. Greg Bollen, Bishop James Bolden, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, former mayor Tommy Swaim. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now it is incumbent upon the people of Jacksonville and north Pulaski County to advance the cause en masse — or at least by a simple voting majority. Twice. It appears that on Sept. 16, they will be given the opportunity to vote in favor of carving their own school district out of the sprawling PCSSD, and in the future they will have the opportunity to increase the school millage to support $100 million or more worth of long-overdue construction and improvements to area school building.

“The hard work is still before us,” Gray said. As Mick Jagger sang, “If you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.”

TOP STORY >> Beaver problems gnaw Lonoke County officials

Leader editor

Lonoke County officials remain divided over the price of bounties paid for beavers and whether the bounties are even effective in preventing roads from flooding and becoming damaged.

JP Adam Sims, who has received complaints from residents about floods blocking roads, recently revived the debate. He was so spurred to action that he even arranged for Leader staff writer Jeffrey Smith to join him on a plane ride to see the damage that beavers are causing in the Furlow community. Our reporter also went on a four-wheeler ride and slogged through the mini reservoirs the beavers built to get a close look at their dams, which back up water after a downpour.

It was the most impressive outing that any justice of the peace has arranged to explain his perspective to us in The Leader’s 27 years.

Sims says the bounty should be raised from $20 to $30 to entice trappers. He thinks, with a higher bounty, trappers will do their work even in summertime when they tend to avoid the snakes that are most active then. 

On the other side is Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, who is known to watch the county’s budget like a shopkeeper minding the register. He rightly suspects that trappers are bringing in beavers from neighboring counties so they can collect more money. He also doubts that an additional $10 will get trappers out year-round.

After about six months of paying $30 per beaver, Erwin decided the benefits weren’t worth the extra money, so he reduced the fee. The program spends about $10,000 to $15,000 annually.

Beavers tend to flood roads in the Bland Chapel area and Lilly Road in northern Lonoke County, Ray Young Road near Carlisle, Young Road and Cypress Creek near South Kerr Road, several roads off North Kerr Road, the Snake Island area and Rayburn Road in the southeast part of the county and Lingo Road near Furlow, according to a road-maintenance manager.  

But several roads that are near creeks or sloughs — a description of nearly all county roads — can be flooded by beavers, officials say.

The French traders who were the first Europeans to arrive in Arkansas during the 17th Century came here to find beaver pelts, a valuable commodity and bartering tool in its day.

Beavers thrived in the swamps here, which were drained beginning a couple of centuries ago to create some of the most fertile farmland in the world. And they’ve been busy ever since working to return it swamps.

By the end of the start of 20th Century beavers were nearly extinct in the state, but were successfully reintroduced in the 1920s. The French traders would be astonished to know that more than 300 years later, the tree-gnawing rodents still captivate us. 

Here’s hoping that we’ll still be talking about these pesky critters centuries from now. But what can be done about them in the meantime?

Dynamiting dams, a method once used by the county, doesn’t work well because beavers can rebuild them very quickly, sometimes within a day or two. Other than trapping, the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture Research and Extension recommends a Clemson beaver pond leveler, which “works on the principle that the detection of water currents stimulates beaver to quickly plug the source of water drainage. The leveler consists of a perforated PVC pipe that is encased in heavy-gauge hog wire,” according to a report published by the extension service called “Beaver Damage Prevention and Control Methods,” which is available online.

The device can prevent extensive flooding, while actually retaining some of the ecological benefits that beaver ponds produce. (The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission credits beaver dams with creating perfect conditions for duck hunting, but officials understandably aren’t interested in having prime waterfowl habitats blocking access to county roads.)

The Clemson leveler “is placed upstream of a dam or blocked culvert in the deepest part of the stream or water flow. It is connected to non-perforated sections of PVC pipe, which are run through the dam or culvert to a water-control structure downstream. Because beavers do not detect flowing water as it drains, they do not block the pipe.

“The leveler works best in relatively flat terrain with short-term flooding. The leveler will not work where water volumes exceed the capacity of the pipe, such as periods of unusually high rainfall or where steep terrain may cause excessive flooding,” the report tactfully concludes, informing readers that it might not always work.

Another recommendation from the extension service is a three-log drain made of hardwood logs, which are placed perpendicular through the beaver dam. Two logs are laid on top of a board with the upstream ends slightly separated. The third log goes on top, forming a funnel.

Tips for landowners from the Forest Service sound even less hopeful: “Removal of dams, lodges, or both, is probably the most used, but least effective method of discouraging beavers. The usual response is a repaired dam or lodge by the following day….Live-trapping and relocating beavers is expensive. It is also difficult because another site that is not already inhabited is usually difficult to find. Some states have trapping programs, but these are generally small programs and should not be depended upon to solve a local landowner’s problems.”

In other words, landowners may have to pay a professional trapper more than the county does. A representative in the county’s Soil Conservation District office told us there are about 12 to 20 trappers active in the county at any given time.

To get paid, they must turn in the animal’s right front paw and part of the tail. There’s no limit to how many they can turn in for bounties. But even if a trapper can get 100 beavers in a year, that’s only $2,000 at the current rate. Trappers can sell the fur and carcass after getting the bounty. A buyer in North Little Rock told us he is paying $9 to $15 per beaver carcass, which means an additional $900 to $1,500 for a total of $3,500 in a year. 

Good supplemental income, but only the most dedicated hobbyists would regularly risk snakebites to pursue that kind of money. And it’s unlikely that an extra $1,000 would make a significant difference and if it would really help to control flooding.

Placing gate covers on culverts that beavers frequently block is one preventative measure that county officials say they’ve had good results using. But the county needs to find a way to increase its number of trappers and have them target those problem areas instead of the catch-them-anywhere plan it uses now.

For beginner trappers, the Game and Fish Commission links to a free online U.S. Trapper Education Course on its website at The same site also includes a free trapper-education manual for Arkansas. The trapping permit, which can be obtained online, is free for Arkansas residents.

And for landowners, there is a nuisance wildlife registry that trappers use to find places to ply their trade. But only two Lonoke County residents — one in Cabot and one in England — have  registered at and both list beavers as the nuisance.

The underutilized registry aims to attract trappers to private property  being damaged by furbearers. Trappers must get permission before going onto the owner’s property though. So just being on the registry isn’t an open invitation to trappers.

There’s more to the great outdoors than just hunting and fishing. It would be nice to see  justices of the peace, and even the county judge, set some traps, perhaps even make a friendly competition of it and donate the bounties to charity.

The Clemson leveler and three-log drain will also be worth a try. But even then, the experts warn it’s impossible to catch them all.

TOP STORY >> Political stop in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

Asa Hutchinson, a Republican candidate for governor, spoke about lowering taxes, building the economy and creating job opportunities for Arkansans during a meet-and-greet breakfast Tuesday at the Lone Oak Cafe in Lonoke.

“Lonoke County is very important to me in both the primary and general election,” the former congressman said.

He said the county has helped grow the Republican Party and is contributing to the state in leadership, legislative support and growth in the economy.

“Lonoke County is going to have a lot of growth in the future,” Hutchinson predicted. “We have a great opportunity to bring more industry here. The support of the agricultural community is critically important.

“While I was in Congress, I understood and supported Arkansas agriculture. The governor can do a lot to support that arena,” Hutchinson added.

He said there are three things that he believes are important in the agriculture arena: the appointment of a secretary of agriculture who understands commodities and row crops and the importance of marketing products overseas. The second is a governor to continue to push the Arkansas agriculture market overseas. The third is agriculture research and keeping up with the cutting edge of technology.

“In this race, I am passionate about economic growth in the state. That’s why I am running. I am a conservative and I believe in less regulation and lower taxes. The private sector is what drives our economy forward.

“I am pro-life. I believe in the Second Amendment. The (National Rifle Association) asked me to lead a national effort to protect the Second Amendment but to also address the challenge of school safety in our nation,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the polls show he is ahead of the leading Democratic candidate, Mike Ross, in the governor’s race. He said he is going to stay ahead, but it is a close race. Hutchinson said the polls show he is also ahead in the First Congressional District.

Hutchinson said even though he is from northwest Arkansas, he has a home in Little Rock. He said he spends a lot of time in central Arkansas with family and in eastern Arkansas duck hunting.

Hutchinson has two plans to help create jobs and build Arkansas’ future. One is a tax reduction and the other technology education.

He said looking at neighboring states, Arkansas is not growing as fast economically as the other states. One reason is the income tax rate is not competitive.

“We have a 7 percent state income tax. It is one of the highest in any state in the region,” he pointed out.

He said Texas and Tennessee are zero and others are 4 to 5 percent.

Hutchinson’s plan is to gradually reduce the state individual income tax from 7 percent to 6 and 5 percent. He plans to do that starting with the middle-income people who make $25,000 to $75,000.

“We are giving our tax cuts to the middle income. Down the road, I hope we can be competitive in the higher-income level. But you start with the people who are struggling, having a hard time making ends meet,” Hutchinson said.

He said for someone making $50,000 means they would have $300 more a year to spend. He said it would cost the state $100 million to do this. Hutchinson said the state has that money in surplus right now. He said it is $100 million that would go into the private sector instead of the public sector and government spending.

Hutchinson said he does not want to raise sales or property taxes. The state can lower the income tax using growth money gradually over time.

Hutchinson’s other plan for state growth is technology education.

He said the problem is that computer science is considered an elective, like a shop class, and not a core class, like math or science, so students are not taking computer science classes. Hutchinson said only one out of 10 high schools in America teach computer science. He believes there are about 10 schools in the state that teach computer science.

“I’m not talking about keyboarding or Microsoft Word. I’m talking about writing the foreign language of computer code and learning that in the schools. That needs to be taught. It is the language of the workplace in the future. Axiom needed 300 to 400 computer programmers and they could not find them. It is job opportunity that pays great wages,” Hutchinson said.

“Secondly, you create entrepreneurs who know how to write code and engage in engineering, sciences or date management. This is an opportunity for Arkansas to be in the forefront of a change nationally to meet the job requirements of the future,” Hutchinson said.

Lonoke Remington Arms plant manager Jim Grahlmann said he needs people who can run, operate and program computerized industrial machines.

“Those are our top paying jobs. I have trouble filling them now,” Grahlmann said.

He said those jobs are paying $25 to $30 an hour starting out.

Hutchinson said the laws are going to be changed to give math or science credits for computer science as an incentive for students to take computer classes.

He also wants computer science taught in every high school in the state. Hutchinson said it will cost less than $500,000 to retrain math and science teachers to teach computer coding in over two years.

“It is a small investment that gets a great return on those dollars,” Hutchinson said.

Cabot School Board member Ricky Hill asked Hutchinson if he sees further consolidation of schools in the state.

Hutchinson said the state requires school districts to have at least 350 students or they will be consolidated into another district.

He does not like the law. He wants to help the small schools that are performing academically and are financially sound. Hutchinson said if the school goes away, the community goes away. 

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) said the England School District is struggling. Williams would like to see an incentive for either Lonoke or Cabot to do on-line courses for students in a smaller school.

“There may be five AP students in England that could turn on a TV and watch a class in Cabot that has the academics or teachers the England students’ need. We should be reward Cabot and England for doing that,” Williams said.

Williams said there are Cabot students who are taking shop classes in Lonoke that are not taught in Cabot.

“We need to figure out a system to reward those schools that are willing to share their assets with a fellow school district,” Williams said.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert asked Hutchinson his stance on the national common core school standards.

Hutchinson said he still believes students need to learn cursive writing and the multiplication tables.

“I want to make sure the local school districts have flexibility to make a decision on those things. That we don’t replace the traditional learning of cursive writing and the multiplication tables that are the foundation for education. I want to concentrate on basics. I want to make sure that every third grader is reading at grade level,” Hutchinson said.

TOP STORY >> School vote planned for September

Leader senior staff writer

Come Sept. 16, formation of a Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district is likely to be on the annual school-election ballot, with voters living within the boundaries of the proposed new district deciding the issue.

This is the closest local-school activists have gotten to that dream. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

The vote is possible following a Monday fairness hearing in which U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. overruled all objections and accepted the proposed desegregation settlement agreement crafted by officials and attorneys for the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts, the state Education Department and the Joshua Intervenors — black PCSSD students. The judge found that those making objections to the settlement lacked standing in the case — that is, they would not be harmed.

“It’s a great day for the kids in Jacksonville,” Daniel Gray, spokesman for the group seeking the new district there, said Monday after Marshall accepted the negotiated desegregation settlement agreement.

“Without a doubt, this is the closest we’ve been” to getting a new district, Gray said. “We’ve been close before, but there’s always something to derail us. Now the judge has removed some unknowns.

“Now we have to figure out the next steps,” Gray said. “We hope to go to the state Board of Education in February and ask them to set an election.

“We need to get a letter from the attorney general’s office,” Gray said, “but is that all we need or do we need to file something to get the judge’s (explicit) blessing?”

City administrator Jim Durham said, “This is the best news I’ve heard about this town, bar none.”

He said he hopes young people will move to Jacksonville once it has its own school district.
“I can see Jacksonville rivaling Cabot with our schools,” Durham said, “and a demand for new housing.”

Gray said a new district would probably need to raise the school millage, but said Jacksonville taxpayers have a history of stepping up to the plate when it comes to paying for improvements.

“Taxpayers would know the money won’t be used to build schools in Maumelle,” Gray said.

In explaining his reasons for approving and final izing the desegregation agreement settlement, the judge cited the way in which all parties worked together in unity and the relative lack of opposition to the agreement.

Marshall said he was satisfied, based on documentation and testimony, that approval of the settlement would not harm unitary efforts or leave any of the districts in a financial condition likely to harm those efforts or the ability to educate the students.

The settlement ends state financial support of the three districts in this sprawling desegregation case that has reached across the years. It also allows detachment — with voter approval — of a Jacksonville/north Pulaski County district from PCSSD.

Much to the displeasure of advocates for creation of a Sherwood district, the settlement explicitly prohibits formation of any other new districts until PCSSD has been declared unitary — that is desegregated.

Linda Remele and Beverly Williams of the Sherwood Education Foundation and Mayor Virginia Hillman spoke in opposition to the exclusion, but, they stressed, not in opposition to the overall settlement.


The foundation “struggled with how to move forward because we do not want to derail the settlement agreement, but we must respond for the benefit of the students and communities in the proposed Sherwood school district,” Remele said.

They were objecting to an 11th-hour stipulation in the agreement that “the state will oppose the creation of any other school districts from PCSSD’s territory until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision.”

The settlement ends desegregation payments from the state to North Little Rock, Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts after the 2017-18 school year. Currently, the state pays those districts about $65 million a year, payments that have totaled about $1.2 billion since they began, according to Deputy Attorney General Scott Richardson.

Others who objected included a resident who said he favored the settlement but wanted to make sure PCSSD would fix and repair Jacksonville-area schools even if the detachment didn’t take place.

There were also concerns about M-to-M transfers being phased out after current enrollees graduated from high school and about out-of-district magnet school enrollees being allowed only to finish the school they attend.

For instance, a student upon finishing an elementary magnet school could not apply for enrollment in a middle school magnet.


PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess, whom Marshall quoted or cited several times during his own remarks before approving the settlement, called a Jacksonville detachment “a win-win situation.”

Detachment would not negatively impact racial balance and desegregation efforts of PCSSD, but it would actually help the district to become unitary in the area of facilities, according to Guess. That’s because Jacksonville would qualify for more state aid to build and repair those schools than PCSSD would get for the same schools.

PCSSD is high on the state wealth index, meaning it would receive almost no state matching funds to build or fix schools.

Jacksonville is much lower on the index, and the state would contribute 50 percent to 60 percent of the cost for qualifying buildings.

That means a $90 million building program to bring area schools into the 21st Century would cost the new district only about $45 million, with the state picking up the rest of the balance.


Gray said planning for the transition would begin even before the September election.
The 2014-15 school year would be transitional and Jacksonville/north Pulaski would be independent by the 2015-16 school year.

Assets and debt would have to be equitably divided between the two districts.

For instance, who gets which school buses and how many? How would teachers and staff be hired or divided? How much of the remaining desegregation money from the state would go to a new district?

The state would appoint a school board at first. Zones, which might approximate city council zones, would be created. Then school board elections could be held.

Gray said there would be meetings with architects and public meetings would be held before decisions were made on the development of a Jacksonville-area district.

He praised Marshall, saying the judge was timely and sensitive to the needs of the various parties.

“Everybody was a winner yesterday,” Gray said Tuesday.


In accordance with rule 23, Marshall said he found the settlement to be fair, reasonable and adequate.

While perseverance was not among the tests of rule 23, Marshall said he would be remiss in not noting the decades-long perseverance of those seeking a Jacksonville district.

Little Rock Air Force Base is open to making 20 acres available for a new elementary school to replace the decrepit Arnold Drive Elementary already on the base.

The base would also give the district use of another 300 acres if it wants to build a new high school campus north of the current North Pulaski High School.


And Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said the city could make the old police building available for use as an administration building.

“I think we’re all unified,” he said. “Whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Fletcher, who was among community leaders on hand when Marshall made his ruling, said now money could go into the schoolhouse instead of the courthouse.

“For Jacksonville, it’s a way to get what everyone else had—newer and better facilities,” the mayor said.

Jacksonville has been stagnant over the past 20 years and its population declined by 46 people between 2010 and 2013.

He blamed the city’s stagnation on lack of local control over its schools and said that growth was on the horizon when the new district becomes a reality.

Marshall’s ruling did not directly affect PCSSD’s struggle toward unitary status, which is on a parallel track through Marshall’s court.

The Joshua Intervenors and PCSSD attorneys and officials are working to determine in which areas the district is not yet unitary and to resolve those issues.

Marshall has offered to appoint a judge magistrate to help mediate issues and plot a path forward.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils pour it on late in win

Leader sports editor

Little Rock Christian Academy battled evenly with the Jacksonville Red Devils in the first and third quarters on Friday. It was the way Jacksonville dominated the second and fourth quarters that told the story of the Red Devils’ 63-30 win at the Devil’s Den.

Jacksonville (12-3, 2-0) held the Warriors to just two points in the second quarter in turning a 14-8 lead into a 26-10 advantage at halftime.

After a 15-15 third quarter, Jacksonville held LRCA scoreless for seven minutes in the fourth as it invoked the sportsmanship rule on what had been a competitive game.

“Their point guard had been killing people in that offense and finding open men under the basket,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We were just going to try to dog him like crazy and he got frustrated.”

Besides heavy pressure on the Warrior guards, Jacksonville also focused heavily on rebounding since its narrow win over Mills in the conference opener. The Comets beat the Red Devils on the boards, and Joyner was determined for his team to take notice.

“Sometimes you can’t just tell kids something, you have to show them,” Joyner said. “We broke that film down, and showed them where a shot would go up, and we’d have one guy rebounding and four standing around outside. And Mills had four or five guys in there going after it. We focused so much on that this week that there wasn’t any way we were going to let that happen again.”

It didn’t. The Red Devils dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Warriors 35-11.

It was also a loosely called game, a welcome change to the 30- and 40-foul games Jacksonville has been involved in this season. Joyner did take issue with one call late in the third quarter.

The call caused a long delay as Joyner protested a counted basket for the Warriors (5-5, 0-2) on a point-blank shot that clanked off the bottom of the rim.

The official called a foul and signaled to count the basket. After he was informed that the ball didn’t go in, he called goal tending on Jacksonville, and still counted the basket.

Joyner argued that there can’t be goal tending on a shot that didn’t rise above the rim. After the officials’ crew chief spoke at length with Joyner, he spoke at greater length with the rest of the crew before signaling that the basket counted.

But Jacksonville’s lead was still 17 even after the ruling, and the Warriors never threatened afterwards.

Despite the game enjoying good flow with few fouls, two Red Devil starters sat most of the game with foul trouble, but both came up big in the fourth quarter.

LaQuawn Smith, who was responsible early for hounding Warrior point guard Cole Henderson, and leading average scorer Devin Campbell both picked up three fouls in the first half and sat the entire third quarter.

Smith got four steals in the first quarter before sitting, and got his fifth shortly after re-entering the game midway through the fourth. It led to an assist to Lakalon Huskey, whose layup made it 55-25 and invoked the mercy rule with 2:10 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville finished the game with 11 players on the scoresheet. Campbell led the way with 11 while post player Kanaan Jackson finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.

LRCA’s Alex Caroom led all scorers with 17 points.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats hold off Cabot

Leader sportswriter

Cabot stayed right with last year’s class 7A state champion North Little Rock Charging Wildcats after a quarter of play, but the defending champs separated themselves in the second quarter and coasted to a 65-47 victory in the 7A/6A East Conference opener Friday at the North Little Rock High School Arena.

The Panthers (9-4, 0-1) came out ready to at least compete with the more talented Charging Wildcats (11-1, 1-0), as sophomore forward Hunter Southerland scored the first seven points of the game, which put the host team in an early 7-0 hole.

Southerland capped the early run with a three-pointer, but a successful jumper by KJ Hill sparked a 10-0 NLR run, and by the end of the quarter, the Charging Wildcats led 12-11. The second quarter wasn’t near as close.

North Little Rock outscored the visiting Panthers 25-7 in the second quarter to lead 37-18 at halftime.

The Charging Wildcats grabbed their first double-digit lead at 26-15 on a Sam Dunkum putback with 3:46 remaining in the half, and went up 20 with just over a minute to play on a pair of free throws by Chibu Ekeh, which made the score 36-16 NLR.

Cabot sophomore Garrett Rowe hit a pair of free throws of his own with 34.5 ticks remaining, which cut the Panthers’ deficit to 18, but North Little Rock’s Rokar Williams set the halftime margin on a free throw with 4.3 seconds to play.

“I wish we could have five or six minutes of that second quarter to do over again,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “It might not be any better, I don’t know. But they got us rushing and you saw what happened from there. They’ve got some outstanding guards.”

Cabot couldn’t make up any ground in the third quarter, but played evenly with the defending champs in that quarter and outscored them in the fourth, albeit with the game out of reach.

At the end of three, NLR led 51-31, and the Panthers outscored the Charging Wildcats 16-14 in the final eight minutes to set the final score.

“Our kids could’ve laid down,” Bridges said, “but I thought we kept trying hard and competing. And we’re a better team. We’re better than last year, I promise you that. And we’re going to try to find the good things out of this, and we’re going to build off of those and try and get back in the race.

“Boy, it’s no fun having to open up (conference play) with them right off the bat. That was their first home game of the year, so you can factor that in. They’re solid, but I wasn’t disappointed in our guys. It was a good experience for us that hopefully we can grow and learn from.”

North Little Rock outrebounded Cabot, but just narrowly, 27-25. The Charging Wildcats also won the turnover margin with 18, bettering Cabot’s 21, though the Panthers committed just four in the second half. The majority of Cabot’s turnovers came during the Charging Wildcats’ monster run in the second quarter.

The Wildcats also had the better shooting percentage, making 23 of 55 shots from the floor for 42 percent. Cabot was 15 of 47 from the floor for 32 percent.

Southerland was the only Panther to finish the game in double figures. He scored 12 points. North Little Rock had four players finish in double figures. Kevaughn Allen led all scorers with 19 points. Anton Beard scored 15 points. Hill scored 13, and Adrian Moore added 10 for NLR.

The Panthers continued conference play this week with a home game against Marion yesterday, and will play another 7A/6A East game Friday at Mountain Home. Tip-off for Friday’s game is at 7:30 p.m.  

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers get sweep of visiting Chicks

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe boys’ and girls’ basketball teams both won their 5A East Conference openers Friday at home against Blytheville. The Lady Badgers dominated the Lady Chickasaws en route to a 62-34 win, while the Badgers won a nail-biter in the nightcap, 46-45.

In the boys’ game, Beebe trailed by five points with about three-and-a-half minutes to play, but the Badger defense got some key stops down the stretch, which allowed the host team to cut Blytheville’s lead to one late in the game.

Trailing by a point with two seconds to play, Beebe had the ball underneath its own basket. On the inbound pass, the Badgers (4-8, 1-0) got the ball to senior post player Zach Baker, who was fouled on an inside shot attempt with .02 seconds left.

Baker calmly sank the first free throw, and drained the second as well to set the final score and give Beebe the hard-fought, dramatic win. The Badgers had somewhat of a rough start this season, primarily because of a lack of depth due to various injuries that plagued the team.

However, Beebe is getting healthy at the right time, and just being able to open conference play with a win could be the shot in the arm the team needs.

“It’s great,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall of the win. “The way the season’s been going, we really stressed to the kids that everybody is zero and zero. This nonconference stuff doesn’t count for anything as far as our goals are concerned. So it was big for them to get a win and get a little shot in the arm and get some confidence.”

It was a close game through all four quarters with the two teams trading leads on several occasions. Blytheville led 9-5 at the end of the first quarter, but Beebe battled back in the second to take a 21-20 lead into halftime.

Blytheville came back in the third and led 35-34 at the start of the fourth, but the Badgers narrowly outscored the Chickasaws 12-10 in the final eight minutes to set the final score.

Baker led all scorers with 21 points. Senior point guard Tanner Chapman was the only other Badger to finish in double figures. He scored 11, and junior two-guard Tyler Childress added eight for Beebe.

The girls’ game wasn’t nearly as exciting, as the Lady Badgers (7-4, 1-0) dominated from start to finish. The Lady Badgers led 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, and outscored the Lady Chickasaws 20-5 in the second quarter to lead 32-11 at halftime.

The second half was much closer in the scorebook, but Beebe still managed to outscore its opponent 30-23 to set the final score.

“We had control of the game most of the night,” said Beebe girls’ coach Greg Richey. “We played pretty good defense, got a few steals early and just kind of ran away from them. They’re not a bad team, but they had a long trip and we got started early on them, and they just never really recovered from it.”

Senior standout guard Kalela Miller led the Lady Badgers with a game-high 23 points. Sophomore post player Gracie Anders added 10 points for Beebe. Anders also had four rebounds, four blocks and four steals.

Both Beebe teams continued conference play yesterday against Batesville at home, and both will travel to Paragould on Friday for more 5A East action.

The girls’ game tips off at approximately 6 p.m. Friday. The boys’ game will follow at 7:30.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson making mark at Arkansas

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Not often does a freshman basketball player arrive on campus at a major Division I university and instantly become an impact player. But that’s what 2013 Jacksonville High School graduate Jessica Jackson has done at the University of Arkansas.

Jackson has been the Razorback Women’s leading scorer since the first game, averaging 15.8 points per game, and is gaining a reputation as not only Arkansas’ best player, but also one of the best in the conference.

Jackson and Arkansas suffered a loss at home on Sunday to Mississippi State. The Lady Bulldogs were the first team this year to game plan specifically to shut down Jackson, and they were largely successful. Jackson suffered through her lowest point production of the season with only four points, but the comments of Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer speaks volumes about Jackson’s growing reputation.

“I thought tonight they (Schaefer’s front-court players) just did an unbelievable job holding one of the great players in our league – Jessica Jackson,” said Schaefer. “She is going to be a monster. She’s a monster already.”

Jackson wasn’t happy with Sunday’s outcome or with her performance, but has been thoroughly enjoying playing DI basketball, and being an impact player.

“I really didn’t expect to come in and be a key player right away,” Jackson said. “Usually the freshmen have to learn their role and work their way into it. So I’m glad the coaches and players all have enough confidence in me to put me in that situation.”

Mississippi State keyed intently on Jackson defensively, many times double-teaming the 6-foot-3 freshman with their 6-5 junior Martha Arwol and 6-2 freshman Breanna Richardson. Offensively, the Lady Bulldog game plan was to attack the basket, the region Jackson patrols. That got Jackson into early foul trouble, and she became a bit too passive defensively in the first half.

Arkansas coach Tom Collen gave the opponent much credit for executing their game plan, but believes Jackson can and will do better in that situation in the future.

“I think Jessica shut herself down a little bit,” Collen said. “. One, she got into foul trouble and she’s not used to sitting over there in foul trouble a whole lot. I thought they were really physical with her and she didn’t deal with that very well. And I think she knows that about herself. I think she knows she has to be more physical. It’s there at times and other times it’s not.

“And she gets a little bit down on herself. I know she’s a competitor. I know she’s going to keep working hard. She’s proven time and time again that she’s going to be a good basketball player. But hey, they did a good job on her.”

Jackson admitted to being at somewhat of a loss on Sunday on what to do, but believes it’s going to make her better.

“I was getting a little down on myself because they were coming in there and scoring on me and stuff,” Jackson said. “It just wasn’t a very good game. But I think I learned from it. You just have to keep playing hard no matter what.”

Jackson says the experience of playing college ball and being away from home has been different, but the transition smooth. Teammates, like former high-school rival Melissa Wolff of Cabot, have helped make the transition an easy one.

“Me and Mo are cool,” Jackson said of Wolff. “When we go home for breaks and stuff I ride home with her. But really everybody, the players, the coaches, the staff, everybody really comes in and tries to help you out. So it’s been great.”

The Razorback Women are now 15-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Their next game is at Georgia on Thursday. Their next home game is at 2 p.m. Sunday against Ole Miss.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville sweeps Mills U. at The Galaxy

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys picked up a crucial early conference road win on Tuesday while the Lady Red Devils cruised in a 5A-Central doubleheader at Mills University Studies.

The Red Devils overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat the Comets 53-51 at The Galaxy Arena. The Lady Devils also overcame a first-quarter deficit of 12-11, but took control with 34 points in the second quarter en route to a 69-41 victory.

In the girls’ game, the poor first quarter was quickly erased when Jacksonville coach William Rountree called for pressure in the second quarter. Mills didn’t have the guards to deal with the athleticism of Jacksonville’s defense. The Lady Devils led 45-23 by halftime, and continued stretching that lead in the third quarter. The fourth quarter went by quickly with a continuous clock as Jacksonville’s lead grew to as much as 60-25 in the third.

“We weren’t really in sync in the first quarter,” said Rountree. “Our press took its toll in the second. So it’s a good win. Went on the road and started conference play on a positive note. I’ll take that.”

Four seniors led the Lady Devils in scoring. Tiffany Smith led Jacksonville with 17 points while Markela Bryles added 15. Keke Alcorn dropped in 11 and Ashli Evans added eight points.

The Lady Devils are now 5-6 overall after starting the season 0-5.

“We put together a pretty good stretch of playing well,” Rountree said. “We’ve continued to improve after a very tough nonconference schedule. I’d say it was easily the toughest nonconference schedule in our league. So we’re pleased with the direction things are going right now.”

The Jacksonville boys also struggled in the first quarter, only those struggles became worse in the second. The Red Devils came out of the halftime with a renewed focus and outscored Mills 16-7 in the third quarter, which was the difference in the game. Both teams put up 21 in the fourth period to set the final margin.

Better execution was the simple reason for the turnaround.

“They finally did what we were asking them to do,” Jacksonville boys’ coach Vic Joyner said. “We ran three, maybe four offensive plays the entire first half. We just stayed in a rut. We were making one pass and a shot, or one pass and driving. There was no continuity whatsoever.”

After a first quarter where Jacksonville’s total time of possession on the offensive end was one minute and 16 seconds, the Red Devils (10-3, 1-0) were much more deliberate with the ball in the second half.

“We ran our offense,” Joyner said of the second half effort. “We made them work on defense, which took possessions away from them. We moved the ball until we found open shots.”

Despite the disappointing opening half, Joyner is still very pleased to leave The Galaxy with a win, something his state championship team a year ago didn’t do.

“When you get to conference it doesn’t matter how ugly a win is,” Joyner said. “A win is a win. You’re going to take a road win in conference no matter how bad it looks. And in this conference especially, where everybody is good. I don’t figure there are going to be many mercy rule games. I don’t see that happening.”

Junior Devin Campbell led Jacksonville with 23 points. Junior forward Tedrick Wolfe added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Wolfe has averaged a double-double over the last four games.

The Devils and Lady Devils hosted Little Rock Christian Academy last night after Leader deadlines. Look for a full report on those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers swinging for CBS

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School senior Marlena Weatherly chose her college destination Friday, signing her NCAA national letter of intent to resume her golf career at Central Baptist College in Conway.

Weatherly has been a standout on the Cabot High School girls’ golf team since her sophomore year, and ever since her junior season, CBC Mustangs’ golf coach Lyle Middleton has had his eye on Weatherly’s game.

“In the last two years, we’ve really watched a lot of the high school kids coming out,” said Middleton. “Just her drive and desire to be a very competitive player, and just her golf game has really promoted her and her ability.”

Other than her stellar short game, Middleton was also impressed with Weatherly’s cool demeanor on the course, as well as her constant desire to improve all aspects of her game.

“She just has that drive,” Middleton said. “She doesn’t let her emotions get involved in her game like a lot of kids do. Most kids her age you can tell when they’re struggling, but Marlena’s the opposite. You can’t tell if she’s 10 over or one or two under.

“She’s able to keep a level demeanor with how her game’s going through 18 holes. That’s hard to teach kids, especially in golf.”

Most of the schools that were looking at Weatherly came from out of state, and even though the idea of playing outside the state had its appeal, Weatherly ultimately decided she wanted to stay closer to central Arkansas.

“I thought that I wanted to go out of state,” Weatherly said, “then I realized I wanted to stay more to the central area and stay closer to home.

“I played AWGA (Arkansas Women’s Golf Association) and ASGA (Arkansas State Golf Association). They’ve given me the opportunity to play in the central part of the state and I thought I should stay more central and give back to them because they really helped me grow as a golfer.” 

The idea of playing closer to home was appealing for Weatherly, but she also wants to teach the sport after her competitive playing days are over, and she said Middleton assured her he’d do all he could to help her down that path, as long as she came and played for him and the Mustangs Women’s golf team, of course.

“Coach Middleton was a big deciding factor,” Weatherly said. “He basically told me whatever I wanted to do in life he would help me, and I really want to teach golf. So when I told him that, he said if that’s what you want to do then I’ll help you achieve your goal.”

During her career with the Lady Panthers, Weatherly was an All-Conference selection as a sophomore, and was an All-State and All-Conference selection as a junior and senior.

This past season, Weatherly finished runner-up in the class 7A state tournament.

Her AWGA team won the Tunica National Junior Girls Tri-State Golf Championships last summer, a tournament between the top golfers at the junior level in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

SPORTS STORY >> Rabbits rally on road at Stuttgart

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys and girls basketball teams picked up wins in 4A-2 Conference play on Tuesday. The Jackrabbits and Lady Rabs hit the road and pulled off a sweep of Stuttgart. The boys won 59-45 while the girls grabbed a 51-35 victory.

In the opening game, the Lady Ricebirds stayed even with their guests through one quarter, but Lonoke took control of the game in the second quarter and took a 13-point lead into intermission.

“We played a really good second quarter,” said Lonoke girls’ coach Nathan Morris. “The inside play was very critical in those two middle quarters. We didn’t have our best offensive effort to start the game. But the defensive effort was there and the middle two quarters were solid.”

Point totals bear out Morris’ observation. The post player and two forwards led the Lady Jackrabbits (11-4, 3-0) in scoring. Forward Amanda Sexton led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds. Center Eboni Willis added 12 points while forward Callie Whitfield had 10 points and five assists.

The team’s leading average scorer, sophomore two-guard Jarrelyn McCall, scored nine points and had eight rebounds, and scored five in the nine-point first quarter.

“We knew inside would be critical against this team,” Morris said. “So you look at Jarrelyn’s scoring and you say it’s not what it usually is. But then you look at where we struggled so bad executing our offense in the first quarter, she scored five of our nine.”

Point guard Kerasha John-son only had two points, but dished out six assists and committed zero turnovers.

“We’ll take 100-percent assists to turnover ratio every day of the week,” Morris said of his point guard. So you can see, each one of those girls contributed to this win in a big way.”
Rebounding has been a weakness for Lonoke this season. Even though Stuttgart outrebounded Lonoke by a small margin, Morris believes that aspect of the game is improving with his team.

“We’re probably getting better,” Morris said. “The stats indicate that. But as a coach, you see those where somebody goes right down the middle and gets an offensive one. Or they get three in one possession. That glares at you. We’re having to work harder on defense because we’re not finishing that first effort. But Stuttgart is awfully athletic. Their bigs can step out and hit threes and that pulls your rebounders out some. I’m not going to complain about a conference road win. Overall it was a pretty good effort.”

The Lonoke boys (12-2, 2-1) jumped out to a quick 13-6 lead, but suffered a few turnovers and let the Ricebirds back into the game. The home team took a brief lead midway through the second period before the visitors fought back and carried a 24-21 lead into the locker room.

Lonoke increased the tempo in the second half, and while it never put together a game-breaking run, it was much more comfortable in a fast-paced game and maintained control of the action for most of the half.

“We were in man and we came out of it with some halfcourt traps and the kids executed it really well,” Lonoke boys’ coach Dean Campbell said. “We kept at it the whole third and fourth quarter. And when we got the turnovers, we finished better at the rim than we did in the first half. We also spread the floor a little bit and made them come get us. That made it easier to attack the gaps and force the issue a little bit. We made them come out and get us and that opened things up a little bit for Blake (Mack).”

Guard Tykel Gray led the Jackrabbits with 22 points while Mack, a 6-foot-4 post, finished with 20.

“I thought the kids reacted well after losing to Dollarway,” Campbell said. “Went right back on the road and got a win. So I was pleased with that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons fight for win over West Helena

Leader sports editor

In six weeks of nonconference basketball leading up to conference, the North Pulaski Falcons have built a reputation of being a second-half team. They lived up to that reputation in their conference opener against Helena-West Helena Central Tuesday in Jacksonville.

The Falcons turned a lackluster first half that led to a 10-point deficit, into a crucial 5A-Central Conference victory, scoring 46 points in the second half and beating the Cougars 80-70.

“We just executed the game plan,” said Falcon coach Roy Jackson. “It’d be nice if we could start out like that and not get our backs against the wall all the time. But hey, I’m going to take it. A win is a win. The kids came out and played hard in that second half. They were focused and got the job done.”

Jackson became worried about his team’s focus right away. Central (8-2, 0-1) won the tip, and got six shots on five offensive rebounds and took a 2-0 lead. That became a theme throughout the first two quarters. To go along with their 34-24 halftime lead, the Cougars also held a 32-13 advantage on the boards at the break.

“That worried me,” Jackson said. “When you see the other team come out and get five rebounds in the first 10 seconds, you pretty much know if something don’t change, it’s going to be a long night.”

But something did change. North Pulaski (9-4, 1-0) outrebounded Central by one in the second half.

The Falcons quickly made up the deficit and continued on a big run to start the third quarter. The two teams traded buckets to start the half before the Falcons scored 14 in a row. It started with steals on back-to-back possessions by sophomore guard RaShawn Langston. He dished to post player Steven Farrior after the first, and finished the second with a dunk in transition.

It soon became junior guard De’Marik Brown’s turn to get a pair of steals and layups. When Central missed a three pointer, Farrior got the rebound and hit Brown at the other end of the court for an open layup that gave North Pulaski its first lead at 48-46. Just 20 seconds later, Langston got his third steal and second big dunk with 3:15 left in the period.

Central’s Anthony Lewis finally broke the frenzied run by nailing a three pointer with 1:55 left in the third, and the Falcons took a 52-51 lead into the final period. Another pair of Cougar threes opened the fourth, and the Falcons again found themselves trailing 57-52 with seven minutes left in the game.

The Falcons began making a more concentrated effort on getting to the rim, none more so than Arren Scruggs. The senior guard, whose reputation is that of a shooter, began slicing through the lane and up the baseline for a series of layups. Scruggs scored six in a row, and with five minutes remaining, the Falcons led 63-57 after an 11-0 run.

The Falcons caught a break when an inbound pass from underneath the Central goal sailed out of bounds underneath the North Pulaski goal. Central’s Jeremy Hampton tripped Fred Thomas as he chased the overthrown pass, sending Thomas to the line instead of Central getting the ball under its own basket.

The home team caught another break with 3:35 left in the game when Central post player Ricky Beechwood fouled out with eight points and 16 rebounds. 

Central had to begin fouling to extend the game. North Pulaski was not great from the line, but made just enough to force Central to rush shots, and the Cougars went cold from the floor.

North Pulaski had a chance to put the game out of reach with 1:05 remaining. Leading 74-68, Jovan Donald was called for a personal foul and a technical for his reaction. But the Falcons made just one of the four free throws, and turned the ball over on the subsequent possession. But Central could not capitalize on the opening, missing a three pointer and fouling Thomas after his rebound. He made both free throws with 53 seconds left to make it a nine-point game and effectively end Central’s hopes for a comeback.

All five North Pulaski starters finished in double figures scoring. Scruggs and Farrior each had 16 to lead the way. Langston scored 14, Brown 12 and Thomas 10. Farrior made it a double-double with 12 rebounds.

Reserve guard Jalen Kelly came off the bench to add six points for the Falcons. All six came in the second quarter and turned out to be a huge factor.

“We weren’t playing well at all, and he comes in and gives us six points right there in a hurry to keep it from getting out of hand,” Jackson said of Kelly. “I tell them you have to make those minutes count when you get the chance. He came out and did that and it turned out to be really important.”

Lewis led Central with 17 points. Hampton and Alonzo Murphy scored 11 each and Murphy added 14 rebounds.