Friday, February 28, 2014

EDITORIAL >> North Metro and LRAFB

From 1942 until 1946, Newport was home to an air base that trained pilots for the Army Air Forces, Marine Corps and Navy. After the war, the base closed and the town soon began to struggle. The once-thriving community in northeast Arkansas today looks like many towns in the region: Aging buildings, rising crime, a depressed economy and little opportunity.

Sam Walton ran his first discount store there during the early 1950s. He relocated to Bentonville, which is now a boomtown, as is nearby Rogers.

Things may have turned out differently for Newport had the air base remained open. Walmart’s founder likely would have had more incentive to stay, and the company — now the largest private employer in the world — could easily be headquartered there.

While the Newport air base, along with Blytheville Air Force Base are long gone, Little Rock Air Force Base — the economic engine of central Arkansas — continues to thrive 60 years later. But there are potential problems.

This week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced plans to cut the size and cost of the military to pre-World War II levels.

Officials have always indicated that LRAFB will remain open for years to come because of its value as the Air Force’s top C-130 training center. But, as the Pentagon looks for ways to slash its budget after more than 12 years of war, straightening out the finances of the long-troubled North Metro Medical Center has never been more pressing.

The Jacksonville hospital’s emergency room is the only local option for airmen. There’s not an ER on base, and the next closest one is at the St. Vincent Medical Center in Sherwood. North Metro stands to gain at least $1.5 million a year with the private-option health care that would cover thousands of the state’s working poor, who have flooded emergency rooms for treatment that is never paid for, sending hospitals’ finances into tailspin.

House Speaker Rep. Davy Carter (R-Cabot) knows what’s at stake here, as do state Senators Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy). Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) has also supported the private option. They are all tried-and-true conservatives, many of whom won their seats by pledging to fight the Affordable Care Act.

They now see an opportunity to stop hospitals from being driven to ruin from providing free care for the poor, which hospitals are legally obligated to do. Hospitals are not reimbursed for the services they provide to uninsured patients. Under the private option, that will change.

Carter has been working hard to get a 75 percent supermajority needed to pass the private option in the House. He’s still a couple of votes short.

If Carter succeeds — as we believe he eventually will — he will have demonstrated that his political skills are as seasoned as any gubernatorial candidate campaigning today. (Asa Hutchinson, a fellow Republican, has kept silent on the private option. Democrat Mike Ross is for it.) Someday, Carter, who’s term-limited, will also make an excellent First District congressional candidate. For now, he’s decided not to further his political career, opting instead to keep his top job with Centennial Bank, where he’s risen through the ranks.

The House speaker is having a tough time explaining the intricacies of public policy to many of his less-informed colleagues, but negotiations continue. A vote is now set for Monday, when a couple of Republicans who’ve been opposed to the private option could switch.

The only Republican holdout in our area is North Metro Medical Center’s Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin). He is head of the hospital’s physical-therapy services.

Farrer won’t support the private option because he believes, incorrectly, that it would cost the state money and contribute to the national debt, which is actually declining because of falling military expenses, an improving economy and new health-care policies.

Under the private option, Arkansas will gain $712 million annually while covering more of the state’s poor people and helping struggling hospitals stay open. Farrer though would have us believe that his stand against the private option makes him more conservative than the likes of Williams, Dismang, Carter, House and English. Not a chance.

Farrer’s Republican colleagues should drive him up to Newport and have him look at the abandoned buildings at the former air base and convince him of all the good the private option will do for Arkansas.

What will budget cutters at the Pentagon think if the only nearby emergency room for airmen at LRAFB were to close?

Let’s not take that chance.

TOP STORY >> Farmers market in Cabot moving

The Cabot Farmers Market will open in early May just as it has for many years, but not in the parking lot of First Security Bank at the corner of Second and Main streets.

Cabot City Beautiful members agreed last month to accept the offer of Pastor Spencer Dunlap to move the market to the parking lot of the old Bancroft building at 1122 South Second St. The building now houses Re:New Community Church.

The new location has the space needed for the market to expand, according to a news release. At its peak, 22 vendors participated last year so more room may be needed.

Dunlap told the vendors that the church intends to build a stage in the parking lot that could also be used for entertainment during the Saturday market.

The only drawback to the new location is the lack of visibility, organizers said. The bank has agreed to place a sign directing customers to the new location. And there is some money available for advertising this year, the release states.

The market is looking for new vendors to participate in its seventh year. Anyone interested in participating should call the 501-920-2122 or e-mail

The market will be open from 8 a.m. until noon Saturday beginning May 3 and will remain open through Oct. 4.

TOP STORY >> Happiest mailman in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

“Hallelujah” follows almost every sentence spoken by the man who for 17 years has delivered mail and spread joy to the Sunnyside Addition in Jacksonville and this paper.

Ronald (Ron) Snider, 72, retired on Friday after a 27-year career with the Postal Service. He said the job was a blessing and an opportunity to serve others.

Snyder was born in 1941 in Alliance, Ohio, and is an Air Force veteran.

Snider has been an air-traffic controller, a newspaper carrier, a janitor and organized fishing tournaments — in that order — before friends who worked for the post office encouraged him to take the test that would start his career there.

Snider’s test score was low, but veterans received a 10-point preference. The 10 points that were added were enough to get him the job.

“I consider it a blessing from God because I really needed to get financially stable,” Snider said. “The post office has been really good to me.”

He began his post office career as a mail handler. For 10 years, Snider unloaded trucks at the facility on McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock.

“It was just pure labor,” he said. “What happened after that, it was a midnight tour. I never slept a whole night hardly. I woke up in the ICU over there at Rebsamen (now North Metro Medical Center). And the doctor said, ‘You need to get a day job.’”

At first, the hospital thought he had a heart attack. But he was diagnosed with a hernia, an ulcer and high blood pressure.

“It was one of those changing moments in your life,” Snider said.

So he asked the postmaster at the time — she was one of Snider’s neighbors — about a letter-carrier position. He was hired.

“Within two weeks, my health came back,” Snider said.

“What I like is the aspect that you’re dealing with people. I love people and their lives. Even though we don’t have a lot of time, you learn so much about people. You know their dogs’ names, some of the cats, kid’s birthdays. You can tell a lot from the mail,” he continued.

Residents have given Snider candy, baked goods, chili, tomatoes and other gifts. Snider said he has even been invited in to lunch at houses he delivers mail to.

“People treat you really nice,” he said.

Another fact he can tell from mail, without opening it of course, is when a family may be struggling financially. Their bills pile up, Snider explained.

“We all have challenges and we need each other. If you’re able to help somebody, the Lord has really leaned on me about helping people,” he said.

Snider said letter carriers can direct people who need help to food banks or other resources.

He puts residents’ names in the prayer box at his church and has even given money to people who were struggling.

That attitude bloomed when Snider was young and people helped him.

When he was 20, Snider’s grandmother fell seriously ill. The Red Cross gave him $85 for a round-trip train ticket and he didn’t have any money at the time.

The train’s passengers were called to the dining car and Snider went there, knowing he couldn’t afford to eat.

A man he remembers only as Mr. White asked if he was going to eat.

Snider said, “I was like, ‘No, I think I’ll pass.’ And he said, ‘You don’t have any money, do you?’ And I said, ‘No, sir.’ And he said, ‘Let me buy you a meal.’ And I said, ‘How can I repay you?’ And he said, ‘Buy somebody a meal someday.”’

Snider said, “Since then, I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve bought people because I’ve been blessed. He was one of, you know in life you go through and meet real angels. I call them angels. God puts people in your path sometimes when you need help.”

Just two weeks before his retirement, the mailman noticed that the mail was building up at one house. Snider said he was concerned for the woman who lived there and unfortunately, she was found dead inside her home.

“You get a concern for people. I’ve got a lot of elderly people on my route and we kind of take our time to check on them, knock on their door if they don’t get their mail out of the box…Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Snider said.

He started each shift at 8 a.m. by sorting different types of packages. Letters are sorted by machine.

Six to six and a half hours of every eight-hour shift were spent delivering the mail, Snider said.

It’s a demanding job with a risk of error and injury, he noted.

Snider said static electricity sometimes causes pieces of mail to stick together.

That is how important things like food stamps, Social Security or other checks wind up at the wrong address.

One of the mistakes Snider remembered making was dropping a colonel’s paycheck in the snow when he was delivering mail on Little Rock Air Force Base.

And, in icy weather, he slid on the road and struck a mailbox.

Mailmen are also the sworn enemy of some dogs. Snider has been bitten five times.

The post office gives the carriers pepper spray to use in case of an attack, but Snider said he carries dog biscuits instead.

“The next day he wants to be your friend,” the mailman said with a chuckle.

One time, a cat stole Snider’s sandwich from his truck while he was making a delivery. Then there was another time a snake chased him on the base, which is a walking route, Snider said.

Also while he was doing that route, a hornet got into shirt once and stung Snider 13 times.

He said, “The was traumatic because I was scared.” Snider was scared because he was rushed to the emergency room as a young boy after having an allergic reaction to a hornet sting.

But, fortunately, he didn’t have an allergic reaction to the later incident.

Being a mailman also carries the threat of running into little things, like hanging flowerpots, Snider added.

Carriers need patience, love, a basic knowledge of numbers and the ability to pay attention, he continued.

Snider believes the post office is important because it keeps a lot of people employed, giving them self-worth. And that in turn helps communities and their tax base because people spend the money they make, Snider said.

He continued, “The big people up in Washington, they want to cut. They want to get rid of 110,000 letter carriers. And it’s really sad when you think about that because young people, there’s no jobs unless you work in fast food. We’re becoming a nation of fast-food, minimum-wage workers. I’m pro-mail because it’s good for the economy and people love their mail.”

Before becoming a letter carrier, Snider spent most of his time in the Air Force. He retired from the military after 21 years.

Snider enlisted at age 19 as an air-traffic controller and clerk. “I had a big, long name. They call it communication electronics programmer…what I did, I ordered new control towers and stuff,” he said.

Snider noted that he “burned out” on that job after serving in Vietnam. In addition to Vietnam, he was deployed to Libya, Japan and Korea.

He couldn’t afford to not work after leaving the Air Force. His wife at that time, Linda, was pregnant.

Snider was 42 when his son, Brandon Paul Snider, was born.

So he took a job delivering the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the Sunnyside Addition and Toneyville in Jacksonville. Snider did that for 10 months.

Then he was hired as a janitor. Ten months later, Snider left that position to organize fishing tournaments and do public relations for them.

After two years of doing fishing tournaments, he said he still wasn’t doing well financially. That is when he started his career with the post office.

Snider’s current wife, Mary, has two children, Dante and Jasia Roy.

Now that Snider’s stint with the post office is over, he said God has called him to do jail and prison ministry.

Snider attends New Zion Temple, a nondenominational church where he became a deacon. The pastor then pushed him to earn a minister’s license.

Snider added that he accepted Jesus when he was 55.

He is also retiring because he wants to go fishing more often.

TOP STORY >> Hospital hopes for recovery

Leader staff writer

North Metro Medical Center still has unpaid bills, and, if the private option doesn’t pass through the House, it could be in even worse financial straits.

Two consultants are looking at options: one hired by the hospital and one hired by the city’s hospital board, which oversaw the hospital before it was sold to Allegiance Health Management in 2010.

Cindy Stafford, the chief executive officer for the hospital, said, “The hospital has made huge strides in regards to its financial performance. It is on the verge of implementing several strategies that will further enhance the services that it renders to the citizens of Jacksonville and surrounding areas.”

Stafford continued, “The vast majority of hospitals have issues with accounts payable in today’s health care environment. North Metro is no different than others, and we have made significant progress in this regard. As the business continues to improve, the cash flow will likewise improve and the accounts payable issues will be further reduced.”

She didn’t say how much in the red the hospital was. How much does the hospital lose a year to unpaid or delinquent accounts?

“There is no easy answer to this question based upon the complex reimbursement mechanisms in health care. Sure, we lose money on uncompensated care, and delinquent accounts have a negative effect on our cash flow,” Stafford said.

Cornerstone Hospital, a tenant in North Metro, supposedly owes UAMS $1.7 million for radiology services, according to a comment on the Arkansas Times blog. Stafford said Cornerstone is paid up on its rent with North Metro. She said North Metro does not owe UAMS money.

Meanwhile the hospital’s director of physical therapy, Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), is strongly opposed to the private option and is one of the votes keeping the Medicaid-expansion alternative from passing. He also said Cornerstone’s finances are separate from North Metro.

The state Medicaid option has to be renewed every year with 75 percent of the vote in the Senate and the House. It squeaked through both last year. The Senate passed it again last month with 27 senators saying yes, but the House has rejected it three times already. Another vote is set for Monday.

“At this time, the impact of losing the private-option coverage in Arkansas may have a negative impact on the hospital,” Stafford said.

She continued, “If passed, it would provide insurance options, the first which would offset our uninsured population. But we have not received enough information to truly understand the impact that it will have on hospitals in the following years. While we understand that it has been voted down, we are not sure if there may be alternative reimbursements to offset some of the coverage presently.”

Stafford also said the hospital has hired a consultant to look at its finances.

This is a different consultant from the one hired by the city’s hospital board to look at long-term health-care options for the city. That study should be complete in about 60 days.

Stafford said its consultant is reviewing “revenue cycling within our facility. It is imperative that all of the billing and collection functions are operating efficiently. Contracting with a third party is a way for us to ensure that the revenue cycle component of the hospital is functioning properly.”

She added, “We find that often an independent third party can bring some new ideas to us that help to strengthen our operations.”

Some of the strategies Stafford mentioned was partnering with other health providers, such as UAMS or other private health firms like Cornerstone.

“One of our strategic plans is to bring in additional services to the community, which will in turn strengthen North Metro’s financial viability,” she said. “We are presently discussing numerous ideas, and it is a bit premature to disclose any details.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hammer Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team piled up runs throughout its benefit game at Lonoke on Thursday, and beat the class 4A Jackrabbits in the exhibition by the final score of 16-1.

It’s been a long preseason of preparation for both teams, and at least for the Panthers, it was good to finally get out and play in a competitive setting against a different team.

“It was really nice just to play someone with a different uniform on,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Our guys, they were excited to play someone else. They’ve been beating up on each other for a while. We started practice back in September, so we’ve been going at it for quite a while.

“My message to them before the game was you’re as prepared as anyone in the state in my opinion, and now it’s just about going out and executing what we’ve worked on in practice, and just getting those first-game jitters out of the way.”

Each team threw several pitchers in the exhibition, but it didn’t matter who was on the mound for Lonoke, as Cabot had little trouble scoring runs. The Panthers scored four runs in the first inning and held the Jackrabbits scoreless to lead 4-0 after one.

Cabot took a 5-0 lead after the second inning. In that inning, Panthers’ leadoff hitter Conner Vocque reached on an E4, and scored two batters later on a one-out single to the right-field gap by Riley Knudsen.

In the third inning, the Panthers scored five more runs and held the Jackrabbits scoreless yet again to take a commanding 10-0 lead after three. All of Cabot’s runs in the third came with two outs.

Grayson Cole started the two-out rally with a stand-up double to left field, and catcher Brent Dean and Vocque followed with stand-up doubles to that side of the field as well. Dean’s hit drove in Cole and Vocque’s hit drove in Dean’s pinch runner, Lee Sullivan.

Kason Kimbrell then came to the plate and delivered a two-out single up the middle of the diamond to drive in Vocque, and Knudsen, the team’s three-hole hitter, got his third hit of the game with a towering two-run home run over the right-field fence, which put the Panthers on top 10-0.

Knudsen led the team last year in batting average, and the returning All-State senior third baseman appears to have picked up where he left off after last year’s stellar season at the plate.

“Riley was outstanding,” Goodwin said. “He’s really had some nice at bats here in the early spring and in intrasquad games. He’s been really hot in those intrasquad games and that carried over tonight.

“Obviously the home run was a really nice at bat. He just has such an advanced approach for a high-school hitter. So many young kids get caught up in mechanics and things like that, and that’s a big part of it. You have to be mechanically sound, but there’s a lot more to hitting and Riley understands that.”

Lonoke scored its lone run in the bottom of the fourth. Elijah Seigrist got hit by a pitch; then advanced to second base on a bad pickoff move to first. Tevin Patillo then reached on an E3, which put Seigrist on third base, giving the Rabbits runners at the corners.

With Wyatt Howell at the plate, Patillo stole second base, and on the throw to second by Cabot’s Dean, Seigrist took off for home and made it across the plate safely before Dean’s throw could be returned.

The Panthers added five more runs in the sixth inning before setting the final score in the seventh with one more.

Starting pitcher Zach Patterson got the win and was the only pitcher for either team to throw more than one inning. He threw two innings and struck out six batters, while giving up just two walks, one hit and no earned runs.

Knudsen finished the game 3 for 3 at the plate with four RBIs and two runs scored. Vocque and Dean each had two hits for Cabot.

For Lonoke, seniors Pierce Johnson and Mikey Shinn had one hit apiece.

The Panthers will play their regular-season opener at home against class 5A Vilonia on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Lonoke will also play its regular-season opener at home, but on Monday against Hazen.

The Jackrabbits will then play Tuesday against Little Rock Christian Academy, also at home. Both of those home games start at approximately 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies hold off Pokey

Leader sports editor

CLINTON – The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits overcame a disastrous third quarter and gutted out a hard-fought, 36-32 win over Pocahontas in the first round of the class 4A East Regional, earning their first trip to the state tournament since 2010.

The win was especially important since Lonoke will be hosting the class 4A state tournament next week at the Gina Cox Center. Lonoke coach Nathan Morris confessed that hosting state put added pressure on his team coming into regionals as a No. 1 seed.

“There’s no doubt about it, and I think the kids felt it too,” said Morris. “Pocahontas is tough. They went 0-6 against the top three, but that conference is tough. You’re looking at a conference where I think the two seed is a top four team in the state, and Pocahontas played them all tough. They weren’t blown out in any game.”

The Lady Redskins have played in many low-scoring games this year. Their sagging man-to-man defense effectively took Lonoke’s 6-foot-1 post player Eboni Willis out of the offense. Lonoke isn’t a sharp-shooting team from outside, so points depended on penetration and mid-range jumpers, and defense.

“That defense they run and how well they run it is very difficult to contend with,” Morris said. “We didn’t get movement inside like we needed to for that to be effective. So we had to have penetration. I thought our guards did a pretty good job of that.”

While Willis didn’t approach her season average in scoring, she was a force on defense, finishing the game with six blocked shots.

“They just kept driving in there,” Morris said of the Pocahontas guards. “We watched film and that’s what they do. Eboni did a good job of keeping her feet and keeping her arms straight up, no fouls.”

The fact that the game was going to be a defensive struggle began to play out immediately. With 3:01 left in the first quarter, Pocahontas led 4-3. Lonoke then got the first of few offensive spurts, going on an 8-0 run and taking an 11-4 lead with 41 seconds left in the period. The Lady Jackrabbits did it with defense, forcing turnovers on three-straight possessions. Amanda Sexton finished the run with a layup and Pocahontas called timeout.

They Lady Redskins added a bucket before the quarter ended to make it 11-6.

Lonoke continued to control the action in the second quarter as the two teams traded just three buckets each for the first six-and-a-half minutes of the quarter. With 1:30 remaining and Lonoke leading 17-12, Jarrelyn McCall had a remarkable next 30 seconds. It started with a 3-pointer that made it 20-12. She then took a charge, her second of the game, and was fouled at the other end. After she hit 1 of 2 free throws with 60 seconds remaining, neither team scored again, leaving it 21-12 at halftime.

Then came the third quarter. Lonoke managed just five points as Pocahontas pulled to within 26-25 by quarter’s end. When Kate Junkerfeld scored to start the fourth quarter, it gave the Lady Redskins their first lead since 4-3. It got worse when, after Callie Whitfield missed from about 15 feet, no one got back on defense and Ashlyn Ellis hit an easy layup to make it 29-26 with 6:02 left in the game.

Morris called timeout to stem the tide, and his team responded with an 8-0 run and held Pocahontas scoreless for the next 5:15. Lonoke created one steal after another or forced a bad pass or took a charge. Only a few of those were converted into points, but enough to put the Lady Jackrabbits back into a 34-29 lead with 46 seconds remaining. Kerasha Johnson capped the run with a steal and a layup that forced a timeout.

Pocahontas’ Emily White hit a 3-pointer out of the timeout to make it a two-point game. The Lady Redskins then forced an over-and-back violation with 28 seconds left. They got two good looks on the next possession, but missed both. Whitfield got the rebound after the second miss and was fouled with six seconds left. She hit both free throws to set the final margin.

“She did some good things tonight, but none were better than stepping up there and hitting both ends of a one-and-one to make it a four-point game instead of a three,” Morris said. “Jarrelyn stepped up and hit two there for us late that were big too. This team hasn’t dealt with pressure very well at times this year, especially early in the year. But they handled it this time. That’s just growing up. This team is growing up and that’s what we’re seeing.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits dominate Westside at East Region

Leader sports editor

CLINTON – The Lonoke Jackrabbits put themselves in a tough situation with a lackluster performance and loss in the district semifinals last week, but they bounced back from that effort in the class 4A East Regional at Clinton. The Lonoke boys, who had to settle for the three seed from the 4A-2 Conference, handled 4A-3 runner-up Jonesboro Westside with surprising ease, beating the Warriors 60-42 to advance to the semifinals, and more importantly, qualifying for the state tournament they will be hosting next week at the Gina Cox Center.

The Jackrabbits haven’t been to the state tournament since 2009, and coach Dean Campbell admits that there was more pressure to make it this year than most.

“There definitely was,” said Campbell. “First of all, you’ve got a team that should’ve been there last year and really kind of underachieved. I still hurt for those seniors because they were a great group. And also, next week would’ve been a really long week if we’re not playing.”

The first quarter ended with both teams posting just seven points, but in a way it still set the tone. Lonoke forced eight Westside turnovers, including three steals and three charges taken. The problem was on offense. The Jackrabbits executed the offense well except the final step, making shots. They got several good looks, but hit just 3 of 15 shot attempts in the opening frame.

“I liked how we were playing defense from the very start and that never really changed,” Campbell said. “We played this whole game much harder and with a much better effort than we did against Stuttgart, and I’m very proud of them for that.”

The Jackrabbits, 22-5, started to get a little bit of separation in the second quarter, but a disastrous last four seconds sent the Warriors into the locker room with all the momentum.

Lonoke led 27-21 when Darian Young put up a running floater in the lane. It bounced around the rim and was about to fall in on its own when Blake Mack tipped it and drew an offensive goal tending violation with 3.6 seconds on the clock.

Westside inbounded the ball under the Lonoke basket, made one court-length pass and fired a 3-pointer that missed, but Tykel Gray fouled the shooter. Westside’s Caleb Price stood all alone at the line and hit all three free throws to make it 27-24 at the half.

Warrior Chase Mickelson then hit a three to open the third quarter to cap a 9-0 run and erase what had been a nine-point lead late in the second quarter.

“We definitely gave them the momentum going into halftime,” Campbell said. “We had played pretty well I thought and we just talked about just continuing to play hard and executing like we had been. I never got the sense that the guys were that worried about it.”

After completing the comeback, Westside had only two possessions with an opportunity to take the lead, and failed to convert both times.

Young calmly hit a 3-pointer to put Lonoke back in front. Westside went 1 of 2 at the line on its next possession to make it 30-28 and the two teams traded buckets to make it 32-30 with 4:40 left in the third quarter. From that point, the Jackrabbits went on their own 9-0 run to take control of the game.

Jamel Rankin converted a three-point play that made it 37-30 with 3:28 left. Lonoke then forced a turnover and Young drained another floater, this time from the baseline, for a nine-point Lonoke lead. Young also hit the last shot of the quarter to give the Jackrabbits their largest lead up to that point at 43-32.

“He likes it at Clinton,” Campbell said of Young. “The last time we were here he hit four 3-pointers in the first half, and I reminded him of that.”

Lonoke got a defensive stop to start the fourth quarter and immediately went into stall mode by spreading the floor, penetrating to within 15 to 18 feet and kicking back out. Finally the strategy created an open look for Gray in the middle of the lane for a 45-32 lead with 5:50 remaining.

The Warriors got as close as 47-48 on a long 3-pointer by Price with four minutes left, but Darrius McCall answered at the other end before another steal led to a transition bucket by Mack for a 51-38 lead with 2:32 remaining.

Mack led Lonoke with 19 points. Gray scored 15 while Young added 12 and McCall 10 for the Jackrabbits.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils slide past Bears

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got a win in its regular-season finale Tuesday, but it didn’t come easily. The Red Devils held off a surging Sylvan Hills squad 61-58 at the Devil’s Den to finish 13-1 in league play and win its second-straight outright 5A-Central championship.

The Bears came into the game 4-7 in league play and 10-12 overall, but played like a team among the best in 5A. The biggest lead by either team was nine points at 43-34 early in the third quarter, but Sylvan Hills answered with an 8-0 run that got it back to a one-point game with three minutes left in the same period.

Sylvan Hills point guard Cordy Winston sparked the run with back-to-back 3-pointers and Aumonie Armond added a putback of a Winston miss, forcing Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner to call timeout.

The Red Devils were able to stretch the lead back to five at 50-45 by the end of the third, and pushed it to 56-49 with five minutes remaining, but the Bears had another run left in them. Senior guard Ronnie Hinton scored and sophomore Jalen West got a steal.

He missed the transition layup, but Armond was there for the stickback to make it 56-53 with 3:58 remaining. After a series of turnovers by both teams, senior Bear Nathan Burchett hit a long 2-pointer to make it 56-55 with 2:20 remaining.

Jacksonville’s Devin Campbell was fouled and hit both free throws with 1:34 left. Winston then lost the ball trying to penetrate the lane. Campbell picked it up and was fouled again. This time he made 1 of 2 for a four-point Red Devil lead with 1:14 left.

Sylvan Hills got three shots on the ensuing possession, and senior post player David Johnson was fouled as he put in a reverse layup. The free throw made it 59-58 with 58 seconds left.

Jacksonville executed its offense but couldn’t find an open shot. Joyner called a timeout with 29 seconds left and Sylvan Hills fouled Sergio Berkley just two seconds after play resumed. Berkley made both free throws to set the final margin. Hinton, the team’s best outside shooter, got three open looks to tie the game. Hinton missed the first and Armond got the rebound. He kicked back out to Hinton who missed again. Winston and Berkley grabbed the rebound simultaneously. Jump ball was called and possession went back to Sylvan Hills with 4.3 seconds left on the clock. Hinton got another open look from the left wing but it too was off the mark.

Joyner didn’t think his team played its best game, but was happy with the win and another conference championship.

“It’s a win and that’s all that matters,” said Joyner. “I’m just glad to get it over with and have a few days to prepare for next week. Sylvan Hills came in here with nothing to lose and just played good basketball. I thought there were a lot of things we could have done better, but we had some kids step up and hit some big free throws at the end.”

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis was pleased with how his team played, and didn’t have any regrets about how the season might have gone if the team had played as well all season as it did on Tuesday.

“No, because this team has had some tough breaks this year, on the court and off of it,” said Davis. “You look at this conference and how tough it is. We had some chemistry issues early and just about when we’re getting that resolved we lose a couple of players. One that was really like a starter decided mid-season he was going to focus on football. Then we have some really close games that go into overtime that we can’t pull out. If we have just a couple of bounces here and there go our way, things could look a lot different. You want to be playing your best right about now and I think we’re doing that. We just had some bad breaks early and in a conference as tough as this one, those make a big difference.”

One big difference between Tuesday’s game and the first meeting in Sherwood was the rebounding totals. Jacksonville outrebounded the Bears 37-17 in the first meeting, but only 29-26 on Tuesday. Armond finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Winston led all scorers with 17 while Hinton added 10 for the Bears.

Campbell led Jacksonville with 16 points while Berkley, Kanaan Jackson and Tedrick Wolfe each finished with 10.

The Lady Red Devils took out a week’s worth of frustrations on the Lady Bears. Jacksonville entered the game on a two-game losing streak while Sylvan Hills was fresh off its first conference win of the season, but both of those streaks came to an abrupt halt as Jacksonville hammered the Lady Bears 66-26.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TOP STORY >> Candidates submit papers for election

Mostly Lonoke County incumbents, but a few hopefuls who are making some races competitive, filed Monday to be placed on the ballot ahead of the primary election in May and November’s general election.

Candidates have until Monday to file. Three political parties will be represented on the Lonoke County ballot: Republican, Democratic and— for the first time — a Libertarian candidate.

Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke said, “It went smooth. We got them in and out. It looks like a Republican ballot again, very few Democrats have signed up.”


House Dist. 13

Rep. David Hillman* (D-Almyra)

House Dist. 14

Republicans Trent Eilts and Buddy Fisher

Democrat Camille Bennett

House Dist. 41

Justice Karilyn Brown

Alan L. Pogue, both Republicans

Democrat Danny Knight.

House Dist. 43

Tim Lemons and Darlene Byrd, both Republicans

House Dist. 44

Rep. Joe Farrer* (R-Austin)

Circuit Judge Dist. 23

Barbara Elmore, Divison 1,

Larry Cook and Ashley Parker, Division 2

Sandy Huckabee*, Division 3.


John Staley* (R-Ward)

Stephen Finch (R-Lonoke)


Mark Thomas* (R-Lonoke)

Linda Meadows (R -Ward)


Chuck Graham*

County Judge

Doug Erwin* (R-Austin)

Circuit Clerk

Deborah Oglesby* (R- Cabot)

County Clerk

Larry Clarke* (R-Cabot)


Patti Weathers* (R-Cabot)

Tax Assessor

Jerrel Maxwell (R-Cabot)

J.P. Dist. 2

B.J. Weathers* (R-Ward)

Christian Parks (L-Ward)

J.P. Dist. 3

Henry Lang* (R-Cabot)

J.P. Dist. 5

Adam Justice (R-Lonoke)

J.P. Dist. 6

Lee Linville* (R-Austin)

Jerry Cole (R-Cabot)

J.P. Dist. 7

Dan Stowers (D-Lonoke)

J.P. Dist. 8

Bryson Harpole (R-Ward)

Tate House (R-Ward)

Mayor of Lonoke

Wayne McGee* (D)

Jim Bailey (R)

Lonoke treasurer

Phillip Howell (D)

Lonoke alderman Ward 1

Jane Derning* (D)

Lonoke alderman Ward 4

Larry Clark (R)

Wendell Walker* (D)


County Judge

Barry Hyde (D-North Little Rock)

Tax Assessor

Janet Ward (D-North Little Rock)

Circuit Court Clerk

Larry Crane* (D-Little Rock)


Doc Holladay* (D-Little Rock)


Debra Buckner* (D-North Little Rock)

House Dist. 40

Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock)

J.P. Dist. 11

Sandra Prater (D-Jacksonville)

(* indicates an incumbent)

TOP STORY >> ‘Spelling Bee’ musical at NPHS

Leader staff writer

The North Pulaski High School drama department will present “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical, to the public at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children.

It is the first musical to be shown in the remodeled auditorium. A tornado destroyed the building in April 2011.

The musical will have live accompaniment by members of the North Pulaski band.

Jackson Reinhardt, one of several student directors, said the spelling bee contestants in the musical are elementary and middle school students who have adult problems. They are all facing adversity.

He went on to describe all of the musical’s characters.

“Barfee is nerdy, gawky and has issues with his stepmom. His real mom believes in him. Leaf is home-schooled. He was the third alternate. He doesn’t know how to spell. He blacks out and spells in a trance,” Reinhardt said.

Student director Maggie Simpson said, “Olive’s parents are not around. Her only friend is the dictionary. Spelling helps her cope. Marcy is basically perfect. She’s smart, athletic — an overachiever. She is tired of winning all the time.

“Chip is perfect, but has flaws. He came back to the spelling bee to defend his title. Logan has two dads. She is head of the gay and straight alliance at her school. She is really political. Her dad, Carl, pushes her to be perfect,” Simpson said.

Reinhardt said Lisa Perretti, another character, competed in the third annual spelling bee. She has hosted the bee for the past four years. The character enjoys spelling in general.

Mitch Mahoney is a comfort counselor. He gives the contestants hugs and juice boxes. It is community service required of the parolee, according to Simpson.

Four volunteers from the audience will be selected to participate in the spelling bee onstage. The musical lasts a little over an hour.

“They should expect to laugh and cry a little. We are doing our absolute best with it. We never disappoint,” Simpson said.

Student director Taylor Watson said, “It is a lot fun. It was a struggle with the technology at first, but now it’s getting easier,”

Performing are Hunter Harness as Chip Tolentino, Madison Pickle as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, Kris Jerry as Leaf Coneybear, Zach Ingersoll as William Barfee and Dan’s Dad, Javaya Tramble as Marcy Park, Rachel Bradley as Olive Ostrovsky and Jasmine Williams as Rona Lisa Perretti.

The cast also includes Faith West as the understudy and Olive’s Mom, Daniel Gorman as Vice Principal Panch, Clay Bures as Mitch Mahoney, Jackson Reinhardt as Carl’s Dad, Valentino Warren as Leaf’s Dad, William Elliot as Landscape Coneybear, Meghan Crimmins as Marigold Coneybear and Mark Williams as Olive’s Dad.

Jennifer Alaquinez is the director. The technical director is Mary Aycock.

TOP STORY >> Private plan is still short of two votes

Leader staff

Whether House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) would call for a vote on private-option health care insurance Tuesday was “a game-time decision,” according to his spokesperson, Cecillea Pond-Mayo. The speaker, less than 30 minutes after she said that, called for adjournment without raising the issue.

Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jack-sonville) and Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke) both said the matter may not be considered again until after the close of the week-long filing period, which opened at noon Tuesday and closes at noon March 3.

They have said some people voting “nay” or “present” or staying away might be willing to vote for private option after the deadline passes for filing for office. They think some fear they will draw opposition if they vote for private option.

In light of hefty Medicare cuts, the Medicaid private-option vote is critically important to local hospitals, according to Paul Cunningham, vice president and spokesman for the Arkansas Hospital Association. Medicare cuts to the state’s hospitals this year are estimated at $265 million to $270 million, Cunningham said. That’s money straight out of hospital revenues.

But if the private option passes, Arkansas hospitals will receive $189 million in Medicaid revenues, helping offset much of the cuts, he said.

Locally, North Metro in Jacksonville will lose about $1.3 million in Medicare funds, but stands to gain as much as $1.4 million in Medicaid money — a possible net gain of $100,000.

Citing Arkansas Business’ annual November roundup of hospital finances, Cunningham said, “You can see that North Metro is a little financially stressed.”

Cunningham also said the association is in favor of the private option. “We’re not aware of a plan B,” he noted.

He said the 100,000 working poor Arkansans currently signed up for the private option will be left without coverage after June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

In a moment of levity, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Benton) addressed the House to commend its members for winning the charity basketball game last week. Then he suggested they play every day until the Senate gets the outcome it seeks.

That was a good-humored poke at Carter, who had vowed to vote on the private option every day until it passes.

The private option has been voted on and failed to pass with the needed 75 percent supermajority in the House five times since the session began.

It only took one vote in the Senate to get the necessary 75 percent — that’s 27 votes. Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) cast the decisive vote.

But not for nothing. English met with Gov. Mike Beebe and members of his cabinet several times before trading her yes vote on private option for a reorganization of workforce education in the state. That’s an important issue for English, and some see it as a win-win situation. That is, her vote helped the Senate effort to provide health insurance to the working poor and, indirectly, may help the poor and working poor find better jobs through more appropriate education.

The story is being covered across the country. The Atlantic’s story Tuesday was headlined “The State Where Obamacare Stopped Working,” with a kicker noting it “could be a very bad sign for proponents of expansion in other red states.”

The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle are among others following the story.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears earn first league win

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears hosted the Lady Falcons of North Pulaski Friday night and picked up their first conference win of the season in a hard-fought contest by both teams. The game went down to the wire with the home team winning by a three-point margin, 50-47.

“They did play hard,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “I was proud of them. Anytime you can get a win, it feels good. They’re excited, and I’m excited for them. It clicked for my senior tonight. She played hard and had a good game. They all played hard and played together. I knew it was going to come down to the last shot or last second because we were pretty equal tonight.”

Sylvan Hills was ahead by five at the end of one quarter, but North Pulaski outscored the Lady Bears by the same margin in the second to knot the score at 25 at the half. The Lady Falcons led by one after three quarters, but Sylvan Hills scored 15 to the visitors’ 11 in the final quarter for the victory.

“We knew it was going to be tough because we were without a couple of our starters,” North Pulaski coach Stacy Dalmut said. “We had some girls really step up and play hard. I am really proud of all the girls, they played their hearts out.”

Ilycia Carter got the Lady Falcons on the board first with a 3-pointer. Sarah Beckwith answered with a three for Sylvan Hills. Kiarra Evans and Olivia Turner each scored for North Pulaski before Beckwith sank her second 3-point basket.

The Lady Falcons’ Neiagha Thomas scored, but Maddison Shelton connected on a three to tie the game at nine. Shelton hit another 3-pointer in the quarter and Evans rounded out North Pulaski’s first-quarter scoring with two more points for a score of 16-11 in favor of the Lady Bears at the quarter’s end.

Sylvan Hills senior Courtney Boutte’ had a putback basket and Ashton Neasley a three-pointer to extend the lead to 21-12 before Carter and Elisha Smith sank threes to cut the lead to three points.

Beckwith extended the lead to five and Neasley had two more points for the Lady Bears in the quarter, but Carter hit another three and Evans added a two-pointer and then tied the game at 25-25 with one of a pair of free throws to close the half.

At the end of a mostly even third quarter, the Lady Falcons led by one, 36-35.

The fourth quarter started out all North Pulaski as they extended the lead to 41-35 before the Lady Bears scored six unanswered to tie the game. Sylvan Hills then hit 4 of 6 from the line for a 45-42 advantage.

Evans scored a putback basket for the Lady Falcons, but Aljahnay Duncan hit a two under the basket for a 47-44 Lady Bear lead. Carter tied the game with a traditional 3-point play. Beckwith then hit 1 of 2 free throws and Duncan hit a layup to put Sylvan Hills back ahead 50-47.

North Pulaski had a last chance to tie with the ball out of bounds with 3.7 seconds remaining, but Evans’ shot was just short and the Lady Bears prevailed.

Beckwith led Sylvan Hills with 12 points, Duncan scored 10, Neasley nine, Boutte’ added eight, and Shelton seven.

Carter led all scorers with 22 points, Evans added 11 for the Lady Falcons, and Smith had six points.

SPORTS STORY >> Traffic rising at shooting range, teams start practice

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s new shooting sports complex has enjoyed heavy weekend traffic since opening on Jan. 22. The complex, located on Graham Road about a quarter mile east of Loop Road, saw 750 rounds shot last weekend, had has shown a steady increase each weekend since opening.

Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director Kevin House says that number is likely to pick up even more as the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program’s regional and state tournaments approach.

“We’ve got a lot of schools that are starting to come out and practice,” said House. “At first it was the more local teams and now we’re starting to get teams from schools all over the state.”

Most of the daytime activity takes place in late afternoons, making mid-day a premium time to come out.

“Traffic picks up on the weekdays after about 3:30 and keeps up until dusk,” House said. “Again, it’s the school teams coming out to practice. One day last week we had about 140 to 150 rounds shot in one day.”

The first big scheduled event for the complex takes place Friday, March 28 when the first Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce fundraising competition takes place. The rest of March is open and an event by Arkansas Ducks Unlimited is scheduled for Saturday, April 19.

Every weekend throughout the month of May is booked for AYSSP tournaments, as is the first weekend of June.

There is also a new website for the complex under construction. Staff training for the website started Monday, but House said there was no projected launch date for it.

“We’ll know more about those details after (today),” House said. “As soon as it’s up and running, we’ll be a lot more prepared and more efficient about getting information to the public about our events.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls win top seed

Leader sports editor

MARIANNA – The Lonoke girls beat 4A-2 Conference champion Heber Springs for the second time in eight days on Saturday when they vanquished the Lady Panthers 45-37 in the championship game of the District 2 tournament in Marianna.

Heber Springs played most of the game with either Hannah or Skylar Johnson on the bench, as both players got into foul trouble. The Johnson twins are Heber Springs’ two leading scorers.

Hannah picked up her second foul with 4:25 left in the first quarter and sat the rest of the half. Skylar picked up her third foul early in the third and sat the rest of that period. Ironically, it was when both sisters were finally back on the floor that Lonoke began dominating.

The Lady Jackrabbits trailed 32-30 at the end of three, but outscored a full-strength Heber team 15-5 in the fourth.

“We just played well,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “Our guards did a tremendous job of handling the pressure, the pressure of just a game like this, and Heber Springs’ press there in the fourth quarter. They didn’t get flustered. They kept their composure and they made good plays. I thought we played very good defense too, especially late in the game.”

Sophomore guard Jarrelyn McCall, who finished with a game-high 18 points, opened the fourth quarter scoring with 3-pointer that gave Lonoke a one-point lead with 6:15 left in the game. In a game that saw 14 lead changes, that was the final one.

After a defensive stop, McCall missed a three, but Eboni Willis got the rebound and put it back in for a 35-32 lead.

Heber answered right back when Hannah Johnson went the length of the floor for a layup just 11 seconds later.

After a series of defensive stops by both teams, Lonoke’s Kerasha Johnson stripped Hannah Johnson near midcourt and hit a transition layup for a 37-34 lead.

Skylar Johnson then scored just eight seconds later to again make it a one-point game with 3:55 remaining. It was Heber Springs’ last basket. Lonoke’s defense became stifling and the Lady Panthers struggled to even get shots into the air.

Though the Lady Jackrabbits didn’t convert every steal or forced turnover into points, they picked Heber Springs’ pocket five times in the last four minutes and forced three other turnovers.

Just 10 seconds after Heber’s final bucket, Callie Whitfield made a nifty pass from the left wing to Willis, who was standing on the right block all alone for an easy layup.

After a Whitfield steal failed to lead to points, and another defensive stop, Amanda Sexton got an offensive rebound and putback that made it 41-36 with 2:12 left in the game – the largest lead for either team up to that point.

After Sexton’s basket, Whitfield got another steal, and this time she converted a transition layup to make it 43-36 with 1:09 remaining.

Whitfield was called for a foul on the ensuing possession and Heber Springs made 1 of 2 free throws to cap its scoring for the night.

The Lady Panthers were forced to begin fouling, and Lonoke only hit 2 of 6 free throws in the final minute, but its defense gave up nothing.

Heber Springs opened the game in a 2-1-2 zone that troubled Lonoke early. McCall then began receiving passes on the baseline and carving up the bottom of that zone with the dribble.

“They were doing some things to try to stop Eboni because she hurt them last week,” Morris said. “But McCall is our go-to scorer. If she’s getting open looks from four or five feet, we’ll take that all night long.

“But this was a total team effort. When everybody is contributing like they did tonight, we’re a pretty good team.”

The win gives the Lady Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed in the 4A-East region tournament in Clinton. They will open play in the tournament at 4 p.m. today against the District 3 four seed Pocahontas.

The Lonoke boys lost in the district semifinals on Thursday and will be the three seed. They will play District 3 two seed Jonesboro Westside at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle toppled in crazy ending

Leader sportswriter

CLARENDON – Despite a career-high of 46 points scored by Lady Bison senior standout Faith Walker, the Carlisle girls lost the 2A-6 District tournament championship game to Brinkley 63-62 on a last-second shot by Lady Tiger leading scorer Lauren Carroll.

Saturday’s showdown was the rubber match between the 2A-6 Conference co-champions, who split their regular-season series, each winning by four points. After three quarters of play Saturday, Carlisle appeared to be on its way to the tournament championship after outplaying the Lady Tigers in the first three quarters.

Carlisle led 17-10 at the end of the first quarter, 36-28 at halftime, and took a 51-41 lead into the fourth quarter. However, things went awry for the Lady Bison in the final eight minutes. Brinkley opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run that cut the Lady Bison’s lead to 53-52 with 6:03 remaining.

Walker, who scored all 11 of Carlisle’s points in the final eight minutes, got a much-needed basket for the Lady Bison (18-9) later on, but the Lady Tigers (22-6) cut it back to one on a long jumper by Michayla Washington, which made the score 55-54.

After Washington’s bucket, Carlisle turned the ball over for the 16th time in the second half on the ensuing inbound pass, forcing Carlisle coach Jonathan Buffalo to call timeout with 2:43 to play.

Following the timeout, Walker got a turnaround bucket inside the paint with 1:31 to play that pushed the Lady Bison’s lead to three, leading 57-54. Walker’s bucket forced Brinkley to call timeout, and after that, the Lady Tigers went on a 6-2 run, grabbing a one-point lead with the score 60-59.

Brinkley’s go-ahead bucket came with less than a minute to play, but Carlisle’s Walker wouldn’t let her team go down without a fight. Walker pushed the ball up the floor and converted a clutch and-1 play with 16.6 seconds on the clock. Walker’s free throw put the Lady Bison back on top 62-60, which put the pressure back on the Lady Tigers.

Carroll, who led Brinkley with 36 points, got the call on the Lady Tigers’ following possession, and was fouled with 8.1 seconds remaining. Carroll calmly sank the first free throw, but missed the second, and Lady Bison post player Morgan Walter got the rebound.

However, when Walter got the rebound she was bumped to the floor and out of bounds by a Brinkley player. No foul was called and the ball went back to the Lady Tigers as a result. On the ensuing inbound pass, Carroll got the ball inside the lane in front of the basket and she put up a short jumper that fell through with less than a second remaining.

Carlisle received the inbound pass with half a second left, and couldn’t get a shot off before time expired.

“I’m proud of their effort,” said Buffalo of his team. “They competed tonight against what I thought were some insurmountable odds. I went into the locker room and told them they still get to play next week. The real season really truly starts next week. There are 32 teams left and after the first round there’ll be 16 and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

Carlisle outrebounded Brinkley 41-36 and had the better shooting percentage. The Lady Bison made 25 of 55 shots for 45 percent. The Lady Tigers made 23 of 76 shots for 30 percent. From the free-throw line, Brinkley made 12 of 30 and from the 3-point line it made 5 of 17.

Conversely, Carlisle made 10 of 14 free-throw attempts and 2 of 8 from beyond the arc. The biggest difference in the game, though, was the turnover margin. The Lady Bison committed 29 in the game, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. Brinkley had 13 turnovers for the game and just three in the entire second half.

Walker added 14 rebounds to go with her 46 points, giving her a double-double. Fellow senior post player Bre’ana Young finished a rebound shy of a double-double as she had 11 points and nine boards. Kayla Golleher didn’t score, but added 10 rebounds and four assists for Carlisle.

Carlisle is hosting this year’s regional tournament, and the Lady Bison will play Poyen tomorrow night at 7.

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins spoil Red Devils’ perfect mark

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville recovered from a slow start to take a two-point lead into halftime of Friday’s 5A-Central Conference matchup at Pulaski Academy, but the Bruins kept the score close in the second half and made enough plays down the stretch to hand the Red Devils their first conference loss of the season by the final score of 76-74.

Pulaski Academy’s senior point guard Marcus Wallace scored the first five points of the game and the Bruins led 21-12 at the end of the first quarter. Wallace gave the Bruins their first double-digit lead of the game at 26-15 on a pair of free throws with 6:47 left in the second quarter.

After Wallace’s free throws, Jacksonville responded with a 15-3 run to take a 30-29 lead with 1:41 left in the opening half. It was the Red Devils’ first lead of the game, and the go-ahead bucket came on a driving layup down the baseline by LaQuawn Smith.

Pulaski Academy battled back and tied the score at 33-33, but junior guard Devin Campbell gave the Red Devils a 35-33 lead at the break on a baseline floater that left his hand just before the buzzer sounded.

Both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, which gave the Red Devils (21-4, 12-1) a narrow 49-47 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Bruins (19-4, 10-2) took the lead early in the fourth and managed to hold off whatever rally Jacksonville could muster down the stretch.

Pulaski Academy first tied the game at 53 all on a 3-pointer from the corner by sophomore shooting guard Lawson Korita with 6:59 left to play. The Bruins got a steal at midcourt on the Red Devils’ ensuing possession, and took the lead on a midrange jumper by Chad Mikhaelis, which forced Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner to call timeout with 6:24 remaining.

The Bruins took their biggest lead at 64-59 on an alley-oop dunk from Korita to Wallace that sent the home crowd into a frenzy with 3:47 on the clock. However, Wallace was given a technical foul for hanging on the rim. It was Wallace’s fifth foul and he had to sit the rest of the game as a result.

Pulaski Academy coach Roger Franks vehemently argued the call to every official on the court, but it was to no avail, and Jacksonville point guard Sergio Berkley went to the line and sank both technical free throws as a result, which cut the host team’s lead to 64-61.

Jacksonville trimmed PA’s lead to one on three separate occasions in the game’s final minutes. The first of which came on a layup by Smith with 2:04 to play, which made it a 66-65 game, and the next came on a 3-pointer by Berkley with 26 seconds remaining that made the score 73-72.

Tedrick Wolfe set Jacksonville’s point total on the third occasion, sinking two free throws with three seconds to play that made the score 75-74 Bruins. Korita, who put the host team on his back with Wallace out of the game, set the final score with a free throw and an intentional miss with two seconds to play.

Campbell got the rebound, but was unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer.

“We are 25 games into the season and this team is no more a team than when we started in September,” said Joyner. “They said they’re going to prove me wrong Monday in practice. I’m going to see, because they’re not a team yet.

“I mean, they play hard. They’ve had a lot of success. But to go as far as they want to go, there’s some stuff that has to change. It’s got nothing to do with complacence. It’s got to do with them doing the same things I’ve been trying to coach out of them since September.

“They (Pulaski Academy) made some shots. They played well enough to win the game, but so did we. The difference was the decisions being made by their players altered the decisions being made by my players.”

Jacksonville made 22 of 40 shots from the floor for 55 percent. Pulaski Academy made 27 of 54 shots for 50 percent. The Bruins made 8 of 19 3-pointers for 42 percent, bettering the Red Devils’ 2 of 12 showing from beyond the arc for 17 percent.

From the free-throw line, Jacksonville made 26 of 35 attempts and Pulaski Academy made 14 of 18.

The Red Devils finished the game with 12 turnovers. The Bruins had 10 turnovers, but only three in the third quarter and none in the fourth.

Korita led all scorers with 28 points, 23 of which came in the second half including 15 in the fourth quarter. Wallace had 20 points.

Berkley led Jacksonville with 21 points. Campbell had 18 points. Wolfe finished with 12, and Smith added 10.

The Lady Red Devils were outscored 18-4 during a long stretch in the third quarter en route to a 67-40. It was Jacksonville’s second-straight loss and drops the team that started the week in first place all the way to third.

“We can still be that team in the state tournament that goes through, but we’ve got to regain our mojo,” said Jacksonville girls’ coach William Rountree. “We’ve got to get back on the practice floor and get better, and that’s going to be our challenge.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

EDITORIAL >> What North Metro’s Farrer doesn’t know

The current “fiscal session” of the legislature reminds us of what a kindred editor of ours at the Prescott Dispatch down in Nevada County wrote in 1877, now 137 years ago: “We are willing to have the yellow fever, Digger Indians, drouths, grasshoppers, presidential excursions, or the seven plagues of Egypt, but an extra session of the present legislature, God forbid!”

We can’t imagine what frightened the editor about tribes that dieted on roots or about a visit from President Rutherford B. Hayes, but we are quite sure he would be as appalled at the Arkansas House of Representatives, now assembled in its third useless fiscal session. Make that a small cabal of the House of Representatives, not the great majority.

Everyone has known for weeks that three-fourths of the House wanted to continue accepting tens of millions of dollars a year to pay for insurance and medical care for the state’s poorest working folks. The requisite three-fourths of the Senate—27 senators—voted for another year’s appropriation of state and federal funds for health care for the frail elderly, disabled, blind, children and the rest of our neighbors who make too little money to pay for insurance. But, on the other end of the Capitol, about 30 representatives, are either dead set against ever voting for something that is remotely associated with the black president of the United States or else want to demonstrate that they effectively voted against him a number of times before surrendering and voting for him. Next week, a few of the latter will vote “yes” and we can try to forget the silliness of this week.

Of course, voting for or against funding the so-called private option has nothing to do with Barack Obama. The only issue is whether more than 100,000 Arkansans who will have signed up for Medicaid insurance by the end of next month and another 100,000 or so who may sign up over the next three years will go back to having no coverage when they get sick or are injured. But after opponents of the Affordable Care Act labeled it “Obamacare,” the issue somehow became voting for the despised Obama.

One day next week, 75 or more representatives will stay in their seats and vote for the bill rather than push the “present” button on their desks, which is reserved for cowards, so the bill will pass and Gov. Beebe will sign it into law. Nearly everyone in government, Republicans and Democrats alike, will breathe a sigh of relief. That $89 million hole in the state budget that would follow defeat of the private option will be plugged, community hospitals like those in our region will be saved, the state will get a giant infusion of money that business groups say will create new jobs and income, 4 percent of the new federal funds will gush back into the state treasury as new income taxes and, last but foremost, more than 100,000 decent people will get medical care when they need it—this year.
But the farce that takes us to that point is embarrassing. It is already embarrassing that, alone among the 51 state and national legislative bodies and among U.S. territories and protectorates, Arkansas allows a small minority of legislators to dictate state fiscal policy. We are of the opinion that our confusing state Constitution actually permits a majority to pass the appropriation, but since the Supreme Court might read the Constitution otherwise it is safe to enforce the three-fourths rule, however many roll calls it takes. No one wants to hold still another expensive emergency session in mid-summer if the court were to hold that a majority was not good enough to pass a law that most lawmakers think is essential for the state’s fiscal and physical health.

Our Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) is not one of those who sit on the fence, for which he deserves some credit. Even though all other legislators in our area support the private option, Farrer is flatly and forever against implementing the part of the Affordable Care Act that serves the state’s poorest men and women. But his reasons are spurious.

“I’m a ‘no’ vote. We just can’t afford it,” he said. Ten years from now, he explained, after the state starts bearing a tenth of the cost of insuring the 200,000 or so people who are eligible, Arkansas will be paying between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion out of the state treasury.

Actually, the state share might be a tenth of that, while the additional federal money flowing into the Arkansas economy as a result of the Medicaid expansion will exceed that $1.5 billion. Rather than costing the state treasury $1.5 billion in 2015, as Farrer seems to suggest, the state treasury will have gained a net $712 million. You may be opposed to providing insurance to poor people as a philosophical matter, but you cannot argue that you are voting “no” to protect the state treasury. If Farrer succeeds and the appropriation bill is defeated for good, North Metro Medical Center, where he is an administrator, will be in a heap of trouble when a sizable part of its patient load can no longer pay and reimbursement rates go down.

If the Medicaid expansion is such a shocking and horrible thing, what did Farrer and the other foes think when a truly big expansion occurred in 1997? That was when Gov. Mike Huckabee, a conservative Republican, pushed the legislature into expanding Medicaid to cover many of the state’s youngsters—this year some 350,000 of them. It is a far larger and costlier program, both for the state and the federal government, than the “Obamacare private option” that he now opposes. Arkansas bears about 30 percent of those costs, not the 10 percent it will bear for the Obamacare recipients starting in 2020. Huckabee still brags that the huge expansion of Medicaid was his greatest achievement.

If those who say they want to save the state and federal government from larger deficits and debt are consistent, they should stop the appropriation for the Huckabee expansion as well, along with the money for public and private nursing home care for the elderly, the blind and disabled and the rest.
Wait! Since that money is embedded in the same bill, they are voting to do just that.

TOP STORY >> Apartments condemned

Leader staff writer

The city of Cabot has given the owner of Alpine Village Apartments seven days to evacuate the complex.

Mayor Bill Cypert said the order was issued Thursday under the Arkansas Fire Protection Code following an inspection by Fire Chief Phil Robinson, Police Chief Jackie Davis and a city code enforcement officer.

This is the second time in recent history that the city has ordered apartment residents to leave their homes for their own safety. In November 2012, the residents of the Linden Street Apartments were evicted after the complex was condemned for being unsafe and unsanitary.

Alpine Village — a six-building, 30-apartment complex — is located behind the community center on Lincoln Street. The rent there is said to be one of the lowest in the city.

Cypert said his office had received several complaints about conditions there before he ordered the inspections.

“It was deplorable beyond belief,” Cypert said.

Robinson said there have been two fires at the complex in recent years. The last one was in October. It was caused by a window air conditioner. But there was evidence throughout the complex that the wiring was overheating.

Brian Boroughs, head of Cabot Public Works, said other problems included exposed wiring, improperly wired water heaters, combustibles stored too close to space heaters, roofs leaking into light fixtures, sewer gas inside the apartments, missing or inadequate heat and inoperable plumbing.

“The bottom line is the conditions are extreme – very dangerous,” Boroughs said.

The city council condemned the Linden Street Apartments in the fall of 2012. Those apartments have since been sold but not yet made inhabitable.

The Alpine Village Apartments have not been condemned, but owner Gary Kissenger of Little Rock will have to bring them up to code before he can rent them again, Boroughs said.
Cypert said the city contacted attorneys with the Arkansas Municipal League before ordering the evacuation.

Robinson said about two-thirds of the apartments were occupied. And most of them had one or two occupants.

The mayor said he didn’t know where they would go, but they had to leave.

Robinson said, “It may seem harsh...But the reality is we’re getting them out of an unsafe environment.”

The mayor blames the conditions in part on the city’s lack of authority to inspect rental units.

An ordinance to give the city authority to conduct inspections is in the works and should be ready for the city council’s approval in a few months, he said.

TOP STORY >> Agency extends charter school

Leader senior staff writer

Renewal for the Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy’s open- enrollment charter school sailed smoothly through a hearing with the state Education Department’s charter authorizing panel on Wednesday. But the  waters were a bit choppier for Maumelle’s Academic Plus Charter School.

The Jacksonville school — represented by Phyllis Anderson, the national vice president of Lighthouse Academies — had requested a 10-year renewal of its charter, but agreed to a three-year renewal when panel member Karen Walters said the school has yet to grow into 11th and 12th grades. Walters said she’d like wait on data then.

Lighthouse has four Jacksonville campuses and operates grades K-10, adding one grade a year.

Academics Plus, the Maumelle charter school, was granted a three-year renewal and authority to increase enrollment by 200 students to 850 over the next two school years — but not without opposition from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Represented by executive director Rob McGill, Academics Plus sought to increase its enrollment by 100 students next school year and another 100 the following year.

McGill, former superintendent of PCSSD, said the school would increase its minority and free-and-reduced lunch enrollment by adding a school bus to transport students in the Oak Grove, Morgan, Marche and Palarm communities.

PCSSD attorney Sam Jones testified — all participants are sworn in — that blacks, minorities and low-income students are still underrepresented.

TOP STORY >> Vote set Tuesday to save program

Leader senior staff writer

A Republican minority in the Arkansas House seems every bit as intent upon shutting down the Department of Human Services and private option as their Washington counterparts were when they threatened to derail the federal government over the Affordable Care Act last year.

At least that’s how state Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) sees it. “If private option isn’t approved, it will lead to a partial government shutdown,” Nickels said.

Friday, for the fourth consecutive day, House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) failed to muster the 75-vote supermajority needed to fund private-option health insurance for as many as 250,000 working-poor Arkansans.

Last April, both houses of the General Assembly approved private option after getting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to approve its unique alterations.

Carter and Gov. Mike Beebe say failure to fund the private option will cost the state about $90 million next year and that no budget can be approved until the fate of the private option is settled. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

That $90 million would have to be cut from the budget if the private option fails, they say.

With state Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) changing his vote from “present” to a “yes” vote, the House could still manage only 71 votes.

The House had eight “paired votes” in which a yea and nay vote agree that one of the two parties will be in attendance to make sure both votes are counted. When John Payton, (R-Wilburn) — a nay vote — did not attend the session, thus depriving private option a yea vote it needed, the speaker directed the State Police to find Payton and bring him back.

Yea and nay votes do not cancel each other out. The measure needs 75 yes votes, and it doesn’t matter if the other votes are nay, present or don’t show up. Some believe this was Payton’s blatant effort to make sure the measure didn’t pass.

Yesterday, a House member wanting to vote yea and could not attend had to ask several nay voters to pair before finding an agreeable partner, Nickels said.

In the past, this has been considered a routine courtesy, but Nickels said this was another effort to make sure the private option failed.

“He never should have agreed to the pair,” Nickels said of Payton. He said that another nay vote was found to pair with the yea vote instead.

If DHS funding fails, Nickels fears that payments to nursing homes for patients will stop. He says that two-thirds of all births in the state are paid for by Medicaid. If that’s not funded, he asked, what’s going to happen?

State Rep. Mark Perry (D- Jacksonville) said, “It was an interesting day at the Capitol. We thought we had it worked out, but we didn’t. If the private option isn’t funded, we have to make cuts.”

Of Payton, Perry said,  “I guess he got tired of working for the people and decided to leave. We’ll come back Tuesday and maybe some people over the weekend will understand what private option is. (Locally) we have Joe Farrer (R-Austin), who still doesn’t understand.”
Farrer said Friday afternoon, after the private option failed for the fourth time, “I’m a ‘no’ vote. We just can’t afford it.”

“Keeping the private option as it is now would cost the state $1.2 to $1.5 billion in 10 years,” he said. “Heath care is broken.But the private option won’t improve care or make that care more affordable. Just this week, Blue Cross cut reimbursement to health care providers by 10 percent.”

“The federal government, which is now $17 trillion in debt, bears the cost of the private option for three years,” Farrer said.

Asked why not wait until then to make changes, Farrer said, “This isn’t free money. We’re paying for it out of our pocket right now. We’re putting our children and grandchildren in debt.”

Farrer, director of therapy services for North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, said the hospital’s CEO has said how his votes are his decision.

Rep. Walls McCrary (D- Lonoke) said, “When we come back up there Tuesday, if it’s not passed, then it won’t be passed until after (election filing period).”

He said some may be unwilling to vote for the measure until after then, fearing they would draw additional opponents for re-election.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies vie for top seed today

Leader sports editor

MARIANNA – The Lady Jackrabbits earned a trip to the 4A-2 District tournament championship game with a 62-38 win over Stuttgart on Thursday.

Stuttgart finished sixth in the regular season, but upset No. 3 seed Clinton 50-47 in the quarterfinal round, earning a berth in next week’s regional tournament that Clinton is hosting.

The win also spared Lonoke the task of facing one of the two conference teams it lost to this season, but the other one awaits on Saturday. Lonoke will face Heber Springs for the third time this year in the championship game that will also determine the top seed in the East Regional at Clinton.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris likes his team’s chances if it plays the way it did on Thursday.

“I just thought it was a great all-around team effort,” said Morris. “We came out playing really well and executing on offense. We had good defensive intensity. Everything was there for us. There were some lapses where it got kind of wild there in the second half. But it’s hard for young kids to keep up that intensity when they look up at that scoreboard and it’s 25 points. Overall I’m very pleased with how we played.”

Lonoke’s immediate start wasn’t so great. The Lady Jackrabbits turned it over on their first three possessions, but gave up just one free throw and forced two Stuttgart turnovers, minimizing the damage to just a 1-0 deficit.

Jarrelyn McCall got Lonoke on the board with a mid-range jumper a minute into the game, and it was the first two of 16 in a row by the Lady Jackrabbits. Stuttgart didn’t manage a field goal until 1:31 left in the quarter that made it 16-3.

Lonoke gave up just two more field goals in the second quarter, but Stuttgart hung in there at the free-throw line. The Lady Ricebirds got to the line 15 times in the second quarter, but Lonoke still went into intermission with a 33-13 lead.

The foul count didn’t even out in the third quarter, and in fact became even more lopsided. Lonoke started the third with a 10-2 run and flirted with the mercy-rule margin of 30 points when it took a 43-15 lead with 5:15 left in the period, but then the fouls began to mount. Lonoke was called for seven fouls before Stuttgart was called for one, and the quarter ended with a 9-2 foul count.

The Lady Jackrabbits took a 48-26 lead into the fourth quarter, which was played by backups for the last five minutes.

McCall led all scorers with 22 points while Amanda Sexton added 12 for the Lady Jackrabbits. Lonoke hit 9 of 13 free-throw attempts while Stuttgart went 15 for 31.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys win a third title in a row

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ bowling team won yet another state championship on Wednesday at Allfam Bowling Center in Cabot, and this year’s was won in unprecedented fashion. Not only did the team win its fourth state title in five years and third in a row, breaking the record set by Norfolk from 2008 to 2011, it demolished the overall pin record set by the same team last year.

The Panthers knocked down 4,880 pins, beating their own record of 4,854 set in last year’s state tournament. That total was also good for second-largest margin in state history, as they beat second-place Bentonville by 617 pins.

Cayden Cook also broke the pin record for an individual bowler by knocking down 842, including a 297 in his second game.

Cabot coach Mike Nash noted last week that the boys’ team average for the season was down 10 to 15 pins per player from last season. He said the likely reason was the series of cancellations that resulted in fewer matches, since he counts practice rounds into the team average. Nash said focus is usually better when there is outside competition.

His hunch proved true on Wednesday.

“It was amazing what they accomplished,” Nash said of the boys ‘championship performance. “With Cayden bowling his remarkable series, that offset probably 100 pins right there. Some of those other kids just rose to the challenge.”

Cook’s 297, just three pins shy of a perfect game, came in just the second game of the tournament, and went along with games of 268, 268 and 257 by his teammates.

With only Little Rock Catholic’s team separating Cabot from second-place Benton-ville, the only team that brought a real threat to Cabot’s championship defense, the Tigers had an up-close view of their title hopes being ripped away.

“After that, when those three went 297 and 268 right next to them, Bentonville was finished,” Nash said. “You could see it in their eyes, in their body language. They lost the pep in their step. I think they knew their chances of winning were very slim.”

After that second game, Cabot’s lead was already 372 pins.

Cook added games of 279 and 268 to his 297, breaking the old individual record of 806 set by Bryant Ezell of Fayetteville just last year.

Jace Jennings had Cabot’s second-highest total with 688, followed by Zac Couch’s 648. Nichols totaled 645 and Michael Nashed a 623.

The boys may be in for a rebuilding year next season. Four of those top five are seniors. Only Couch returns next year.

The Lady Panthers continued their history of alternating between championships and runner-up finishes, placing second behind Bentonville. It marks the sixth-straight year the Cabot girls have either won it or finished second. They won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2013, and took second in 2010, 2012 and this year.

Junior Allie Stalnaker had Cabot’s high score with a 567 and the Lady Panthers are losing only one senior in Miranda Antimo.

“Bentonville bowled its A game and we bowled our B game,” Nash said. “We simply did not pick our spares or take advantage of the opportunities given to us. We are a young team and we will make another good run at state next year. We seem to win state in odd years.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe puts away Forrest City girls

Leader sports editor

The Lady Mustangs battled with the second place Beebe Lady Badgers for a quarter on Tuesday, but the inside-outside combination of Gracie Anders and Kalela Miller proved too much for their visitors from Forrest City as Beebe won 63-32.

“I really felt like we had a pretty good overall effort tonight,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “We rebounded well. We moved the ball pretty well. I really thought we defended well in the early going. It was just a good team effort.”

Anders, a sophomore center, had eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, but it was only good for a 13-13 score with 2 seconds left in the period.

Forrest City forced a turnover and got to inbound the ball from in front of its own bench, but a miscommunication led to a pass to no one. Beebe’s Madison Richey scooped up the ball as it bounced lonesomely toward halfcourt and let it fly with a 45-footer at the buzzer that swished the net for a 16-13 Beebe lead.

That shot brought the home crowd to its feet and Forrest City never regained the momentum. Miller, the team’s leading average scorer, managed just two points in the opening period, but came alive in the second quarter to spark a Badger run that put them in control of the game.

“She is really growing as a player and being the kind of player we need on a given night,” Richey said of Miller. “Tonight we needed a scoring spark and she provided that. She’s capable of doing so many things, and she’s starting to play like the complete player that she is.”

Beebe (16-6, 9-2) still led by three at 22-19 when Miller scored eight-straight points, including six in one minute for a 30-19 lead.

The third quarter started in similar fashion after Beebe took a 39-25 lead into intermission. Beebe started the third with an 11-2 run to make it 50-27 with five minutes left in the third. That lead only increased to 56-30 by quarter’s end, but Miller hit a 3-pointer with 6:54 left in the game to make it 60-30 and put the mercy rule into effect.

Miller led all scorers with 26 points and five rebounds. Anders had 18 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Deja Collins led Forrest City (9-12, 4-6) with 10 points. Ayanna Hilliard had six points and seven rebounds in the first half, but did not play in the second half.

SPORTS STORY >> NP boys relishing their role as spoiler

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons won their second-consecutive game on Tuesday. North Pulaski went on the road and beat Little Rock Christian Academy 58-43 and put themselves back into the race for the fourth playoff spot in the 5A-Central Conference. The win followed a 46-43 win over Mills last Friday on Senior Night. Falcon coach Roy Jackson admits it’s a long shot for his team to make it, but he’s very pleased with the progress the team has shown the last few games.

“We’re two games behind Christian and only three left to play, and we’re still a game behind Mills, so we’re probably going to need some help even if we win out.”

Winning out is a tall task too. The Falcons’ three remaining games are against the top three teams in the conference, Jacksonville and McClellan at home, and Pulaski Academy on the road in a makeup game on Feb. 27.

Regardless of the team’s chances to make the playoffs, Jackson takes some consolation in the fact that his team has pulled together and improved when it could have folded when the season went south.

“That really means a lot to me,” Jackson said. “These kids kept playing really hard. They never stopped playing hard. We’ve had to deal with a DI player, our team leader, waiting for him to come back, and then find out he’s out for the year. We’ve had other little injuries and crucial times. But they never stopped playing hard.”

The Falcons’ two-game streak started last Friday against the Comets. Former North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper brought his team into the game still playing for a spot in the playoffs, but the Falcons were better from the start. North Pulaski jumped out to a 21-12 lead in the first quarter. Mills made a run and got to within three several times, but the Falcons never relinquished the lead.

The Falcon guards Arren Scruggs and RaShawn Langston were hot from outside, and the Falcons got solid play inside from reserve Andrew Wilson.

“Andrew came off the bench and gave us some big minutes,” Jackson said. “He gave us some key defensive rebounds and was just a presence inside. Then he scored four big points for us after we had hit a little dry spell. That’s what I mean by people stepping up.”

In Tuesday’s game, North Pulaski made its run in the second quarter, turning a 9-7 first-quarter deficit into a 23-15 lead at halftime. The Falcons extended their lead against the hosting Warriors in the third quarter, and continued to extend it in the fourth.

The Falcons had blown a fourth-quarter, double-digit lead at home against Little Rock Christian earlier in the season.

“The difference was my second unit went in and played almost the whole third quarter, and didn’t lose any ground,” Jackson said. “When we put the starters back out there in the fourth, they were fresher and were able to pull away.”

Scruggs led the Falcons with 15 points while Langston added 12. Steven Farrior scored 11 and Fred Thomas had eight at LRCA.

Jackson credits the win at home against Mills for the solid play that earned the Falcons their first conference road victory.

“With it being Senior Night and their old coach coming in here, they really wanted to do something special,” Jackson said. “Winning that game really gave them the confidence and made them believe they could go out there and beat some really good teams. Mills and Christian are the two main teams battling for that fourth spot, and we beat them both in back-to-back games. So we’re just going to try to keep playing spoiler and see how that works out for us.”

SPORTS STORY >> Helena proves tough for JHS

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils saw their hopes of a 5A-Central Conference championship likely go down the tubes in a hotly contested 61-60 loss at Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday.

The Lady Red Devils fell behind 18-12 in the first quarter and played from behind the entire game. Fouls piled up for Jacksonville and starters had to begin taking seats on the bench in the second quarter. By the end of the third quarter, four starters had four fouls and the home team had attempted more free throws than field goals.

HWHC super freshman Kevonsheay Stackhouse shot 19 free throws by herself.
The score was tied at 60 with 10 seconds left in the game and the Lady Cougars inbounding the ball on Jacksonville’s end of the court.

Jacksonville defenders met Stackhouse at midcourt and a foul was called. Stackhouse hit 1 of 2 with two seconds remaining to give the home team the victory.

“In all honesty we could have done some things better than we did,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “But I don’t think there was any way, for whatever reason, that we were going to get out of there with a win. That last play started with them stepping in before throwing the ball. Right there for everybody to see.

“We never could get into a sustained roll because every time we started to, there was a whistle.”

Markela Bryles led Jacksonville and Stackhouse led HWHC, each scoring 27 points. Tiffany Smith added 12 for the Lady Red Devils.

Jacksonville (14-8, 10-2) is now in a three-way tie for first place with Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian Academy. The Lady Red Devils still have a game left with PA, but even if they win that game, they need someone to upset LRCA to have a chance for a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

The Jacksonville boys had a similar experience as the girls, according to coach Vic Joyner, but the deeper Red Devils dominated the fourth quarter to earn a 66-57 victory.

“I was able to play more kids and they got tired,” said Joyner. “That’s what it really boils down to. I had to play more kids because we were in foul trouble, but we had some depth they didn’t have.

“But my kids did a good job of keeping their cool. They made some plays down the stretch, got the lead, spread out the floor and made their free throws when they had to start fouling. They stepped up in a very tough atmosphere. They really did.”

The Red Devils never trailed by much, but played from behind for three quarters. The Cougars led 15-14 after one quarter and 32-29 at halftime. The lead was up to 48-44 by the end of three, but Jacksonville outscored its host 22-9 in the fourth quarter.

Junior forward Tedrick Wolfe led the team with 21 points.

“I’ve been trying to get Wolfe to be more assertive scoring the ball, and he’s done that the last two games,” Joyner said.

Sergio Berkley scored 17 and Devin Campbell added 15 for the Red Devils.

The Jacksonville boys are now 21-3 overall and 12-0 in the 5A Central. They currently hold a two-game lead over Pulaski Academy in the standings and they played the Bruins last night in Little Rock after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that matchup as well as from the crucial girls’ game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.