Friday, March 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers topple War Eagles at state

Special to The Leader

CONWAY – The Cabot Panthers traveled to Buzz Bolding Arena on Thursday to face Rogers-Heritage in the first round of the class 7A state basketball tournament, and they earned their first playoff win since 2009 with a 58-51 triumph over the War Eagles.

Cabot (17-10) had defeated Searcy in the last regular-season game to secure the No. 3 Central tournament seed, while Heritage (14-11) entered the tournament as the West No. 6 seed. In the end, the higher seed prevailed as Cabot moved on to face Bentonville in the tournament’s second round last night after deadlines.

Cabot outscored the War Eagles 13-5 in the first quarter to grab the early lead. In a closer second quarter, Cabot still won the scoring battle, but only by two for a 28-18 halftime advantage. The Panthers scored 15 points in the third quarter to the War Eagles’ 12, but Heritage put together a run in the fourth as they outscored Cabot 21 to 15 to close the deficit to seven at the game’s end.

“I really thought we came out focused,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I thought our guys did a great job of implementing our game plan on defense. We couldn’t et No. 21 (Crist Olsen) get going, and I thought everybody did a great job not just on No. 21. Everybody got a little sloppy at the end, and all in all we stumbled a little bit during that stretch, but that’s basketball. That happens, it’s a game of runs. We got our composure back in the last minute and finished it off. Good win.

“I’m happy for these guys, these seniors. I’m proud of these kids, to get a win in the state tournament. That’s good for our program, and hopefully helps build tradition, too.

“We know we’ve got a big game tomorrow night with Bentonville. We know they are very good, they wouldn’t be the two seed in the West if they weren’t,” Bridges said.

Heritage got on the board first with a lob pass and a finish by Connor Hirsh. They could only add three free throws to that basket for five points in the quarter. Jake Ferguson and Michael Smith each had four points for the Panthers, Adolfo Iglesias added a 2-pointer in the lane and a free throw, and Hunter York a layup for Cabot’s 13 first-quarter points.

Garrett Rowe started the Panthers’ scoring in the second with a two-point basket, followed by a three by freshman Jarrod Barnes. Crist Olsen answered with a 3-pointer for the War Eagles. Rowe scored again, and Nick Thomas added a bucket to extend Cabot’s lead to 22-8.

Hunter Southerland scored four points, and Jeremiah Penner sank two free throws to round out the second quarter for the Panthers. Heritage managed three two-point baskets and sank 4 of 4 free throws to end the half.

The War Eagles scored the first five points of the second half to cut the deficit to five. Ferguson answered with the first of his two 3-pointers of the third quarter. York also had a three-point basket in the quarter, Iglesias added four points, and Cabot’s lead at the end of three was 43-30.

The lead grew to 17 at one point in the fourth, but fullcourt pressure by Heritage, turnovers by the Panthers, and missed free throw opportunities allowed the War Eagles to cut the lead to five at 52-47 with less than a minute to play.

Ferguson then stepped up for Cabot and sank 4 of 4 from the line to extend the lead back to a nine-point advantage. Julian Jensen answered with a two for Heritage with 16 seconds to go. After a timeout by the War Eagles, Rowe caught a long inbound pass and finished with the layup for the Panthers. Olsen sank one more basket for Heritage to set the final score at 58-51.

Ferguson led Cabot with 14 points, but also grabbed seven rebounds and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“Jake played a great game,” Bridges said. “Jake’s a competitor. He loves to win. I count on him and Hunter quite a bit. They played 29 and 30 minutes, respectively.”

Rowe added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers. Iglesias had seven points, Southerland and Smith both had six points and York five.
Olsen and Jensen each had 12 points to lead Heritage.

Look for details of last night’s game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits hold off Apaches in playoffs

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke held off Pottsville’s second-half surge to escape the first round of the class 4A state basketball tournament with a narrow 66-64 win Thursday at the Gina Cox Center.

The Jackrabbits, who are this year’s class 4A state tournament hosts, led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and pushed their lead to double digits by halftime, leading 33-23.

Lonoke (24-6) upped its lead to 13 with an and-1 by senior forward Blake Mack 11 seconds into the third quarter, but Pottsville (20-10), the defending state champion, steadily chipped away at the Jackrabbits’ lead from there.

Led by star guard Michael Perry, the Apaches quickly cut Lonoke’s lead to 40-35 by making their first five shots from the floor in the second half. The Jackrabbits maintained the lead heading into the fourth quarter, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Perry made it a 43-40 game, and gave the visitors the momentum.

Just six seconds into the fourth quarter, Perry drained another three to tie the game at 43 all, and Perry hit another 3-pointer at the 7:06 mark, which gave the Apaches their first lead since the start of the game. Perry, a two-sport standout, recently signed with Arkansas Tech to play both football and basketball.

“Michael’s a great player,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell of Perry. “He’s going to have a great career as a two-sport athlete there. He’ll be a great player there for both football and basketball.”

Shortly after Pottsville took the lead, Lonoke’s multi-sport standout athlete, Mack, got another and-1 to tie the game at 48-48 with 6:19 to play. And it was back and forth the rest of the way.

Lonoke re-grabbed the lead at 55-54 on a clutch 3-pointer from senior two-guard Darian Young, and tied the game at 57-57 on a two-handed slam by Mack after Mack got an offensive rebound with 2:41 left in the final quarter.

Mack gave Lonoke the lead for good with a free throw that gave the host team a 58-57 lead with 2:19 remaining. Mack made the first attempt, but missed the second. However, teammate Jamel Rankin got the offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt.

Rankin made both free throws to give Lonoke a three-point cushion, leading 60-57. The Jackrabbits gained their largest lead of the quarter on a transition layup by Tykel Gray with 1:37 left, which made it a 62-57 ball game.

Two-straight buckets by Pottsville’s Travis Cole made it a 62-61 game with 31 ticks remaining, but Rankin added two more free throws to push Lonoke’s lead back to three with 22 seconds to play.

Gray forced a Perry turnover on the Apaches’ ensuing possession, and he was immediately fouled with 10.6 seconds remaining. Gray missed the first attempt, but calmly drained the second to give the Rabbits a 65-61 advantage.

Perry got away with a traveling call before pulling up and nailing another three, this one from the top of the perimeter, which cut the Lonoke lead to 65-64 with 4 seconds left. The Jackrabbits successfully inbounded the ball to Rankin, who was fouled with 2.2 seconds left.

Rankin missed the first attempt, but made the second to set the final score. Perry put up a shot from Lonoke’s side of the court following the inbound pass, but time had expired before the ball left his hands, plus it fell far short, giving Lonoke the hard-fought win.

“We just finally ran out of time, which was great,” Campbell said. “We hit some free throws. We didn’t shoot it as well from the free-throw line down the stretch as I wanted to. We had been doing that, but I’m proud of our guys for gathering themselves and overcoming the hype of the game.

“They’ve never experienced the first game of state and with it being at our place, the adrenaline was through the roof. I told our guys, ‘you’re going to get winded earlier because of the adrenaline. Fight through it, know that it’s not that you’re out of shape and don’t panic. Just get through it the best you can, fight hard’ and our guys did that.”

Rankin finished with a team-high 24 points. Mack scored 21 and had nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Young had 12 points on four threes.

Perry led all scorers with 39 points.

Lonoke played South No. 1 seed Central Arkansas Christian in the second round of the class 4A state playoffs last night at the Gina Cox Center after deadlines. Look for details of that matchup in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils get big help from post

Leader sports editor

ALMA – Outside shots weren’t falling, but the third-seeded Jacksonville Lady Red Devils adjusted to pull out a 68-57 victory over two-seed White Hall in the first round of the class 5A state tournament on Friday.

Senior post player Markela Bryles drew the unenviable task of guarding White Hall’s 6-foot-2 Jae’Lisa Allen, who has committed to the University of Virginia. Though only 5-foot-8, Bryles was outstanding on the offensive end, scoring 34 points, a tournament high so far, and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Lady Devils in both categories.

“We weren’t shooting well and White Hall did some good things early that put us on our heels,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “We adjusted. We moved the ball well on offense and found other ways to score.”

Jacksonville, 16-9, didn’t even find the rim with its first four 3-point attempts and the Lady Bulldogs built a 16-10 lead after one period of play. White Hall’s lead peaked at 18-11 before Jacksonville began the slowly climb back into the game.

Freshman Alexis James entered the game for Jacksonville and immediately forced a quick turnover.

Keke Alcorn found Bryles underneath on the ensuing possession for a three-point play. White Hall continued to dominate the boards in the second quarter, but shots were no longer going in.

Jacksonville took its first lead of the game when Tiffany Smith hit two free throws to make it 21-20 with 2:47 left in the first half. The lead changed hands four times before halftime, and the quarter ended with the score tied at 28.

Bryles had 20 of the Lady Red Devils’ points in the first half, but foul trouble plagued her.

She picked up her third foul just before the half ended. It was Jacksonville’s 11th foul of the half, and White Hall had 10. Both teams would finish with 28 fouls, as whistles became a huge factor in the second half.

The two teams combined to shoot 50 free throws in just the second half alone, with 71 shot for the game.

Jacksonville made 27 of 44 while White Hall hit 16 of 27.

“We got into some foul trouble in the second half, and I think a big key to this game was getting some quality minutes from some of our bench players,” Rountree said. “We had some step up and give us a big lift when we had to sit the starters. I thought Tatiana Lacy played a great game for us.”

White Hall scored the first four points of the second half, but Jacksonville answered with a 10-0 run and never trailed again. After a free throw by Antrice McCoy and four-straight points by Bryles, Alcorn hit Jacksonville’s first 3-pointer of the game to make it 36-32. Alcorn then got a rebound and her outlet pass to McCoy resulted in a bucket and a 38-32 Jacksonville lead.

White Hall’s Shareif Shelton hit a three, but James answered at the other end. After forcing a 10-second violation, Smith hit Bryles underneath for a 42-35 Lady Red Devil lead with three minutes left in the third. After an offensive foul, it was James’ turn to find Bryles down low for a 44-35 lead.

Jacksonville’s largest lead came on a Smith 3-pointer with 7:18 remaining that made it 51-39, but the fouls and free throws began to pile up quickly from that point. There were 33 free throws shot in the fourth quarter. White Hall closed the gap to as little as 58-54 before calling a timeout with exactly two minutes left. But the Lady Bulldogs left the lane open for Alcorn to drive and hit a layup after the timeout.

James found Bryles again with 1:09 left, but the two teams just traded free throws the rest of the way.

McCoy added 11 points for Jacksonville. Allen led White Hall with 17 while Hailey Wilkins added 14 for the Lady Bulldogs.

Jacksonville will play 5A-East champion Paragould at 1 p.m. Monday. The Lady Rams hammered tournament host Alma 70-48 in their first-round game on Thursday. Jacksonville beat Paragould in the state championship game last year.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls win playoff opener with solid fourth

Leader sportswriter

Despite the Lady Jackrabbits’ rough start in the second half, they overcame Star City’s third-quarter run and left the Gina Cox Center on Thursday with a 52-44 win to advance to the second round of the class 4A state playoffs.

Lonoke (24-8), the class 4A state tournament host, was the better team in the first half against Star City (26-4), as the Lady Jackrabbits led 13-9 after a quarter of play and 25-17 at halftime. However, the host team came out of the halftime break ice cold from the floor, and the Lady Bulldogs were able to battle back as a result.

Star City, the South No. 3 seed, opened the second half with an 11-1 run to take a 28-26 lead late in the third quarter. Lonoke, though, didn’t stay down long. Sophomore scorer Jarrelyn McCall made Lonoke’s first field of the half on a short baseline jumper with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter.

That tied the game at 28-28, and McCall hit two more free throws before the third quarter ended, which helped Lonoke take a 30-29 lead into the fourth quarter.

Star City re-took the lead 14 seconds into the fourth period on a pair of free throws by leading scorer Jaida Harden, who led all scorers with 23 points, but McCall answered with a midrange jumper at the other end, which put Lonoke back on top, 32-31.

McCall scored 10 of her team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Rabbits couldn’t separate themselves from the Lady Bulldogs until the end of the game.

With 3:43 to play, junior guard Callie Whitfield got a transition bucket off the glass that gave the host team a 42-37 cushion, and that sparked a 6-1 run that was capped with another basket by McCall.

McCall’s basket that capped the short run gave Lonoke its first double-digit lead of the game at 48-38 with 1:30 remaining. Star City added a basket to cut its deficit back to eight, but junior forward Amanda Sexton made it a 10-point game again with 57 seconds to play on a putback underneath the basket.

The Lady Bulldogs once again made it an eight-point game on the following possession with another quick basket, and Whitfield was fouled after the inbound pass. She went to the line and sank both free throws with 31.4 ticks remaining, which set the Lady Rabbits’ point total for the evening.

“I can’t ask for much more in the fourth quarter because when they started pressing us in the third it looked like, oh my gosh,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “We got the ball down the floor in the fourth and once we got it there we were able to score. We plugged along in that third quarter, but we came back in the fourth, and 22 points in the fourth quarter was a big, big key.

“They missed some easy shots early and we came out shooting the ball pretty well. We had a couple of big threes early. All three of our guards hit a three, and that was big. All three of our guards got big-time buckets off of each other’s penetration. That was key and it kind of helped us distance the score out a bit.”

McCall was the only Lady Rabbit to score in double figures, but Whitfield scored nine points. Kerasha Johnson scored eight. Eboni Willis and Sexton scored seven points apiece. Sexton also had a game-high 13 rebounds.

The Lonoke girls played North No. 1 seed Farmington last night at the Gina Cox Center after deadlines. Look for details of that second-round playoff matchup in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils knock off Hope

Leader sports editor

ALMA – Very little basketball was played in the first boys’ game on Friday in the class 5A state tournament, but what little was played favored Jacksonville. The Red Devils trudged through to the second round with a 75-64 win over Hope in a game that featured free throws more prominently than anything else.

All told, there were 48 fouls called and 70 free throws shot between the two teams. Three Bobcats fouled out, as did Jacksonville’s Sergio Berkley and Damarion Freeman. Compounding the frustration for Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner is the fact that his game was typical of the tournament through the first eight games that began on Thursday.

“Teams are out here trying to win a state title and they’re calling it like it’s a 1A or 2A game,” said Joyner. “Teams are just force-driving the ball now and the refs are bailing them out every time. That’s why they’re doing it. You can’t get any flow going in a basketball game like that.”

There were eight lead changes and seven ties in the game, but they all came in the first half.

Hope opened the game shooting a high percentage, largely because they shot mostly layups. The Bobcats took a 15-14 lead into the second period, and had scored on six layups and a 3-pointer. Jacksonville took a 21-17 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter on a three-point play by Berkley.

Hope went up 24-23 with three minutes to go on a three-point play by Michael Beasley, and that was the last lead change of the game.

Jacksonville, 24-4, put together a 14-3 run over the remainder of the first half to take a 37-27 lead into intermission. Though the Red Devils could never completely shake the Bobcats off in the second half, the margin was never less than six the rest of the game.

A simple change in defensive scheme made the difference in those final few minutes of the half.

“We switched to the 2-3 zone and that changed the game,” Joyner said. “They were getting to the basket against our man because everybody was getting into foul trouble. The kids were afraid of getting called and were letting them go by. I try to teach my kids to be aggressive and then you get out here and they can’t be aggressive. When we switched to that zone, it stopped their penetration and we were able to get a little lead.”

Neither team could get anything going in the second half because of the constant whistle. Both teams threatened to go on big runs that would have either blown the game open or made it an exciting, close game, but free throws ruled the day and stopped any chance for either team to make a run.

Of the 70 free throws shot in the game, 46 came in the second half. Junior Devin Campbell shot 18 of Jacksonville’s 39 free-throw attempts.

He made only 10 of them, but finished with a game-high 24 points. Berkley was second for Jacksonville with 15 and freshman Tyree Appleby added 11. Jerren Smith led Hope with 20 points and Kenneth Thompson added 19 for the Bobcats.

Jacksonville will play at 8:30 p.m. Monday against the winner of today’s game between Morrilton and Greene County Tech.

EDITORIAL >> Our hats off to legislators

Our profiles in courage today include House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), who on Tuesday pushed through Arkansas’ unique private-option insurance program despite obstructionism by a small minority that did not understand the stakes involved.

Carter would not give up despite huge odds: Although the Senate had previously funded the private option, the House still needed a 75 percent supermajority to overcome the objections of two dozen lawmakers. In the end, three solidly conservative representatives — Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton), Rep. Les Carnine (R-Rogers) and Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard (R-Gravette) — voted for the private option, which passed 76-24.

Local representatives who backed the private option all along include Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Rep. Jim Nickels (D- Sherwood), Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke), Rep. Patti Julian (D-North Little Rock), Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) and Rep. Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia).

Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) sponsored the private option in the Senate with the support of Senate Majority Leader Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot). The decisive vote in the Senate came from Jane English, who switched her vote in favor.

In fact, all of our local legislators backed the plan, except Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), about whom the less said the better: He demagogued the costs involved and disingenuously claimed he was only trying to lower the national debt. He also didn’t understand that had the private option failed, Medicaid would have still been expanded to thousands of the state’s working poor, but in a far more expensive way with the federal government managing the program.

Medicaid will fund 100 percent of the program until 2017, when Arkansas will pay 5 percent of the cost — far less than the state’s 30 percent share of Mike Huckabee’s ARKids First program, which provides coverage for 70,000 children. The state’s share will rise to 10 percent in 2020. The additional federal money flowing into our economy as a result of the private option will exceed $1.5 billion over the next decade. Even with Arkansas’ modest share of the cost of the program, that’s still a net gain of $712 million.

Farrer, who runs the physical-therapy program at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, could have done the honorable thing and thrown the struggling hospital a lifeline. With his no vote, he let North Metro down, which faces a shaky future — although it should fare better under the private option. The hospital will lose about $1 million in Medicare funding, but it will gain about $1.1 million with the private option. No need to thank its therapy manager for that.

It’s a sensible plan, as Speaker Carter said after the vote. It allows individuals making under $15,414 a year and families of four making less than or $30,000 to shop for a private-market insurance plan. The premiums are paid with federal Medicaid dollars, Carter pointed out.

For a poor state like Arkansas, the private option makes plenty of sense.

Many of the legislators, including Speaker Carter and Reps. Perry, McCrary and Nickels, who fought hard to have the private option approved, are term limited, at a time when their political skills are most needed. No need to bring back the old days when lawmakers stayed in office for decades, but it will take skilled politicians to avoid another prolonged battle next year over the private option.

Here’s to our local legislators, except one, for doing what’s right for Arkansas.

TOP STORY >> Water rates to go up for project

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council on Thursday learned residents’ water bills would go up this month because of an agreement Jacksonville Water Works made to pay $48,000 a month for the Lonoke-White project.

The increase on water bills will be tied to consumption — how much water a customer uses — rather than appear as a line item, Water Works general manager Jake Short said.

The cost for those who use the least amount — 2,000 gallons or less — will be about 81 cents more each month. Short said a typical customer uses 5,000 gallons and the cost for them will be about $1.91 more per month. The utility’s first $48,000 payment is due April 1.

Jacksonville will begin receiving water in mid-2014 through the decades-long $57 million Lonoke-White Water project that will pump water from Greers Ferry Lake.

The city is one of eight Lonoke-White Public Water Authority members.

The others are Beebe, Ward, Austin, Furlow, North Pulaski, Vilonia and Grand Prairie Bayou Two.

The project is funded by a state loan of $31 million and a federal loan of $26 million.

It will provide a secondary source of water to Jacksonville in case a catastrophic event cuts the city off from its primary sources, Short explained previously.

He told the council on Thursday that the utility, like the rest of the authority’s members, agreed to pay $5 multiplied by the number of meters it had when the project began.

Jacksonville had 9,667 meters then for a total fee of $48,335.

The money from all of the authority’s members will pay off the loans used to construct the intake water treatment plant at Greers Ferry Lake and more than 50 miles of transmission mains, Short said.

Jacksonville residents began seeing some of the first half of the Lonoke-White fee on their bills in 2009.

The second half of the fee will be seen on their bills this month, Short told the council.

The fee is a pass-through charge, not a rate increase, City Attorney Robert Bamburg explained after the meeting.

Although bills go up in both cases, “a pass-through is a charge that comes from the Although bills go up in both cases, “a pass-through is a charge that comes from the water authority, CAW, Lonoke-White, whoever. Those are directly implemented to us, whether it’s per customer, per 1,000 gallons or whatever the case may be. And we have to pass it on to the customer,” he said.

“A rate increase is when the utility comes to the council and says ‘we’ve gone over our rates and we are no longer able to cover all of our bills and our obligations and we are asking you all to authorize a new rate,” he continued. Pass-through fees do not require council approval and public hearings, which are needed for rate increases.

Short continued, “While we sympathize that stuff like this is tough for people, this is an important project.”

He also pointed out that Jacksonville has ownership in the project through a seat on the authority’s board.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “This does a couple of things, Lonoke-White. One is I think it’s going to bring some stability in our future rate increases that we haven’t had that luxury in the past by having more than one straw in one source of water. Now we have two.”

Mentioning droughts that have occurred in other states over the past few hears, he continued, “Water is going to be a very important commodity…We need to position ourselves.”

Fletcher said, “(Lonoke-White is) laying the groundwork for infrastructure to grow our city and give our city a great future. Water is just going to determine the growth and the future. It really is and whether growth is going to happen, we’ve jockeyed or positioned ourselves into a great position for the future. It didn’t come cheap. It’s not going to come cheap and, by the way, it’s not going to be cheap in the future either. You think gas is high? Water is going to be even higher.”

Alderman Bill Howard pointed out that Central Arkansas Water recently handed down a 50-cent pass-through charge and asked if Short anticipates more pass-through charges.

Short said it’s hard to say, but he has talked with a CAW official and another pass-through charge may be coming in 2015. But, the manager added, Jacksonville Waste Water is renegotiating its contract with CAW right now.

Short also told the council that Jacksonville Water Works passed significant rate increases in 2009 and 2012. The first $2.50 of the $5 per meter fee owed to the authority was worked into those increases, he said.

Jacksonville Water Works made its first payments to the authority in 2012. Since then, the utility’s reserves have become depleted.

“We held off as long as we could,” Short told the council

Aldermen James Bolden, who was on the city’s water commission before joining the council in 2012, added, “The commission really analyzed to make sure that the city didn’t get screwed. We really examined” when the fee agreement was signed at the beginning of the Lonoke-White project.

TOP STORY >> Racial incident ends in murder

Leader staff writer

A white Cabot man was stabbed to death early Sunday morning at The Hangar bar off Hwy. 67/167 after he allegedly called a woman he didn’t know a “nigger.”

That woman and her husband, Tere Rowshell Lockhart and Arthur Lockhart Jr. — both 35, black, and Searcy residents — have been charged with the second-degree murder of 28-year-old Steven Thomas Miller. Arthur Lockhart was also charged with tampering with evidence.

The Lockharts are being held at the Pulaski County jail with a $250,000 bond for Arthur Lockhart and a $100,000 bond for his wife.

The couple do not have criminal records, according to the database available on the circuit/county clerk’s website.

Tere Lockhart was convicted of two traffic violations and a failure to appear in court for one of those violations.

But Miller, the victim, was convicted of the following felonies: driving while intoxicated (four or more offenses make it a felony) in 2009 and 2006; possession of a controlled counterfeit substance without a prescription in 2006 and 200, and aggravated assault in 2005.

Miller was arrested for aggravated assault, terroristic threatening and second-degree battery in 2011, but prosecutors decided to discontinue criminal charges.

That is called nolle prosequi. Reasons for a case not being prosecuted include lack of evidence or a victim refusing to testify.

Jacksonville police responded to The Hangar, 7619 John Harden Drive, at 5:01 a.m.

Miller was lying on the ground, unresponsive with a faint heartbeat and shallow breathing.

According to the report, there were two puncture wounds in his abdomen and one puncture wound on the left side of his neck.

Miller was taken to North Metro Medical Center, where he died at 6:15 a.m.

One of the victim’s friends said he saw Miller arguing with Tere Lockhart in the parking lot before the stabbing, according to the report.

When the friend ran over to break up the fight, he told police, he saw Arthur Lockhart attack Miller. Miller’s girlfriend also said she saw Arthur Lockhart attack the victim.

A witness who was in her car when the fight started told police she saw Miller and Tere Lockhart arguing. She said she saw Tere Lockhart pushing the victim while holding a boot with a heel.

The witness told police Tere Lockhart pushed Miller’s face. Then she saw Arthur Lockhart hitting Miller while the victim was on the ground.

While that was happening, the witness said, Tere Lockhart hit Miller with the heel of the boot she was holding. There was blood on the boot when an officer found it, according to the report.

The husband of that witness added that he heard Arthur Lockhart yelling, “That’s my wife!” while he was hitting the victim, the report continues.

He said he didn’t see Tere or Arthur Lockhart throw anything, such as weapons, over the building. The fight occurred between two parked vehicles.

Another witness saw Arthur Lockhart throw something over the building after the fight, according to the report. A black folding knife with blood on the blade was found where the witness said Arthur Lockhart had thrown something.

Tere Lockhart told police that she hit Miller twice with her shoe.

She said she didn’t see anyone else attack him after that.

There was blood on her hands, body and clothing, according to the report.

Arthur Lockhart at first denied having a knife and attacking Miller, but said he would take the blame if police released his wife, according to the report.

He was told that both he and his wife were being charged.

Then Arthur Lockhart said he stabbed Miller two or three times and described the knife in detail, according to the report.

There was also blood on his clothing, it states.

TOP STORY >> Champ back in school

Leader staff writer

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion Clinton McDonald stopped by Jacksonville High School on Friday to encourage 11th graders to do their best on the literacy-proficiency exam next week.

He also told them to make the most of their educational opportunities.

McDonald is a 2005 Jacksonville High graduate who attended the University of Memphis. He is a defensive tackle for the Seahawks.

McDonald reflected on his days at JHS. “I was in the same shoes you all are in with testing, getting into the next grade. It’s an important time in your 11th-grade year. You need to take these tests seriously. Not only does it affect the school, it affects you as well,” he said.

He told the students that he didn’t take tests seriously when he was in high school and it affected him later.

McDonald said he missed two tests and could not get all of his scholarship money guaranteed until he made them up.

McDonald asked, if he hadn’t take those tests, where he would be.

“Everybody in here can read and write. Go ahead and take advantage of every step on the test. We all thought these tests did not amount to anything. But how many of you all want to go to college or the military?” McDonald said.

Several students raised their hands. Then McDonald asked what those in the room who didn’t want to go to college or the military would like to do.

One student said he was going to travel the streets and sell drugs. “That’s the dumbest

answer I ever heard,” McDonald said.

“You all have the opportunity to further yourselves in the world and put your stamp on the United States or those in the military all over the world. Regardless of what you want to do in life, you are going to take tests,” he said.

The football star pointed out that even people selling drugs have to know how much they cost and how much change to give customers. If they don’t, the customers will “punch you in your face because (they think) you are trying to cheat them,” McDonald said.

“You all think I play football, went to the Super Bowl, that I don’t know about that life. I was once ya’ll,” he continued.

McDonald said, “It ain’t nothing new, guys. (You think) it is funny because it’s ‘Jacksonville Hood.’ Well, guess what, everywhere you go has a hood. What does that mean? Either you are going to change your environment or you’re going to let your environment become you.”

The football star told the students that they would become like the people they see on TV being arrested unless they make an effort.

“All I’m saying is be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the potential you really hold in your heart and your talent. God didn’t bless you to be here to just go traffic. He didn’t bless you to be here, go to school, look good and not get your lessons. If you’re going to go to school, go to school for a purpose. You got to be here, right?” McDonald said.

McDonald told the students that what they do in high school affects their working lives. Employers look to see if you have a college degree, high school diploma or GED, he said.

They also ask teachers and coaches what type of person you were in school, McDonald noted.

He said that, if he could go back to school, he’d try to get better grades.

“I was one of those kids who made mediocre grades. I could have made better grades, but, at the same time, I didn’t care enough to make better grades.

“Looking back on it, God has blessed me to be where I’m at now. At the same time, everybody is not as fortunate to do what I do. Everybody is not going to be a LeBron James, a Michael Jordan, a Deion Sanders or a quarterback in the NFL,” McDonald said.

He told the students they need to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

“Even though it might be boring, even though it seems like (you) don’t want to do this, it’s necessary. How does a guy go from college football to NFL football? From the hard work and blessings God gave him. So, if you don’t want to work, you will not reap the reward. Your work right now is taking these tests. Your job is to go out here and study, do your job, make good grades and make good marks on the test.”

Some of the students laughed during McDonald’s talk. But he said he wasn’t embarrassed.

McDonald explained that he has his education, the teachers have theirs and he wants to encourage students to get the most out of an education.

Students who do not pass the upcoming test will take 11th grade literacy in their senior year, instead of 12th grade literacy. McDonald said that isn’t funny.

“All of you have the ability to learn, the ability to further your education and further your mind-set more than what you think,” he told the students.

“I know how hard it was. I went to this high school. I was the man on these streets, and I still am. You feel me?” McDonald asked.

He continued, “I’m just trying to get back to you all to let you know someone cares about you (who’s) not here every day. I come back every spring. I want to show there is hope outside of these walls. There is hope in your mind, hope in your body and hope in your soul that you can graduate and become better than you thought you could be.”

McDonald said, “I never thought I would be an NFL player when I was in high school. I was pretty good, but not this good. I never thought I would win a Super Bowl in my life. But it happened because God allowed it to happen. The things you want in your heart, you tell God what you want. He is going to give you what you want.

“But it starts with you. You got to have the desire. You have to want to better yourself. If you don’t want to better yourself or your environment or situation, don’t even take the test,” the football star told the students.

“If you want to achieve and better yourself, and be an example for your brothers and sisters, then do (well) on these tests. They look up to everything you do,” McDonald said.

He told the student he knows that because he has two younger brothers and a sister who look up to him.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> CHS records fall at UALR

Leader sports editor

Two school records fell as the Cabot girls’ swim team finished fourth in the class 7A/6A state championship meet Saturday at UALR. The Lady Panthers finished with 168 points, which was more than 300 fewer than state champion Bentonville, but the team had plenty to celebrate.

Competing with a smaller team than some of the others, the Lady Panthers, who are all underclassmen, finished higher than they seeded in, and showed the future is bright for Cabot swimming.

“They trained really hard in the two weeks between the district meet and the state meet,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett. “We’re very proud of them. Almost all of them dropped times and we’ve got them all back, so we’re looking forward to next year.”

Bentonville ran away with the team title, racking up 471 points, a full 218 points ahead of second place Conway. Fayetteville was third with 180 points.

The 200-yard medley relay team of Haylee Beckley, Riley Young, Caytee Wright and Jessie Baldwin took third place with a time of 1:59.73, which is a new school record. Conway won the relay with a time of 1:54.22, almost five seconds ahead of second. But Bentonville was less than a second ahead of Cabot for second place with a time of 1:59.03.

Beckley, a sophomore, took second in the 200-yard individual medley. Bentonville’s Eunsol Chon left the rest of the field behind, with Beckley’s second-place time being 2:22.16. Beckley also placed in the 500-yardfreestyle, finishing fourth with a time of 5:31.80. Bentonville’s Taylor Pike won with a time of 5:09.16.

Baldwin took fourth for Cabot in the 100-yard backstroke. Her time of 1:02.23 was three seconds behind winner Lindsey Butler of Bryant. She was also fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke, and her time of 1:13.35 was also a Cabot record.

Samantha Grey took third in the one-meter springboard diving competition. Gray is the first diving competitor in Cabot history, and was the only non-Fayetteville competitor in the top four. Brooke Schultz won that event.

Lonoke freshman Kayla McGee won the class 5A 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.34. She also took third in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:11.30, finishing six seconds behind Camden-Fairview senior Virginia Carr.

McGee’s win and Beckley’s second-place showing in the 200-IM earned All-State recognition.

The Cabot boys finished in 11th place out of 27 teams competing. Bentonville also won the boys state title, but not by as big of a margin as the girls. The Tigers scored 409 points to beat second-place Little Rock Central by 149 points. Catholic was third with 234. Fort Smith Southside and Springdale Har-Ber rounded out the boys’ top five with 181 and 146 points.

Seth Fox turned in the Panthers’ highest individual finish with a sixth-place showing in the 100-yard backstroke. His time of 58.16 was 7.3 seconds behind Jonesboro’s Joseph Giles’ winning time of 50.76, but was good for another school record.

The Cabot 200-yard medley relay team of Noah Joyner, Seth Fox, Payton Jones and Brent Brockel took seventh, finishing with a time of 1:48.37, which was 8.12 seconds behind Catholic’s winning time. The Panthers’ 200-yard freestyle relay team was exactly 7.12 seconds behind Bentonville’s winning team in that event. Cabot’s time of 1:37.82 was good for eighth place.

Jones was having a good race in the individual medley and was sure to bring in a few more points for the Panthers before suffering a leg cramp.

“The boys finished right about where we thought they would and maybe could’ve been a little higher if we didn’t have the injury,” Tollett said. “It’s going to be hard to replace a couple of seniors in Seth and Brent, but we have a promising future. Payton Jones has swam really well and a freshman, Jordan Woodson, has a bright future.”

SPORTS STORY >> LHS hosts state for first time

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke High School is hosting this year’s class 4A state basketball tournament, and both the Jackrabbits and Lady Jackrabbits will play their first-round games tomorrow at the Gina Cox Center.

The Jackrabbits (23-6), the East No. 3 seed, will play North No. 3 seed and defending state champion, Pottsville, at 2:30 p.m. and the Lady Jackrabbits’ game will follow at 4 o’clock. The Lady Jackrabbits (23-8), the East No. 4 seed, will take on South No. 3 seed, Star City.

For the Jackrabbits, it’s their first time back in the state tournament since 2009, and they earned their spot in the big dance with a 60-42 win over Jonesboro Westside in the first round of last week’s regional tournament at Clinton.

The Lonoke boys didn’t win the regional tournament, but earned the No. 3 seed for state with a dominant 76-56 win over 4A-2 rival Stuttgart in the third-place game.

In that game, Lonoke jumped on the Ricebirds early, and led 23-10 at the end of the first quarter, 39-31 at halftime, 59-45 at the end of the third quarter, and the Rabbits outscored Stuttgart 17-11 in the fourth quarter to set the final score.

Darian Young hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter for Lonoke, and he finished with 20 points. Fellow senior Blake Mack, though, led all scorers with 27 points.

The win over Stuttgart avenged a loss to the Ricebirds in the semifinals of the district tournament, but today’s matchup against the defending state champion Apaches will be a step up in competition.

Even though Pottsville still has some players from last year’s state championship team, including senior standout guard Michael Perry, who recently signed to play both football and basketball at Arkansas Tech after graduation, Lonoke coach Dean Campbell says it’s a different team compared to last year.

“They’re different from last year,” said Campbell. “Last year, they played multiple, different ways. They play small and then they’ll sub in two big post kids and another big guard, so they’ll play a different style. Their overall record isn’t great, because as the year went on they were still trying to figure out who they were and they were trying to find their identity.

“I think they’ve kind of found it. They’re well-coached. They push the ball and shoot it quick. They do have a couple of older kids that are back. They start two seniors and two sophomore twin guards and a junior at post. So they do have a bit of experience back from last year and some younger guys. They’re a team that’s very capable of beating anybody.”

Pottsville can make plays in the post, but the Apaches’ biggest strength offensively is at the guard positions. Perry is the unquestioned leader of the team, but fellow senior Travis Cole can also make plays, and in order for the Jackrabbits to be successful in tomorrow’s game, Campbell said his team will have to play with a strong defensive mentality.

“We’re going to have to defend,” Campbell said. “We’re going to have to have a defensive mentality. Scoring typically isn’t a huge issue with our group.

“As long as they’ll defend and be focused and hit the boards and give ourselves opportunities – we tend to share the ball quite a bit on offense and are pretty focused.

“That’s going to have to be key. We’re going to have to know where Perry’s at all the time and a couple of the other guards. We’ll have to make sure we play smart defensively and play hard and do it consistently.

“It’s exciting to get to play at home. We get to sleep in our own beds and get to play in a gym that we’ve taken a few shots in at least. To be able to show our place off to everybody in the state is exciting.”

The Lady Rabbits, who are making their first appearance in the state tournament since 2010, qualified for the state tourney after narrowly beating Pocahontas, 36-32, last week in the first round of regionals.

Lonoke’s girls ended the regional tournament with a 10-point loss to 4A-2 Conference champion Heber Springs in the third-place game, which gave them the No. 4 seed for the state tournament. Against Heber, Lonoke’s only player to score in double figures was junior post Eboni Willis, who had 14 points.

Star City finished its regular season with a perfect 14-0 conference record, but didn’t face a lot of tough competition in league play.

“Of course, they’ve got a great record, and really didn’t have any close games in their league,” said Lonoke girls’ coach Nathan Morris. “(Star City) coach Becky Brown and I go back a long ways. We’ve had a lot of battles. They’re real tradition rich, and really have a great girls’ basketball program.”

The Lady Bulldogs are a young team with just one senior that plays consistently, but what they lack in experience they often make up for with skill. What Morris says will help his girls as much as anything in today’s game is the fact that they’re playing their best basketball at the right time.

“We’re playing better right now,” Morris said. “With the exception of Saturday’s game (against Heber), we feel like we’re playing our best basketball of the year. We feel like we’re hitting our stride, and with us hosting this thing here, we hope we’re prepared enough to play at home and hopefully we can stick around for a little bit and win a game or two.

“We played half of our ball games here this year, so hopefully it’ll be just like another night.”

Star City has experience in the post and in junior guard Jaida Harden, who Morris said is the Lady Bulldogs’ biggest scoring threat, but other than those two positions the Lady Bulldogs are young everywhere else.

“Their post player is an upperclassman, but besides that they’ve got some youngsters that are playing some big minutes for them,” Morris said. “We feel like it’s a good matchup and we’re playing right after the boys, so we should have a big, big crowd here for the game, and we’re excited about getting it going.”

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers, Devils set for tourney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville and Beebe boys’ and girls’ basketball teams begin play this week in the class 5A state basketball tournament at Alma High School. Because of the bad winter weather on Sunday and subsequent and persistent sub-freezing temperatures, the entire tournament begins Thursday instead of the regularly-scheduled Tuesday start.

That means Beebe’s tournament opener against Clarksville will be at 2:30 Thursday.

The Panthers are the 5A-West outright champions and No. 1 seed. They won the class 4A state championship three years in a row before moving up to 5A last season and getting bounced from the playoffs in the semifinals by eventual champion Jacksonville.

The Badgers enter the tournament having won two of their last three games, while Clarksville comes in on a three-game winning streak after being upset 57-51 by Vilonia in week 10 of league play.

The Vilonia Eagles are the only common opponent between Beebe and Clarksville. The Panthers beat Vilonia 70-66 in week four of league play, while Beebe won at Vilonia in the second game of the season, 44-39. Vilonia was a different team at the end of the season than they were at the beginning. The Eagles also beat 5A-West third-place finisher Harrison the second time through the league, and lost to playoff qualifiers Morrilton and Alma by just two points each on their home floors.

The winner of that game will get the winner between Pulaski Academy and Camden-Fairview at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The Jacksonville teams take the stage at Charles B. Dyer Arena on Thursday with the boys playing Hope at 2:30 p.m. The Bobcats finished fourth in the 5A-South behind champion Hot Springs and second-place Watson Chapel, and third-place Camden-Fairview.

Hope was on the verge of elimination from playoff contention when it pulled off a big upset of then first-place Watson Chapel in week 12 of conference play. They finished 7-7 in the South and tied with Hot Springs Lakeside. Those two teams split, but Hope won the tiebreaker because of its 12-point win and one-point loss.

The Red Devils enter the playoffs on a one-game winning streak. They lost at Pulaski Academy in the next-to-last game of the season to break a 17-game winning streak, and finished the year with a tough 61-58 win over Sylvan Hills.

That 17-game winning included an 80-65 victory over South champion Hot Springs on Dec. 21 in Jacksonville. The South has not fared well against the Central all season. Hot Springs also lost 63-50 to North Pulaski in the Conway tournament, and second-place Watson Chapel fell 64-52 to Sylvan Hills in Sherwood. Neither NP nor Sylvan Hills made the playoffs in the Central.

The winner between Jacksonville and Hope will play the winner between East three seed Greene County Tech and West two seed Morrilton at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Lady Red Devils finish up girls’ action on Thursday with a game against South two seed White Hall. The Jacksonville girls are one of three teams in the Central that was capable of winning the league, while White Hall was merely the best of the rest in the Hot Springs dominated South Conference. The two teams have no common opponents.

The winner plays the winner between Paragould and Alma at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The Beebe Lady Badgers take the court at 1 p.m. Friday against the West three seed Harrison.

The Lady Goblins claim the only conference win of the year against West champion Vilonia, a 40-32 victory in the league opener on Jan. 10. Since then Vilonia has reeled off 13-straight wins while Harrison has gone 8-5.

The Harrison girls played themselves into third place with an upset of second-place Huntsville in week 13 of league play, but closed the year with a stunning 65-51 loss to sixth-place Morrilton.

Beebe also enters the tournament off a loss, but it was a two-point loss to conference champion and defending state runner-up Paragould. The winner of that game almost certainly will face Hot Springs, who plays Camden-Fairview in the first round.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls run away from Lions

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers won’t be going to the playoffs this week, but they put a positive close on what they knew would be a rebuilding season. The Cabot ladies dominated the first half and fought off a second-half charge to beat the Searcy Lady Lions 56-40 Friday night at Panther Arena.

Lakyn Crumbly, the Lady Panthers’ only senior, saved her best for last, finishing with a season-high 10 points that mostly came during a run that all but put the game away late in the first and early in the second quarters.

It was a tale of old and new in the decisive run. While Crumbly was pouring in 10, sophomore CoCo Calhoon blew up for 12 points in the first quarter and 17 in the first half. It started after the Lady Lions built a 4-2 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter. From that point until Searcy finally scored its next basket with 4:25 left in the second quarter, Cabot went on a 19-1 run to take a 21-15 lead.

Cabot’s pressure defense forced turnover after turnover by the visiting Lady Lions. Searcy’s 6-foot-5 post player Angelina Williams was not a factor because Searcy could not set up its half-court offense.

Cabot junior guard Danielle McWilliams sparked the run with steals on three consecutive Searcy possessions. Each one ended with a Calhoon bucket. The Lady Panthers led 18-5 at the end of the first quarter, and sophomore Leighton Taylor opened the second with a 3-pointer that made it a 16-point game. The scoring slowed from that point, but after Searcy’s Brittany Broadway finally ended the Lion drought with a three-point play, Cabot went on another run and closed the half with a 32-12 lead.

The Lady Panthers then opened the third quarter just as hot for the first three minutes. The lead topped out at 42-17, and that’s when Searcy went on its own furious run.

Broadway, the team’s average leading scorer who had been held to three points up until the deficit reached 25, took over. She rallied the Lady Lions back to within 17 by the end of the third quarter. With three minutes remaining in the game, the lead was down to 50-40, a 23-8 Searcy run since the margin grew to 25.

After Broadway’s 3-pointer made it a 10-point game, Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong called timeout, and it gave Cabot a chance to regroup. After the timeout, Searcy did not score again.

Calhoon finished with a game-high 21 points while Broadway had 16 and Williams 13 for Searcy.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys improve as state nears

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers closed the regular season with a conference sweep of Searcy on Friday. The Panthers pulled off a 51-32 victory to secure a No. 3 seed in the class 7A state tournament that begins today in Conway.

The boys’ win was a positive turn of events after what head coach Jerry Bridges felt was a brief stint of not playing as well or as hard as he believes his team is capable.

“We sort of stumbled at the end coming into this game,” said Bridges. “We hadn’t been playing as hard defensively and I thought our defensive intensity looked a lot better this time. Defense triggers so much and I just don’t think these young kids understand that fully. That helps our offense get going a little bit too. We hadn’t done that as well but we did it in this game, so I feel a little bit better going into the state tournament.”

The Panthers trailed 9-7 at the end of the first quarter, but gave up just eight total points over the next two quarters combined. The offense didn’t click right away. Cabot took just a 17-14 lead into halftime, but played shut-down defense in the third quarter while shots finally began to fall.

Senior guard Hunter York hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half and the Cabot defense gave up just one basket in taking a 30-17 lead with a minute left in the third. Searcy tried to hold for the last shot, but Cabot forced another turnover. A loose ball was scooped up by Nick Thomas. He passed to York, who hit sophomore Jared Dixon under the basket. Dixon’s layup was just in time, and the Panthers took a 15-point lead into the final quarter of play.

Cabot scored first in the fourth quarter before Searcy went on a 7-0 run to make it 34-24 halfway through the quarter. Sophomore Amaje Young scored the last five points of the run, including a three-point play after a steal that cut the margin to 10.

Cabot regrouped and answered by outscoring the Lions 15-6 over the next three minutes.

York led all scorers with 16 points while Jake Ferguson added 10 for Cabot.

The Panthers will face Rogers-Heritage at 5:30 Thursday at Buzz Bolding Arena. Heritage is the No. 6 seed from the 7A West. The War Eagles don’t bring much size to the table, but does have good guard play, including two excellent outside shooters in Wyatt Kinnamon and Crist Olsen.

“I’m concerned about those two,” Bridges said. “We really don’t want them both to be hot at the same time. That would be bad news. We’re going to have to defend the perimeter really well and see if we can’t have a little impact on that ourselves.

“Offensively we want to get our inside game going. When we play inside-out basketball we shoot a lot higher percentage. They’re not very big, so I feel like that’s an area where we can have some success. We just have to get that offense flowing because we don’t have that one person who’s going to beat you.”

EDITORIAL >> Only took five votes

Ordinarily, it would not be necessary to praise a huge majority of lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, who acted out of compassion for fellow humans or just practical wisdom. What else, after all, do you expect of your representatives?

But the House of Representatives’ approval yesterday of an appropriation to pay for medical services or long-term care for the poor, disabled and the elderly deserves just such a commendation because Arkansas’ crazy Constitution gives the advantage to a small minority who don’t follow such principles.

On its fifth vote—count ’em, five—the House approved the appropriation for the Department of Human Services, 76 to 24. The common interpretation of a confusing amendment adopted at the depth of the Great Depression is that the appropriation needed the votes of at least three-fourths of both houses—75 in the House—rather than a simple majority, which is all that is needed to pass laws that can take your life, freedom or property.

The House finally rose to the occasion, thanks to constant prodding by Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot). A small number of legislators tried to block the appropriation because it would spend federal money in Arkansas in a way that the widely hated (in Arkansas) President Obama wanted.

Yes, their argument also was that the spending might bankrupt the federal government and cause Arkansas to have to find lots of money in a few years to pay its small share of the cost of health insurance for upwards of 200,000 Arkansans whose income is so low that they cannot buy health insurance.

But the facts were not with them on either point. Obamacare, as the health-reform law is known, will reduce the deficit in the years ahead rather than enlarge it because of the savings in existing medical programs and the taxes on high incomes, pharmaceutical companies and medical-equipment makers. The government will no longer have to reimburse hospitals with high charitable expenses or pay the current huge subsidies to insurance companies that sell Medicare HMO plans.

By picking up some current Medicaid expenses, Obamacare gives Arkansas an extra $89 million starting this year as a leg up on the state’s share of Medicaid costs, which will be 5 percent in 2017 and 10 percent forever after 2020. When hundreds of millions of dollars are flushed into the Arkansas economy by Obamacare, it will generate millions in new revenues for the treasury. If the legislature doesn’t give all that money away in tax cuts or to other programs and pet projects, it will be there in 2017 and thereafter to meet Arkansas’ small share of caring for its people.

What drove most of the legislators, including many of its most rigid conservatives, to vote for the appropriation was the consequences of not doing it. The state would lose that $89 million a year in federal assistance, and it would have to make it up through higher taxes or drastic cuts in other services. The state’s community hospitals, including our own, would find themselves in dire straits on July 1, unable to bear the staggering cost of charitable care, which would be far greater than before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The state medical center would be in grievous financial trouble.

It bears noting that the 24 representatives were not just voting against a piece of Obamacare but against appropriations for nursing homes and the lion’s share of revenue for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Unless an emergency remedy were found after the appropriation failed, they would have closed. Hospitals across the state were pleading for legislators to support the bill. So were medical groups, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups for the elderly like the American Association for Retired Persons.

That does not consider the most important group of all, the 125,000 or so working men and women who will have enrolled in insurance plans by the end of this month and who would suddenly be without insurance again on July 1 if the 24 naysayers had prevailed and got another two to join them.

Rarely has the well-being of so many people been at the mercy of a handful of lawmakers on one bill. It must be remembered that the legislature voted overwhelmingly last year to offer health insurance to every citizen of Arkansas who needed it but couldn’t afford it on their own without some help. That is the law of the land. To have failed to release the money already available to meet that promise would have been to say, “Hey, we were just kidding. The joke is on you.”

It should not be necessary, but we are compelled to say to the big majority, thanks for being responsible.

TOP STORY >> Beauty and the Beast

The Cabot High School Theater department invites the public to be their guest as they present the Broadway Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast.”

Performances will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the fine arts auditorium. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the door or reserved through the box office at (501) 259-1176.

The epic fairy tale has Gaston and the Beast fighting for Belle’s heart. While lost in the woods, Belle’s father, Maurice, stumbles upon an enchanted castle where he meets magical characters — Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Babette, the Wardrobe and the Sulton.

They hope Belle will break the spell on them and their master, the Beast — turning the household human again.

The bumbling LaFou and the Silly Girls provide comic relief as they try to gain Gaston’s attention.

Meanwhile, dancers are expected to perform with gusto the show-stopping numbers “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston.”

The musical features a cast of 109.

Performing are Josh Glason as Gaston, Spencer Worth and Kolby Cole as Beast, Jeni Fuller as Belle, Ben Brockinton as Belle’s father, Maurice; Katelyn Hayes as Mrs. Potts, Logan Williams and Sam Owen as Chip, JP Gairhan as Lumiere, Andrew Hupp as Cogsworth, Charl Young as Babette, Judith Beckham as Wardrobe, Autumn Romines as Sulton, Tanner Johnson as LaFou and Savannah Woods, Ashton Williams and Laiken Kaylor as the Silly Girls.

Also performing in “Beauty and the Beast” are Ryan Owens, Anna Kay Everett, Tori Willison, Emily Adair, Sierra Armstrong, Brennen Applegate, Rachel Ball, Jacob Barnes, Kallie Benedict, Brittany Billingsley, Danny Brathwaite, Natalie Brewer, Hannah Brletich, Madi Burrow, Taylor Cagle, Sydney Calvert, Payton Carlton, Madeline Chosich, Tiffany Clark, Ana Covington, Allie DeStefano, Kelsey Drees, Zoe Eddington, Rhiannon Epley, Maksym Filipov, Collin French, Corbin Friddle, Jordan Gately, Lauren Gilbert, Michael Gilstrap, Ian Gonzalez, Samantha Goodrich, Josh Graham, Keaton Grimmett and Justin Hagar.

The cast also includes Hannah Hanshaw, Chanda Harper, Linsey Hazeslip, Saralyn Hellstern, Jalen Hemphill, Riley Hoffer, Jay King, Courtney Lewis, Audrey Lightfoot, Kayla Looney, Heidi Mackey, Blain Mahoney, Cally Males, McKenzie Marks, Ashley Martin, Saidee McCaa, Lauren McCabe, Macy McClanahan, Bridie McClusky, Wyatt McMahan, Logan Melder, Sara Mitchell, Piper Mobbs, Baylee New, Emily Nichols, Kiara Odom, Eloise Owen, Mary Powell, Allie Pray, Nikki Przedwiecki, Cody Pugh, Codi Rice, Annalisse Riley, Brook Rowland, Lindsey Salzman, Josh Scott, Marcela Shipley, Kayli Sims, Brady Smith, Hope Smith, Seth Stewart, Gregory Stone, Clarissa Struble, Kiera Taylor, Annie Thomas, Shelby Thompson, Autumn Toler, Lauren Travis, Brandon Turner, April Watts, Kristopher White, Hayley Williams, Katlyn Williamson, Bailey Wisdom, Carly Woods, Savannah Young and Helen Zimmerman.

Ashley Tarvin serves as the director. She is also a choreographer who specializes in larger-than-life dance numbers, according to a news release.

“‘Beauty and the Beast’ appeals to everyone. You will see students from all organizations — football, wrestling, dance, forensics, cheer, band and journalism, join theater to produce a spectacular show,” Tarvin said in the release.

McKenzie Marks and Tanner Johnson are assisting with the musical as its student directors.

Vocal and pit director Chuck Massey directs the live orchestra with students Molly Guzman, Cody Robinson, Tyler Wilson, Trevor Gould, Max Applegate, Daniel Mosqueda, Tyler Kibbe, Jase Lumpkin, Andrea Poland, Ian Neiswender, Hannah Brown and Brian Wyatt.

Joe Trusty is the orchestra rehearsal director. Pianist Joe Marray offers her 50 years of accompaniment experience.

Technical director John Middleton is making his CHS spring musical debut.

Middleton has toured Broadway. He’ll bring expertise gained from that to the lighting and set design.

The stagecraft crewmembers under Middleton’s direction are Sydney Woodson, Erica Savage, Kenzie Blanchard, Tori Torres, Kayla Henard, Rachel Henard, Kayla Moomy, Taylor Barger, Becca Ellerbee, Sydney Palmer, Clayton Rogers, Echo Clark, Brent Simmons, Tyler Lucas and Carol Light.

Costume directors Kim Marks and Bambi Romines made each character’s wardrobe special with their attention to detail.

Parent volunteer coordinator Missy Woods is accepting donations at the performances and providing lunch for the 150 students involved in the production.

TOP STORY >> Ice storm hits hard, moves out

Leader staff writer

Sunday was the start of a severe sleet, ice, snow winter storm in the area and National Severe Weather Week.

The storm that evening brought lightning, thunder, rain, freezing rain, hail, sleet, ice, snow and cold, cold winds to the area.

The mess caused officials to cancel school in Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties.

Slick road conditions and chilly weather also shut down many city governments — like Sherwood and Jacksonville — along with state and federal offices.

The high temperature of 27 degrees Monday was the lowest high ever recorded in March, breaking a record of 30 degrees from 1965.

Temperatures are expected to reach back into the 60s by the weekend.

But John Robinson, a spokesman with the National Weather Service, made no guarantees that the warming trend signaled the start of spring.

“This is Arkansas,” he noted.

With winds adding to the chill in the air Monday, temperatures felt like they were in the teens and single digits most of the day.

That and lack of sunshine kept roads frozen for the most part, causing officials in central Arkansas to cancel school again on Tuesday.

Most government offices did not open before noon Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service, most of the area got about 2 inches of snow on top of half an inch of ice or sleet.

Cabot recorded 3.3 inches of snow and ice, while spots in north Pulaski County received almost an inch of sleet and ice.

On Tuesday, temperatures came close to the freezing mark.

Some sunshine helped the salt that crews were dumping on the slick roads start doing its job. Salt doesn’t work well at 22 degrees or below.

The warm up came a little late for Lonoke County. Crews ran out of salt and were spreading just sand Tuesday morning.

Roads were still so icy in spots on Tuesday that some, like Hwy. 5 near Greystone subdivision in Cabot, were closed for hours.

Danny Straessle of the state Highway Department said its crews used salt on elevated areas, such as bridges and overpasses, while it was raining on Sunday.

The crews arrived to work at 1 p.m., left at 2 p.m. to dump the salt and finished dumping the salt at 6 p.m., Straessle said.

Usually, those areas would be pretreated with calcium chloride. But that couldn’t be done because the rain would have washed the chemical away.

Straessle explained, “We put it out while it was raining. The rain starts dissolving the rock salt and, as it dissolves, it starts to heat.”

The reaction lowered the freezing temperature of water on those elevated areas, giving crews more time to get back out to address them.

“We had a tremendous amount of sleet come down yesterday,” Straessle said on Monday. Aside from volume, it also fell fast.

The spokesman noted that crews would clear one lane, start on the second lane and see the first lane fill up again.

He added on Monday, “We worked through the night and will continue to work through the night tonight.”

About Tuesday, Straessle said black ice was likely.

Even though much of the interstate was cleared by Monday afternoon, he warned, “The interstate is still not normal so their driving habits cannot be normal. Take your time.”

Straessle also suggested that drivers leave extra space between their cars and others cars.

He said this storm wasn’t as bad as some in the past because the department was aware of it beforehand.

All of the Highway Department’s plows had been disassembled but there was enough notice about this storm to put them back together and replenish supplies like salt, Straessle said.

He continued, “We started the day advising people not to get out if they didn’t have to.”

Other than some drivers “being overconfident on dry portions,” people stayed home, he said. That allowed crews to work without worrying about traffic.

Several wrecker services agreed with the spokesman that there weren’t as many people on the roads as there have been during previous storms.

Jacksonville Tow and Recovery driver David Sundine on Monday said, “I ain’t been real, real busy, but I’m staying steady. People are learning to stay home when it’s bad like this.”

He told The Leader he saw a few customers stuck in their yards or in ditches, but no serious damage was caused to any of the cars he towed.

Billy Hall of Ivy Hall Wrecker Service in Jacksonville said on Monday, “We’ve been pretty busy. It was not as bad as some previous storms we’ve had.”

He said a few people drove too fast and spun out because the ice was clear and hard to see.

But Steve Rich of Rich’s Wrecker Service in Lonoke said he responded to 30 calls from 6 p.m. Sunday through Monday morning. On a typical day, he would only have four or five calls, Rich said.

He said most of the one- and two-vehicle accidents were on the freeway.

His business was back down to one or two calls by Monday afternoon, Rich continued.

He said the roads were mostly clear by then but, “if they get on back roads or parking lots, they might be hung up.”

Lt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said on Monday that the department had responded to about 20 accidents between Sunday evening and Monday afternoon.

Just one was in The Leader’s coverage area. It occurred at 6:35 p.m. Sunday on Graham Road.

Minden said the list of accidents he provided The Leader included several that happened on the highway or interstate. The sheriff’s office assisted Arkansas State Police with those. Said Minden, “Trouble spots? Everywhere. Stay off the roads.”

The owner of Cabot Wrecker Service, who wanted to be identified only as Brad, said a lot of people stayed home. The business only helped one or two cars that ended up in ditches.

Cabot Police spokesman Sgt. Keith Graham said on Monday that officers were responding to calls all evening and during the day about vehicles in ditches and a four-wheeler in the road. He said main roads were trouble spots, but none more so than the others.

Office manager Brittany Peters of Action Wrecker Service in Ward said Monday morning was busy with the business responding to rollovers, two-car accidents and drivers in ditches. The service responds to calls from drivers on the freeway, she added.

Another concern during any storm is power outages.

North Little Rock Electric, which services Sherwood, had one outage caused by a car hitting a pole, spokeswoman Jill Ponder told The Leader on Monday.

First Electric’s Jacksonville district that includes portions of Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties had scattered outages from the storm on Sunday and Monday. The outages affected fewer than 200 people locally, spokeswoman Tori Moss said on Monday.

Sally Graham of Entergy said there were fewer than 100 outages for customers in The Leader’s coverage area.

She added that outages are often caused by ice weighing down the lines. Half an inch of ice adds 500 pounds and can cause a lot of damage, such as a line snapping, Graham explained.

In Jacksonville, all trash routes will be picked up two days later than normal.

Leader staff writer Rick Kron contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Private plan is approved in fifth vote

Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe’s signature is now all that stands between as many as 250,000 working-poor Arkansans and private-option health care insurance.

With a single vote to spare, the state House of Representatives on Tuesday passed 76-24 the scaled back version of the private-option Medicaid expansion that prohibits advertising the health insurance for the working poor and requires some co-pays from higher earners.

Among area legislators, only Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), himself a North Metro Medical Center worker, voted against the private option, saying, “five, 10 or 15 years down the road, how are we going to pay for it?”

On the heels of Farrer’s comment, state Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) breached the solidarity of the Republican opposition, saying, “It’s not an easy vote and everyone has studied this to the depth of their soul, but I’m going to vote for this bill. Up to this point, I’ve been adamant against it.”

He said he didn’t want to see the 125,000 already signed up for it hurt.

But, Hammer added, he will vote against it when the General Assembly comes back in January unless the private option is a great success.


In addition to Hammer, Republicans who changed their votes the fifth time the measure has been voted on in the House since the session began were Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard of Gravett and Les Carnine of Rogers.

As an appropriation bill, the Department of Human Services bill needed 75 percent — 75 votes out of the 100 representatives — to pass. Passing by two votes, it takes the onus off any one legislator for changing from a “no” vote or a “present,” vote.

In April, the enabling legislation passed the House 77-23. Rep. Nate Bell, who wrote the restrictive amendments in the appropriation bill, and Hammer voted against it. John Hutchison (R-Harrisburg), who voted for private option last year, changed his position. He may have done so to fend off a more conservative challenger for re-election. Both Carnine and Slinkard voted for the private option last session.

A proposal by the Republican faction against private option that would have limited the enrollment period, even in the absence of the money or authority to advertise that limitation, never made it into the bill.


Some Republican insisted again Tuesday they could build a better health-care system from the ground up, but Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) said afterward, “Where have they been since 1947?” That was when the issue of national health care was first considered, he said.

Nickels said this was really a debate between two groups of Republicans. “The rational people,” he said, “and those who wouldn’t mind shutting down the government.”

Nickels said at the beginning of the session that the private option wouldn’t pass until the filing deadline for those seeking office had passed, and Tuesday he said he felt vindicated.

“If there is a better plan, why are others trying to copy what we’ve done?” asked Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville. “We were not voting on the Affordable Care Act.”


Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke) said several things finally turned those last three votes. “The speaker has been working real hard to get votes,” he said.

McCrary said the Democrats were also about to take the gloves off and become confrontational with the minority of Republicans who opposed the bill.

When the bill is signed “will depend on when we get it,” said Beebe’s spokesman, Matt DeCample after the vote. “We may or may not have a public signing.”

Nickels won a second victory Tuesday, when his amendment requiring the state Correction Department to pay its workers $10 million in holiday pay that they have been denied over the last 10 years.

On Wednesday, the Sherwood representative will propose another amendment requiring the Correction Department to make a transparent accounting of holiday, overtime and hazardous duty pay.