Friday, April 04, 2014

TOP STORY >> Survival after violence and pain


Leader staff writers

Vicky Williams and her son, former Arkansas Razorback football star D.J. Williams, spoke at the Open Arms Shelter’s second annual Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention banquet about how their family escaped from an abusive home in Texas and found safe harbor at a shelter.

D.J. Williams, 25, is a tight end for the New England Patriots. He played for the Green Bay Packers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Vicky Williams told Thursday’s dinner guests in the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria that she was married to her high school sweetheart.

She said everything was fine for the first 10 years of her marriage. Then two tragedies took a toll on her now ex-husband, who was diagnosed as bipolar and chemically imbalanced. He turned to alcohol and then drugs.

Her husband changed and Vicky Williams tried to fix him.

“It got so bad that the beatings got where I tried leaving one time with the children and he broke a cast-iron skillet over my head. If it wasn’t for my hand going over my head, I would have died,” she said.

“I kept going back and fell into that cycle because I didn’t know there was a place to go, a shelter to take my children. I kept thinking that, if it was just happening to me, it would be OK,” Vicky Williams said.

She thought she was protecting her children by keeping them in their home, hoping everything would be fine.

The kids saw her beaten, and they were endangered by their father’s rages and the drugs at home. Vicky Williams said they couldn’t say a word because they were scared to death.

The cycle continued until a few days after D.J.’s 11th birthday. His dad took him “fishing.”

The two came back late that night. Vicky Williams’ husband became furious when he saw another car in the driveway.

The teenage neighbors across the street had parked there because they were having a party. He wanted to know who was in the house. Vicky Williams said her husband hit her, bursting her ear drum.

He left, leaving Vicky Williams alone with her three children. She noticed something was different with D.J. Then he told her, “Mom, he didn’t take me fishing. He took me on a crack run. He put a 9mm on my lap and said, if anyone messes with you, take care of it.”

She said D.J. looked at her and said, “The only one I thought about (shooting) was myself.”

Vicky Williams said that was her “light bulb” moment.

She looked at her daughter and told them, “If we leave, we leave with the clothes on our backs. Mom has to leave her job, the house, everything and go to a shelter.”

Her daughter went to her room and took a packed bag from under the bed. She said, “Let’s go.”

Williams said she didn’t find out until many years later that her daughter had thought about suicide, too. The children were helpless, waiting for their mom to make a decision.

The family left their Carrollton, Texas, home for a shelter in Dallas. Three days later, they found out her husband had shot someone. He became enraged after they left.

Her husband fled, and the shelter told the family it was too dangerous for them to stay there.

“They took out a map, and I started to cry. My family’s here, I have no place to go,” Vicky Williams said. D.J. told her not to worry. He put his finger on Little Rock and said “that’s where we’re supposed to be.”

Vicky Williams said, “We got into a car, drove to Little Rock, and God took it over from there. When I got there we got lost, and it took us into Immanuel Baptist Church, and that is where I met my first angel.”

They stayed at the Women and Children First Shelter for several months before finding a house they could afford to rent. Williams continues to volunteer at the shelter, sharing her story.

“What the children at Open Arms Shelter will get is another opportunity. I’ve visited with these children. They are very bright, smart and very grounded. What they need to know, (is) this is not the end,” Vicky Williams said.

She said, no matter their past, their future can be extremely bright. As long as they have people who support them and believe in them, they can do anything, Vicky Williams said.

Her eldest daughter is working for a doctor in Dallas, her middle daughter has a degree in physical therapy and NFL player D.J. Williams has a communications degree from the University of Arkansas.

Vicky Williams said, through his sports career, her son met President Barack Obama, celebrities and athletes. He has traveled to other countries and was able to buy his mom a home.

D.J. paused to reflect at the dinner. “I don’t remember having aspirations. I had that fear of going home. I believe everyone has a purpose in life. When you are young, you (have) dreams of where you want to be. Fear can sometimes get in the way of those dreams. That’s what we don’t want to happen to these children,” he said.

D.J. remembered a woman at the shelter who gave her time and let the family know she was there for them and cared. He said children at the shelter may not know they have a purpose in life, but, with support, they have a chance to find out.

“I’m living proof that, when you help someone, they can see that dream and go get it,” D.J. Williams said.

The Open Arms Shelter in Lonoke County has been open since 1986, offering a safe place day or night for children newborn to 18 years old to escape abuse. The shelter’s 24 beds are filled most nights, according to Rhonda House, financial support coordinator.

Open Arms Shelter receives funding to cover 15 beds and partial funding for the other nine. The shelter has been absorbing the cost of the nine beds and needs to bridge the funding gap until their contract is rewritten next year.

The shelter has launched an online fundraising campaign through their website at

TOP STORY >> Senior tower marks 35 years

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Towers Bingaman Place celebrated its 35th anniversary during a luncheon on Tuesday. The high rise for low-income seniors is fully occupied with 106 residents. It opened on March 31, 1979.

Former Mayor James Reid said the Jacksonville Towers was one of the projects most prized to him as mayor.

The United Auto Workers and Central Arkansas Retiree Council helped make Jacksonville Towers a reality. Reid received $2,500 from an anonymous donor in town, with which the UAW submitted an application for Section 202 federal funding for low-income senior housing.

Kenneth Pat Wilson with First Arkansas Bank and Trust gave a $100,000 letter of credit for the project.

Dec. 30, 1977, was the last day the builder would hold his price for the project. A contract was signed with the Housing and Urban Development, but they had no money to draw.

First Arkansas Bank gave a draw of $294,000 with a commitment from HUD that the money would be there within 20 days.

“After it was completed, it was new and beautiful. Today it’s more beautiful than it was that day. When you drive in from North Little Rock, that’s one of the first things you see is this building. It’s put us on the map,” Reid said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said Jacksonville Towers is a landmark of the city.

“I wished we had 10 of these. There is a spirit of unity here,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he was going to look for land in the city for more senior living because the demand will grow.

Linda Hardway, state HUD director of multiple-family housing, said, “Jacksonville Towers is a beautiful property. It is one of three elderly high rises in the state that we at the HUD office give the test of ‘would you let your mother live there?’ I would say yes,”

Hardway added that federal funding for senior housing has been suffering from cuts by Congress over the past two years. She is hopeful funding will resume.

Steve Protulis, executive director for Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation — a nonprofit that manages senior centers — said, “We have a blessed staff, building and people.

“(The UAW members) were willing to doing something for the community when their own seniors don’t qualify to be here; that’s commitment,” Protulis said.

Dorothy Moore, 95, is the longest resident of Jacksonville Towers — 33 years since 1981.

“This is a nice place to live, has been for years. I lived in town when it opened up and knew a lot of people who lived here,” Moore said.

Chamber of Commerce director Amy Mattison said her grandmother lived at Jacksonville Towers. She visited her after school and hung out on the balcony.

She said her grandmother was not from Arkansas, but got along with residents. She taught them how to knit and sew.

Mattison said she was able to interact with her grandma’s friends. The building had a sense of family, she said.

Mattison added that the chamber gets calls daily inquiring about Jacksonville Towers and Worley’s Place, where active seniors live.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD declared unitary on scholarships

Leader staff writer

U.S. District Judge Price Marshall at a hearing on Friday declared the Pulaski County Special School District unitary, or desegregated, in the area of scholarships.

The judge then agreed to appoint a magistrate who would provide clarity about access to special-education records to help the district become unitary in that area at the request of PCSSD attorney Allen Roberts and Joshua Intervenors attorney John Walker.

The fates of the Magnet Review Committee and the Office of Desegregation Monitoring were also discussed during the hearing at the federal courthouse in Little Rock.

The judge suggested dissolving the ODM and, instead, having the chairwoman work as a court-appointed expert on an hourly, contractual basis. Marshall asked the parties to submit a response to his proposal by April 15.

PCSSD’s proposal on which unitary status in scholarships was hinged on increases to the amount of scholarship money the district provides to black students five-fold.

Roberts told The Leader on Tuesday that the district had been giving $1,000 scholarships to a maximum of 10 students annually. PCSSD’s proposal was to increase that to $2,500 scholarships to a maximum of 20 students annually through the 2017-18 school year.

Walker said in court, “I think that the district understands that, with the past administration of scholarships, Plan 2000 was not being met…They on their own moved to address that.”

The district is still not unitary in the areas of special education, discipline, student achievement and facilities, the last of which will likely be expensive and take years to achieve.

In January, Marshall accepted a desegregation settlement allowing for establishment of a Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district, allows the state to stop paying hundreds of millions of dollars in desegregation funding by 2017-18 and sets a course for making PCSSD unitary in all aspects over time.

PCSSD, the Joshua Intervenors, the Knight Intervenors and the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts agreed to the settlement.

Concerning the magistrate request, Roberts said the Joshua Intervenors, which rep resents the interests of black students, has monitors visiting the schools and “There’s been some confusion about the monitors’ access to student records and information that has otherwise been restricted.”

Although both sides agreed that PCSSD is unitary in the scholarships area, district officials say PCSSD is unitary on special education, but the Joshua Intervenors disagree.

In court, Walker said, “I believe special education is particularly troubling…we are not in agreement that PCSSD is far enough along that way.”

He told the judge, “We don’t expect it can be resolved with the stroke of a pen.”

But, Walker noted, he doesn’t want special education to “spill over” into other, more difficult areas like student achievement and discipline. He said, despite the district’s good efforts, numbers in those areas still show disparity between black and white students.

Roberts said later at the hearing, “It is noteworthy, and it has not been mentioned, that we are making progress on student achievement.”

He added that Superintendent Jerry Guess deserves the credit for attaining unitary status on scholarships.

Marshall asked if the magistrate could assist in other areas. Walker said the magistrate would be useful to have at their disposal.

The judge said the magistrate could be on call until PCSSD is declared desegregated and released from federal court supervision. Marshall added that he would refer a magistrate “sooner rather than later.”

The judge also suggested that the court meet periodically and regularly for status updates beginning in August, perhaps once every four months or once every six months.

The state’s attorney, Scott Richardson, agreed. He said, “These court hearings is what moves this thing along.”

Marshall also noted at the end of the hearing that the parties needed to discuss the Office of Desegregation Monitoring established by the court of appeals.

Walker said, “I think the ODM performs a constructive role in the process. It is not obstructive.”

Roberts said PCSSD, which pays between $30,000 and $35,000 of the office’s budget, doesn’t object to keeping it going until the district is declared desegregated. “If it will us get unitary, if it will give the impression, that’s peanuts,” the lawyer said.

But Marshall said the state, which provides around $200,000 of the office’s budget, wouldn’t be obligated to pay that after June 30 because of the settlement.

And he wasn’t sure whether PCSSD would be obligated to pay for the office after that date.

Richardson, the state’s attorney, said, “We’ll provide whatever help we can that is necessary,” but added that he doesn’t control the entity’s checkbook.

Richardson also called the ODM “an arm of the court.”

Marshall said he didn’t know if he could make the state pay its portion of the ODM’s budget. He noted that he could possibly order PCSSD to pay the entire budget, but didn’t want to do that because it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars from schools.

The judge proposed that the ODM be modified. He said the chairwoman, working from home on an hourly, contractual basis, could provide reports to him as a court-appointed expert. Marshall asked the parties to provide a written response to that proposal by April 15.

Walker also requested and received clarification on what will be done with the Magnet Review Committee now that transfers of PCSSD students to magnet schools outside the district is being phased out.

Walker argued that removing the committee would take away something the students expect to be there.

Joy Springer, who represents the Joshua Intervenors on the committee, testified that it meets once a month, oversees the budget at activities at the magnet schools, listens to reports on how effective programs are and answers questions for parents and students.

Marshall said it wasn’t the court’s place to continue the committee after June 30.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers getting stronger

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ and girls’ track teams each finished second in the Walmart Invitational at Panther Stadium on Tuesday. Each team finished second to Bryant, but the girls’ team continued to break school records. After last week when several school records fell, the Lady Panthers broke another record on Tuesday when junior Lexi Weeks sailed 18-feet, 2.75 inches in the long jump.

The record broken was her own. She set the previous mark the previous week with a jump of 17-10.5.

That is just the latest in a list of school records that have been broken by this year’s girls’ team. Cabot coach Leon White believes he has one of the strongest teams at CHS in many years.

“It could be a really good team,” White said. “There’s certainly a lot of potential. We’re sort of shooting for next year because they’re almost all juniors and sophomores. But you never know. They’re getting better every week it seems like.”

The difference between last week’s jump and Tuesday’s wasn’t just the distance. Despite breaking the school record last week, Weeks finished second to North Little Rock’s Malica Monk. With Tuesday’s distance, she beat Monk for the first time in her career, by 2.75 inches.

Weeks hoisted herself into the national spotlight in Bryant on March 20 when she cleared 13-feet, 10-inches, which is the highest girls’ high-school vault of the year, and third highest in history.

Her sister Tori Weeks is also ranked in the top-10 nationally with a vault of 13-2 in the same meet.

Not surprisingly, they finished first and second in the pole vault on Tuesday. They didn’t quite approach the levels of the Bryant meet, but still blew away the rest of the field with vaults of 13-2 and 12-8.

Lexi Weeks also won the 400-meter dash and finished as the meet’s high-points earner. Tori Weeks also won the 300-meter hurdles by a wide margin, beating Bryant’s Jayla Anderson by almost three full seconds and was close to making it a hurdle sweep, but lost by 15/100ths of a second to Bryant’s Melinda Murdock with a time of 15.76 seconds. She was also second behind Bryant’s Leah Ward in the triple jump by a slim margin. Tori bounded 35-7, losing by 2.75 inches to Ward.

Lady Panther senior Rachel Hall was fourth in the 300 hurdles. Miranda Walker finished seventh to give the Lady Panthers two more points in the event. She was also tied for fourth in the high jump for four more points.

Junior Micah Huckabee dominated the 1600-meter run. She beat Mount St. Mary sophomore Alex Ritchey by nine seconds in the mile. Sophomore Samantha Nickell took third in the 3200-meter run for six more points.

Sophomore Katie Wright was third and senior Lauren Backus eighth in the shot put.

Senior Courtney Briswalter took fifth in the 400 to give Cabot 14 points in the event.

Juniors Danielle McWilliams and Ladaysha Evans finished fifth and sixth in the 100-meter dash. Sophomore Ashley Odom took sixth in the 800.

The Cabot 4x100 relay team was one of the favorites, but failed to finish. The 4x400 team of Briswalter, McWilliams, Walker and Lexi Weeks took second behind the Lady Hornets. The 4x800 team of Odom, Nickell, Emily Dey and Ashley Gore also finished second to Bryant.

The Cabot boys have suffered a lot of attrition this season, especially in the distance events. That’s the left the team strength at the sprints, where seniors Jordan Burke and Layton Alley finished third and fourth respectively in 100-meter dash. Alley was also seventh in the 200, which was won by Searcy’s Karonce Higgins.

Junior Jalen Hemphill and senior A.J. McClean took sixth and seventh in the 400. Junior Brayden Mercantel took seventh in the 800 and junior Nick Davis was sixth in the 3200.

Seniors Hayden Richey and Caleb Duerkop took fifth and sixth in the 300 hurdles and sophomore Rocky Burke took fifth in the pole vault.

Sophomore Holdyn Barnes was fifth in the long jump and seventh in the triple jump.

Seniors Aaron Henry and Keith Pledger finished third and seventh respectively in the shot put while three Panthers placed in the discus throw. Brandon Jones finished second with a toss of 133-8, Heath Pledger finished fourth and Henry seventh.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears take easy pair from Mills

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills pushed its winning streak to eight games in a row Tuesday with a pair of 5A-Central Conference wins over Mills at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

In the first game of the conference doubleheader, the Bears mercy-ruled the Comets in five innings by the final score of 10-0, and won the second game by an even larger margin, winning that game 18-0 in four innings.

In addition to the two shutout victories, Bears’ starting pitchers Hunter Heslep and Connor Poteet each threw a no-hitter. Heslep started the first game and threw all five innings and finished with 12 strikeouts and three walks. In the second part of the twin bill, Poteet struck out seven Comets and also walked just three batters in his four innings of work.

“Our pitching’s been really good,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “Our team ERA coming into tonight was 2.1 and we threw two shutouts tonight and they (Mills) didn’t get a hit. When you’re playing games like this, you just got to get them out of the way and move on. We’re pitching real well right now. We just have to continue to keep getting better.”

Mills entered the league doubleheader winless, and after Tuesday its record dropped to 0-6 overall and 0-2 in 5A-Central play. The Bears on the other hand improved their overall record to 10-3 after Tuesday and are now 3-1 in conference play.

Even though the host team dominated both games, the Bears didn’t have an easy time scoring early. Sylvan Hills scored two runs in the first inning of game one to lead 2-0, but didn’t score again till the fourth inning. In that inning, the Bears scored six runs to take a comfortable 8-0 lead into the fifth inning.

Jacob White led off the fourth with a single to left field. He then stole second base with Heslep at the plate, and scored soon after on a single to right center by Heslep. Blake Maddox then walked, and Brandon Baioni drove both Heslep and Maddox in two batters later with a stand-up double to right field.

Baioni’s hit put the Bears on top 5-0, and that brought the top of the order back up. Leadoff hitter Nathan Thomas was plunked by Mills’ pitcher Devin O’Neal. Baioni and Thomas advanced to second and third base on a pair of stolen bases, and TJ Burrow drove in both runners the next at bat with a single to the left-field gap.

Burrow later scored the final run of that inning on a passed ball at home plate. White scored the ninth run for the Bears in the bottom of the fifth after Maddox drove him in with a single to right field, and sophomore Joseph Craft scored the game-ending run on a passed ball at home.

Sylvan Hills didn’t waste as much time scoring runs in the second game. The Bears scored five runs in the first inning, one in the second, and four in the third before racking up eight more in the fourth to easily put the game away.

With the game already out of the Comets’ reach, Tipton subbed for several of his starters in the fourth inning, but Mills struggled to find the strike zone throughout the inning, which led to several easy runs for the Bears.

Chase Imhoff led the Bears with three hits in the two games played. White, Baioni, Charlie Roberts and Reid Fawcett also finished the day with multiple hits. They each had two, while Burrow, Heslep, Maddox, Craft and Jacob Franco got one hit apiece.

Sylvan Hills will resume conference play at Jacksonville on Tuesday with another doubleheader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot scores late for victory

Leader sports editor

The nonconference record may not be that impressive, but the Cabot softball team has been solid when it counts the most. The Lady Panthers improved to 2-0 in 7A/6A East Conference play with a 13-6 victory over Marion Tuesday in Crittenden County.

Twelve of those 13 runs came in the last three innings, as Cabot found itself down 3-1 after five.

“I’ve been saying it for a while and we’re starting to do it, put the ball in play,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We only struck out three times, so that’s better. We’ve been wanting to get that down. We are starting to force them to play defense and do something with it.”

Errors played a big role in Cabot’s comeback, as did patience at the plate. The Lady Panthers got just six base hits, but drew seven walks while the Lady Patriots’ defense fell apart late in the game.

But it wasn’t just home-team errors that made the difference, Cabot did a good job of getting timely hits, and executed the small-ball game well.

“We didn’t get a lot of hits, but we got them when we needed them,” Cope said. “We got some sacrifice bunts that put runners in position to score when we got those hits. We just executed a lot better. It took a little while to get started, but we had some things we’ve been wanting to do and it finally played out.”

The Lady Panthers, 4-6 overall, also played good defense, committing no errors for the second-consecutive game.

Lauren McCluskey pitched all seven innings, giving up seven hits while striking out two and walking four.

“Lauren pitched well,” Cope said. “We don’t have a pitcher that’s going to shut teams down. Teams are going to put it in play against us and we’re going to have to play good defense. We’ve been doing that for the most part.”

Rachel Allgood was the only Lady Panther with multiple hits.

The leadoff hitter went 2 for 5. Erin Eckert went 1 for 2 with three walks and scored four runs.

“We’re 2-0 in conference so we’ll take it,” Cope said.

The Lady Panthers hosted West Memphis in another 7A/6A East matchup on Friday. Look for details of that matchup in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

They will also host Mountain Home on Tuesday.

“That’s going to be a big one,” Cope said. “They’re all big, but Mountain Home always has a pretty strong program.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson fine with new coach

Leader sports editor

Some controversy has surrounded University of Arkansas’ hiring of Jimmy Dykes as its new head coach of women’s basketball, but former Jacksonville Lady Red Devil Jessica Jackson plans to stay in Fayetteville and see how things play out. Dykes has been an ESPN men’s basketball analyst since 1995. He hasn’t coached since 1991, he’s never been a head coach and he’s never coached women at all.

Beth Bass, CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association called the hire “disappointing to the multitude of more-than-qualified coaches”, and characterized the reasons for the hire as being because of Dykes’ “celebrity, ties to the university and to the Fayetteville community…”.

Jackson, a 6-foot-3 forward, has long proclaimed desire since childhood to be a Razorback, committed early as one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation and now remains committed to Arkansas. But she does admit to giving some thought to transferring.

“To tell you the truth, I did not know who Mr. Dykes was, so I didn’t know what to think about it,” said Jackson. “When I got to meet him and talk to him, it went well. He had nice things to say. I wanted to see what his coaching style is, what kind of role I would play. That might have made a difference, but it would’ve been hard to leave Arkansas. I love it here so I probably wouldn’t have transferred.”

Jackson just completed her freshman season and made an immediate impact, quickly making a name for herself as one of the premier players in the Southeastern Conference. She was a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week, was named All-SEC second team, was the league’s seventh-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, sixth-leading shot blocker, was fourth best in free-throw percentage at 80.3 percent, had five double-doubles and was the team’s leading rebounder and scorer.

She was saddened when she heard the news that former coach Tom Collen had been fired, and became apprehensive when someone she’d never heard of had been hired to take his place.

“I was very sad because I’ve known coach Collen since ninth grade,” Jackson said. “I trusted him and you think you’re going to have four years with someone, and then you don’t. It was hard.

“Mr. Dykes is different though and I like it so far. His energy is sky high. That’s definitely different. And I think if you can coach, it doesn’t really matter about your background. He knows a lot about basketball and you can tell that already from just the three practices that we’ve had. He’s like a basketball expert. We haven’t really started on any new stuff yet so I’m still not sure what his style is going to be, but it’s been good so far.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

EDITORIAL >> When storms are forecast

It’s springtime and expect lots of rain today and tomorrow, or at least that’s what the local forecasters are saying.

Sure, it’s easy to make fun of weather forecasters. You probably think they’re wrong at least half the time. According to statistician Nate Silver, when TV meteorologists in Kansas City called for 100 percent chance of rain, they were wrong one-third of the time.

But weather is serious in Arkansas and when there are big storms headed our way, we turn to TV forecasters. KTHV-Channel 11 has a companion weather channel, and you don’t even need cable to see it. It’s called KTHV.2 and it’s right next to the regular channel, which you can watch with rabbit ears or any kind of antenna. It carries WeatherNation along with local forecasts.

KTHV.2 is better than the Weather Channel, and best of all, you can catch Tom Brannon, who was born in Jacksonville and grew up in Little Rock. He’s a real pro, like the rest of the KTHV team — they never shout unless a tornado is headed up your street.

Sure, Tom always looks like he just got out of bed, but that’s because he starts early and works all day. Plus his forecasts are accurate. Maybe they’re not always on the money when it comes to rain, but when it’s tornado weather, Brannon and his colleagues are on the money.

This is how much weather forecasting has improved in 25 years: Silver says the National Hurricane Center would miss the location of hurricanes by hundreds of miles three days before they hit. “Now the average miss is only about 100 miles,” Silver writes in his book, “The Signal and the Noise.” That lets people evacuate to higher ground.

Forecasters can tell you when it’s time to take cover before a tornado hits. People like Tom Brannon save lives. We can be sure of that.

EDITORIAL >> Story behind the statistics

Statistics are just numbers, but what brings those statistics to life are the stories behind the numbers.

Look at the stories behind some of the statistics from the recently released five-year census study.

Jacksonville’s population averaged close to 28,500 for the years 2008 through 2012. But behind that number is the Census Bureau leaving out about 1,000 military residents from the air base, giving the city a lower-than-expected population count in 2010. Being down by that 1,000 is costing the city about $1 million annually, according to the mayor, who is still upset with the lower population. Jacksonville won’t get to change that until the 2020 census, or, the city can request and pay for a special census before that.

Cabot, meanwhile, is standing around the 24,000 population mark on average. But the real story here is phenomenal growth, nearly tripling in size over the past 20 years.

McRae, just north of Beebe, in the five-year study showed that almost 30 percent of its adult population did not finish high school. By itself that would send off alarms, but during the same time the city had the lowest unemployment rate in the area at just 1.9 percent. What are they doing right?

Beebe with a 4.6 percent unemployment rate, Cabot at 4.5 percent, Jacksonville with a 4 percent rate, Carlisle at 3.5 percent, Ward at 3 percent, Sherwood at 2.9 and Searcy at a 2.7 unemployment rate—all substantially lower than the state average—shows that there is growth, jobs and stability in this area.

One out of six adults in Jacksonville (17.4 percent) is a veteran—and the new Arkansas Veterans Home went to North Little Rock, where the veteran rate is just 11.7 percent.

Searcy, which was also in the running for the home, has a veteran rate of 8.2, less than half of Jacksonville’s. But the surprise spot for veterans turned out to be Austin, where 21.2 percent, or one out of five adults are veterans.

Beebe, which has just announced a retail and business growth spurt with stores coming in to fill three shopping centers, also had the greatest growth over the study’s five years. The city grew at 4.4 percent.

In Searcy, possibly with the help of Harding University, one out of three adults (36.7 percent) has some sort of college degree — associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate. The state average (25.9) is seven points below Searcy. Cabot and Sherwood also outsmart the state average.

And then the census study went places where we prefer not to go, such as ancestral makeup and fertility rates. More figures are expected in May.

TOP STORY >> School picked for statewide arts program

Leader staff writer

“We’re a family, and we know it takes a village,” Murrell Taylor Elementary Principal Myeisha Haywood said after inviting her staff to stand in front of the stage as the school was inducted into the THEA Foundation’s Arkansas A+ Network.

An induction ceremony was held Monday evening at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock with about 200 education professionals and dignitaries, including Arkansas House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia), state Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock), Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

An A+ school is one where at least 85 percent of the staff has agreed to infuse arts into everyday learning, Haywood told The Leader Monday afternoon.

The network offers schools $75,000 worth of professional development for a three-year implementation period. The Jacksonville school is applying for several grants, including one that may be provided through the THEA Foundation, the principal said.

The teachers and staff of an A+ school receive five days of training each summer and at least two professional development days throughout the school year.

But A+ schools can request more than two days of in-classroom help from the program’s fellows throughout the school year, Haywood said.

The principal expects to see an increase in student achievement in literacy and math, a decrease in disciplinary problems and a decrease in tardies and absences after implementation of the A+ model.

“Students will want to be at school because school is fun,” Haywood said.

Scott Shirey, executive director of A+ fellow KIPP Delta Public Schools, called the arts-infusion model “bold and passionate,” during the induction ceremony.

He told the crowd that KIPP students spent a week on the Mississippi River learning environmental science. But “even if you’re not sending a kid down the Mississippi River in a canoe, you can still be bolder,” Shirey said.

Haywood said becoming an A+ School made sense for Murrell Taylor because something was missing in the data concerning student achievement.

“We realized what’s missing is student engagement,” Haywood said.

She explained that kids are bored at school because they are used to being entertained.

The principal said she visited classrooms and saw that most of her teachers were lecturing.

That works for auditory and visual learners, but it doesn’t serve kinesthetic (hands-on) learners, Haywood explained.

“A+ would be awesome because it looks at the different learning styles of our students,” she said. “It’s going to give more students the opportunity to be successful.”

Haywood noted that she learned all 50 states through a song her teacher taught her. “If you think about it, that’s how we picked up things we remember even as adults,” she said.

The A+ infusion of arts would bring music, art, drama and more into daily lessons.

For example, students could learn history through drawing in class, Haywood said.

Why not entertain students and teach them at the same time? she asked.

To join the A+ network, at least 85 percent of the teachers and staff at each of the 10 schools inducted had to vote that they wanted to commit to implementing the model and would do so with “fidelity,” the principal said.

Last year, under Principal Jackie Smith, Murrell Taylor didn’t join A+ because 82 or 83 percent voted for the program, Haywood noted.

This year, 100 percent voted to join the network that now includes 17 Arkansas schools.

The Jacksonville school also seemed to have the most supporters present at the ceremony when representatives from each of the 10 schools inducted were told to stand up and cheer as the inductees’ names were called.

The principal credits that with her presentation of the learning style. She showed her team an interview with a skeptical teacher at Pike View Elementary School, which was inducted into the network last year.

The teacher talked about how she saw improvement in her classroom after using the A+ model.

Haywood explained that it was better for the teachers to hear about the model from one of their own rather than administrators.

She said skepticism stems from A+ requiring more work from teachers. “You have to be very strategic in your planning,” Haywood said.

A+ isn’t the only way Murrell Taylor is hoping to boost achievement.

The principal said she is applying for several grants to fund an arts-infused after-school program that would complement the A+ model.

Haywood wrote in the grant that she expects 150-200 students to participate in music, theater, dance, visual arts like photography and painting, orchestra and culinary arts programming when the school day ends.

The after-school program would also offer tutoring to help students with their homework.

Haywood said the program would be called Murrell Taylor Elementary School R.O.C.K.s (Reaching Out to Catapult Kids) Through the Arts.

The school is also building the committee needed for them to apply as a School of Innovation.

Becoming a School of Innovation means receiving a waiver that would allow Murrell Taylor more flexibility regarding how many minutes of each subject are required and how long the school day is.

Haywood compared it to how a charter school operates.

But the principal said her goal is for Murrell Taylor to become a School of Innovation in the 2015-16 school year, perhaps at the same time the Jacksonville/North Pulaski area detaches from PCSSD.

TOP STORY >> Veterans honored in parade

Leader staff writer

Highlights of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History’s third annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day on Saturday include the “From Arkansas Vietnam Dog Tag Exhibit,” a parade, booths and a table ceremony by the LRAFB Honor Guard.

Festivities begin at 9 a.m. when the museum opens. The displays will be free to the public through 6 p.m.

For the new exhibit, dog tags representing the 592 Arkansans killed in Vietnam will hang from the ceiling of the museum, director DannaKay Duggar said.

On the tags, there will be names, branches of service, hometowns and the dates the soldiers were killed in action.

There will also be a legend and map on the wall to direct visitors who want to look for the dog tag representing a loved one, Duggar added.

The hour-long parade will start at 2 p.m. from the First United Methodist Church on West Main Street and end at the museum, 100 Veterans Circle.

The REAL Girls will perform live throughout the day, and veterans’ service organizations like the American Legion, the VFW, a survivor outreach service and a prisoners of war group from Missouri will have booths set up, Duggar said.

Veterans and gold star families — those who have lost loved ones in battle — will be invited to sign an 8-foot-by-12-foot vinyl map of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that will be displayed at the museum later.

Then, from 3 to 4 p.m., there will be an honor and remembrance ceremony with a missing in action table ceremony performed by the LRAFB Honor Guard.

A $10 dinner will be served from 4 until 6 p.m. on the museum grounds.

But those who wanted to attend had to RSVP by last Friday.

While these attractions are meant to draw participants, Duggar emphasized that none of them are the main reason to celebrate.

“The main reason (people) need to come out is to give the Vietnam veterans the welcome home they didn’t get when they came back,” the director said. “The war was very controversial, and a lot of the protesters took it out on the soldiers. There are those of us who remember how they were treated when they came home,” Duggar explained.

While the event is not a fundraiser for the museum, donations will be accepted, she added.

TOP STORY >> Pearl Harbor survivor dies

Leader staff writer

One of the last known Pearl Harbor survivors in Lonoke County, 91-year-old Charles Flynt Jr. of Cabot, passed away on Friday. Flynt was the grand marshal for the Cabot Christmas Parade in 2013 and the guest of honor for the Christmas in Cabot tree lighting in 2012.

Funeral services were held Monday at Cabot Funeral Home with Pastor Robbie Flynt. Burial was in Oak Grove Cemetery.

He was born on July 5, 1922, in the Smyrna-Fairview community off Hwy. 236 in Lonoke County. Flynt attended the Fairview community school. He voluntarily joined the Navy before finishing high school in September 1940.

During the Second World War, Flynt was a Boatswain Mate First Class on the mine layer USS Ramsey during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

On that fateful morning, Flynt, then 19, was a deck boss in charge of 200 sailors on the ship. The Ramsay had been at Pearl Harbor for 13 months. They had practiced gunnery 400 miles off the coast.

“We were sitting across the channel from the Utah, in Pearl City, the northwest part of Pearl Harbor. They came in there and dumped two to three torpedoes and hit the Utah. When I heard them, I thought our ship was hit. It seemed liked we jumped 10 feet out of the water — Whoomp. The vibration was great. Something was going on here. I got the cobwebs out of my brain. I glimpsed up and saw a plane with an orange ball. I knew it was the Japanese,” Flynt recalled in an interview with The Leader in November 2012.

Flynt said the officer on deck rang up several quarters and they ran for the guns.

“I got off six to eight rounds really quick before they told me to swing around and fire at the submarine,” Flynt said.

He said the Japanese planes came in from all angles; it was hard to tell if they hit any. Flynt said they were very fortunate, with only a few injuries.

The Japanese brought in small two-man submarines, one in the harbor and four outside the harbor.

Flynt’s ship got credit for sinking one of the subs. They spent the next two weeks on patrol, looking for subs 25 miles out from Pearl Harbor.

The Ramsay later went to Australia laying mines in the Japanese shipping lanes. Then the crew was ordered to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska to patrol the area for a year against the Japanese.

The Ramsay returned to the U.S. mainland only once during the war, for 20 days in October 1943, when the crew and ship stopped in San Francisco.

Flynt returned to the seas on a different ship, transferring to landing ship USS White Marsh. The White Marsh delivered Marine divisions to battle Japanese soldiers at Saipan and then to the Palau Islands.

The ship continued to move troops and equipment during the war to New Guinea and the Philippines.

Flynt said the last big operation was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, in Okinawa, Japan. They stayed there three month, enduring kamikazes attacks each day.

When the war ended, the White Marsh sailed to Norfolk, Va., for decommissioning in 1946. Flynt was sent home in September, taking a bus back to Lonoke. He was discharged in November 1946 from the Navy after serving six years.

He returned to Lonoke County and went to night school in 1947 at Little Rock Central High School for GIs who didn’t finish school. There he earned a general-educational development diploma.

After the war, Flynt worked in home construction. He finished sheetrock, painted interiors and installed acoustic ceilings until retiring in the 1990s.

He was an avid musician who played the fiddle, guitar and mandolin. He enjoyed playing in nursing homes and senior centers with Kern Kennedy and the Kampground Express, Hazel Sheets’ Famous Four and More, Young at Heart and the Hank Thrasher Band.

He attended Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

Flynt was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Flynt, Sr. and Annie Flynt, and five siblings, James Flynt, Richard Flynt, Juanita Brown, Gladys Cates and Anna McGinley.

He is survived by his wife, Eula Flynt of Cabot, former owner of Brown’s Dairy Bar; sister, Sue Allen; nephew, pastor Robbie Flynt and his wife, Sherri, and their children Seth Flynt and Kerri Stack, all of Little Rock.

SPORTS STORY >> Arkadelphia beats Cabot by one

Leader sportswriter

After opening the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament with two dominant wins over Alma and Kickapoo High School of Springfield, Mo. at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock, the Cabot Panthers ended the tourney with a close 2-1 loss to class 4A Arkadelphia in eight innings Saturday.

“That was one of those games that I’ve got to do a better job of keeping them focused,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Arkadelphia is a well-coached team. They’ve had a lot of success and they actually went 4-0 in that tournament. But at the same time we’ve got to take advantage of opportunities.

“We had runners in scoring position all day. In one inning we had the bases loaded and nobody out, and a couple of times we had the bases loaded with one out, and you only scratch one run in the game and it leaves you kind of scratching your head going how did we not score more? But we’ll learn from that game and we’ll get better.”

Other than the two errors Cabot (7-2, 1-1) committed in the field, it was a cleanly-played game by both teams. Senior pitcher Kason Kimbrell pitched the first seven innings of Saturday’s game and the only run scored on him came off of one of the Panthers’ two errors.

“I keep telling our guys if the pitcher’s doing that, we should be winning games. But baseball is baseball. Some days you are going to hit balls hard and it’s just not going to find a hole. I thought we had great at bats to get runners on, but for whatever reason we just couldn’t get that hit to separate ourselves and give ourselves a cushion in that game.

“We’ll get better at that, and that’s one of the things we talked about. Another thing we told our guys is we want to be playing our best at the end of April and in May, not necessarily March. If we can just grow as a team from this, we’ve got enough ability to take advantage of those situations. So I’m totally confident we’re going to get better from that and learn from it.”

Despite Saturday’s loss, the Panthers are showing signs of improvement in all aspects of their game. After the first three games of the season, Cabot’s team batting average was .206. In the last six games, the Panthers have raised their team batting average to .255, and on the mound, Cabot’s team ERA is down to less than one earned run per game.

“When you pitch like that you’re always going to have a chance,” Goodwin said. “I feel really good about where our pitching is. I feel really good about the progress the offense is making. The numbers are proving that the guys are making adjustments. It’s only a matter of time till we’re clicking on all cylinders.”

Cabot got back to 7A/6A East play yesterday with a conference doubleheader at Marion after deadlines. The Panthers are scheduled to return to Lamar Porter Field today for a nonconference game against Little Rock Catholic. That game starts at approximately 5 p.m., and next Tuesday, Cabot will continue conference play with a doubleheader at home against Mountain Home.

The first game of next Tuesday’s twin bill against the Bombers is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls and boys get sweep of Carlisle

Leader sports editor

Lonoke and Carlisle met for a softball/baseball encounter on the first day back from spring break, and the visiting Lonoke teams pulled off the sweep in the old Lonoke county rivalry games.

The Lonoke baseball team didn’t enjoy a very good experience at the Xtra Innings tournament in Jonesboro over the weekend, but bounced back with a county rivalry win over Carlisle on Monday. The Jackrabbits hammered the Bison 16-2 in five innings in Carlisle.

The Jackrabbits piled up 18 base hits with several players enjoying multiple-hit games. Nick Watson got four hits including one double. Leadoff hitter Pierce Johnson recorded three hits, including a double, drove in three runs and scored two more. Mikey Shinn, Cody Martin and Savonte Rountree each picked up two base hits.

Lonoke, 4-4, 1-0, scored in every inning, recording two runs in the first and second innings before adding five more in the third. The Jackrabbits added two in the fourth and five more in the sixth to set the final margin. Carlisle scored two in the fourth off an RBI single by catcher Dylan Brazeal that scored Jacob Gordon, who had reached on a walk. Nick Schafer then reached on a 4-6 fielder’s choice that included an E6 that left everyone safe. Bradley Elder then singled to drive in Carlisle’s second run.

Casey Martin started on the mound and got the win for the Jackrabbits. He gave up five hits and one earned run in going the distance. Gordon started on the mound and took the loss and Josh Mathis pitched the last two innings.

In the Xtra Innings tournament, the Jackrabbits had to sit in a hotel for two days to wait for the rain to end, then lost two games on Saturday. They fell 5-1 to Valley View and 10-5 to Pocahontas, two teams near enough to Jonesboro to stay at home during the rain.

The Lady Jackrabbits, 3-2, 1-0, took just a little longer to get things rolling after a scoreless first inning, but they scored six in the second en route to a 13-0 victory.

Lonoke managed just one more run over the next three innings, scored six more in the sixth to end the game an inning early.

Jarrelyn McCall got things rolling with a leadoff single to start the second inning. Brooke Jackson and Amanda Sexton then reached on successive errors at third base. After base hits by Gracie Cole and Keylee Simpson, Charley Jo Chesney, Jasalyn Truelove and Haley Whitehurst drew three-straight walks. An error at shortstop off the bat of Jessy Lewis scored the final run of the inning.

Lonoke didn’t score in the third or fourth innings, then got the first four batters on base in the fifth but managed just one run. Lewis and McCall started with back-to-back singles. Candice James and Sexton then walked, with Sexton getting the RBI and keeping the bases loaded with no outs, but no more runs scored.

Whitehurst started the big sixth inning with a leadoff single before Lewis doubled to center field to put runners in scoring position. McCall then hit a deep fly to center field that scored Whitehurst. James struck out but reached on a passed ball. Sexton then doubled for two RBIs and scored on a hit by Cole. Simpson then singled to score Cole, and scored herself on a hit by Chesney.

The Lonoke baseball and softball teams travel to Newport today to resume 4A-2 Conference play.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers finish in fourth

Leader sports editor

The Cabot softball team still hasn’t found the magic it had when it hit five home runs in beating North Little Rock two weeks ago, but it did play better in the Beebe/Cabot Invitational at the end of spring break than it did in three games in northwest Arkansas before spring break.

The Lady Panthers went 1-2 in Saturday’s tournament, opening play with an 11-2 win over Bauxite. They lost to 7-0 to Brookland in the semifinals, and then fell 6-5 to Bryant in the third-place game at Beebe.

“We’re starting to put it in play a little bit more,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “That North Little Rock game killed us. We hit five home runs and now that’s all we’re swinging for. We haven’t been able to hit ever since that game.”

Cope’s repeated mantra throughout Saturday’s tournament was “just put the ball in play”. Doing so earned Cabot four unearned runs in the last game, as the Lady Hornets committed five errors.

“I tell them if you just put it in play, they have to do something with it,” Cope said. “They have to catch, and they have to throw it somewhere. Just keep putting it in play and good things are probably going to happen.”

The Lady Panthers, 3-6, 1-0, played good defense, committing no errors, but couldn’t get Bryant’s leadoff hitter out in any inning. The Lady Hornets scored one run in the top of the first inning before Cabot went on top in the bottom half.

Rachel Allgood got a leadoff single and Erin Eckert reached on an error by the pitcher. Heather Hill hit a line-drive single to right field to score Allgood and Payton Steadman’s sacrifice grounder scored Eckert for a 2-1 Panther lead.

That lead disappeared quickly as Bryant added three in the top of the second. Breanna Sanders hit a leadoff triple, but was still standing on third with two outs. After an RBI single, Bryant’s Katy Stillman drove one out over the fence in left field for a two-RBI home run and a 4-2 Bryant lead.

The Lady Hornets added another run in the third on an RBI by Sanders that scored Kaley Coppock. The score remained 5-2 until the bottom of the last scheduled inning, when Cabot scored three runs off two hits, two walks and three errors.

Eckert got it started with an infield single when she beat out a hit that barely got out of the batter’s box. Hill walked before Kaitlyn Felder popped up to first base. Molly Wood hit a grounder to shortstop, where Sanders was at first indecisive of whether to throw to first or try to get the lead runner at third.

She started for first, then changed her mind, and made a high throw over to third base, leaving everyone safe. Macee Abbott then hit a single to center field to drive in Eckert and Hill and make it a one-run game. Hannah Montgomery struck out, but Lane Justus reached on another error on the mound, which again loaded the bases.

Shauna Attendorn then drew an RBI walk that tied the game.

Bryant won it in extra innings with two sacrifice grounders that scored the runner from second base. Eckert tried to put down a sacrifice bunt to get Allgood to third, but popped it up to the catcher. Hill and Felder then struck out to end the game.

The Lady Panthers got rolling in the second inning of game one against Bauxite. Wood and Abbott got back-to-back singles before Eckert hit into a fielder’s choice that left everyone safe.

Lane Justus then singled to score one run, and Attendorn hit a fly ball to left field that was mishandled, bringing in everyone else and giving the Lady Panthers a 4-0 lead.

Wood got another leadoff single to start the third inning before Abbott was hit by a pitch. Eckert then drilled a three-run home run to clear the bases, but the Lady Panthers weren’t finished.

Justus singled before Attendorn finally recorded an out with fly ball to right field. Allgood and Montgomery then hit back-to-back doubles for two more runs and a 9-1 Cabot lead.

The Lady Miners added a run in the top of the third, but Cabot added two more in the bottom of the fourth to set the final margin. After Parker Steadman drew a leadoff walk, Wood and Justus hit consecutive doubles to make it 11-2.

The Lady Panthers traveled to Marion on Tuesday to resume 7A/6A East Conference play.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers win tournament

Leader sportswriter

In its third year of existence, the Beebe Lady Badgers won their third-straight Beebe-Cabot Softball Invitational tournament championship with a 3-2 win over class 4A Brookland in Saturday’s championship game at the Cabot Softball Complex.

Beebe (10-2, 2-0) lost a 1-0 extra innings game to Brookland (9-2, 3-0) earlier in the season and Saturday’s championship game also took extra innings to decide a winner.

The two teams ended the seventh inning tied at 1-1, so the international tiebreaker rule was put into effect at the start of the eighth inning. At the beginning of each team’s at bat in extra innings, the rule is that the last batter from the previous inning is automatically placed on second base.

Both teams added a run in the eighth, and Beebe held Brookland scoreless in the top of the ninth. Sophomore MaKenzie Free, Ellie Reaves’ courtesy runner, started the bottom of the ninthat second base, and fellow sophomore and teammate Sydney Smith led off the inning with a sacrifice bunt that moved Free to third base.

Aleighu Porterfield then came to the plate and got plunked by Lady Bearcat pitcher Jordan Maynard, and with Baylee Halford at the plate, Porterfield stole second base with ease.

Halford then hit a fly ball to center field that was caught by Brookland center fielder Rachel Thompson, but Free scored on the tag at third base to set the final score and give Beebe the hard-fought win.

“This is our third year, and this is the third year that we won it,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers of the tournament. “That was the third time we’ve played them (Brookland) since last year. Last year, they beat us 2-1 in eight (innings). They beat us last week 1-0 in eight, so it’s two pretty evenly-matched ball clubs.”

Beebe got on the board first in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Madelyn Poe doubled to left field to start the inning, and junior center fielder Calah Hill followed with an infield single to third base that advanced Poe to third.

Three-hole hitter Nikita Howell then came to the plate and hit a fly ball to shallow right field, but the ball was dropped by Lady Bearcat second baseman Erin Poppleton. Poe scored on the play to give the Lady Badgers a 1-0 lead.

Both teams were held scoreless in the second inning, but Brookland tied the game in the top of the third with a close play at the plate. Leadoff hitter Maynard doubled to the right-field fence at the start of the inning, and Brookland added two more base hits to load the bases for cleanup hitter Haley Morgan.

Morgan hit a fly ball to left field that was caught by junior Courtney Caldwell, and Maynard barely beat Caldwell’s throw home to tie the game at 1-1. The score remained tied until the top of the eighth.

Poppleton started the inning at second base, and Thompson laid down a bunt that moved Poppleton to third. Brittni Huggins then came to the plate and laid down another bunt. Huggins was thrown out at first, but Poppleton scored on the play, which gave the Lady Bearcats a 2-1 lead.

Beebe got out of the inning without allowing any more runs, and Hill started the bottom of the eighth at second base. A groundout by cleanup hitter Haley Dinapoli put Hill at third with two outs, bringing five-hole hitter Courtney Shepard to the plate as Beebe’s last hope.

Shepard drove Hill in with a line drive single to left field that tied the game at 2-2 and sent the game to the ninth inning where the Lady Badgers were able to prevail.

The Lady Badgers opened the tournament at home with a dominant 13-0 win over class 2A Cedar Ridge, which put them in the semifinals against class 7A Bryant (5-3, 2-1). Dinapoli got the hit of that game.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the first, Dinapoli hit a bases-clearing double to the fence in left center field that scored three runs and gave Beebe all the runs it would need. Beebe won the game 4-1, putting it in the championship game at Cabot.

“We got off to a real good start against Cedar Ridge,” Chambers said. “They’re a little undermanned for our class, but we jumped on Bryant early and I thought we hit the ball really well. And in this ball game (against Brookland) they just competed.

“My kids competed. They didn’t quit. They had opportunities where they could’ve given up when they (Brookland) scored that run in the eighth, but we competed. The pitcher competed. Ellie did a really good job, but that was the after-game speech. They really competed tonight.”

Reaves pitched all three games and got all three wins in the circle. She finished the day with 22 strikeouts and gave up just three earned runs.

Poe and Howell led Beebe with two hits apiece against Bryant, but the offense was more spread out in the championship game. Poe, Hill, Howell, Dinapoli, Shepard, Smith and Halford each had a base hit against Brookland.

The Lady Badgers resumed 5A-East Conference play at Forrest City yesterday after deadlines, and will play their next game next Tuesday at home in a conference doubleheader against Paragould. The first game of that matchup will start at 4:30 p.m.