Friday, February 27, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Common Core fails many kids

The biggest problem with Common Core is not the curriculum, but the testing — it sets up Jacksonville students to fail.

Students will fail, not because of lack of knowledge, but because of lack of computer and keyboarding skills.

Many students are excellent writers and Common Core testing will require students to write at least one essay or narrative. With pencil and paper students can focus on being creative and making sure of the facts, but on the computer, the focus moves from content to where the letters are on the keyboard or how to indent a paragraph.

Now this may not be true everywhere, but students in Pulaski County Special School District are not taught keyboarding. It’s simply not required.

So students go in at a disadvantage. Not knowing basic keyboarding skills can cause frustration and students could shut down or just type in anything to be done with it.

A student must be able to type 20 words a minute fluently to “write” on the computer faster than they do with a pencil. Test your child. If they can’t do that as a minimum there is a chance they will fail or at least score much lower than their ability on the language arts portion of the test.

Yes, computers are the wave of the future. Walt Disney recognized that 40 years ago, but one must be trained to operate in that wave. And scoring high on Minecraft or New Jack City isn’t keyboarding training.

The typewriter has gone the way of the dodo bird, but not keyboarding. It’s more important as ever as Common Core essays are graded on spelling, mechanics and sentence structure – as well as content and style –but spelling, mechanics and sentences go downhill without keyboard training.

Lts knot set up r children 4 failere. — Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> How to sue legislators

State legislators continue to violate the recently passed ethics amendment that prohibits lobbyists from offering free meals and booze to lawmakers.

Many legislators keep ignoring the intent of Amendment 94, the lobbying, ethics and term-limits law, which the voters last November passed thinking that lobbyists could no longer entertain lawmakers. The amendment doubled term limits for lawmakers to 16 years and established a pay commission that will greatly increase legislators’ salaries. Ignoring the ethics provision, lobbyists continue to wine and dine politicians under the so-called special events exemption. Citizens groups should file suit against this flagrant violation of the new amendment since the state ethics commission will not stop them.

Lawmakers should also worry about a possible lawsuit that Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson could re-file against the pork-barrel politics at the state Capitol, so-called General Improvement Funds that funnel millions of dollars for local projects, in obvious violation of the law.

The former state representative told our reporter John Hofheimer he has not yet decided whether to take the matter back to court, which sided with Wilson and declared the practice illegal. He says funding GIF projects amounted to local legislation. A state constitutional amendment says the legislature must attend to statewide issues and may not cut special deals for targeted local communities.

Former state Sen. Bob Johnson (D-Bigelow) had earmarked $400,000 for road improvement in Bigelow, clearly not a statewide need. Wilson believes it’s unconstitutional for the state to do it with the equivalent of local legislation.

Since the court rulings on Wilson’s suit, he says the General Assembly has basically developed a money-laundering scheme, running each legislator’s share through the local planning and development districts. Their recipients of these grants are laughing all the way to the bank.

To date, the board of directors of the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District awarded a total of $9,243,289 from the GIF received through the 89th General Assembly, according to district director Rodney Larson.

Local legislators got funding for 186 transactions worth $6,096,030, according to information provided by CAPPD. They all go for good causes, of course, from local libraries to volunteer fire departments to Civil War battlefields and many other projects.

But as Jim Nickels, the former Sherwood state representative, told Hofheimer, “It takes money away from statewide projects, it ends up local, and we have a prohibition against that.”

Wilson probably could successfully challenge the next round of general improvements funds before they’re handed out to local politicians, who like nothing more than having their pictures taken presenting checks to area recipients.

Should Wilson win for the second time, local prosecutors should consider filing charges against lawmakers who abuse the ban against local improvement grants, as well as those who accept free meals and booze from lobbyists.

If legislators can’t follow the law, why should the rest of us?

TOP STORY >> Mrs. Hutchinson will guest speak at shelter dinner

Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson will speak during Open Arms Shelter’s third annual Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Banquet at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 2 in the cafeteria of the Cabot Freshman Academy.

In 1986, Open Arms Shelter began providing emergency safe housing for children who have been abused or neglected.

It is one of the few emergency shelters in the state that will accept children under the age of 8, teenage mothers with their children and large sibling groups. Most of the children the shelter cares for are from central Arkansas.

Tickets are $25, tables of eight are $200 and sponsorships are available for $500. For more information or to make reservations, call 501-676-6166 or 501-843-9460.

A silent auction will be held from 6 until 7 p.m., and dinner will be served by Cabot’s ROTC at 6:30 p.m.

Singer, songwriter and motivational speaker Sondra Burnett will emcee the event and will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” as Cabot High School’s ROTC presents the colors.

John C. Thompson and an army of volunteers will cook boneless pork loin. Lapel pins will be given to all attendees to be worn throughout April in recognition of National Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Open Arms Shelter will participate in the statewide online campaign Arkansas Gives on April 2.

“You can help Open Arms Shelter compete for additional bonus dollars from a $250,000 match pool by making your donation at on April 2 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.,” according to a news release.

Executive director Nancy Hamlin said, “Open Arms Shelter is licensed by the state of Arkansas and is a nonprofit organization. Your tax-deductible donations ensure that children in need have hope for a better tomorrow.”

Donations may be mailed to Open Arms Shelter, P.O. Box 161, Lonoke, Ark. 72086.

TOP STORY >> Judge will decide on Lewis’ competence

Leader staff writer

The husband and wife accused in the capital murder of real estate agent Beverly Carter will be back in court for a hearing Wednesday, when the judge will rule on a mental evaluation declaring Arron Lewis mentally competent to stand trial.

The victim’s body was found Sept. 27 in a shallow grave near Hwy. 5 in north Pulaski County. Carter was reported missing a few days earlier, when she didn’t return from showing a house in Scott.

The evaluation finds that Lewis, 34, of Gravel Ridge has antisocial personality disorder. He also told a therapist from the State Hospital that he could prove co-defendant Crystal Lowery is innocent.

Lowery, 42, appeared for a hearing on Thursday in front of Judge Herbert Wright, but the Arkansas Department of Corrections failed to transport Lewis.

The hearing date for both was reset for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in room 440 at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock.

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Johnson said he didn’t know why Lewis wasn’t transported and that he couldn’t comment on the evaluation or how the victim’s family felt about that news.

A mental evaluation has not been requested for Lowery, and Lewis told the therapist he would not seek a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease of defect.

The accused elected to not cooperate in the evaluation of his mental state at the time of the alleged offenses. He denied committing the kidnapping and murder charges he and Lowery are facing, according to the report.

Having violated his parole, Lewis is incarcerated at the Tucker maximum-security unit while Lowery is being held at the Pulaski County jail awaiting trial.

Lewis was arrested after the victim’s phone records showed Carter called and texted a phone that belonged to Lowery. The deleted text messages could not be recovered.

Investigators watched the couple’s residence until Lewis, who matched the description given of a man neighbors saw with Carter at the Scott home, drove away and was involved in a single-vehicle accident. His vehicle also matched the description of a vehicle witnesses said they saw at the scene of the abduction.

Lewis was taken to a hospital for minor injuries after the accident. But he fled the hospital and was apprehended later in Little Rock, according to the report.

Police found the cell phone Carter had called and texted. Duct tape, a baseball bat and rope were also found in Lewis’ car. The victim’s phone was found in the home where Lewis and Lowery lived.

The evaluation not only gives a few details about the case not previously released, but also paints a detailed portrait of Lewis.

The accused was born in Louisiana but moved several times after his white father and Mexican mother divorced when he was 6 years old, the report reads. He described his mother as frequently unfaithful to his father and as an “alcoholic.” Lewis said she was charged with child neglect once, but is now a “Christian fanatic.”

The report states that Lewis refused to say whether he was sexually abused but that he remarked, “I believe both my parents deserve to die for how they brought me up. They were (expletive) parents.”

His father remarried and Lewis said the relationship between him and his stepmother deteriorated after she tried to “assert herself as an authority figure.”

Lewis has two children with different women. He married the mother of his second child because he was “going on the run” and so that his son would have his last name, the report reads.

They divorced when he went to prison. Lewis married Lowery, after having known her for five to six months, because she had a daughter and it would “look good for the court” as he was trying to gain visitation rights with his son.

Lewis told the therapist he was in charge of waking Lowery’s daughter and would sometimes throw a glass of water on her if she didn’t get up in five minutes.

The accused claimed he “fast-tracked” high school to graduate at age 16 because he wanted to start working.

Lewis also told the therapist he was “beat near to death” at age 30 during a robbery in Mexico. He said he was hit on the back of the head with a brick and suffered from a collapsed lung, chipped teeth, a broken nose, broken ribs and internal bleeding. At a federal prison in Indiana in 2009, Lewis said two inmates stabbed him and his ear had to be reattached.

At age 17, he robbed a bank and served six years for that offense. Lewis was later convicted for “interstate commerce of stolen vehicles” and theft. His violations while incarcerated include passing notes to female inmates, according to the report.

A previous doctor described Lewis as “extremely arrogant, narcissistic…very demanding and manipulative.”

Lewis told the State Hospital’s therapist, “The only person helping me is the media” and her opinion was that he enjoys publicity, according to the report. He added that media was keeping him from being attacked by officers while incarcerated.

According to the report, the accused claims his confession was coerced after 12 hours of interrogation.

Lewis said police were “beating the (expletive) out of me,” his face was “smashed into the wall in the bathroom” and that he yelled for help and asked for a lawyer several times.

The report states that Lewis also complained about his attorney requesting the evaluation against his wishes and — although he said, “I really don’t care about my own case” — was concerned about having a fair trial. He stated that he preferred the death penalty to life in prison, it continued.

Lewis also made “pejorative” statements about the victim, such as “It’ll be a real shocker when everyone hears what the good girl did,” the report states.

TOP STORY >> Liquor petition nears deadline

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville wet-dry campaign has until Thursday to turn in 1,415 verified signatures for putting to a vote whether alcohol sales will be allowed or continue to be prohibited here. Not meeting that deadline means starting over, and now petitioners are up against seemingly faceless opposition.

The front of a mailer paid for by “Keep Jacksonville Dry and Safe” and received by a Leader editor on Thursday states, “Sometimes the best way to protect Jacksonville’s future and quality of life…is by doing nothing at all. Don’t sign on the dotted line.” The back reads, “Protect our future and our quality of life. Don’t sign the petition.”

“Keep Jacksonville Dry and Safe” has not registered with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, according to Graham Sloan. He said groups that are raising money to campaign must register within five days of spending or collecting more than $500 in contributions.

But, Sloan added, a lot of people are unaware of that requirement. Also, the first financial report for a group is due 15 days after the end of the month in which that group was registered.

The mailer further states the following “facts”:

 “Crime skyrockets when counties go wet. Crime rates for assaults, prostitution, and even murder are alarmingly higher in Arkansas’s wet areas.” An asterisk directs the reader to note that statement is based on an Arkansas Family Coalition Crime Stats Report available at

When a similar placard was mailed out to residents protesting the liquor petition two years ago, then-Police Chief Gary Sipes said those statistics were simply not true.

In 2011, based on figures provided by the Arkansas Crime Information Center, the dry White and Lonoke counties had statistically higher crime rates than the mostly wet Pulaski and Garland counties.

The Leader reported then that, even though about half of the state’s 75 counties are dry, nearly all have some exceptions, and those areas would have to be pulled out of any “dry” statistic to be valid. Also, DWI-related fatalities were found to be pretty even in both wet and dry counties.

 “Hard alcohol sales in Jacksonville don’t guarantee new restaurants, and may hurt existing local mom-and-pop businesses.” The city’s chamber of commerce is collecting signatures in support of the wet-dry vote, and many chamber members are local, small businesses.

 “Allowing hard alcohol sales will hurt our economy. When you factor in reduced quality of life, higher crime, and education costs, it makes no economic sense to go wet.” Those who support going wet have touted a University of Arkansas at Little Rock study that found Jacksonville going wet could add $600,000 to the city’s economy.

The chamber group, as of Feb. 10, had collected 200 of the 1,415 signatures needed.

Chamber board president Roger Sundermeier said Thursday, “We are still moving forward.” But he and events coordinator Amy Mattison didn’t have an updated count of signatures.

Mattison blamed the recent bout of winter weather. She added that she had been and would continue contacting those with petitions every day to ask that they turn in the signatures they’ve collected.

The last week of January, the campaign turned in more than 5,000 signatures. The first week of this month, 3,593 were certified by the Pulaski County clerk’s office. But a total of 5,008 are needed to set an election.

Petitioners have said before that, if the campaign is successful, a special election could be held this spring.

A state law passed in 2013 allows residents of the defunct Gray Township to circulate the petition. If voters approve of going wet, alcohol sales will be allowed at restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, according to that law.

The township, which contains 90 percent of Jacksonville and the half of Sherwood north of Maryland Avenue, voted in the 1950s to be dry — not allowing alcohol sales.

People can sign the Jacksonville petition at the chamber office, 200 Dupree Drive, or contact events coordinator Amy Mattison by phone at 501-982-1511 or via Facebook. The chamber has a page on the social media site.

The Sherwood chamber has spearheaded its effort over the same period as Jacksonville but has collected just 1,500 of the 4,752 signatures needed there. Going wet could add $10 million to Sherwood’s economy, according to the UALR study.

Economic developer Barry Sellers said Friday that the group is holding off on signature gathering in favor of pushing bills in the legislature that would help both cities.

The two campaigns have been circulating their petitions since the summer of 2013.

The Sherwood campaign is considering several other options, Sellers said previously. Those options include lobbying the legislature to reduce the number of signatures required by state law from 38 percent of the registered voters to 10 percent — the same required for other ballot measures.

The Sherwood petition drive was also put on hold a few months ago so that its supporters could campaign for a constitutional amendment that would have turned every county in the state wet. But 57 percent of voters statewide struck that down in the Nov. 4 general election.

There is another petition drive underway to put the statewide initiative back on the ballot in 2016. The 2014 amendment would have made the petition drives by both cities obsolete if it had passed.

The local-option elections will not mean more liquor stores — unlike the statewide initiative that would have brought some to dry counties in The Leader’s coverage area — because the state Alcohol Beverage Control Division allows one liquor store per 5,000 people and Pulaski County is maxed out on permits.

But liquor stores in Jacksonville and Sherwood would likely be allowed to relocate — not next to churches or schools because of zoning requirements — to areas that were once dry if voters do approve of going wet in local-option elections.

SPORTS STORY >> Pocahontas’ guards too much for Lonoke

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits suffered a disappointing, season-ending loss Thursday in the first round of the East Region tournament in Trumann. Two-seed Pocahontas jumped ahead early then pulled away late for a 56-45 victory to advance to the tournament semifinals and qualify for state.

The Lady Jackrabbits entered the tournament hitting their stride and playing their best ball of the season, but Lady Redskins’ guards Ashlyn Ellis and Jessica Seagraves proved too tough to handle on Thursday.

Both teams had everyone back from last year, when Lonoke ended Pocahontas’ season in the first round of regionals last year in Clinton. Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said Ellis was the key difference between the two games.

“She was just a ninth-grader last year when we beat them, and she’s really improved,” said Morris. “She’s gotten a lot faster and plays with more confidence. Now we were able to turn them over quite a few times after they jumped out on us. But we spent a lot of energy getting back into the game and just didn’t have it at the end.”

After falling behind by nine points in the first quarter, Lonoke climbed back to within 20-19 by halftime. But the third quarter started much the same way as the first.

Pocahontas got the ball to start the second half and Seagraves scored. Lonoke failed to score on its first possession, and Seagraves hit a 3-pointer at the other end to make it a six-point game in less than a minute.

“That was a big, big momentum swing right there,” Morris said. “We fought so hard to get back in it, and before you can look up, we’re down six again. We were playing catch-up from that point on.”

Pocahontas held onto the six-point lead throughout the third quarter, then stretched it to double digits early in the fourth. Lonoke pulled back to within four with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, but when forced to foul, the Redskins didn’t miss from the line.

“The point guard went 9 for 11 from the line and we just couldn’t convert,” Morris said.

Ellis scored 23 and Seagraves 22 to lead Pocahontas. Senior post player Eboni Willis scored 15 to lead Lonoke, and was the only Lady Jackrabbit in double figures.

“And she didn’t touch it in the third quarter,” Morris said. “They play a packed in man, really sagging way back. They really hit you hard coming across the middle but they don’t guard you out on the perimeter. And we were only able to hit a couple of threes out of that.”

A bevy of Lonoke players finished with six points, including Callie Whitfield, Jarrelyn McCall, Ashlyn Allen, Kerasha Johnson and Keiunna Walker.

Lonoke ends the season with a 15-14 record, but Morris is still proud of how his squad closed the year.

In its last six games before the regional, Lonoke took No. 2 CAC to the wire on the road, avenged earlier losses to Newport, Helena-West Helena Central, eStem and Heber Springs, and lost in the district semifinals to one-loss Riverview.

“I don’t want to take anything away from our girls,” Morris said. “They were hitting their stride and peaking at the right time. They avenged a tough loss up in Newport. They beat eStem by 18, mercy-ruled Helena and beat Heber Springs by 17. Riverview is better than us, but that second quarter killed us. Everything else in that game is pretty even. So I’m proud of these girls and how they closed out the year. It was just a tough matchup and we weren’t able to pull it off.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils earn sweep of Falcons

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville picked up a 5A-Central sweep of cross-town rival North Pulaski on Thursday. The Lady Devils rolled the hosting Falcons 61-28 while the Jacksonville boys pulled out a hard-fought 52-42 victory.

In the girls’ game, North Pulaski went toe to toe with Jacksonville early, and took an 11-10 lead into the second quarter. That’s when everything changed. Jacksonville’s defensive pressure began to bother the Lady Falcons’ ballhandlers, and the rout was on.

Jacksonville outscored North Pulaski 23-4 in the second quarter to take a 33-15 lead into halftime.

“We were pressuring the whole time, we just weren’t making anything early,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “We were 0 for 4 from the free-throw line, plus I think Antrice (McCoy) was getting fouled pretty hard and wasn’t getting any calls. But we started hitting in the second quarter and I think when we did that, they started forcing some things and we were able to turn them over quite a few times.”

North Pulaski coach Stacey Dalmut said the difference in how her team attacked the pressure between the first and second quarters was obvious, and led to the downfall.

“They turned up the heat and we just wanted to dribble through it instead of running our press break,” said Dalmut. “So we began to turn it over.”

Rountree likes that his team went into the Falcons’ Nest and came away with an easy win, something most teams haven’t done this year.

“I feel pretty good about how we played,” Rountree said. “Their record’s not very good, but when you compare scores to their other home games, they played everybody pretty close until tonight.”

Jacksonville outscored NP 21-8 in the third quarter for a 54-23 lead, invoking the sportsmanship rule in the fourth period.

McCoy led all scorers with 24 points while sophomore guard Alexis James added 13 for Jacksonville. Raigen Thomas was the only Lady Falcon in double figures, finishing with 12 points.

The boys’ game was close throughout, but Jacksonville maintained the lead most of the game. The Red Devils led 10-9 after one quarter and 22-17 at the half. North Pulaski was able to keep Jacksonville from cranking up the pace and kept it a half-court game most of the time. But the Red Devils’ inside game proved the difference.

Senior Tedrick Wolfe finished with 23 points for the Red Devils (19-7, 9-4). LaQuawn Smith added 14 and Devin Campbell scored 11.

Senior De’Marik Brown led North Pulaski with 23 points while Brandon England finished with 14.

Jacksonville played league-leading McClellan Friday after Leader deadlines, but the Red Devils are locked in as the No. 3 seed in the state tournament regardless of that outcome. They will play their first-round game at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against the second seed from the 5A-East, which as of Friday, could still be Forrest City, Valley View or Paragould.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther girls get win over Central

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers got another big 7A/6A-East win Thursday night at home, as they knocked off Little Rock Central by the final score of 50-48, and furthered their current win streak to seven games.

Central was the last team to beat Cabot. In that Jan. 20th game in Little Rock, the Lady Tigers beat the Lady Panthers by the final score of 47-38.

Since then, the Lady Panthers have gone a tear, winning seven-straight, including wins over the top two teams in the conference.

Cabot became the first in-state team to beat current No. 1 seed North Little Rock earlier this month, and Central was tied with NLR for the top spot in the conference entering Thursday night’s game with the Lady Panthers.

Cabot’s win over Central on Thursday gives them both two losses in league play. Central, however, holds the tiebreaker, having beat Cabot by a larger margin in their first meeting this season.

The Lady Tigers, though, played NLR last night after deadlines, and another Central loss to NLR would give Cabot, as of now, the outright No. 2 spot in the 7A-East.

A Central win over NLR, however, would put Cabot, NLR and Central in a three-way tie for first as each team would have two losses each in league play. The tiebreakers for that scenario would be decided by head-to-head point differentials.

The first quarter of Thursday’s game was low-scoring, but Cabot had double the points as Central by the end of the quarter, as the Lady Panthers led 8-4.

Central got right back in it, though, at the start of the second quarter, scoring three quick points on an and-one by Bre’Amber Scott 12 seconds into the period.

Scott’s old-fashioned 3-point play made it an 8-7 game, and it was back and forth for the remainder of the half. At the break, the score was tied at 23-23, and that was thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner by Scott.

Cabot improved its shot selection in the second half, and the Lady Panthers did a better job of getting to the free-throw line more frequently – something Central did a slightly better job of in the first two quarters of play.

That strategy helped Cabot take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, leading 34-32, but Central tied the game at 34-34 on the first possession of the fourth with an inside bucket by Kiara Williams.

Danielle McWilliams answered for Cabot at the 6:12 mark of the fourth quarter by connecting on a short jumper off the glass, which put the Lady Panthers up 36-34.

Cabot’s lead later grew to six, 43-37, and that score was set on a pair of one-and-one free throws by Josie Vanoss with 3:22 remaining.

Central managed to cut its deficit to three, 47-44, with 39 seconds left to play, but it wasn’t long before the Lady Panthers were up by six again.

A McWilliams free throw with 33 tics left and two more free throws by Anna Sullivan with 15.7 seconds left put Cabot up 50-44. Central cleaned up the score on the last possession of the game.

With Cabot’s defense not wanting to foul, Scott was able to sink an easy layup as time expired, setting the final score.

“We were trying to focus on getting to the line and we were trying to focus on not letting them get to the line,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder of the second half, “because in the first half they kept getting to the line.”

From the free-throw line, Cabot made 16 of 27 shots, including 11 of 19 in the second half. Central made 11 of 17 shots from the stripe, including 3 of 7 in the second half.

With the win, the Lady Panthers improved their record to 21-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play. Central’s record dropped to 21-3 overall and 10-2 in conference play.

Considering they’ve now won seven-straight, with wins over two championship-caliber teams, and with the playoffs right around the corner, the Cabot girls could be in line for a lengthy playoff run.

The Lady Panthers have played their best ball of the season these last seven games, and that’s something this team hopes to continue doing well into the playoffs.

“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time,” said Cabot senior center Alyssa Hamilton. “I hope that we can continue this throughout state. I think we’re really starting to mesh and our chemistry is really good right now. So hopefully we can keep that up.”

For the game, Cabot made 16 of 38 shots for 42 percent. The Lady Panthers had eight field goals in each half, but had 24 shot attempts in the first half, and 14 in the second half. Central, for the game, made 17 of 47 shots from the floor for 36 percent.

Cabot went 2 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half, but had just one attempt, a miss, from beyond the arc in the second half. Central made 1 of 7 threes in the first half and 2 of 10 in the second half.

The Lady Panthers won the rebounding battle, 31-17, but the hosts had more turnovers, 20, than the 13 Central committed.

Two different Lady Panthers scored in double figures. McWilliams led Cabot with 11 points – nine of which came in the second half, and Vanoss had 10. Sullivan scored eight points, and Leighton Taylor had seven, while Hamilton had six points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Three different Lady Tigers scored in double figures. Scott and Kamry Orr led all scorers with 14 points each, and Williams added 10.

The Lady Panthers end their season with consecutive conference road games – the first at Jonesboro and the second at Searcy – both of which are winnable games. Look for details of where the Cabot girls will be seeded in next week’s state tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot beats Tigers, into playoff race

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys put themselves in good position to get back to the Class 7A state playoffs next week with what ended up being a convincing 82-66 win over Little Rock Central in Thursday’s 7A/6A-East game at Panther Arena.

Cabot had to beat Central by four points Thursday in order to even get a chance at the playoffs. Even though the Panthers achieved that, the Tigers still had to lose last night’s after deadlines game against top-ranked North Little Rock in order for the Panthers to secure a spot in next week’s state tournament.

If the Charging Wildcats took care of business, though, as they should, then the Panthers are in as the No. 3 East seed.

“We didn’t just have to win, we had to win by four,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “We still need help. We need North Little Rock to get them (Friday) night for us, but I was proud of our guys.

“I thought we did a better job of stepping up our defense and just shutting the lane down. When you’ve had time off like we have, you’ll take it.”

Due to the recent winter weather, the Panthers’ last game before Thursday was last Saturday at home – a nail-biting win over Mountain Home. The time off didn’t seem to affect Cabot in the early goings of Thursday’s game, though.

Cabot started the game by making three of its first four shots from the floor and took an early 8-3 lead as a result. The Panthers maintained the lead at the end of the opening quarter, but by a narrow 17-14 margin.

The Panthers looked as if they might run away with it early in the second quarter, as they scored the first nine points of the quarter to further their lead to 26-14. Central, though, responded with a 9-0 run of its own to cut the Cabot lead to 26-23 by the 4:28 mark of the quarter.

Cabot’s next points came with 3:37 left in the half, which were a pair of free throws by point guard Bobby Joe Duncan. That made the score 28-23 Cabot, and sparked a 7-0 run that helped push the Panther lead to 33-23. All seven points during the run were scored by Duncan.

By halftime, Cabot’s lead was trimmed back down to single digits, with the score 35-28. Each team scored 18 points in the third quarter, and as a result, the Panthers’ lead stayed at seven at the start of the fourth, with the score 53-46.

Central did, however, threaten to take control of the game in the early goings of the fourth quarter. The Tigers made it a one-point game, 61-60, with 5:23 remaining on a long three by Cobi Platt.

It was then, though, that Cabot went on its scoring tear that put the game away. After Platt’s three, the Panthers went on a 15-1 scoring run to push their lead back to double digits, with the score 76-61.

The Panthers’ largest lead was 82-64. That score was set on a pair of free throws by Cabot junior forward Garrett Rowe, and came with 45.3 seconds remaining. Central managed two more points before the clock hit zero, setting the final margin.

It’s been quite a turnaround for the Panthers in recent weeks. They suffered a miserable losing streak at the start of their conference schedule, due in large part to a number of injuries to key starters. But all but one of those players has since returned to the rotation, which has contributed most to the team’s recent success.

In turn, the team itself has shown much improvement since the start of the conference season, and that progression paired with the key players that have returned from injuries has led to this unlikely turnaround.

“I don’t think anybody would’ve liked to have played eight conference games with three starters out like we had to,” Bridges said. “I mean, I’m proud of us just for where we’ve gotten to after a 0-6 run.

“We’ve gotten better. We have a long way to go, but we’re getting better.”

Cabot finished the game 30 of 57 from the floor for 53 percent. Central finished the game 23 of 55 from the floor for 42 percent. From 3-point range, the Panthers made 6 of 20 attempts, while the Tigers made 6 of 26 attempts.

From the free-throw line, Cabot went 16 for 21 for 76 percent, and the Tigers made 14 of 23 for 61 percent.

The Panthers, whose record improved to 14-10 overall and 4-8 in conference play with the win, outrebounded the Tigers 39-24, but the hosts had two more turnovers, 12, than Central’s 10 committed.

Rowe led all scorers with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Hunter Southerland had 26 points and seven boards, and fellow junior Jared Dixon was the only other Panther to score in double figures. He had 15 points and four rebounds.

Like Cabot, Central had three different players score in double figures. Cameron Johnson led the Tigers with 19 points. Platt scored 12 for Central, and Brennan Johnson had 10 points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Inside game lifts Lonoke to runaway win, regional

Leader sports editor

The fifth-seeded Lonoke girls’ basketball team avenged two earlier conference losses in emphatic fashion Saturday in the 4A-2 District tournament, beating four seed Heber Springs 67-46 in the old gymnasium at Lonoke High School. In so doing, the Lady Jackrabbits secured a spot in next week’s East Regional that will be held in Trumann.

Things started to go Lonoke’s way midway through the first quarter. The Lady Jackrabbits led 9-4 with 4:10 remaining before the Lady Panthers scored four in a row. After a timeout, Lonoke closed the last 2:10 of the first quarter with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Kerasha Johnson, a bucket by Amanda Sexton and two free throws by Tiunna Walker.

Sexton then scored four-straight to open the second quarter. After her first steal of the quarter, Sexton drove baseline for a layup and a 20-8 Lonoke lead. Sexton then stepped in front of a Heber Springs pass at the top of the key for her second steal in two Lady Panther possessions of the frame.

Frustrated, Heber Springs’ Makenzie Martin ruthlessly shoved Sexton in the back as she went up for a layup, driving the Jackrabbit senior hard into wall padding behind the goal. Martin was called for a flagrant foul as Sexton lay on the floor for a couple of minutes recuperating from the impact. She stepped to the line and made both free throws, and Heber Springs never got within nine points the rest of the way.

The Lady Panthers reached that margin just a few minutes later in the second quarter, going on a 7-2 run to pull within 24-15 with exactly four minutes left in the first half. The two teams traded baskets for the next three minutes, making it 30-21 with 63 seconds left in the half. From there, Lonoke’s pressure took over.

With Johnson and Jarrelyn McCall on the bench, Callie Whitfield moved to the point, where she found Sexton breaking to the basket for a layup with a minute left. After two quick missed shots by each team and some substitutions, Kimistri Balance got a steal, passed to McCall, who dished to Ashlyn Allen for a transition layup. Lonoke’s pressure then forced a traveling violation with six seconds remaining.

McCall took the inbound pass, drove the length of the court, stopped and popped a 12-footer at the buzzer to send Lonoke into halftime with a 36-21 lead.

Both teams scored on each of their first three possessions of the third quarter, but Lonoke was trading two for three. Johnson scored eight-straight for Lonoke, including two 3-pointers before picking up her third foul and sitting down with 5:20 left in the third quarter.

Heber Spring cut the margin to 13 on back-to-back baskets by Abigail Herring, but Lonoke still took a 53-37 lead into the final quarter. Lady Panther McKenzie Cresswell scored first to start the fourth, but another Lonoke run soon put the game away.

The Lady Jackrabbits played keep away from an aggressive defense before Whitfield, standing in the left corner, hit McCall streaking in from the top of the key. In one motion, McCall leaped, took the pass, spun and hit Eboni Willis all alone underneath the basket for a layup, capping a 96-second possession and kick starting an 8-0 run that would put the Lady Jackrabbits up by 22 with 3:45 remaining.

All eight points were layups out of the half-court set, the first six by Willis, the last two by Sexton.

The two senior post players accounted for more than half of Lonoke’s point total. Sexton led all players with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Willis finished with 16 points and seven boards.

Sexton also had four assists and three steals.

“That’s a pretty good all around game,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “I thought we played exceptionally hard today. On top of that, we executed well as a team, and that’s why our post players were able to score as easily as they did. This is one of our better games of the year.

“And I thought Callie Whitfield did a good job when we had to sit our two starting guards. They weren’t really coming hard and trapping, but they were giving us some token press to keep us in front, and she did a really good job getting it up the court and getting our offense going.”

Johnson added 14 points for Lonoke while McCall scored 10. Herring was the only Lady Panther in double figures with 14 points.

Lonoke had to turn around and play top-ranked and undefeated Riverview three hours later, and lost.

Lonoke wasn’t the only lower seed to win on Saturday. Sixth-seed Southside Batesville beat three seed eStem Saturday afternoon before falling to CAC later in the evening. Since Lonoke (15-13) is a higher seed than Southside, it will take the three seed into the regional tournament that began today in Trumann.

The Lady Jackrabbits are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Thursday against Pocahontas.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS seniors lead way to rout of Mills

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils celebrated senior night with one of their best performances in recent weeks, hammering Mills University Studies 77-51 at the Devils’ Den on Friday. Jacksonville’s two seniors added icing to the cake by each having games worthy of the ceremony that honored them beforehand.

Point guard Antrice McCoy turned in a tremendous all-around performance, scoring a game and season high 31 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Post player Jerika Hardaway scored six points, picked up four steals and dominated the glass with 13 rebounds.

“Look, two great seniors,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “Antrice has got to be leading the league in scoring. She played some on the state championship team as a sophomore. She started for our quarterfinal team last year, but she was just a role player. She has totally changed her role, and done a great job accepting the fact that she had to be a leader and scorer for us. For my money, there’s not a better point guard in 5A.

“Jerika is one who, as a coach, you just never forget. She barely saw the floor her first two years, but she stuck with it. She’s had to do things in her personal life at 16, 17 years old, that I don’t know if I could handle at 48 or 49. She’s just a tremendous young lady and has been a big part of this team’s success.

“Jacksonville does a great job of making a big deal out of senior night and honoring these kids, and I’m very happy those two had a great game.”

The Lady Red Devils’ dominance began about three minutes into the game. Jacksonville led 9-8 with 4:58 left in the opening frame, but ended the quarter with a 28-8 advantage.

Hardaway started the run with a steal out of Mills’ half-court set that she took the distance for a layup. That was the only Comet turnover of the run, but Jacksonville’s defense forced Mills into rushed shots that wouldn’t fall.

Following the first missed shot by the Comets, junior Desiree Williams hit a 3-pointer to make it 14-8. McCoy then grabbed a rebound under the basket and drove from goal to goal for a layup. Junior Tatiana Lacy put back a McCoy miss on the next possession and Hardaway put back a Lacy miss to end the quarter.

Jacksonville’s Asiah Williams sank a 3-pointer to start the second quarter to cap the 14-0 run with 6:50 left in the half. Mills trimmed one point from the margin with a basket by Mackenzie Tillman that made it 28-14, but the Lady Red Devils closed the second quarter with a similar run to the one that ended the first.

Desiree Williams started a 13-2 run with a 25-foot 3-pointer that made it 31-14, and the Lady Devils led 41-16 at the break.

A 10-minute rest didn’t stop Jacksonville’s momentum. The Lady Red Devils (13-10, 8-4) opened the second half with a blistering 16-2 run to lead by 39 at 57-18 with five minutes left in the third quarter. But Jacksonville’s defensive focus began to wane at that point, as did most of the starters’ playing time.

Mills, which had managed only 18 points in two-and-a-half quarters, scored 18 more in the final four minutes of the third to pull within the 30-point mercy-rule margin at 64-36 by the start of the fourth.

Jacksonville finally did invoke the mercy rule when junior Emily Lovercheck hit a baseline jumper to make it 73-43 with 5:10 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville utterly dominated the glass. The Lady Devils grabbed 47 rebounds to just 14 for Mills (12-14, 3-9).

McCoy was the only Lady Red Devil in double digits scoring, and Hardaway was the only one in double digits rebounding, but 10 different players scored and 10 different players got at least two rebounds.

Eight different Lady Red Devils scored at least two baskets. Desiree Williams was second in scoring with eight points. Taylor Toombs had seven points and six rebounds.

Lacy had six points and seven rebounds. Alexis James scored six points. Asiah Williams had five points and two rebounds and Kiara Summerville came off the bench for four points and four rebounds.

Jessica Scott led Mills with 26 points while Tillman added 10 for Mills.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Girl grappler wrests title

Leader sportswriter

Beebe junior Destiny Nunez made history on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of UALR by becoming the first female wrestler in state history to win an individual state championship.

Wrestling at the high school level hasn’t been around for very long in Arkansas, but in the seven years the state wrestling tournament has been held, no girl ever claimed the top prize – until Saturday afternoon.

Nunez, a dual-sport athlete who plays volleyball in the fall, entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed in the 106-pound weight class, and she claimed the state title in that weight class by winning a 5-2 decision against No. 1 seed Aiden Menchaca (15-5) of Maumelle.

Although the win was considered an upset, based on their seedings, it didn’t come as a shock to Nunez or those that have followed her wrestling career.

Nunez medaled as a freshman, finishing fourth overall in that weight class, and last year as a sophomore, she earned the bronze medal in the 106-pound division by finishing third overall.

This year, the junior wrestling pioneer made it a goal before the season started to take two steps forward and capture the state championship.

“I set it at the beginning of wrestling season,” said Nunez of her goal. “My ninth-grade year my goal was just to do good in state and place, and then last year’s goal was to place higher than I placed my ninth-grade year.

“So at the beginning of this season I set my goal that I wanted to get first.”

Nunez’s path to the state championship began with a win over No. 6 seed Tommie Lor of Gentry in the first round of the state tournament. She won that match by pinfall 1:23 into the bout.

The win over Lor put Nunez in the semifinals against No. 2 seed Noah Forke of Berryville. Nunez won that match by pinfall as well, and did so 1:57 into the bout. That win put Nunez against Menchaca in the finals, where she won by decision.

Despite getting the win, Nunez said she wasn’t entirely pleased with her performance in the final.

“I wasn’t really happy,” Nunez said. “I thought I could have done better. I felt like I should’ve been able to pin him instead of just winning by points.”

Nunez’s official record this season in the 106-pound class is a perfect 3-0, and that number is so low because she spent the majority of the season wrestling at 113 pounds so that Beebe could use another wrestler at 106 pounds in order to earn more team points, and therefore place higher in tournaments and dual meets.

Nunez’s journey to joining the wrestling team at Beebe first started her freshman year. She was originally going to be a water girl for the team, but decided after watching some practices that it looked fun enough to try herself.

Her brother, Aaron Nunez, a BHS senior who’s a state champion in his own right, was a sophomore on the team that year, and it wasn’t long before his sister approached him about the possibility of her joining the team.

“I went home and I talked to Aaron, and I was like ‘I think I want to do wrestling.’ He was like ‘really?’ And I said, ‘yeah, it looks kind of fun.’ So he showed me kind of the basic stuff to wrestling at home.

“Then the next day in practice I went up to coach (David) Payne and told him I think I want to wrestle. He asked me how much I weighed. I said, ‘around 106.’ He asked me if I had practice stuff, and I said, ‘yeah,’ and so from then on I just started practicing with them and that’s how it started.”

Aaron Nunez went on to win the state championship in the 145-pound weight class that year; the year his sister finished fourth. Aaron Nunez, who also quarterbacked the Badgers’ football team, suffered an ACL injury during football his junior season, and didn’t get to wrestle last year because of the injury.

Though he was unable to wrestle last year, he watched as his sister eventually won a bronze medal in the 106-pound weight class, and that was the moment he said he saw the real potential in his sister that she could become a state champion in her own right.

“It wasn’t till last year’s state tournament, where she finished third, that her talent really proved to me that she was capable of becoming a state champion,” said Aaron Nunez.

Before she even considered wrestling, Aaron Nunez knew his sister was a tough person, because as the lone male among his siblings, he had Destiny and their younger sister help him practice the various sports he’s participated in over the years, including wrestling.

“I’m the only guy in my family, so I really took it rough on my sisters because I didn’t have a brother,” Aaron Nunez said. “Destiny and my younger sister below her, I had them practice all my sports with me every year I played sports.

“Then she came to me and told me she was thinking about wrestling. I kind of just laughed a little bit, and she said, ‘no, I really am.’ I know she’s a tough girl, because I’ve made her into that, making her practice sports with me.

“So we went to coach Payne, and he said, yeah, you can try it and practice with us and stuff and she just stuck with it. We just kept getting her better and better, and we knew she had the potential to be a good wrestler.”

The two siblings got to be teammates on the mat again this year. Aaron Nunez finished his senior season by earning a bronze medal in the 152-pound weight class Saturday. He beat Jackson Helm of Bismarck via pinfall in the third-place match.

As for Destiny Nunez, she’ll defend her title and try and repeat as the 106-pound state champion next year, her senior season. It’s a feat she said she doesn’t necessarily expect to achieve, but that it’s definitely a goal for her, nonetheless.

“I do hope to repeat,” she said. “I won’t say I expect to get it. I’m just going to say it’s just going to be another goal to get this title again.”


Leader sports editor

The stage was set, and though the location seemed unlikely for such a big event, the 50 or so spectators knew the magnitude of what was being attempted. A New York Times sportswriter had come all the way to tiny Black Springs (Montgomery County), with its population of 114, to cover the USATF Arkansas state indoor meet at the Morry Sanders Pole Vault Complex. Lexi and Tori Weeks, twin seniors at Cabot High School, were trying for the fourth time to break the national girls’ prep pole vault record.

Both sisters entered the meet with a personal best of 14-feet, 0 1/2 inch. Tori entered Saturday’s competition having just overcome a 103-temperature illness and the energy wasn’t there. Lexi was fresh and confident. After gliding over a 13-foot, 9-inch bar, it went up to 14-3 ¼. That’s one half inch higher than the national record going into the competition. It’s now the new national record.

Lexi failed on her first attempt. She scraped the bar on her second try. Her back splashed into the landing pit. The bar stayed up. She burst into tears. Tori was the first person to the pit to share the moment.

“I was just so relieved,” said Lexi Weeks. “I had tried for that height, this was my fourth meet since January, and it was my last chance until late this summer because outdoor is about to start. I thought I had the first one even though I hit the bar. The second one I hit with my thigh and my waist a little bit. Actually I thought I hit it pretty good, so when I hit the mat I looked up and saw that it stayed up there. The emotions just flooded me at that moment.”

Lexi and Tori will continue to go to Black Springs once a week for practice, working towards their goal of 15 feet by the end of the outdoor season before reporting to the University of Arkansas in the fall.

“First I want to break Desiree’s (Freier) outdoor record of 14-7, and then go for 15,” Lexi Weeks said. “I’m still a long way from that, but I think if I just stay focused and keep working hard on it, I can reach that. I’m extremely competitive and there’s a number there to beat. So I’m going to start with that and go from there.”

Cabot fans have several opportunities to see the local stars this outdoor season. It begins March 12 at Searcy. There is a meet in Bryant on March 19 and the Cabot Walmart Invitational is on March 31.

There are other meets nearby after those, and beyond that, and national records might fall in any of them. Beyond that, the entire Lady Panther track team has a chance to be very successful.

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville taking lead

Jacksonville’s new school district is showing the way for Sherwood and Maumelle, which are also trying to separate from the troubled Pulaski County Special School District.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is off to a great start as plans are being completed for a complete split from PCSSD next year.

The Jacksonville district isn’t exactly an overnight success: It took more than 35 years to make it happen and more than a decade to win approval in the legislature allowing the city to split away from PCSSD.

The House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill that would let smaller cities like Sherwood and Maumelle form their own districts. A Senate committee could act on the proposal as early as today, but once it’s approved there, the federal courts would also have sign off on the split.

Jacksonville can pave the way by showing how to build a new district from the ground up. Interim Superintendent Bobby Lester received a warm welcome last week at Bayou Meto Elementary as he told area residents about the district’s ambitious rebuilding program. The district will close Jacksonville Middle School next year and, for one year, move 190 students from there to Northwood Middle School, which PCSSD was planning to vacate because of low enrollment.

Lester also focused on plans to build a combined high school on 300 acres of Air Force property at the base, along with a new elementary school on 20 acres of Defense Department land and converting North Pulaski High School in between the two lots into a combined middle school.

North Pulaski will become the new middle school in 2016-17, Lester said, and its students would transfer to Jacksonville High School until the combined high school becomes a reality.

The new elementary school would replace Arnold Drive, which was built on Little Rock Air Force Base in the early 1960s, and Tolleson on Harris Road.

Those projects, in addition to renovating Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Dupree, Pinewood and Taylor elementary schools, will cost about $92 million, Lester said. “Our kids deserve more,” the superintendent said.

Derek Scott, PCSSD director of operations, said the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, which would provide a portion of the funding for the elementary and high school projects, is doing paperwork for both.

The new district could sell hundreds of acres of land after demolishing Tolleson Elementary, along with Jacksonville High School, the middle school and even the abandoned Jacksonville Elementary. Some of these campuses, especially the middle school property near Hwy. 67/167, are potentially valuable for commercial development.

Lester has said the new district doesn’t know yet how much of a millage increase might be needed to fund new facilities. A millage increase for Jacksonville-North Pulaski patrons will not be voted on this September, and the 5.6-mill increase sought by the Pulaski County Special School District won’t affect them.

PCSSD has built new schools in Sherwood and Maumelle while it has neglected Jacksonville for more than 35 years. It’s a sorry record Jacksonville-area residents are determined to rectify, and they could show Sherwood and Maumelle how to better educate local students.

TOP STORY >> Beauty school makes history

Leader staff writer

February is Black History Month — the perfect time to celebrate trailblazers like Carla Jones, the first black student to graduate from Arthur’s Beauty College in Jacksonville.

Jones was also the cosmetology school’s first black instructor and has been a valued employee of the family-owned and operated business for more than 30 years as the campus kept growing.

Co-worker Lizzy Smith said, “She’s just a living legend around here. She’s a staple. I think we all count on her. We all come to her for advice. There’s nothing that she doesn’t know. She’s our go-to person…You can’t outwork her. You can’t outsmart her. She gives us something to work toward.”

Gwen Cline added that Jones is “the rock of this school. She’s the one we always lean on. If we’ve got something we need to talk about, we go to Ms. Carla.”

Although students and instructors welcomed her when she enrolled at the school in 1979, she said, “It was kind of hard at first” because the clientele was older and had a different attitude.”

“They weren’t comfortable with me doing their hair because, I guess, they just weren’t used to it (having a black stylist),” she said.

One of the most difficult days was when an instructor led her to a customer who said in front of Jones, “No, I don’t want the little black girl.”

“That was one of the days that I left bawling, you know, went to the bathroom bawling,” Jones said.

“I had a few days of anxiety and a few hospital visits to get some medicine to cope with it until Arthur (the owner), you know, he told them, he said, ‘Look, Carla is one of my students as well and she has to train and learn as well as my other students. And, if you don’t feel comfortable with her doing your hair, then I would ask you not to come back to my school.”

Jones said, “After that, I didn’t have any problems.”

Since then, she has been a guide to others who have faced the same kind of adversity.

“Somebody’s got to be the one that spearheads the opportunity for someone else,” Jones said. “I always tell them keep the main thing, the main thing, and keep your eye on the prize…Don’t let them win.”

She added, “Quitters never win, and winners never quit, so you’ve got to keep on keeping on.”

Now the school, with campuses in Fort Smith, Conway, Jonesboro and Jacksonville, is proud to be racially diverse, Jones noted.

Many students make it past those difficult days fielding a client’s unkind words, Jones said. And it’s “worth a million” to hear that one of her students is still working in the business, she shared.

The 1979 Jacksonville High School graduate knew from a very young age that she wanted to become a cosmetologist.

Cosmetology was her dream because she grew up with it. “Having all those brothers and sisters, and then friends in the neighborhood always wanting me to braid their hair, or do something with their hair. My grandmother always had me to brush her hair and take care of her scalp and stuff,” she said.

“I just loved it. I’ve always loved it, from the time I was about 8 years old,” Jones said.

But her family — a single mom with 12 kids, including Jones’ four older and seven younger siblings — “had no way to pay” the $545 tuition Arthur’s was charging. The children’s father passed away when Jones was 13.

She came to Arthur’s because the school offered a scholarship, with the goal of recruiting black students to attend.

A counselor recommended Jones for the scholarship, and it was awarded to her after she met with then-beauty school owners Arthur and Virginia Doyle.

Their eldest daughter, Chris Strawn, owns the business now.

Jones enrolled at Arthur’s in June 1979 and graduated in February 1980.

Her first job was working as a stylist for Strawn, who had received a salon on Little Rock Air Force Base from her parents for her 21st birthday.

Jones returned to Arthur’s for the 600-hour (about two-month) instructor school after four years at Strawn’s salon.

She was old enough by then to train as an instructor, which was for ages 21 and up. The Doyles had encouraged Jones to become their first black instructor, and she did in 1984 or 1985.

There were 30 to 40 students at Arthur’s when Jones attended the nine-month course she finished in eight and a half months.

Now the student body is a couple hundred strong. Jones said there are about 50 at the Fort Smith campus, 75 in Conway, 50 in Jonesboro and 25-30 in Jacksonville.

Upon finishing instructor school, Jones was hired to supervise night classes.

Then she transferred to Arthur’s corporate office as the director of education.

Her next and current position is director of compliance.

Jones’ job is to make sure all four campuses have up-to-date licenses, their instructors are licensed and all regulations — enforced by the state Board of Cosmetology under the Health Department, the state Department of Education plus an accrediting agency — are being followed.

“It’s a lot of work, but I love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else…I mean this business will consume you if you let it,” she said.

Jones continued working at the school because of its “family atmosphere.”

She explained, “It’s not like a job. My grandmother once told me that, if you find something to do that you just love to do, you’ll never have to work another day in your life…I have that with this company.”

Jones also owns a salon and works there when she’s not busy at Arthur’s. “I love to cut hair. I love to color hair. I just love it, it’s like a blank canvas. Someone sits in your chair and says, ‘do what you want.’”

She said the cosmetology business is “forever changing, but kind of the same” with new techniques such as using foil in hair coloring rather than pulling strands through caps, as Jones did when she was in school.

Curly hair was popular when the hairstylist got her start, but now straightened hair is the trend.

Jones has been married for 18 years.

The couple had one daughter, who was also a hairstylist but she passed away in 2009.

Jones also enjoys going to the movies, family game nights and being involved in church activities.

TOP STORY >> Senate voting on dividing district

Leader senior staff writer

As early as today, the Senate Education Committee could consider a bill to remove a key stumbling block facing Sherwood and Maumelle, two area cities wanting to secede from the Pulaski County Special School District.

HB 1242, which would lower the threshold for a new district from 4,000 students to 2,500, was passed in the House Monday by a vote of 60 to 21, with 18 not voting and one voting present.

Among local lawmakers, Rep. Karilyn Brown, (R-Sherwood), Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) and Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) voted for the bill.

Voting against the bill was David Hillman, (D-Almyra) and not voting were Reps. Douglas House (R-Sherwood), Donnie Copeland (R-North Little Rock), Bob Johnson, (D-Jacksonville) and Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia).

A multitude of hurdles would still face both would-be districts, not the least of which is a court-approved desegregation agreement settlement which declares that only Jacksonville can detach from PCSSD until the district is declared unitary — desegregated — in all aspects.


But Jacksonville, which has been approved to stand up its own district by local voters, the courts and the state Board of Education have shown that it can be done with patience and perseverance.

The bill being amended, originally passed by former state Rep. Pat Bond, (D-Jacksonville) in about 2001, set the number at 4,000 — a number believed to be achievable for a Jacksonville district. That’s according to eeeeeerr5former state Rep. Will Bond (D-Jacksonville), her son.

Proponents of Maumelle and Sherwood school districts hope it will not take them 13 years between lowering the minimum size for detachment and approval, like it did for Jacksonville.

Each district will each have to conduct timely feasibility studies that show, among other things, that a new district could support itself, that it could achieve a racial balance and that it would not harm PCSSD by detaching, especially in terms of racial balance.


Johnson said he didn’t support the bill because he didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District. The desegregation settlement allowed only that detachment to happen before the Pulaski County Special School District is declared unitary.

House didn’t support the bill Monday. He said, “It stands a good chance of throwing out the desegregation agreement as it’s written.”

He explained how the agreement has a provision that reads the state shall oppose any detachment effort before PCSSD is unitary. Changing criteria in the law that deals with that is not opposing any detachment effort, House pointed out.

But, he said, he would support a Sherwood school district after PCSSD is released from federal court monitoring.


Brown said she was pleased with the vote and the strong support it represented.

The last time that it failed was by just two votes because 51 were needed. She was out sick and others missed the meeting because of the bad weather.

The bill lowers the enrollment required of any detaching district from 4,000 to 2,500, a more reasonable figure, Brown said. She explained that more than 50 percent of the state’s schools have 1,000 or fewer students while more than 75 percent have fewer than 2,000 enrolled.

Brown also said there was concern the bill would favor white affluent neighborhoods. But Sherwood’s feasibility study shows it isn’t mostly white or affluent.

The study concludes that Sherwood’s racial composition and percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches matches PCSSD figures.

Brown said Sherwood, the 14th largest city in Arkansas, had just one member on the school board before PCSSD was taken over by the state.


“We feel that local control of our schools is important...I think the students will have more pride in their schools. I believe it will help attract business to the Sherwood area,” Brown noted.

Linda Remele, one of two former PCSSD administrators co-chairing the Sherwood Public Education Foundation Committee working toward detachment, agreed and added that the federal judge indicated he wasn’t against it. Before unitary status is achieved isn’t the right time, he told supporters, according to Remele.

She said the claim that the bill violates the desegregation agreement is “smoke and mirrors” and “holds no weight.”

Remele added that a second feasibility will be needed now that Jacksonville has detached.

TOP STORY >> Winter storm causes pileups

Leader staff writer

Two waves of wintry mix closed area schools for the second Monday and Tuesday in a row.

The first wave came through late Sunday dropping a slight but annoying amount ice, sleet and rain in central Arkansas and hardly any snow. But the snow came midday Monday, up to two inches in the area, and continued into the evening hours. The little bit of sleet, combined with the snow, gray skies and temperatures that never made it above freezing Monday made road travel dangerous in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

The wintry wave caused Cabot and Sherwood to cancel their council meetings Monday night.

Both council meetings have been reset to next Monday.

Cabot city offices closed at 1:30 p.m. Monday because of the heavy snow, and some Lonoke city departments were also forced to shut their doors.

The weather caused delays in Cabot trash pickup. Eddie Long, Cabot’s director of operations, said, “We’ll will have additional crews to catch up over the next couple of days. Please be patient.”

Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said the department responded to a few minor accidents. The worst involved a woman who spun out on the highway and hit the cable barrier.

She appeared to be OK at the scene but was sent to the hospital to be checked for injuries, Robinson said.

The department also handled a diesel rig that blocked West Main Street. Its trailer blocked one side of the road and the cab blocked the other side, according to the chief.

Also, a few people slipped and fell on the ice and snow, he added. And some kids on sleds bumped their heads, Robinson said.

Sgt. Keith Graham of the Cabot Police Department said there were about a dozen weather-related accidents in the city this week, but no serious injuries that he knew of. He noted that the State Police responded to some accidents on Hwy. 67/167.

Bill Sadler, public information officer for the Arkansas State Police, said Tuesday that reports on weather-related accidents weren’t available yet, as troopers had fallen behind in filing them and were catching up. He also said there were no fatalities in The Leader’s coverage area.

April Kiser, public information officer for Jacksonville police, said Tuesday that the department had responded to six weather-related accidents since Sunday but no injuries were reported.

The accidents included one man who hit a light pole on Homer Adkins Drive after sliding on the ice and swerving to avoid a parked car.

In a two-vehicle accident on Loop Road, a driver changed his mind about turning left, changed lanes and struck a car he said must have been in his blind spot. The other driver told police he “had no time to stop due to the ice.”

A driver on John Harden Drive reported that the car in front of him stopped suddenly and, when he tried to do the same, he lost traction and swerved into the other lane to avoid rear-ending the stopped car. But an oncoming car struck him.

In a third two-vehicle accident, a driver said he was unable to stop in time to avoid rear-ending a car that had stopped in front of him at the intersection of West Main and Marshall Road.

Lonoke Police Lt. Randy Mauk said his city had no weather-related accidents. “I think everyone heeded the warnings and stayed off the road until the ice melted.”

Light flurries are possible Thursday, according to Jeff Hood with the National Weather Service, but after that the temperature warms and he expects just rain on Sunday.

Jacksonville Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley called the last few days tough. “It was difficult to keep up with the weather,” he said, “even though we had three crews working around the clock.”

Oakley said the city has used a lot of salt and sand over the past two weeks, but had stocked up in the fall. “We have enough for one or two more incidents, and then when things slow down we’ll order more,” Oakley said. He said the storm pushed back sanitation pickup by one day. Recycling ran Monday.

The ice and sleet has caused chunks of asphalt overlay to come up on some streets in the city and especially on Hwy. 67/167 between Redmond and Main Street.

Oakley said the city has some instant patch material that it is using on local streets.

The highway department will have to make repairs to the freeway.

Danny Straessle with the state Highway Department said crews would go out after the storms ease and assess highway damage. “If we find problems that are safety issues, we will try to do some type of temporary fix right away. But, normally, to make a repair stick it needs to be warmer and drier,” he explained. Straessle said, because of the belly plows used, some striping, raised pavement markers and some asphalt is coming up. He added that their focus is getting the ice off the highways and that sometimes damage does occur.

Sherwood reported no weather-related accidents for Sunday through Tuesday. But the county responded to one on Koko Drive in Gravel Ridge, just outside city limits.

Even though the area has seen precipitation more than half the days this month, central Arkansas is still almost an inch below the 30-year average for the month. The cold onslaught over the past two weeks has February running more than 8 degrees cooler than the average for the month.

The average high for the month is 57 degrees and the low is 39. So far, for this February, the average high is 47.1 degrees and the low is 25.5.

Monday’s high of 31 degrees was almost 20 degrees below the norm for that date, plus the 1.3 inches of snow that hit the area, according to the NWS, set a record for that date.

National Weather Service meteorologists say, as a general rule, it takes 10 inches of snow to equal one inch of precipitation. It depends on how wet the snow is. Hood said Monday’s snow was very fine and dry (hard to clump together to make snowballs) and carried very little moisture. He also said that, although sleet contains more moisture, it is counted in the snowfall totals.

(Leader staff writer Sarah Campbell also contributed to this article.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Last chance, sign petition

Kudos and good luck to those collecting signatures on the wet-dry petitions in Jacksonville. Organizers are only 500 signatures short now and “sprinting to the finish line,” Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board president Roger Sundermeier said Friday. 

He also wanted to publicly thank the business owners who took petitions to their offices and offered places where people could sign.

Sundermeier’s optimism was palpable, and the news that two-thirds of the work is done was quite a turnaround after the effort suffered a blow early this month.

On Feb. 3, the Pulaski County Clerk’s Office notified petitioners that they were still short by 1,415 names and had until March 5 to close the gap.

If that goal isn’t reached, volunteers will have to start all over. They’ve already been at it for years.

Having the required 5,008 signatures from registered voters will lead to local elections that let residents decide if they want restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores to sell alcohol.

Under the plan, restaurants would be allowed to have a full bar without paying thousands in annual fees for private-club licenses, and grocery stores and gas stations would be allowed to sell only beer and wine.

Restaurants like Chili’s, which has a private-club license, are also unable to purchase alcohol at reduced wholesale prices. They pay the same marked-up rates as everyone else, and that must be taking a large cut of potential profits.

The Sherwood chamber, leading the same effort for their portion of the defunct and dry Gray Township, has struggled even more. Canvassers there have collected only about 1,500 out of the 4,752 that are required.

Why is this issue important for both cities?

Jacksonville officials expect an estimated $600,000 in sales tax revenue to pour in when national chains — especially restaurants — have one less excuse not to move here.

Sherwood wants to develop the northern half of the city, which is dry and includes Gravel Ridge. A UALR study that predicted the $600,000 for Jacksonville estimated that Sherwood could see $10 million flowing into the local economy if it became wet.

Skeptics who say drunk driving will increase if liquor laws are changed should understand that in Missouri and Louisiana, where liquor laws are among the loosest in the nation, DWI rates are actually lower than in Arkansas, where only 10 counties are completely wet.

Repealing local alcohol prohibitions has proven difficult given that signatures from 38 percent of registered voters are required while 10 percent is needed for most other ballot initiatives. Sherwood economic developer Barry Sellers is hoping legislators will change the law.

Meanwhile, diners will continue to spend their dollars in wet North Little Rock and elsewhere.

Having the option to order a cocktail or beer with dinner or to buy a six-pack on the way home from a long day at the office doesn’t mean more residents will drink.

And those who are against alcohol consumption for moral reasons can still choose not to drink if the area goes wet. It’s doubtful Chili’s serving booze here made a dent in any strongly-held beliefs. 

What these petitions mean is being able to choose. Those who drink can choose to pour their hard-earned wages back into their community. And they can choose whether they want to continue detouring miles out of the way for what they want just because those who were here in the 1950s turned off the taps.
—Sarah Campbell

TOP STORY >> Cabot roast March 10

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation will hold its 20th Roast and Toast Banquet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 at the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria. The event honors students who are receiving scholarships from the foundation this year.

This year’s honoree for the Roast and Toast Banquet is Eugene L. “Laddie” Crouch. He will be roasted by James Handley, Ken Hatfield and Mike Malham. John C. Thompson will be the master of ceremonies, and Rev. David “Buzz” Crouch, Gene’s brother and Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Church in Searcy, will deliver the invocation.

Eugene Crouch was born in Helena and raised in nearby Lexa. He is a 1961 graduate of Barton High School. Crouch attended the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.

He held coaching positions in Brinkley and El Dorado schools before beginning a 25-year career with the FBI. Crouch had assignments in Philadelphia; New York, Rapid City, S. D.; Muskogee, Okla.; and Little Rock.

After retirement from the FBI in 1995, Crouch taught and coached in Cabot schools, retiring in 2003. His support of Cabot’s sports programs continues with his regular attendance each season at most sports competitions.

Gene was married to the former Sue Wood until her death in 2013. Their sons, Lad and Andy, attended Cabot schools and both were active in Cabot athletics.

Gene is an active member of Cabot United Methodist Church and the Rolling Hills Golf Association. He was a Cabot Rotarian for many years, and honored as Rotarian of the Year for 2008-09.

Tickets for the event are available for $30 per person or $240 for a table of eight. They may be purchased from Cabot Scholarship Foundation members, which include John C. Thompson, Cal Aldridge, Nina Butler, Fred Campbell, Carole Jones, Stephen Tipton, Mike Verkler and Angela Wallace, or Cabot High School’s main office.

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation was formed in 1992 by the Cabot Centennial Committee to encourage and recognize academics in Cabot schools. The Roast and Toast Banquet is the foundation’s only fundraising event. Due to the tremendous growth at Cabot High School, community support is greatly appreciated.

Donations are accepted throughout the year at the Cabot Scholarship Foundation, 200 W. Main St. in Cabot. Last year, the foundation awarded 92 scholarships worth $93,550.

TOP STORY >> Taking it to the woods

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The tip of an arrow must be like a razor to pierce the heart of its prey. The hunter spends countless hours sharpening the many skills required to become a bridge from this life to the next.

As he stands describing the qualities of a fine arrow, you couldn’t tell whether Capt. Matthew Spencer is filming an episode of a hunting show or delivering the word of God.
The woods are his sanctuary, and hunting his way of life.

It may seem strange that someone who has devoted his life to saving others relishes the opportunity to take another life. For Spencer, it’s not about seeing one of God’s creations die, but rather the journey a hunt represents.

Even chaplains need to renew their spirituality. When Spencer needs a chaplain, or a place of serenity to lay down his burdens and the cares of the world, he takes it to the woods. His pulpit is a tree, and his congregation encompasses the inhabitants of the forest.

He receives his amens from the sounds of nature, and he feels the presence of God every time the wind blows, momentarily returning him to the hunts of his youth.

Spencer’s Air Force journey began 11 years ago. He spent his first six years as an enlisted security forces airman. It was then that he realized the importance of seeking a chaplain during times of trouble.

Spencer, of the Air Force Reserve, is stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and filling the Protestant chaplain position at Little Rock Air Force Base while its active-duty chaplain is deployed.

“It’s a great job for me because I want to see people prosper,” Spencer said. “I used to be a young airman, too, and I know the difficulties that come along with that. I just want to see people get where they need to be in their career and, more importantly, their life.”

It’s easy to envision Spencer in the woods rehearsing his sermon, as he quotes Genesis 27:3: “Now take your hunting equipment, your quiver and bow, and go out into the wild country and hunt some wild game for me.”

This scripture speaks to him directly, and he lives by it.

“I really enjoy the outdoors. I love to hunt. That’s my outlet,” Spencer said. “To just get away and get in the woods and just be who I grew up being. For me, it’s connecting with God while I am out there. That is where I feel the most connected to him.”

The holidays were a busy time around the chapel. Spencer, a husband and a father, spent the season separated from his family and serving the men and women of the air base.

On Christmas Day, Spencer started before the sun came up, preparing a bounty that he harvested during his stay here.

Back home, he films a hunting show, “Final Fate TV,” which is aired on Dish Network’s Hunting Channel.

On this day, instead of filming another episode, he woke at 3 a.m. to cook for airmen who had to work.

“I was elated that someone would care about us and put in all that work to bring us food while we were out here doing our job,” said Airman 1st Class Charles Bryant, a member of the 19th Security Forces Squadron. “It made me feel great.”

After spending several hours with the airmen, it was time to take it to the woods.

Warm coffee in hand and the backseat of his pickup filled with equipment and camouflage, Spencer headed to his sanctuary.

As soon as his feet hit the ground, he slowly and softly closed his door, so as not to wake his trophy, and the hunt began.

The hunter carefully applied paint to his face and began to blend into the nature that surrounded him. He amassed layer upon layer of Mossy Oak gear and inspected his bow and razor-sharp arrows. With a grin on his face, he hoped that today would be the day.

“It’s not just about the trophy or the size of the antlers. To me, it’s about the journey and how it all comes together, and, at the end of the day, how did you share that with your friends,” Spencer said. “Fellowship is really what I live for; it’s what I really desire.”

Spencer’s personal life directly mirrors his spiritual one. No two days are ever the same.

“You can relate the two as far as the ups and downs,” Spencer said. “Some days you will come in with the uniform on as a chaplain, and it’s a really good day — a lot of positives things are happening. But some days you have to deal with some really hard things that just weigh on your heart. The same can be in the woods. There’s times we go days or weeks at a time and sit in a tree freezing and not see anything.”

Ups and downs aside, chaplains are needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether it be delivering an inspirational message on Sunday or waking up at an inconvenient time to console a grieving family, a chaplain’s work is never done.

“The one thing that we chaplains have is 100 percent confidentiality. No matter what somebody walks into our office with, we don’t take it outside those doors,” Spencer said. “A lot of the time, it weighs on our hearts. Even though we are here to help, we are humans as well.”

“When I dig deep into why I love being a chaplain and love hunting, it boils down to understanding that I will never perfect either, but the journey trying is addicting,” Spencer said.

TOP STORY >> Budget of $92M for new schools

Leader staff writer

Interim Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent Bobby Lester received a much warmer welcome from about 40 people Thursday at Bayou Meto Elementary, where the second of two “community conversation” meetings was held.

The meetings were about the new school district’s intention to shut down Jacksonville Middle School next year and move its 190 middle school students into Northwood Middle School, which would have been vacated for low enrollment.

But Thursday’s talk turned to the planned building of a combined high school on 300 acres of Defense Department land, a new elementary school on 20 acres of Defense Department land and converting the North Pulaski High School in between the two lots into a combined middle school.

Those projects, plus renovating Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Dupree, Pinewood and Taylor elementary schools, will cost about $92 million, Lester said.

The new elementary school would replace Arnold Drive, which was built on Little Rock Air Force Base in the early 1960s, and Tolleson.

North Pulaski will become the new middle school in 2016-17, Lester said, and its students would transfer to Jacksonville High School until the combined high school becomes a reality.

Derek Scott, PCSSD director of operations, said the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, which would provide a portion of the funding for the elementary and high school projects, is processing paperwork for both.

“It’s a funding issue right now. I am hopeful,” he said.

Scott also noted that the 300 acres is large enough for a facility like the new Maumelle High School local people have compared to the Taj Mahal or Conway’s collegiate-like high school campus with separate buildings.

And the Jacksonville district has submitted a skeleton master facilities plan to the state Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, in order to qualify for matching funds of about 50 percent for all approved academic instructional spaces beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

Lester has said the new district doesn’t know yet how much of a millage increase might be needed to fund new facilities.

A millage increase for Jacksonville-North Pulaski patrons will not be voted on this September, and the 5.6-mill increase sought by the Pulaski County Special School District won’t affect them.

When the millage question came up, a woman raising her granddaughter — a junior attending Jacksonville schools — voiced her concern over being told her ballot wasn’t counted in the last school election when the detachment was approved by 95 percent of voters.

Darlene Dickman said she lives in Faulkner County but is zoned for PCSSD and pays taxes that will go to the new district when it separates completely.

Daniel Gray, the Jacksonville school board president, suggested she work that issue out with the Faulkner County Election Commission.

One man at the meeting pointed out that much needs to be done at North Pulaski for it to become a middle school. There are missing tiles, a “deplorable” cafeteria and classrooms that have to be walked through to get to other classrooms while classes are in session, he said.

Another attendee, Kathy Caswell, was also curious about what work would be done at North Pulaski. Then she mentioned, and many agreed, that the rivalry between JHS and NPHS students would be challenging when both sets of students attend classes together at JHS temporarily and for the first few years at a new combined high school.

Scott noted that NPHS has a new auditorium, new parking lots and a new bus lane. Carpet and tiles have been replaced, but half of the school needs those kinds of things done, he said.

Scott said improving North Pulaski would continue but admitted that the district “under invested” in facilities for 20 years. PCSSD spent one-sixth of what it should have on buildings, the director explained.

Things changed after the state took over the fiscally-distressed PCSSD in 2011, he said.

The school board was dissolved, and Jerry Guess was appointed superintendent then.

The first year after the takeover, $8 million was spent on roofs and renovating the front of JHS because the steps there were dangerous, Scott said.

He explained that crews have focused on improving and fixing common areas throughout the PCSSD’s 40 buildings, which include 36 schools.

But workers have only seen about 4 percent of the district’s classrooms, Scott said.

“There’s still a lot of things to be done, and it’s going to take a period of time,” he emphasized.

Lester said Scott had been doing a good job. But, he added, “It’s hard to put lipstick on a sow and make her look a whole lot better when she’s been wallowing in the mud as long as she has been.”

Another woman at the meeting was concerned about the new district not having enough middle school students to fill North Pulaski, but she was told the Jacksonville-North Pulaski district has between 800 and 900 middle school students.

Scott was asked why PCSSD made improvements to Northwood when they were planning to close it. He said the closure would not have been permanent and the building would have been used within the next five years to alleviate crowding at other campuses.

Lester explained at the beginning of the meeting why moving kids from JMS, which was built in 1952, to Northwood, which was built in 1979, would help.

“I think our students, if we can put them in some nice facilities that are warm, safe and dry, they’re motivated to get a good education,” he said.

The plan still needs approval from the interim Jacksonville school board, but Lester expressed confidence that its members are supportive of the proposal.

About JMS, he said, “It’s a whole lot worse than what I even remembered” with students putting their coats on to travel between classes or in the cold bathrooms, walking through mud to the gym and being taught science in “dressing rooms.”

Lester added, “Our kids deserve more.”

PCSSD’s original plans called for Northwood’s 300 students to attend Sylvan Hills Middle School in Sherwood and left Northwood vacant for at least a year.

That school has a controlled climate with classrooms that aren’t outside, community-based instruction courses JMS didn’t offer and plenty of room for JMS students, Lester noted. He added that one of the drawbacks is some students living east of JMS would be an extra 20 minutes riding the bus.

But, Lester pointed out, the 20 minutes is worth the seven hours of being warm in classes at Northwood.

SPORTS STORY >> Southerners shock Jackrabbits in district

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys’ basketball team’s season came to an end at the Gina Cox Center on Thursday. The Jackrabbits fell 55-42 to Southside-Batesville, a team they beat twice in the regular season, in the second round of the 4A-2 District tournament.

Lonoke started the game struggling to make baskets and never warmed up. Despite good offensive rebounding and taking four more shots than the Southerners, the Jackrabbits fell behind 5-0 in the first few moments of the game.

Southside stretched the lead to as much as 13-6 before Lonoke’s Isaac Toney scored to end the first quarter. Southside’s lead stayed between five and eight throughout the second quarter, but the third period was one of runs and droughts.

It started with a Southerner run accompanying a Lonoke drought. The Jackrabbits didn’t score for more than half the quarter. When Southside guard Hunter Tatum drove the distance of the floor for a layup and one, it gave the Southerners a 30-17 lead with 3:17 left to play in the third quarter.

Lonoke coach Dean Campbell called timeout, and the Jackrabbits came out pressing. It changed the game quickly. The Jackrabbits forced four turnovers on Southside’s next six possessions. The Southerners got open layups on the other two, but were rushing and missed them both too hard off the glass.

Lonoke didn’t take advantage of every opportunity, missing some easy shots of its own, but did finish the third quarter on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 30-25 going into the fourth quarter.

Southside coach Brad McGhee calmed his team down during the rest between quarters, and Lonoke’s pressure wasn’t as effective in the final frame.

“I think the difference between this game and the other two is that we handled their pressure this time,” said McGhee. “They pressed us early in this game and we handled it pretty well. I just told them not to get away from what they were doing earlier. They regrouped, got back to that in the fourth quarter.”

The lead stayed around five points until another quick 5-0 run put Southside up 38-28 with five minutes remaining.

Toney sank a 3-pointer with 4:48 left, but Tatum got another and-one to push it back to a 10-point margin with 4:05 remaining.

Lonoke was forced to begin fouling and Southside almost could not miss from the foul line.
Southside finished the game hitting 27 of 34 free-throw attempts, but four of those misses were in the final 30 seconds when all had been decided, including the last two by Tatum, who was 14 of 15 up to that point.

“We’ve been a pretty good free-throw shooting team, but I think we were a little better than usual tonight,” said McGhee. “One thing was that it seemed like every time we went to the line, it was one of our best free-throw shooters. So that helped us.”

Southside hit 43 percent from the floor, including 2 of 3 3-pointers. Lonoke shot 23 percent, hitting 8 of 33 from two-point range, and 5 of 24 from the 3-point line. The Jackrabbits were 11 of 23 from the foul line for 48 percent.

Jawaun Bryant led the Jackrabbits with 15 points while Toney added eight. Tatum led Southside with 21 while Braiden Meade scored 16.

Lonoke finishes the season with an 11-13 record while Southside takes a 12-16 record into the third-round game.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther wrestlers win East

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers’ wrestling team won the 7A/6A-Central/East Conference championship last Saturday at Searcy High School, and of the 13 Panther wrestlers that participated in the meet, six advanced to the finals in their respective weight classes.

Cabot seniors Michael Morgan and Erik Cooley, and junior Dillan Friesner finished first in their weight class, while teammates Cody Pugh, Tyler Giorgini and Cameron Pitchford finished second in their weight classes.

Of the 13 Cabot wrestlers that participated, 10 of them advanced to at least the semifinal round.

Morgan won the 138-pound weight class. His journey to the championship began with a win over Brighton Wagner of Mountain Home in the first round, which put him in the semifinals against Jared Gunderman of Little Rock Catholic.

Morgan beat Gunderman by an 11-3 majority decision, setting up a championship match with Searcy’s Wallace Robinson. At the 2:32 mark of the championship round, Morgan beat Robinson via pin to win the 138-pound conference championship.

Cooley’s first-place finish came in the 145-pound weight class. Cooley beat Little Rock Central’s James Igwe in the first round, and Cooley won a 6-0 decision over Sheridan’s Nathan Dobson in the semifinals.

In the finals, Cooley edged Catholic’s Josh Ayliffe by decision to win the 145-pound championship.

Friesner’s first-place finish came in the 126-pound division. Friesner received a bye in the opening round, and advanced to the semis with a pin on Benton’s Corey Robinson in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinal round, Friesner pinned Catholic’s Andrew Elmore at the 2:57 point of the match, and in the championship round, Friesner beat Keaton Douglas of Searcy by technical fall.

Pitchford’s second-place finish came in the 120-pound ranks. Pitchford beat Mountain Home’s Read Parker in the opening round and Pitchford pinned Bryant’s Reggie Clemons in the semifinals, which set up a championship match with Catholic’s Richard Buzzitta.
At the 2:23 point of the 120-pound championship match, Buzzitta won the match via pin, giving Pitchford the runner-up finish.

Pugh took second in the 152-pound weight class. He beat Bryant’s Dillon Medlock via pin in his first match, and advanced to the finals with a pin on Searcy’s Devon King in the semis.
Pugh was pinned in the championship round by Catholic’s Cooper Griffin, giving Pugh the title of runner-up.

Giorgini finished second in the 220-pound division. He opened the tournament with a pin on Lane Dutton of Searcy. His opponent in the semifinals, Malcolm Williams of Central, also won his first-round match via pin, but in the semis, Giorgini bested Williams by technical fall, putting him in the finals.

Jodeci Booker of Jonesboro was Giorgini’s opponent in the finals of the 220-pound weight class, and Booker took the championship with a 19-8 majority decision.

Cabot’s Harris Sutton also had a strong showing at last Saturday’s meet. He finished third overall in the 285-pound weight class. Sutton advanced to the semifinals of the tournament before losing a 19-5 majority decision to eventual champion Luc Bequette of Catholic.
Sutton, though, rebounded from the loss with two-straight wins via pin in the consolation rounds, giving him the third-place finish.

Three other Panthers advanced to the semifinals of the tournament, and all three finished fourth in their weight classes. Nathan Bonilla finished fourth in the 182-pound class, Delton Farinelli took fourth in the 113-pound class, and teammate Clayton Pitchford was fourth in the 106-pound class.  

The Panthers are currently taking part in the state tournament, which began yesterday at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of UALR, and the tournament will conclude today. Look for details of how the Panthers did in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.