Friday, November 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside ladies get lethargic victory

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ basketball team won its second game in a row and its home opener Tuesday, beating Joe T. Robinson 50-31 at SHHS. The Lady Senators started the game with only six players and finished it with just five after point guard Alexis Jones left the game midway through the fourth quarter with an injury.

Jones was the spark plug for a scrappy Robinson team, and Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis thought the visitors played with more energy than her squad.

“I don’t know, it just felt like we were flat, like we just didn’t have it tonight,” said Davis. “We looked slow, we looked out of shape. That’s why I kept them in the full court man the whole game. I wanted us to run. We need to play with more energy and we need to be in better shape. It might look like I did it because they only had six players, but that’s not why. That was about us and getting where we need to be. Our practice yesterday looked better than this. Of course that was an 8 a.m. practice. When you’re sitting around the house all day it can be tough to get going for a night game.”

Even if the Lady Bears looked unenergetic, the full court man defense wreaked havoc on the Senators, forcing 30 turnovers while Sylvan Hills guard Diamond Flanders neared double digits in steals, mostly in the backcourt.

Where things went wrong for Sylvan Hills was after the turnover. The Lady Bears failed to convert many of those turnovers into points, and got very few putback opportunities after missed shots. Robinson’s Asia Anderson was all over the boards and finished with 15 rebounds.

“Ahmann (Robinson coach Ahmann Love) has them playing hard and they played harder than us,” Davis said. “That one girl (Anderson) can jump out of the gym and we didn’t do anything with her. The point guard is tiny but she’s a great little ball handler. So they’ve got some pieces. They just have to play the whole game every game and that’s tough.”

Sylvan Hills didn’t start the game in the full court man, but switched to it shortly after a lethargic start to the game. The Lady Bears led 10-4 at the end of the first quarter, and began to pull away slightly in the second period.

Flanders and senior point guard Da’bria Thompson combined for five steals and helped force several other turnovers. Post player Reigen Thomas chased down a long rebound, turned and drained a 3-pointer to give Sylvan Hills its biggest lead of the half at 25-10.

“I’ve been trying to get her to do that more,” Davis said of Thomas’ outside shooting. “She’s got a beautiful looking shot. She said she’s just never shot from out there. She’s always been inside. But I’m encouraging her to take those when she gets the opportunity.”

The Lady Bears led 27-15 at halftime, and got that margin up to 24 before settling for a 39-21 lead at the end of the third quarter. Davis went almost entirely with bench players in the fourth quarter, and it became an even, back-and-forth affair.

Sylvan Hills was also hampered slightly by injury. Sophomore Lainie Ballard figures into the mix as, if not a starter, a key role player. She played on Tuesday, but sparingly.

“She’s been hurt so I knew she wasn’t ready,” Davis said. “We’ve just got a ways to go as far as getting into playing shape and picking up the energy. I thought we played really well at the Robinson tournament. They fought Nemo Vista tooth and nail most of the game. I was really proud of that because that team can play. 1A shmon A when it comes to girls’ basketball. Those girls can play.”

Nemo Vista is the two-time defending Class 1A state champions with almost everyone back from last season. They beat Sylvan Hills 60-42 in the first round of the tournament at Joe T. The Lady Bears then beat Caddo Hills 65-37.

Nemo Vista (13-0) beat Greenbrier 60-27 to win the tournament. Nine of NVHS’ wins have been by mercy rule, and only three by less than 20 points.

On Tuesday, Thompson led Sylvan Hills with 12 points while Thomas added 11. Flanders and Alana Canady scored eight apiece, and Flanders finished with eight steals.

The Lady Bears now have another long layoff before returning to play Friday at Batesville.

“I scheduled that game specifically because that’s the team that knocked us out of the state tournament last year,” Davis said.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears blow out Senators at home

Leader sports editor

After a 1-1 effort at the Lake Hamilton Classic, the Sylvan Hills Bears cruised through their home opener Tuesday against Joe T. Robinson, running away from the Senators for a 70-34 victory in Sherwood.

The Bears played half court man defense the entire game, and it caused the shorthanded Senators some trouble. Robinson’s football season ended the Friday before, but Anwar Hardin still held several football players who figure into the starting lineup out of Tuesday’s game.

Shooting woes from short range by Sylvan Hills kept the Senators close in the first quarter. The Bears missed several shots from inside the lane, including a few from point-blank range.

Conversely, they were hitting from outside and still built a 14-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. In fact, 10 of the game’s first 11 points were from beyond the 3-point arc. After Sylvan Hills point guard Cordy Winston missed the first long range shot of the game, he, Sam Williams and Jacobe’ Davis, along with Robinson’s Traez Gibson and James Jordan combined to hit five-straight 3-pointers.

Williams added an old fashioned 3-point play and Winston another free throw to make it 13-6 a little more than halfway through the first quarter. Scoring bogged down on both ends for the rest of the quarter, but the Bears picked it up in the second period.

“We shot pretty well from outside, butwe missed way too many one-footers,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “That’s not going to get you far in the league we play in. You get opportunities like that you have to take advantage of them.”

It was a strange atmosphere at the game as well. School was out for fall break and many of the people in attendance were recent graduates more interested in catching up with classmates than watching the game. That, coach Davis believed, played a role in the game’s lack of energy in the early going.

“It wasn’t your typical atmosphere for a home opener, that’s for sure,” Davis said. “We hadn’t been at school. Kids have been lounging around all day. The game had more of a homecoming feel to it where there were a lot of distractions. That’s always the case at these games, but it’s a little unusual for that to be the home opener.”

Jacobe’ Davis sparked the run that broke the game open in the second quarter. He scored back-to-back transition baskets before J.D. Smith came off the bench and converted a 3-point play. That capped a 14-4 run that gave the Bears a 28-12 lead and forced a Robinson timeout with 3:01 left in the half.

Davis added another 3-pointer and the Bears took a 36-17 lead into intermission.

The first part of the third quarter was close and slow-paced, but that changed about two minutes into the second half. Sylvan Hills ratcheted up the pressure and forced turnovers on four-straight Senator possessions, but only managed one free throw out of the exchange.

Williams finally hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bears their biggest lead at 44-20. The lead grew to 52-24 and Sylvan Hills got another turnover, but missed another point-blank layup that would’ve put the margin into the mercy rule range.

Instead, Robinson scored four-straight to end the period trailing 52-28.

Gibson hit another 3-pointer early in the fourth to cut the margin to 21. That’s when coach Davis put all five starters back into the game. Within a minute, Jordan Washington hit a 3-pointer and Jacobe’ Davis made two free throws to put the margin back at 26.

After a Robinson turnover, Winston drained a 3-pointer to make the score 60-31 with 4:44 left in the game. The Senators turned it over again just nine second later, and Williams hit a short jumper with 3:53 to invoke the sportsmanship rule.

Winston led all players with 20 points. Jacobe’ Davis added 12 and Williams 10 for the Bears. Smith scored nine off the bench, seven in the second half.

After hitting just 6 of 22 2-point shots in the first half, the Bears finished 18 of 43. They were 7 of 20 from outside the arc to finish 25 of 63 from the floor. Sylvan Hills finished with 10 turnovers, but only had six before the mercy rule was invoked.

“Ten turnovers is not bad, and to only have six with your main players, I’ll take that,” coach Davis said. “We’re so guard heavy, and we have a lot of good experience at guard, that should be one of our strengths. We need to take care of the ball.”

Sylvan Hills outrebounded the Senators 34-20, with Washington and Alex Curry each pulling down seven rebounds.

“That’s good because you can rebound even if you’re small,” Davis said. “That’s a position game and if you’re playing hard and playing smart you can rebound.”

Robinson (0-6) committed 28 turnovers and got considerably fewer shot attempts. The Senators made 11 of 38 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. They were 7 of 10 from the foul line while Sylvan Hills hit 13 of 19. Gibson led Robinson with 18 points.

Sylvan Hills is off until Friday when it travels to Batesville.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers defeat Wampus Cats

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys trailed by four with just over six minutes to play in their nonconference game against Conway on Tuesday night at Panther Arena, but the Panthers responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead for good and made all 16 of their free throws in the fourth quarter to beat the Wampus Cats 63-55.

Conway led 45-41 with 6:08 to play, but Cabot 6-foot-8 junior forward Matt Stanley led the 9-0 run that followed, scoring six of those nine points to give the Panthers a 50-45 lead. That run was capped with Stanley’s crowd-pleasing, two-hand slam with 4:14 remaining.

With 2:12 to play, Conway cut the Cabot lead to 52-50 on a 3-pointer by Junior Williams. Unfortunately for the Wampus Cats, that was as close as they’d get to catching Cabot.

The Panthers’ lead grew to seven on a pair of free throws by point guard Bobby Joe Duncan. That made the score 59-52 with 51.2 seconds left. With 35.8 tics remaining, Conway made it a four-point game with a Jamaal Clifton three, which made it 59-55.

Cabot ended the game with a pair of free throws each by Logan Gilbertson and Stanley. Stanley’s set the final score with 6.7 seconds left.

Cabot (3-0) has gotten off to a great start this season. The Panthers began the season with two mercy-rule wins over Little Rock Catholic and Fort Smith Southside before holding off Conway (0-2), a team that’s gotten the better of Cabot on the hardwood in recent years.

“We’ve got to get over what’s on the front of their jerseys and I think maybe tonight we did a little bit,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I thought last year we had a good chance to beat them (Conway), and we didn’t.

“I don’t think we played one of our better games, but they were very well-prepared for what we like to do. The big boy (Stanley) definitely showed up tonight and played well for us.”

Stanley finished Tuesday with a game-high 28 points. Fifteen of those points came in the fourth quarter, and nine of those fourth-quarter points came at the free-throw line. Cabot went a perfect 16 for 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and finished the game 28 of 36 from the stripe for 78 percent.

“In the fourth quarter we had a good run at it, or we wouldn’t have won that game,” Bridges said of his team’s free-throw shooting.

Cabot led 8-2 to start the game, but by the end of the quarter, Conway cut the Panthers’ lead down to 12-9. Conway tied the game at 12-12 early in the second quarter, but Cabot put together a pair of successful runs and led 28-20 at halftime.

At the midway point of the third quarter, Cabot led 34-27 on a well-timed alley-oop from Duncan to Stanley, who threw down the perfect pass from the perimeter with a two-hand slam. Conway, though, dominated the rest of the third quarter and took a 40-38 lead into the fourth.

The Panthers finished the game 16 for 39 from the floor for 41 percent. Conway also shot 41 percent from the floor on 19 of 46 shooting. From the free-throw line, the Wampus Cats made 13 of 21 shot attempts for 62 percent.

In addition to Stanley, Hunter Southerland also scored in double figures for Cabot. He had 14 points.

Clifton led Conway with 15 points. Kendarious Smith added 11 for the Wampus Cats and teammate Prentice Mullins added nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

EDITORIAL >> Seeing what C’s mean

When did a “C” become OK on a report card?

The other day, I was in line behind a pair of middle school students at a local fast food establishment, and they were loudly and proudly boasting about getting C’s.

One student had four and the other five.

“Why,” I interjected into their conversation, “are you happy with C’s?” (It was my inner-teacher coming out).

They both replied almost simultaneously, “Man, we ain’t got no D’s or F’s.”

“Great, but do you know what C’s mean?” I asked.

I got blank stares from the pair while they were filling their mouths with fries.

I told them that a C means average, mediocre, so-so, kinda not all the way there, just holding on, on the edge of the table.

Who wakes up in the morning, jumps out of bed and screams, “Today, I want to be average!”

No one.

(Well, there are those Oklahoma folks who are happy to be OK, but that’s for another day.)

Imagine, I told them, if you were average height – you probably wouldn’t be able to play basketball, and, if you had average looks, the girls would be leaving you alone. That got their attention.

What if you applied for that big, big job and when that boss-to-be asked you to rate your skills, you say, “well, average,” are you going to get hired?


To be average in America means you are overweight, nearly obese, spend $1,200 a year on fast food and consume 1,996 pounds of food in a year — that’s like swallowing a Volkswagen, plus an extra set of tires.

The two middle schoolers didn’t seem worried, so I took a different approach.

“A ‘C’ means you are in the middle,” I said. “Imagine if you are the middle dog on a sled team – you see nothing but butt.

“Do you want to come in the theater in the middle of a movie or the middle of a concert and there is no light at the middle of the tunnel.

“Or what if the Razorbacks finished in the middle of the conference every year; there would be a new coach every year. And what about your favorite pro team? Would you cheer for them and buy their expensive merchandise, if they always ended up in the middle — and don’t bring up the Cubbies and their fans, they are a different breed.”

As the manager was giving me the eye for making a scene. I finished my tirade by saying, “Unless you are a musical ‘C’, being in the middle is a sour note, don’t you see?”

All they saw was their box of fries was empty and off they went to into the middle of the parking lot to see some friends who were probably equally happy about C’s.

If they could only see… —Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Single parents helped

Leader staff writer

The Single Parent Scholar-ship Fund in Pulaski County has a new director, and her goal is to spread the word about resources available for local moms and dads, in addition to making sure the nonprofit is meeting needs.

The program supports high-potential, low-income single parents who are new or current students seeking college degrees, according to executive director Lori Lynch.

The Pulaski County program was established in 1991 and has awarded $1.3 million to over 1,900 students, according to its website.

The exciting news right now is that money is available to accept Spring 2016 students, Lynch continued. She also touted the county program’s 92 percent success rate.

Applications for the up-coming semester are available at The deadline for those is Dec. 31.

Eligibility requirements include being Pell Grant eligible and enrolled full time. An interview is part of the application process.

There are around 40 parents in the program now, but it can handle up to 70, Lynch continued. Once accepted, the students must maintain a 2.5 GPA.

Several current recipients are from the Jacksonville area, the director said, and “we’re always looking to grow.”

Many generous donors support the program’s mission.

The organization’s scholars must also attend a partner school. The partner schools are Arkansas Baptist College, ASU-Beebe (the Little Rock Air Force Base campus), Baptist Health College, Harding University (the North Little Rock campus), John Brown University (the Little Rock campus), Park University (the LRAFB campus), Philander Smith College, Pulaski Technical College, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

What exactly does the nonprofit offer to those moms and dad raising children all on their own?

According to its website, the organization conducts workshops in financial literacy, communication and leadership, personal management and professionalism and polish. Career counseling is also offered. To find out more, attend an SPSF:101 class. Contact the nonprofit at 501-301-7773 for details.

Lynch described the fund as having a multi-pronged approach of which supplemental financial assistance is only one piece.

According to the Pulaski County nonprofit’s website, “recipients receive $2,700 per year ($900 each fall, spring, summer semester) to help with tuition, fees, books, day care, rent or mortgage, utility assistance, professional dues, testing fees, transportation needs, diapers, even food.”

The wrap-around benefits, Lynch said, include those in the program socializing and networking with other single parents who are experiencing the same hardships and triumphs.

The county organization is one of many under the umbrella of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund. The state program’s website states, “Nearly one in five Arkansas families are led by single parents, of which 76 percent are single mothers. An estimated 55 percent of single-parent families are officially below the poverty line.”

Lynch said she believes in what the Pulaski County organization is doing because, not only does it help single parents lead better lives, but gives a hand up out of poverty to their children.

Those children, following the good example set by the program’s scholars, become successful adults, Lynch emphasized.

TOP STORY >> Garbage rates on the rise

Leader staff writer

The cost of picking up garbage will go up by $5 a month in Sherwood starting in March or April if a new ordinance is approved at the city council’s Dec. 21 meeting.

The ordinance, introduced by the budget committee, was read just once at Monday night’s meeting. The budget committee is asking for the increase because it determined that the actual cost incurred for weekly residential garbage collection is about $5 per household more than the amount currently being collected.

Mayor Virginia Young said the increase was needed to maintain the weekly service.

The proposed increase does not include the almost $3 a month charge for bi-weekly recycling collection.

There was no opposition voiced at the council over the proposed rate increase.

Also at the meeting, the Sherwood Police Department presented state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) with a plaque of appreciation. The citation read, “In appreciation for your successful and relentless efforts in obtaining grant funds to purchase body-worn cameras for the Sherwood Police Department.”

According to Police Chief Jim Bedwell, there is a growing concern to improve police and public relationships “and implementation of body-worn cameras will help in bridging the gap.”

English was at the meeting to accept the award.

The police had a similar award for state Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), but she was unable to make Monday night’s council meeting.

In other council business:

• The mayor reminded aldermen and others at the meeting that the Sherwood Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights would open at 6 p.m. Monday at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave., and run through Dec. 30.

• Mayor Young also said the city’s annual Christmas parade was set for 2 p.m. next Saturday. The parade will start on Lantrip Road and travel down Kiehl Avenue. In case of rain, the parade will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7.

• Breakfast with Santa is set for 8 to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 at Sherwood Forest. The cost is $3 for those age 7 and older, while children 6 and under are free. Also, the Youth Center Christmas Party will start at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Duran Youth Center, 508 Sherwood Ave.

• The council reappointed Nita Pilkington and Mita Sitaram to the Sherwood Advertising and Promotion Commission. Their terms will expire in November 2019.

• Michelle K. Oglesby was appointed to the Civil Service Commission, and her term will expire in December 2016.

TOP STORY >> Boxing Christmas love

The Jacksonville Care Channel's food pantry is stocking up in preparation for the hundreds of boxes it will give out on Dec. 21 to needy families who sign up for the program by Dec. 11.
Leader staff writer

Families in need that receive food stamps are invited to sign up by Dec. 11 at Jacksonville Care Channel, 201 N. Elm St., for Christmas boxes that will be distributed there on Dec. 21.

Inside the boxes will be a variety of holiday favorites, including chicken or some other poultry, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, biscuit mix, cake mix and frosting.

According to Director Kathy Helmer, several area churches provide items for the boxes, and the charity expects to help 300 families this Christmas.

But the Care Channel helps people all year long, not just during this most giving of seasons.

Helmer, who has been there for nine years and is a retired teacher, said the nonprofit feeds 250-300 families once a month and those numbers have gradually increased each year.

Food for its pantry is purchased from the USDA. Every two months, extra goods — perishables like milk and bread — are provided to those in need.

Recipients must be Jacksonville residents whose in-comes fall within federal poverty guidelines.

The Care Channel also runs a thrift shop that is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The director noted that all of the things for sale are donated and inspected for damage before being placed on the shelves.

Items that aren’t sold in the thrift shop or thrown out are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Arc. Shoes are sent to an African charity that digs water wells. If not wearable, the materials they’re made of are sold, Helmer said.

The less fortunate are given vouchers for used clothing available from the thrift shop, the director continued, but it is open to the public. And proceeds from sales go toward the nonprofit’s operating expenses.

The Care Channel also, through a grant, can provide one-time help with paying water bills.

People who come there for help are a diverse lot, Helmer noted. She said the community is very mobile, especially because of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Some individuals come every month, while others come once a year, Helmer told The Leader.

What she loves about the Care Channel is helping others and being able to establish a friendly relationship with regulars. The director said, “It’s a place where you can feel spiritually fed.”

Volunteer Ellen Hand added, “It’s a wonderful place to work, for fellowship.”

Helmer recalled one story about a woman who was on disability, working as a substitute teacher when her health allowed. The woman asked for help after being told to leave public housing because she was complaining too much about things like bed bugs.

The woman had several children, and Helmer found temporary housing for her for one week on the condition that she draft a plan for supporting the family.

The woman did that, and saved up money for a rental deposit in that week. She comes to Care Channel once in a while, but is now a friendly working, church-going lady, the director touted. “We want to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” Helmer said.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Prison reform close to home

A halfway house may be coming near you if you live in Lonoke County.

Phillip Glover, the transitional/re-entry housing facility coordinator for Arkansas Community Correction, told the Lonoke County Quorum Court last week that the state is interested in funding a re-entry facility in the county for people who are released after serving their time behind bars.

He said the goal is to reduce recidivism rates by investing in individuals. The rate is almost 50 percent in Arkansas. The state would save millions of dollars a year by releasing prisoners early through the privatized program. The hope is that a private operator will come forward and make a facility available for prisoners to live in and train for a better future.

The facilities, Glover explained, house “inmates who are within a certain timeframe from their parole eligibility date” for six months. He said these people would be placed in the same counties they’re paroling to. So, once they’ve served their time in prison, they’re coming anyway, with or without a re-entry facility.

The state pays $30.62 per resident to the owner/operator. While working, the residents pay $14 a day for rent and utilities. So, for most of their stay, the facility owner/operator receives $44.62 a day. For a month that is 30 days long, that is $1,338.6 per resident.

The program is a cheaper deal for the state, Glover said, because housing someone in prison costs $63 a day. He has funding for 500 re-entry facility beds, but only 97 or 98 are available now.

For 21 days, the residents receive training and treatment for drug or alcohol addictions. On the 22nd day, they can go to work full time.

The training includes instruction on how to fill out a job application so that they get an interview, how to build their resume that includes experience gained in the real world and behind bars, how to pay bills, how to manage personal finances, get a GED, reconnect with family and get approved for an Affordable Health Care Act policy. Many programs are faith-based, so they include Bible study sessions, Glover added.

JP Adam Justice said after the presentation that he has an uncle who runs a similar program in Houston, Ark. “He’s got amazing stories that I’ve heard and guys that I’ve talked to and shook their hands, and they tell me, ‘Look, my life was in shambles, I’d been in an out of jail three or four times until I met Dennis, my uncle, he changed my life.’ And they’re grateful and living life, with their kids now. I’m all for this.”

Gov. Hutchinson and Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) have been among the advocates for prison reform and outsourcing halfway houses to private operators. We should soon find how much support the idea has in this community.

TOP STORY >> Fraley hops in coroner’s race

Kenny Fraley of South Bend has filed to run for Lonoke County coroner as a Republican. He has served with the South Bend Fire Department since 1995 and is now the chief, having gained invaluable training in the medical field as well as experience with death and dying.

Over the years, he said he has been an asset to his community and the residents of Lonoke County.

Fraley said he will be a full-time coroner if elected. He said the office requires someone who can give their full attention to the duties required and is prepared to respond to all calls, along with his deputies.

He doesn’t believe families, law enforcement agencies and other first responders should have to wait hours for a coroner to arrive. He said families deserve a timely, professional response.

Other important areas include great working relationships with all agencies, professionalism, integrity, honesty and accountability.

Fraley said, “Lonoke County needs a full-time coroner again to best serve the citizens of this county, to hold the deputies to a higher standard, to lead by example and to care about those dealing with tragedy.”

He is a 1996 graduate of Jacksonville High School as well as a 2001 graduate of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Academy.

He has been married to Susanne Blanchard Fraley for 16 years, and they have two children: Kristi, who attends Lonoke Elementary, and Kasey, who attends Lonoke Primary.

The Fraleys attend Morrison Chapel Baptist Church.

He said he has devoted his life to serving others.

He is active in his community, not only with the fire department, but also with Ducks Unlimited, where he is a zone chairman.

Fraley is the Central District president of the Arkansas State Firefighters Association and is a team leader of the Lonoke County Water Rescue Team.

TOP STORY >> Some calls are real turkeys

Leader staff writer

Sometimes the turkey at Thanksgiving is not the bird going in the oven, but the person preparing the bird.

Everyone has heard those hilarious turkey hotline stories.

They have even made David Letterman’s Top 10 list, but are they true or just great holiday humor?

They are true, according to Tara Groberski, a 12-year veteran of Butterball’s hotline. With a degree in home economics, years of work in the food industry and many sessions at Butterball University, Groberski fields thousands of calls during the turkey season, and the No. 1 question is about thawing.

“How to thaw? I forgot to thaw, now what do I do? How can I thaw quickly?” she said.

Of course, in her 12 years on the line, she’s had her share of unique calls.

“There was a lady whose turkey fell into a cactus, and she wanted to know if it was still OK to cook even though it had cactus needles in it. No, I don’t know how it got into the cactus,” She said.

Groberski said hotline consultants are always on the side of food safety, “and, since I’m a turkey expert and not a cactus expert, I couldn’t tell her it was safe.”

In a similar incident, a woman had her turkey thawing outside and feral cats found it. “They had gnawed through the plastic in places, and the woman wanted to know if it was still OK to eat,” she said.

That turkey turned out to be a treat for the cats, but not the cook.

The Butterball hotline, which has been in operation for 35 years, receives about 10,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Here are some more of those unique calls, verified by and Groberski:

• Butterball turkey experts still talk about the Kentucky woman who called in 1993 to ask how to get her dog out of her turkey. It seems the woman’s Chihuahua had dived into the bird’s cavity and become trapped there. The woman tried pulling the pooch and shaking the bird, all to no avail.

A Butterball economist finally suggested the woman carefully cut the opening in the turkey wider to release the captive canine.

No word on what happened to the turkey or on any longtime psychological trauma to the dog.

• A woman called the hotline to complain about her bird’s not having any breast meat. It turned out the woman had the turkey upside down.

• Then there’s the one from the woman who couldn’t find the turkey she buried in a snow bank, and the call from a guy who wanted to know how to carve his bird with a chainsaw, and a mechanic who worried about using motor oil as a baste.

• Another caller told the operator she had always cut the legs off the turkey before putting it in the oven, thinking that was the method everyone used, because that is how her mother had always done it. As she later learned, her mom’s oven was particularly small, necessitating that particular maneuver.

• And there was the worried mom who failed to notice her children playing near the oven-ready bird. The kids decided the turkey’s cavity was a good place to park toy cars. Their mom didn’t discover the bird was doubling as a garage until after the turkey had been roasted. (Luckily, the cars were metal and not plastic.)

• A confused cook called the Butterball line a number of years ago after cleaning her turkey because she wanted to know how to get the metal pieces out.

“Apparently,” said one of the Butterball economists, “she had scrubbed her bird with a steel scouring pad.” In a similar call, a West Coast woman who had taken anti-bacterial precautions too far called Butterball to find out how to get the bleach she’d used off her bird.

• Other strange, but true, hotline accounts, include the newlywed who had a small, apartment-sized range and was worried the turkey would get larger as it cooked (similar to a loaf of bread rising) — she was fretting she wouldn’t be able to get it out of the oven after it was done.

• One of the more unusual questions handled by Butterball’s operators comes from those who have mistaken a well-traveled joke for an actual recipe: They call to ask if they can pop popcorn in the turkey’s cavity during the roasting process. (The joke’s punch line is: “You know the turkey is done when the popcorn pops and blows the rear off the bird.”) And, no, you can’t do that. It won’t work.

If you run “a-fowl” this Thanksgiving, the turkey hotlines are still open.

TOP STORY >> Council tables budget

Leader staff writer

It takes 10 separate budgets to operate the city of Sherwood, and all 10 went before the city council Monday night, when aldermen decided to table final passage of the budgets until next month.

“This just gives us time to review them,” said Alderman Charlie Harmon.

The city’s main budget is its general fund. Revenues and expenditures for 2016 are expected to be $20.4 million, up about $200,000 from this year’s budget and $700,000 higher than the 2014 budget.

This budget covers the mayor’s office, police, sanitation, parks and recreation and other basic city operations. All departments are seeing an increase, except sanitation and the seniors center.

The administrative department (which includes the mayor’s office) is up about $150,000 to $4.8 million. The police department is up about $20,000 to $6.9 million. Sanitation is down about $200,000 to $1.97 million.

Parks and recreation is up $50,000 to $901,000, and the budget to run the golf course is $807,000 (yet golf course fees and membership is estimated at only $400,000).

The council should ap-prove the general fund and the other nine budgets at its Dec. 21 meeting, which is a week earlier than normal. The council voted to move it because of the holidays.

The other budgets for Sherwood include the street fund, up about $30,000 to $2.5 million; the wastewater utility fund, up about $125,000 to $1.5 million; the wastewater sales tax fund, which remains steady at $378,000; and the department donation fund that is down about $4,000 to $121,000.

Another budget tabled to next month was for advertising and promotions, which contrary to a recent court ruling forcing A&P commissions to change the way they budget and give money to nonprofits, has made no changes to its 2016 budget of $970,000.

About a third of that will go to the parks and recreation department, $40,000 to economic development, $125,000 to the city’s Trail of Lights (North Little Rock recently decided to discontinue their decades-old tradition of holiday lights in Burns Park), $60,000 for capital improvements (to complete the farmers market pavilion), $34,000 for building maintenance and $30,000 for Sherwood Fest.

Also, the court automation budget is up $40,000 to $625,000; the drug fund was cut nearly in half, dropping to $13,500, and the related federal drug fund is set at $4,997. The franchise fund is up about $2,000 to $2.14 million.

In other council business:

• Alderman tabled a settlement with Comcast until December, giving the city attorney an opportunity to make sure, as Alderman Charlie Harmon said, “we are comparing apples to apples.”

• The council approved rezoning land between Creekside and Gap Creek subdivisions and Hwy. 107 from the Commercial Strip Center, office space and multi-family zoning to single-family home zoning so the subdivisions can be expanded.

• Aldermen also discussed, but took no action, on changing filing dates for municipal offices. Currently, the campaigning period works out to about five months, but goes as long as seven months, depending when the city sets the filing date.

The issue has come up because the state moved primary elections from May to March.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers will be better off with tougher schedule

Leader sports editor

It matters who you play, and fortunately for Cabot and every other 7A football program not tucked away in the northwest corner of the state, they won’t all be saddled with a weak schedule that cannot prepare them for the 7A playoffs.

Several years ago the Arkansas High School Activities Association came up with the terrible idea of combining 7A and 6A conferences.

For some unknown and inexplicable reason, member schools took the AHSAA’s recommendation and passed the proposal, and it has created a huge advantage for northwest Arkansas teams.

It basically created one all-7A conference, one all-6A conference and two combined conferences. The teams in the all-7A conference, the 7A-West, were always more prepared for the playoffs than everyone else.

That manifested itself again this year, as evidenced by another season with an all-7A-West semifinal round.

Cabot rolled through its regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, while Fort Smith Southside entered last Friday’s game 7-4. The Rebels had been tested against the best the state has to offer while Cabot played no real quality 7A teams since week four.

That’s two months of competition that doesn’t make good teams any better.

As the old proverb says, iron sharpens iron. Cabot went through its season like a hot knife through butter, and butter doesn’t make the knife sharper.

Southside took some losses, but got better because of them.

This is, finally, the last year of combined football conferences. Other sports conferences will be combined next year, which is fine. No sport elucidates enrollment disparity like football, where depth is one of the single biggest factors.

Next year, Cabot’s traditional nonconference games against Conway and Catholic will be conference games next year. Those two nonconference slots will be replaced by El Dorado and Pine Bluff, while J.A. Fair will be replaced by Sylvan Hills.

Cabot’s conference schedule loses 6A teams Searcy, Mountain Home, Marion, Jonesboro and West Memphis. North Little Rock and Little Rock Central remain, while Conway, Catholic, Bryant, Fort Smith Northside and Fort Smith Southside all join Cabot in the new 7A-Central.

Bentonville is splitting, creating the third new high school in the northwest corner in the last 12 years.

Next year’s 7A-West will include Bentonville, Bentonville West, Springdale, Springdale Har-Ber, Rogers, Rogers Heritage, Fayetteville and Van Buren.

It could, and likely will, turn out that the Central will be a stronger conference than the West next year. That means Cabot, or any other Central team no longer saddled with two months of weak opponents, may not make it unscathed to the playoffs, but will be better prepared for a championship run.

The Panthers have to replace several key linemen, but almost all their skill players return for next season. Size could be an issue next year. The 2015 roster includes only three non-seniors over 240 pounds, and only one above 255.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot defense leading to big wins

Leader sports editor

Two games have been played and two mercy rules enacted for the Cabot boys so far in this young basketball season. Last Tuesday Cabot went to Little Rock and beat Catholic 54-24, then handled Fort Smith Southside 61-27 at home on Friday.

While big wins are great, Panther coach Jerry Bridges said mercy-ruling teams is not the objective.

“We’ve been stressing defense in practice and I’m proud of how my kids have responded,” said Bridges. “We’re working well together and trying to get better on defense.

“I feel like we have a more all-around consistent shooting team this year than we’ve had in the past, but that shot can still sometimes abandon you. If you learn to consistently give that effort on defense, you can be in a lot of games even if the shots aren’t falling. That’s what I’ve seen so far and that’s what I’m most proud of right now.”

Cabot’s defense was stellar from the outset on Friday. The Rebels didn’t score for the first seven minutes of the game. Rebel guard Darrian Mays got a steal and a layup with a minute left in the first quarter, but Cabot’s lead was still double digits at 12-2.

Junior Chandler Casteel came off the bench to score all six of his points in the first quarter, leading the Panthers to their big early advantage.

Mays got another steal and found teammate Alex Keller under the basket. Keller hit the shot, was fouled and made the free throw, completing a quick 5-0 run. But that was about the end of any and all Southside highlights.

Cabot opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run. Panther post player Matt Stanley blocked back-to-back Southside shots inside the paint. The Rebels got the loose ball both times, but Cabot’s Christian Weir got a steal and a layup to make it 18-5 and force a timeout with 6:30 left in the second quarter.

A minute later, Cabot forced a 10-second backcourt violation and Jalen Brown followed that with a 3-pointer to make it 23-7. Making matters worse for the Rebels, their leading scorer, Tyson Mahoney, picked up his third foul with 3:18 left in the half, and his fourth with 58 seconds remaining.

Cabot took a 32-12 lead into halftime, and put together another big run early in the third.

Point guard Bobby Jo Duncan got a rebound and drove all the way into the lane before stopping and hitting a 12-foot jump shot for a 34-12 lead. He added a 3-pointer minutes later. Another Southside turnover turned into a fast break that saw Logan Gilbertson miss a layup, only for Stanley to follow with a thunderous dunk as the ball came off the front of the rim.

Another Rebel turnover turned into a putback by Hunter Southerland and a 41-14 lead. Southside (2-1) called timeout with 4:26 left in the third quarter and Bridges went to his bench. Cabot led 47-21 going into the fourth, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown and Southerland invoked the mercy rule at 53-21 with 6:30 remaining in the game.

“I’m pleased with how unselfish we are,” Bridges said. “If people in the stands will keep cheering loud for our team, I want them to keep being unselfish.”

The head Panther has almost everyone back from last year’s team. He was pleased with how the team played over the summer and says every single player has gotten better, but he singled out two plays in particular.

“I’m very pleased with Bobby Jo Duncan,” Bridges said. “One of his biggest improvements is, he’s gotten to understand me better and the things I need from my point guard. He’s playing very well right now and that’s a big deal for a coach, to sort of have an extension of himself out there on the floor running things for you.

“And I’m proud of Chandler Casteel. He’s my most improved player. I told him one day he may be surprised at the things he’s doing out there, but I’m not because I’ve seen how hard he’s worked to get better at those things. I’m very proud of him.”

Ladies darken twinkletown

The Lady Panthers finished the Heavenly Hoops Classic in third place after beating Star City 60-41 Saturday at Mount St. Mary. The Lady Bulldogs actually jumped all over Cabot early and took a 16-11 lead into the second quarter. Cabot’s pressure defense started to get the best of the perennial 4A powerhouse in the second quarter. The Lady Panthers outscored Star City 22-8 and took a 33-24 lead into halftime. The Lady Bulldogs never got any closer.

Seniors Leighton Taylor and Anna Sullivan led Cabot with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

The Cabot girls and boys hosted Conway last night at Panther Arena. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Robinson held back by Falcons

Leader sportswriter

The Falcons held off Pulaski Robinson’s second-half rally to win the seventh-place game of the North Pulaski Invitational by the final score of 44-38 Saturday at the Falcons’ Nest.

It looked as though North Pulaski (2-2) had the potential to win by mercy rule after a quarter of play. The Falcons held an 18-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was more balanced, but the Falcons maintained their double-digit cushion at halftime, leading 27-15.

The Senators (0-5) were without six players Saturday, because those players are still taking part in football activities. All six of those players will be in the team’s rotation once their football season ends.

Robinson had a total of seven players at Saturday’s game, but still managed to make it a game in the second half. The first points of the second half were scored on a Braxton McKinney baseline jumper on the first possession of the half.

That gave the Falcons a 29-15 lead, but the Senators controlled the rest of the third quarter. Robinson made five of its first seven shots of the quarter, the last of which was a 3-pointer by Xavier Casey, which cut the NP lead to 31-26 with 4:28 left in the third.

Casey drained another three on the next Robinson possession, which made it a four-point game with the score 33-29. By the end of the quarter, the Falcons’ lead was down to 35-33.

The Falcons, though, opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to push their lead to 42-33. That run started with a McKinney three at the 6:49 mark and ended with a two-hand slam in transition by 6-foot-5 sophomore center Christian White.

Robinson once again made it a four-point game by the midway point of the final quarter, with the score 42-38, but the only other points the rest of the game came on a one-handed floater by North Pulaski’s Brandon Shirnes with 2:40 remaining.

“When we jumped out ahead, I think we got a little relaxed instead of really putting more and more pressure on them,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson.

“Coach (Anwar) Hardin did a good job of getting his boys to start chopping away at our lead, but I think at the end our boys showed some patience and perseverance, and really closed out the game like we go over in practice all the time.

“It goes back to our practice regimen. I try to put them in situations like that. When you’re ahead and somebody comes back on you, what are you going to do? Just slow down, run your offense, be patient, and play tough defense and rebound. And that’s what we did at the end. We closed out the game like we should have.”

North Pulaski finished the game 16 for 38 from the floor for 42 percent. Robinson was 14 for 42 from the floor for 33 percent. Each team had only one free-throw attempt in the second half, but the Falcons finished the game 7 for 9 from the line, and the Senators finished 8 for 10.

From 3-point range, NP made 5 of 11 attempts and Robinson made just 2 of 12. The Falcons outrebounded the Senators 21-19, and each team committed 21 turnovers.

McKinney led NP with 15 points. White added 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Falcons.

Casey led all scorers with 16 points. Robinson’s Traez Gibson was the only other player to score in double figures. He added 10 points.

North Pulaski won’t play again until Dec. 8 at home against Wynne.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils win Bank Classic

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys’ basketball team won the Searcy Bank Classic for the third year in a row. This year’s tournament only featured three boys’ teams, and the Red Devils won both of their games to bring home the first-place trophy.

On Saturday, Jacksonville pummeled the host team 63-29, but it was Friday’s game that will go down as one of the most exciting in the state of Arkansas this year.

Jacksonville beat Forrest City 101-98 in overtime after trailing by 10 points with three minutes remaining in regulation.

Jacksonville’s big deficit came after the Mustangs erased a 14-point Jacksonville lead in the third quarter before pulling out to their own double-digit lead.

“It was one of those games the fans love to watch where everybody’s running and nobody’s playing defense,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We should’ve lost. We were down 10 with two minutes left, but they (Forrest City) didn’t pull it out and just kept running. So we were able to tie it and go into overtime.”

Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton was most impressed with the determination displayed by both teams.

“The fans saw the heart of both teams on the floor,” said Lofton. “Both teams were down and both teams fought their way back.”

Jacksonville led throughout the first three quarters. The score was 22-19 at the end of one period, 41-35 at halftime and 60-58 at the end of the third quarter.

Jacksonville led by as much as 52-42 in the third quarter, but Forrest City went on a 23-8 run to take a 65-60 lead with two minutes into the fourth quarter, and the margin grew to a seemingly insurmountable 82-72 with only one minute remaining in regulation.

Jacksonville’s Tyree Apple-by went to the line three-straight possessions, scoring one bucket and making all five free throws. Still trailing by three, Jacksonville’s Caleb Kendrick nailed a long-range shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime tied at 84.

Jacksonville’s LaQuawn Smith scored first in overtime and the two teams traded baskets all the way to 94-94 with 1:20 left in overtime. Forrest City then got a defensive stop and took the lead on two free throws by Montee Randle, but Smith scored at the other end to tie it again with 55 seconds to go.

Mustang senior phenom R.J. Glasper gave Forrest City its final lead and bucket of the game with 40 seconds left, and Jacksonville closed it out with a 5-0 run, all by Smith.

Glasper led all scorers with 37 points while Randle added 29 and Trajan Norvent 18 for the Mustangs.

Appleby led Jacksonville with 28 points. He was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line, including 11 of 11 in the fourth quarter and overtime. DuJuan Ridgeway scored 27 and Smith added 23. Jacksonville was 29 of 36 from the free-throw line, and the three leading scorers were a combined 25 of 28.

Saturday’s win over Searcy was dramatically different than the close half the two teams played against each other in the North Pulaski Jamboree on Nov. 7. Searcy led that one until Jacksonville took its first lead with two minutes left and won by eight. Searcy’s Jeremiah Clifton got hurt in the first quarter of Saturday’s game and didn’t return. He is the Lions’ leading scorer and that played a role, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner credits his team’s work ethic in practice for much of the turnaround.

“We are so inexperienced I tried simplifying my system and just run things I thought they could pick up on pretty quick,” Joyner said. “It just wasn’t working. I felt like there was more we could do if these guys will just learn, so I started putting it all in. And to their credit, this team works. They’ve worked hard on it. They don’t have it yet. They’re still learning and they still have a lot to learn. But you give me a team that’s willing to work, and go to bat with those guys. These kids have shown the willingness to work, and they’ve’ gotten better because of it. You could see it in this game.”

Jacksonville led 30-6 at halftime against Searcy. The Lions managed just one bucket in each of the first two quarters. Kaleb Ramey came off the bench to score eight points for Searcy in the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville still stretched its lead to 52-22 by the end of the quarter, invoking the sportsmanship rule the rest of the way.

Ramey and Simon Medley led Searcy with nine points each. Smith led Jacksonville with 16 points while Appleby added 13.