Friday, December 18, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Razorbacks taking on tough team in NLR

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – On the re-bound the Arkansas Razorbacks, 5-4, catch the Mercer Bears, 8-2, tonight in the Razorbacks’ annual visit to central Arkansas.

Tip-off is 7 p.m. and on radio only at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Coach Mike Anderson’s Razor-backs are rebounding off final exams concluded before they left for Friday’s visit to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They rebound off their first consecutive victories of the 2014-2015 campaign defeating Evansville and Tennessee Tech at Walton Arena. Anderson hopes sophomore point guard Anton Beard, a starter last season from midseason on, is ready to rebound off a 9-game fall semester UA disciplinary suspension on top of the probation requirements he is fulfilling with the judicial system. Beard was charged with forgery last summer.

With senior point guard Jabril Durham playing exceptionally, a SEC leading 73 assists vs. just 19 turnovers, it’s anticipated Beard starts working his way off the bench rather than starting vs. Mercer.

Anderson’s bench has had strong performances from 3-point shooting guard Dusty Hannahs, averaging a team-leading 18.6 points, harassing defensive guard Manuale Watkins and recently effective big men Trey Thompson, the 6-9 sophomore from Madison via Forrest City High, and Willy Kouassi, the 6-9 graduate transfer from the Ivory Coast via Auburn and Kennesaw State.

Between Durham, Watkins and shooting guards Anthlon Bell and Hannahs, and 6-4 starting freshman guard Jimmy Whitt, North Little Rock High grad Beard debuts expected to contribute but not expected to star.

“He’s not the savior,” Anderson said. “He’s just going to be a guy that’s going to come in trying to get back into the rhythm of things, because right now our guys are playing at a pretty good level.”

In Arkansas’ last game, last Saturday night’s 83-57 victory over Tennessee Tech, center Moses Kingsley grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked eight shots while scoring 10 points, and Hannahs and Bell each scored 21 points while Thompson and Kouassi both grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots while Thompson tallied a career-high 10 points.
Indeed a “pretty good level” for the Hogs, but not one they can much recede and still defeat Mercer.

They likely will need to play better than merely pretty good to beat Mercer, a Southern Conference school that in 2014 knocked out Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with Duke good enough to win the 2015 national championship last spring.

This season the Bears of coach Bob Hoffman, the former coach of the former Arkansas Aeros, a Springdale-based professional team, have beaten Tulane, Appalachian State and Western Michigan among its eight wins and lost on the road only by six and seven points to Davidson and Auburn.

“I saw them almost beat Auburn last night,” Bell said before the Razorbacks practiced Wednesday. “Auburn won, but it was a pretty good game.”

It was a really good game for Mercer freshmen flashes Jestin Lewis and Stephon Jelks. Guard Lewis scored a career high 28 points while forward Jelks double-doubled with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Junior guard Phillip Leonard, a veteran of Mercer’s mammoth NCAA Tournament upset over third-seeded Duke, leads Mercer with 49 assists and averages 10.4 points behind the 11.8 and 11.2 of Lewis and Jelks.

“We are facing a Mercer team that just played Auburn tit for tat,” Anderson said. “It was a close game that Auburn ended up pulling out.”

With Auburn coach Bruce Pearl likely ready to pull his hair out with Lewis and Jelks both on a roll.

“The Jelks kid, he’s a pretty good player,” Anderson said “He can go inside and outside and I think he is their leading rebounder. They outrebound their opponents by 14 rebounds game so it’s a team that is really balanced.”

Erased on the boards, 50-26 in an early season-loss to Georgia Tech, the Razorbacks have outrebounded 4 of their last 5 opponents. They won on the scoreboard the four games they last won, losing only 88-85 at Wake Forest when they were outrebounded only 38-35.

Beard debuting for the season in his hometown vicinity should be inspired but he’s not alone among motivated homeboy Hogs.

SPORTS STORY >> Henderson signs with Adidas, set for big year

Leader sports editor

Except for a select few, track and field is not as lucrative as the other more popular sports, but McAlmont’s Jeff Henderson is finally making a living doing what he’s best at. Henderson, the 2015 Pan Am Games long jump gold medalist and No. 1 ranked long jumper in the world, recently signed a three-year deal with Adidas Apparel Company that will pay him approximately $70,000 per year. The deal also includes incentive bonuses, which, if reached, would total another $200,000.

“It’s not get-rich money, but at least it’s a decent living,” Henderson, a 2007 graduate of Sylvan Hills, told The Leader on Tuesday.

Since moving to the Olympic athlete training facility in Chula Vista, Calif., just outside of San Diego, Henderson has had his apartment and training paid for, but has made very little money, and has subsisted with the help of a charity fund for elite amateur athletes who need to train full time to stay at the top of their respective sports.

He’ll no longer have to depend on that fund. The Adidas money will be paid as a regular weekly salary, meaning Henderson will, for the first time in years, have a steady income.

“It’s nice actually having a little something,” Henderson said. “For a long time I didn’t have anything. I mean nothing. I’m thankful that my basic needs were taken care of, but it still got a little frustrating sometimes not having anything for yourself.”

Next year is a big one for the 26 year old. It’s an Olympic year, which means this year’s USA championships will double as the Olympic trials. Unlike other sports, almost everything for Olympic hopeful track and field athletes rides on that one meet. And as Henderson learned in last year’s world championships, bad luck in one meet can cost four years of hard work in an Olympic year.

Henderson produced a world best 8.52-meter jump for 2015 at the Toronto Pan Am Games. It was the United States’ first long jump title in the Pan Am Games since Carl Lewis did it in 1987. He went on to Olympic Gold in 1988.

But in the world championships in Beijing a month later, Henderson three times jumped farther than the winning jump by Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford, but two were fouls and one was from a takeoff point of nearly 30 centimeters behind the board, and went down officially as just 7.95 meters.

Rutherford won gold with a jump of 8.29 meters, which was shorter than Henderson’s preliminary qualifying jump of 8.36.

The USATF just announced their qualifying standards for 2016, and for men’s long jump, it will be 8.05 meters, or 26-feet, 5-inches. There is one way a long jumper can make the Olympic team even if he doesn’t finish in the top three at the Olympic trials. If Henderson, or anyone else, jumps the standard before the trials and doesn’t finish in the top three. If any of the top three at the Olympic trials did not meet the standard, and had not in any meet leading up to the trials, the athlete who has met the standard makes the team.

Henderson is also one of the best sprinters in America. Though he hasn’t turned in the same kind of worldwide elite performances in sprints as he has in long jumping, he has been right on the verge of breaking into that echelon.

Henderson has also been cross training for the last several months. A lifelong lover of football, Henderson has been receiving interest from a handful of NFL teams who want him to attend combines after the 2016 Olympics.

He’s worked out with two NFL teams in the past, but never gave a potential football career his full focus. With the culmination of all his years of work in track and field almost at hand, he has begun working towards a possible football career.

“Football is what I’ve always dreamed of playing,” Henderson said. “I’ve been training for football, sprinting and long jump – cross training. Coach (Al Joyner) is OK with it and I feel great. At first I was really sore after football combines, but this time it hasn’t been that way.”

Henderson will run sprints and catch some passes for three different NFL teams in February, but he didn’t want to say yet which teams they were. More tryouts could succeed the track and field season.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe, Cabot open season

Leader sportswriter

Beebe had its first wrestling meet of the season Tuesday at Badger Sports Arena. It was an exhibition meet, with Cabot and Southside Batesville also competing, and even though it wasn’t an official match, Beebe coach Jerry Price liked what he saw from his team.

“I was really pleased,” said Price, who’s in his second year heading the wrestling program at BHS. “I think we’re a lot further ahead this year than we were this time last year. I contribute that to the kids, because they work hard, they do a lot on their own.

“They want to have a really good season and they’re putting the work in to do it. So I was really pleased with (Tuesday) night.”

In the 106-pound weight class, senior Destiny Nunez won her match by pin. She pinned her opponent, from Southside, 1:05 in the first round of the match.

Nunez became the first girl to win a state wrestling championship in Arkansas last season (fourth nationwide), and wants to repeat as a senior. Price says he sees her dedication to do that every day in practice.

“She’s a natural born leader in I guess you could call a male-dominated sport,” Price said of Nunez. “But at practice, I look to her in warm-ups and she leads all of that. She is a team leader, but just her dedication – I talked to her back in the summer and she was already working on this year.

“It goes a long way to see her putting the extra effort into it. I didn’t see that last year. I think maybe winning that state championship last year lit the fire and made her say I want to do this again. I expect good things out of her. Hopefully she can repeat.”

In the 113-pound class, Beebe freshman Jaden Webb won two matches Tuesday. He beat a Southside and Cabot wrestler – both wins coming in the second round.

In the 126-pound class, Justin Brannon won his match approximately a minute into the second round. In the next weight class up, Badger Justin Jackson won his 132-pound match 48 seconds into the first round, and in the 145-pound ranks, Karter Warner won his first match 53 seconds into round one.

Warner came up short in his second exhibition match, losing that one by technical fall to Cabot senior Austin Dye. At 160 pounds, Noah Merced also went 1-1 Tuesday. His win came against a Southside wrestler 28 seconds into round two. Merced’s loss came by decision against Cabot senior Benjamin Long.

Quentin Scherer also went 1-1 for Beebe on Tuesday, winning his first match by pin 1:36 into the first round before losing a decision to Cabot’s Nathaniel Bonilla in his final match of the evening.

Garrett Grier dominated his 170-pound weight class – winning both matches by pin in less than 50 seconds. He won his first match 45 seconds into round one, and won his second match three seconds sooner.

With the exception of a handful, the Beebe wrestling team, as a whole, entered last season with little to no experience. Price contributes the team’s progress, just in the past year alone, to the help of his two volunteer assistant coaches, Anthony Robertson and Brian Scholte, both of whom serve in the Air Force.

“Those two guys come and volunteer every day,” Price said of Robertson and Scholte. “They’re both Air Force guys and they come out and spend hours a day helping these kids learn to wrestle. It’s amazing to see these kids pick it up.”

Bo Smith wrestled in the highest weight class for Beebe on Tuesday at 195 pounds. He lost his match by pin to Cabot senior Nathaniel Bundren, but is one of the Badgers’ wrestlers that were new to the sport a year ago, and Price said he’s very much improved from last season, thanks to the work he’s put in and the coaching he’s received from Robertson and Scholte.

“Bo Smith last year was brand new,” Price said. “This year, he looks really good, and I contribute that to those two guys just teaching the fundamentals of wrestling, because it’s really technical.”

Beebe’s first official match of the season will be next year. That match will be Jan. 5 at Badger Sports Arena against Central Arkansas Christian and Greenbrier.

TOP STORY >> JHS auto team makes history

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville High School’s team, the first-ever from Arkansas to compete at the national Performance Racing Industry (PRI) conference in Indianapolis, placed 38th.

Coach and instructor Wayne Griffin pointed out that 200 groups attempted to qualify for this East Coast contest.

Students Brandon Singer, Sam Dinkins, Cody Anderson, Cody Calhoun, Jacob Smith and Cody Savage, as an alternate, represented the state.

Smith is enrolled at North Pulaski High School, but he attends shop classes at JHS, along with others from NPHS and Sylvan Hills High School.

The team’s task was to “tear down” to the bare block a 350 engine in the quickest time possible, without using power tools, Singer explained. The crank and cam are left in it, the motor is rebuilt, and everything is torqued to specifications so that it would still run with oil and gas.

Seconds or minutes are added for errors, and an average was taken from three attempts to calculate the team’s overall time.

The team’s average time was 38 minutes, their coach told The Leader.

Griffin also said, if the teens hadn’t been penalized for mistakes, their fastest time would have been 25 minutes and they would have ranked 20th.

With the errors, their fastest time was 31 minutes, he noted. But, the first year the competition was held, the winning score was 39 minutes, Griffin added.

“I’m ecstatic about how they did,” he continued, noting that the plan for next year is to qualify for the West Coast nationals held in Las Vegas by having a time of less than 24 minutes.

The top four teams from this East Coast contest move on to face off against the top four from the Las Vegas event.

The JHS team, sponsored by Allstar Performance, has been practicing around 6 in the morning Monday through Friday, and after school, since February on the same motors used at the conference.

The school didn’t provide the engines, but the students held fundraisers at David’s Burgers and Gwatney Chevrolet to buy them.

To go to the PRI conference, the team first had to qualify at the regional event in Dallas, which was held in March. The students’ time had to be less than 35 minutes, and it was 34 minutes, 56 seconds.

On why they formed the team, Singer had a simple reply. “We’re motorheads. We love cars. We love horsepower.”

The others commented that working on cars is what they grew up with and that having something fun to look forward to helps get them through the school day.

Another reason to compete was for a portion of over $16 million in scholarship money being awarded for vocational schools, like Universal Technical Institute (UTI), Griffin added.

Singer, Dinkins, Anderson and Calhoun hope to turn their hobby/extracurricular activity into careers. Smith and Savage weren’t available for a scheduled interview with The Leader.

The others’ dreams vary from working for Union Pacific Railroad to enlisting as an Air Force mechanic.

Griffin praised the students’ dedication. When he asked who wanted to be involved, dozens volunteered. But about half quit when they heard they’d have to organize fundraisers, and the rest dropped out when Griffin informed them of the grueling practice schedule, the coach said.

TOP STORY >> Rescuing a library in Ward

Leader staff writer

The Ward Public Library could remain open as an independent community library if the city chooses to run it.

A decision must be made before the Lonoke County Library System closes it on Dec. 31.

The Lonoke County Library System board on Tuesday unanimously approved the option to leave the Ward Library with two computers, furnishings, shelving and the $242,000 collection of library materials — minus the books needed to complete book series at the Cabot, Carlisle, England and Lonoke public libraries — if the city of Ward wants to manage the library with its own staff and resources.

Ward already maintains the building, covers the insurance premiums and pays the utility bills.

If the city declines, then the Lonoke County Library System will pack up all the books and materials to be absorbed into the other four libraries.

“This was an option that we didn’t consider early on. We made several attempts to speak with the city council and the mayor, but he is out of town this week. It is not feasible for us to continue running the (Ward) library,” board chairman Adam Simon said.

More Ward Library patrons are using other libraries. Lonoke County Library System director Deborah Moore said, as of a week ago, Ward Library patrons living in the Ward 72176 zip code, 31 percent use the Ward Public Library. Most use the new Cabot Public Library. Less than 1 percent use the Lonoke, Carlisle and England libraries.

Simon said the Ward library would have to use a card catalog sign-out process to check out books. He said the computerized checkout services at the Ward facility are cost-prohibitive for Lonoke County Library system.

It costs around $100,000 annually for the staff, services and resources needed to manage the Ward Library.

“Maybe they can man it with some part-time or volunteer help,” Simon suggested.

Moore said, “They have an excellent collection. The value of their collection is $242,000 worth of library material. They would be left with a wonderful base and not have to add to their collection except for new books for quite some time.”

The Leader spoke with Mayor Art Brooke on Wednesday.

He said, “We want to keep the library open, and the city council would likely want to keep it open, too.”

TOP STORY >> Council honors Swaim

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, left, congratulates former Mayor Tommy Swaim on Thursday after the city’s community center was renamed in Swaim’s honor. Swaim led Jacksonville for 22 years.

Leader staff writer

During the city council meeting Thursday, Jacksonville officials unveiled a plaque renaming the Jacksonville Community Center in honor of former Mayor Tommy Swaim.

The community center opened in 1995 funded with a penny sales tax. Swaim was mayor for 22 years.

“One of the highlights of many in this community is the facility next door to (city hall), (which wouldn’t be there) had it not been for Tommy Swaim coming up with a way to financially build it. It was very smart, and we’ve had the showpiece of central Arkansas for years,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

“I can’t think of any better way this city can honor and remember such a great leader as Tommy Swaim,” he said.

Swaim said, “This is a great honor. I really appreciate it.”

He also said Jacksonville is a great city with the greatest employees.

“I have watched this city change over the years. I’m proud to be a small part of that change, and I hope it continues to move forward.

“With our new school district in the next few years, we will see some major changes in our community. I think it will be the greatest thing since the (Little Rock Air Force) Base came,” Swaim said.

The $4 million community center was opened on April 10, 1995. Plans for the community center started rolling in 1992with the direction of parks director Annabelle Davis and the parks commission led by Pat Bond.

A special election was held where Jacksonville voters passed a one-cent sales tax while the millage rate on personal property taxes was reduced from 5 mills to 2 mills.

The city did not have to borrow money or sell bonds. It was able to use the new incoming sales tax money to pay it off.

The city council Thursday also approved its 2016 budget of $21.04 million.

The city had to take $249,500 out of its reserves. Last year, $400,000 was taken out of reserves.

The 2016 budget is also $500,000 more than the current budget.

City finance director Cheryl Erkel explained adjustments made to the budget since the council meeting on Dec. 10. The revenues from the shooting range targets were increased to $54,000, shooting range fees were increased to $13,000 and pro shop sales were increased to $10,000.

Erkel said she also found that corrections needed to be made to the 911 budget for supplies, the information technology budget for Clearpoint managing service and the parks department for athletic supplies.

She reduced the privilege tax revenue by $16,000, too. Erkel adjusted the court fines revenues to show the offset of supporting the Pulaski County Jail. The court fine revenues were decreased to $120,000; revenues for jail costs/fines were increased to $75,000, and revenues from police warrants were increased by $500.

Jacksonville resident Phillip Carlisle addressed the city council, asking that it enforce city codes, particularly mowing grass.

“I have asked that one of the lots in my neighborhood be mowed. I’ve had no luck getting any response. I’ve been trying all summer. I tried with (City Engineer) Jay Whisker at (a) Rotary (club meeting). I waited a few weeks and called the code enforcement officer. From there, I had to go to the police chief and still nothing was done. (Police Chief Kenny Boyd) told me he was the responsible party here, and he would make a decision and get back with me,” Carlisle said.

He continued, “After that, I called Jim (Durham, director of administration) and then I called back and talked with the mayor and, after some conversation, was told the city would enforce the codes. Still nothing happens after two months. I called the mayor back, and he said I would be starting a real firestorm.”

Carlisle said, in his neighborhood, the lot in question is less than five acres. Only a third of the property is not cut. It is about knee high. Carlisle is concerned because the tall grass is next to his grandchildren’s house. He said he is trying to protect them from mice, snakes and coyotes while they use their playground next to the tall grass.

The council approved the reappointment of Jim Peacock Jr. to the Planning Commission. Peacock’s term will expire in January 2019.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Slow start doesn’t hamper Lady Rabs

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke girls improved their 4A-2 Conference record to 3-1 Friday with a dominant 62-35 win over Stuttgart at the Gina Cox Center.

Lonoke (7-2, 3-1) didn’t have the best start to the game. The Lady Jackrabbits committed nine turnovers in the first eight minutes, but so did Stuttgart (5-4, 1-2), and Lonoke took an 11-8 lead into the second quarter.

“They’re a good basketball team,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris of Stuttgart. “We’re not going to just run out on top of everybody. We probably didn’t play very well early, defensively. We sure didn’t rebound very well.

“We’ve got to get better at that, but I think defensively and scoring-wise in the second quarter we hit our rhythm.”

The Lady Jackrabbits had just one turnover in the second quarter, and steadily built on their lead through the second quarter. They made seven shots in the second period. Stuttgart made five, but Lonoke finished the first half 8-9 from the free-throw line, while the Lady Ricebirds finished the half 0-3 from the stripe.

Lonoke took its first double-digit lead late in the half and maintained it at the break, leading 32-19. Lonoke closed the final 25 seconds with a pair of 2-point baskets by Jarrelyn McCall and Keiunna Walker.

McCall led the first-half scoring efforts. She scored 18 of her game-high 26 points in the first two quarters.

The Lady Rabbits more than doubled Stuttgart’s point total in the third quarter. Their lead grew to 21 near the midway point of the quarter on back-to-back threes by Kaley Woodruff and McCall. That made the score 46-25, and Lonoke led 50-25 on a Mia Brown free throw with 2:25 remaining in the third.

Lonoke closed the third quarter with four more points to lead 54-25 at the start of the fourth. The Lady Rabbits invoked the sportsmanship rule 20 seconds into the fourth quarter on a driving, contested layup by Walker, which pushed the Lonoke lead to 56-25.

The Lady Rabbits’ lead grew to as much as 60-25, but the Stuttgart reserves closed the game with a 10-2 run to set the final score.

Lonoke finished the game 23-46 from the floor for 50 percent. Stuttgart was 16-48 from the floor for 33 percent.

Lonoke was 11-16 from the free-throw line and Stuttgart was 1-5. From 3-point range, the Lady Rabbits were 5-15 and the Lady Ricebirds were 2-14.

The Lady Jackrabbits outrebounded the Lady Ricebirds 27-19, and Lonoke won the turnover battle 13-20. Lonoke had just three turnovers in the second half, and just two while the starters were on the floor.

In addition to McCall’s 26 points, Walker also scored in double figures for Lonoke, finishing with 17 points. Ashlyn Allen had eight points for Lonoke, Woodruff and Kennedy White scored four points apiece, Mickenzie Williams scored two and Brown added one.

Senior point guard Shacara Humbert led Stuttgart with 17 points. She was the only Stuttgart player to score in double figures. Junior forward Keionna Jackson added seven points for the Lady Ricebirds.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Raiders beat Cabot in title game

Leader sports editor

The Riverview Lady Raiders stayed undefeated in beating Cabot 46-42 and winning the Pre-Holiday Classic at Panther Arena on Saturday. Riverview, the defending Class 4A state champions, beat undefeated defending 1A champs Nemo Vista on Friday, then took advantage of a terrible shooting night by the Lady Panthers to earn the tournament championship.

“They’re a good team, but I don’t think (the poor shooting) had anything to do with them and everything to do with us,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. “You have to make layups and you have to make free throws. That’s the bottom line.”

Cabot’s defense dominated the fourth quarter, but two other factors caused the team to fall short. The first was trailing 40-31 at the end of the third quarter. The second was missing 8 of 12 shots from the floor and 3 of 5 free-throw attempts.

Cabot held Riverview to just four shot attempts the entire fourth quarter, but the shooting woes hampered the comeback attempts.

Cabot’s Rachel Allgood rebounded a miss and went the distance of the court for a short jumper that pulled Cabot to within 44-42 with 55 seconds remaining.

Riverview (13-0) then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Allgood got the rebound. She was fouled, and also missed the front end with 33 seconds remaining. Riverview’s Erika Johns got the rebound and hit Kayla Young beating everyone down the floor for a runout layup that set the final margin.

Cabot went 9 for 29 from the floor and 12 for 23 at the free-throw line. The Lady Panthers also turned the ball over 24 times against Riverview’s vaunted full-court pressure defense.

“Our guards ran off and left Leighton (Taylor-PG) instead of staying back and helping,” Crowder said. “We didn’t run our press break right, the way we practice it. That’s the bottom line on that.”

Taylor and Allgood each finished with 11 points. Taylor added five steals, three rebounds and three assists while Allgood had a team-high six rebounds and added two steals.

Madison Riley led River-view with 15 points. Johns scored 11 and Young 10 for the Lady Raiders.

On Friday, Cabot dominated Benton 51-26 to earn a shot at the undefeated Lady Raiders. Cabot led just 18-12 at halftime, but outscored Benton 33-14 in the second half. Senior forward Anna Sullivan was the only player in the game to score in double figures, finishing with 19 points and adding a game-high seven rebounds. CoCo Calhoon and Josie Vanoss each scored eight points for the Lady Panthers (5-4).

The Lady Panthers play a nonconference road game at Paragould on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils finish strong

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Jacksonville went 1-2 at the Bulldog Invitational, losing two close games Thursday and Friday before beating Springfield-Hillcrest 72-56 on Saturday.

On Thursday, Jacksonville opened the tournament with an overtime loss to the Lee’s Summit West of Missouri. On Friday, the Red Devils had a rematch with Hot Springs, a team Jacksonville beat 57-54 last Monday. On Friday, the Trojans held on for a 55-54 victory when Jacksonville failed to get two shots to fall at the end of the game. Just like on Thursday, Hot Springs’ game-winning shot came on a putback after an offensive rebound.

It’s a problem Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner knew his small team would have this year, but still laments how the games were lost.

“If we had anybody with a little height that could go up and rebound, we would have won that thing, or at least played in the finals,” said Joyner. “And I don’t blame my kids. They were boxing out just like you teach them. Those big dudes were just going up over the top of us. They weren’t fouling. They were just so much longer than us they could get to it at a higher point.

“We just have to find a way to deal with it. We’re going to have to work on boxing out, and then walking them out. But the kids played hard, man. I got no problem with how we went up there and performed.”

Jacksonville had to battle back from an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter against Hot Springs. Tyree Appleby hit a short jumper with about a minute remaining that gave the Red Devils their first lead of the second half. Hot Springs then missed an outside jumper, which is what Joyner was hoping for. But Trojan Xavian Christon went up high for the putback that ended up being the game winner.

Appleby finished with a game-high 23 points while Braylin James and LaQuawn Smith each scored 10. Christon led Hot Springs with 19 while Paris Harris and Trey Lenox added 10 apiece for the Trojans.

In Saturday’s game, the first half was a tale of two quarters. The Red Devils dominated the first quarter before Hillcrest came back to pull within 27-26 by halftime. The Red Devils won the third quarter 21-14, but there would be no comeback in the fourth. Jacksonville outscored Hillcrest 24-16 in that period to win the game going away.

Smith and James scored 15 apiece to lead Jacksonville on Saturday. Appleby scored 12 and post player Chris Williams added 10 for the Red Devils (7-3).

Jayson Sydnor led all scorers with 19 points while Cole Pryor scored 12 for Hillcrest.

Jacksonville is off until Monday when it plays in the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic.

This year’s Classic has a heavy local flavor, including every team from within Jacksonville city limits.

The two days of games begins at 4 p.m. Monday when the Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School girls take on Pine Bluff Dollarway. The North Pulaski boys follow at 5:15 p.m. against Little Rock Central. The Jacksonville girls take on Clarendon at 6:30 p.m. and the JHS boys face Lighthouse at 7:45.

On Saturday, Clarendon plays Dollarway at 4 p.m. before the North Pulaski and Lighthouse boys play at 5:15. The Lighthouse girls play JHS and the Red Devil boys close the event against Little Rock Central.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears win first place over host Cyclones

Leader sports editor

RUSSELLVILLE – The Sylvan Hills Bears bounced back from a terrible outing at Maumelle earlier last week to win the Cyclone Invitational at Russellville High School. The Bears overcame two late nights and a few players taking the ACT test early Saturday morning to come up with three good games in three days.

The Bears made the championship game of the tournament for the second year in a row. After losing to Lake Hamilton in last year’s final, Sylvan Hills handled the tournament host Cyclones 68-58 on Saturday.

Winning those games Thursday through Saturday was important for the Bears, who suffered a 33-point loss at Maumelle on Dec. 8. Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis wasn’t too concerned with the nature of that loss, and was glad to see his team move past it and have some success.

“Sometimes in the game of basketball, you’re going to have games turn out like that, and it really doesn’t indicate much about either team,” said Davis. “Sometimes everything just goes one team’s way. I’ve seen really good teams get beat like that. It usually happens early and you just have to move on. I was glad to see our guys continue to play with confidence and even start to play a little better than we had before.”

The Bears jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter and stretched that margin to 34-19 by halftime. Russellville still trailed 48-34 at the end of the third quarter, but the Bears were solid at the free-throw line and held off any serious threat.

“We hit 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and that was probably the statistic of the game,” Davis said. “We had consistent scoring, too, very balanced, and that was a big key.”

Senior point guard Cordy Winston scored in double figures in all three games and sophomore Jacobe Davis did so twice. But a different player moved into double figures in each of the three games. In Saturday’s win, it was sophomore post player Alex Curry, who finished with 10 points.

“We gave Curry the nod Saturday primarily due to his calmness,” Davis said. “We knew it was going to be an intense environment. It was their tournament in their brand new arena, but Alex doesn’t get rattled so we went with him and he performed well for us.”

Jacobe Davis led the team with 13 points in the championship game. Winston joined Curry with 10.

On Friday, Sylvan Hills beat Greenwood 69-57 and again utilized a fast start to take control of the game. The Bears led 16-5 by the end of the first quarter, and coach Davis noticed a trend.

“Greenwood and Russellville both had the same kind of turnovers in the first quarter,” Davis said. “Both teams threw the ball into the third or fourth row making skip passes over our zone. We played zone against them, but we run our zone a little different than most people. We try to matchup at the top out of it. I think when they went to make the throw, they noticed a defender there that they’re not used to seeing against a zone, and that altered things for them a little bit.”

Unlike Russellville, Green-wood was able to pull closer each quarter. By the end of the third, the Bulldogs only trailed 49-44. Kevin Davis credited Greenwood for their consistent play for the remainder of the game, but also credited his team with coming through when it had to.

“We made some plays where Greenwood just has to shake their heads and move on,” Davis said. “They were in perfect position and doing everything right. We were just able to get buckets. Cordy and Sam (Williams) were able to penetrate and make things happen, and Cobe knocked down some big shots.”

Winston scored 15 against the Bulldogs while Davis added 14 and Williams nine.

Sylvan Hills (6-2) opened the tournament with a 50-34 win over Subiaco Academy. Charles Smith scored 12 and Winston 10 in that win.

The Bears host Watson Chapel on Friday before a long layoff. Sylvan Hills is in no tournaments over the Christmas break. Its next game after Friday is the 5A-Central Conference opener against Pulaski Academy on Jan. 5.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot tops Vilonia in final

Leader sports editor

One of the best quarters of basketball the Cabot Panthers have played this season was the last one quarter of the Pre-Holiday Tournament that wrapped up Saturday at Panther Arena.

In the championship game of the boys’ tournament, Cabot turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point victory, beating Vilonia 58-50.

Cabot scored 33 points in the first three quarters combined, but four steals by Jalen Brown, dominant offensive rebounding and stifling defense turned the tide of the game in the fourth quarter.

“I just want to brag on that possession on defense,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “They threw it in down six with 44 seconds left and I don’t think they got a look. That’s one of the things we talk about a lot, and one of the things we want to hang our hat on, and I thought it was one of the best possessions of defense we’ve played all year.”

The possession ended with a turnover and an easy basket at the other end to set the final margin.

The Panthers’ dominance in the fourth quarter started early. Vilonia led 38-31 before Bobby Joe Duncan hit a short jumper to end the third. Jarrod Barnes went baseline and hit a reverse layup to cut the margin to three just seconds into the fourth. The Eagles were then called for an offensive foul away from the ball, and Cabot got three offensive rebounds before Matt Stanley was fouled and went to the line. He hit both foul shots to make it 38-37.

Vilonia’s Jacob Berry was fouled, but he missed both free throws. With 6:38 left in the game, Cabot’s Garrett Rowe made a 3-pointer to give the Panthers their first lead since the 5:51 mark of the third quarter.

Brown got a steal, but missed a 3-pointer. Barnes then came flying through the lane for a putback that put the Panthers up 42-38 and completed an 11-0 run.

Vilonia point guard Austin Newell cut it to a one-point game with a 3-pointer with 5:25 remaining. Cabot missed two shots on its end of the floor, but got two offensive rebounds before Barnes was fouled. He made one of two to make the score 43-41. Vilonia center Charles Thomas answered quickly to tie the game with 4:55 left.

Cabot then went on a 7-0 run in just 43 seconds, and Vilonia never got within six points again.

Barnes hit another baseline runner and Brown got another steal. He missed the shot, but Logan Gilbertson got the putback to make it 47-43. Brown then got another steal and missed again, but this time Rowe was there for the putback and was fouled. His free throw gave Cabot a 50-43 lead with 4:12 left in the game.

Bridges commended Brown on his defense, especially late in the game.

“He’s a great little shooter and right now he’s pressing, but he stays in the game because he Ds up,” Bridges said. “Here soon he’ll have a good shooting game and he’s going to break out. But I’m proud of that little rascal and his defense. He’s got grit about him.”

Brown and Barnes each finished the game with five steals, and Barnes had his best offensive game so far this season with 14 points.

“Barnes is a DI athlete,” Bridges said. “And he’s starting to get a little basketball groove about him. I love the kid. He’s matured so much from last year it’s not even funny. But he does things you can’t coach. I’m not going to lie. I wish I could take credit for it but I can’t.”

In addition to Barnes’ team high 14, Rowe came off the bench to score 10. Stanley added nine and Duncan eight for the Panthers. Thomas was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points. Hayden Patterson came off the bench when Vilonia’s leading scorer Josh Greer got into early foul trouble and scored 11 for the Eagles.

To get to the championship game, Cabot hammered White Hall 73-53 on Friday. The Panthers scored 31 points in the fourth quarter to break open a six-point game.

“Two nights in a row we finished strong,” Bridges said. “I’m proud to see that because that’s what it’s going to take in 7A ball. We’re about to find out what 7A ball is all about later this week.”

Stanley had his best game of the season so far against the Bulldogs. He hit 12 of 13 shot attempts and finished with season highs 29 points and 13 rebounds. Duncan added 14 points and had seven assists.

Benton won the third-place game 47-42 over White Hall. Conway beat Catholic 72-58 in the consolation game.

The Panthers (6-1) take part in the Wampus Cat Classic at Conway High School this weekend. On Friday, Cabot faces Fayetteville at 7 p.m. The Panthers play the early game on Saturday, tipping off at 11 a.m. against Van Buren.

TOP STORY >> Body cameras for police

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd (from left) and Capt. Matt McCollough accept a check for $5,000 for the purchase of body cameras from state Sen. Linda Chesterfield on Thursday at city hall.
State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) presented a check for $5,000 to the Jacksonville Police Department on Thursday at the city council meeting.

Accepting the check were Police Chief Kenny Boyd and Capt. Matt McCollough.

The money from the state General Improvement Funds will be used by JPD to purchase 10 body cameras.

Chesterfield’s district includes a portion of Jacksonville.

She said Maumelle requested additional money for body cameras, and she read that Jacksonville needed the same thing.

“I just wanted to help. I’ve seen what is happening around the nation. It is an honor just to be able to contribute something,” Chesterfield said.

“I’m proud of our police department and that they want to have body cameras that will even more enhance the appreciation of what they do. The more we can build trust, the greater opportunity it is to serve our constituency base,” the senator explained.

Police Chief Kenny Boyd said, “Our goal was have 52 cameras. Now every officer in an enforcement position will be assigned a body camera.”

TOP STORY >> Edna Lukas 100 years young

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville resident Edna Lukas turned 100 years old on Sunday.

She celebrated the milestone with family and friends during a surprise birthday party Saturday at her home at Woodland Hills Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.

Lukas was born on Dec. 13, 1915, in Little Rock. She graduated from Ole Main High School in North Little Rock in 1933.

Her father was a cabinetmaker, and her mother was a housewife and did some sewing. She had an older brother and two younger sisters. All have passed away.

She enjoyed singing in a trio with her sisters.

Lukas met her husband, Frank, when he was living across the street from her family. He sent her money to come to California in 1942 to get married while he was in the Army and stationed there.

They were both 27 when they married in Venice, Calif.

Edna then worked in Riverside, Calif., as a telephone switchboard operator. She recalled her time in River-side.

“I remember living out West. There was an earthquake, and the girl working next to me at the telephone company fainted and had to be taken out,” Lukas said.

She worked for the telephone company until Frank was sent to Europe in 1943 during the Second World War.

Edna was pregnant then with their only child, Ron. Frank did not see his son until he came back from Europe in 1946, when the boy was 16 months old.

Edna became a homemaker. Frank was a supervisor for Wonder Bread factories.

When Frank received a promotion he was transferred to a different plant. They moved around, living in Denver, Chicago, St. Louis and Waterloo, Iowa.

Frank and Edna were living near St. Louis when Frank retired. They moved to Jacksonville in 1980 to be near their only son’s family.

The two were married 42 years until Frank’s death in 1984.

Edna Lukas loved to cook the fresh vegetables her husband grew in their garden.

Their son became a pharmacist. Ron owned Chambers Drug Store on West Main Street in Jacksonville for 39 years until selling it in 2014. Frank Lukas delivered medications to customers.

Ron was also in the Army for three years, from 1967 to 1970. He and his wife, Retha, moved to North Little Rock in 1970. Ron went to pharmacy school at UAMS and his wife enrolled in the Baptist Health nursing program. Both were in Little Rock.

After Ron graduated from pharmacy school in 1975, he went to work at Chambers Drug Store on West Main Street in Jacksonville. Ron’s family moved to Jacksonville in 1976, and he bought into the store that year.

Edna Lukas also has two grandsons and eight great-grandchildren.

Of the 100-year-old, Ron Lukas said, “My mom has influenced my life by providing an example in her faithful Christian walk. People think of her as a gracious woman, an excellent cook and someone who seldom had a word critical of others.”

Ron and his wife have been married for 47 years.

Their son, Aaron, is a Foreign Service officer for the State Department and is stationed in Berlin. He has three girls and two boys.

Ron Lukas’ younger son, David, is a financial adviser with his own company in Maumelle. He has two boys and a girl.

Edna moved into Woodland Hills last year.

She likes to have her hair done and wear red lipstick. The mother and grandmother also said the secret to her longevity is eating a lot.

TOP STORY >> Airmen’s kids go North Pole

Leader staff writer

Around 50 children of airmen in the Arkansas Air National Guard 189th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base went on a special holiday deployment to the North Pole on Saturday. About 17 guardsmen of the wing will be overseas on deployment during the Christmas season.

The children went through the deployment process. They had a mission briefing for going to The North Pole and watched the film “The Polar Express.”

Capt. Janelle Guillbeau told the children during the briefing, “If you see an elf, stay out of its way. The North Pole looks like a FedEx center. There will be a lot of candy, so don’t eat too much. Watch out for Santa’s sleigh.”

The youngsters were given an ID, fingerprinted and wore a red or green bracelet indicating which flight they would be on. They were also vaccinated for Reindeer Flu. A dose of M&Ms or Skittles protected the children from the rare virus. Reindeer Flu symptoms include a bright red nose, fur growth, sprouting antlers, feet and hands turning into hooves and a fluffy white tail can appear.

Quarters were passed out to the children to have money to get something to eat, like their parents receive during a deployment.

The exchange rate was excellent. One quarter was equal to $1,000 North Pole dollars.

The children and family members boarded the blue military bus, where Christmas carols were sung. The trip seemed to take only a few minutes to arrive at the North Pole.

The Guard’s maintenance facility was transformed into a winter wonderland.

Elves greeted the children and directed them to workshop stations, where they decorated and ate Christmas cookies. They also made ornaments and crafts to give to their parents.

There were reindeer games to play, too, such as Christmas Bingo, bean bag toss, put the carrot nose on the snowman and a Christmas tree piƱata.

Santa Claus came out, despite his busy schedule, to meet with kids and pose for pictures. The children then helped him gather toys at the North Pole to give to the less fortunate and children staying at the hospital during Christmas.

Benjamin Ussery, 3, of Conway said his favorite part of the deployment was “decorating a cookie.”

He was happy to see Santa.

His 6-year-old brother Tom, said, “There were presents. I liked making crafts.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers dominate Lions

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers’ opening game of the Pre-Holiday Classic wasn’t much more than a walk-through. The Lady Panthers had no trouble with McClellan on Tuesday, beating the Lady Crimson Lions 52-13 at Panther Arena.

Cabot’s defense was suffocating. McClellan managed just nine shot attempts the entire first half, and made none of them. The Lady Lions did hit 3 of 5 free-throw attempts in the first half, so it wasn’t a shutout for the home team, but it was a cakewalk. The Lady Panthers didn’t shoot extremely well, hitting 14 of 40 shot attempts, but still took a 33-3 lead into intermission.

McClellan’s turnovers more than doubled its shot attempts in the first half. The Lady Lions turned the ball over 19 times, eight of which were Cabot steals.

The Lady Panthers led 8-1 with 3:08 left in the first quarter when Cabot coach Carla Crowder made her first wholesale substitutions. The bench players closed the period with a 7-0 run before three starters re-entered the game to start the second quarter. That group went on a 14-0 run over the first four minutes of the second quarter that made it 29-1.

McClellan called timeout with 3:39 left in the half. From that point, guard Maddie Nichols was the only Cabot starter to play the rest of the game.

A total of 11 Lady Panthers scored with senior Anna Sullivan leading the way with 11 points. Rachel Allgood came off the bench to finish with a game-high eight rebounds. Cabot outrebounded McClellan 33-14. Chloe Bean and #23 scored six points each for Cabot while Lily Sinclair added five.

The Lady Panthers finished the game 22 of 60 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the foul line. McClellan hit 4 of 27 shot attempts and 4 of 9 free throws. McClellan’s first made field goal came at the 6:40 mark of the third quarter by Brandi Patterson. She made three of the Lady Lions’ four baskets, and finished with a team-high six points. The other McClellan basket was a banked in 3-pointer from the left wing by Jennifer Walker that made the score 44-10 with six minutes left in the game.