Friday, February 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot QB gets Hogs’ first offer

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School junior Jarrod Barnes got some exciting news Thursday afternoon. The standout quarterback for the Panthers became the first in-state recruit in the 2017 class to receive a scholarship offer to play football at the University of Arkansas.

Barnes, a two-time All-State selection, had been on the Hogs’ recruiting radar for some time now, and described what his recruiting experience has been like leading up to the Thursday afternoon offer from Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.

“Last year it started,” said Barnes of the Razorbacks’ interest in him. “Arkansas started first then this year LSU, Missouri and A-State (Arkansas State) started looking at me. But Arkansas was like the only one that’s really talked to me and this year is when it got serious and they started coming to my games and stuff.”

Barnes proved to be a difference-maker for the Panther football team as a sophomore. He accounted for 1,188 total yards and 11 touchdowns that year, rushing for 824 yards and nine scores (9.4 yards per carry).

Barnes suffered a broken thumb late in the season his sophomore year, so he moved to halfback for the last three games of that 2014 season and continued to make plays for the Panthers out of the backfield, averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game in those final three games, and did it on a limited number of carries.

His play on the field that season earned him an invite to the Razorbacks’ summer camp before his junior season, and the SEC program’s interest in him only grew from there. This past season, Barnes topped his sophomore campaign.

The junior quarterback rushed 111 times for 1,090 yards (9.8 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns, completed 15 of 44 pass attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team to a perfect 10-0 regular-season record and outright conference championship.

“I’ve been talking to Barry Lunney,” Barnes said, “and he’s been keeping up with me and seeing how I’m doing in school and stuff. Then today (Thursday), coach Bielema told me to call him when I can. I called him (Thursday) and he asked me what position I like to play. I said I just like getting the ball in my hands.

“He was like, ‘Oh really? That’s good to hear because I would love to get the ball in your hands and I’m going to go ahead and give you a scholarship.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I’m going to give you a scholarship.’ He said, ‘What would it mean to you?’

“I said it would mean a lot, because all of my friends and family, they like Arkansas and I like Arkansas and it would just mean a lot. And then, he gave me a scholarship.”

Barnes, 5-foot-11, 173 pounds, 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, can’t officially sign with the Razorbacks until signing day of next year, his senior year. He didn’t officially commit to Arkansas with Bielema’s offer, but said he was excited and it meant a lot to him to receive the offer.

Barnes has been a quarterback for as long as he’s been playing football, which he said started at about 4 years old, but the Razorbacks are recruiting him as an athlete, and quite possibly as a slot receiver.

“I’d like to play quarterback,” Barnes said, “but it’s really up to them. Wherever they want to put me, I just want the ball.”

Since the Mike Malham coaching era began at Cabot in 1980, only three players from Cabot have ever received an offer to play football for the Razorbacks. Barnes is the first player since 1989 to receive an offer from Arkansas, but is the only skill player to get an offer from the Hogs in the 35 years Malham has been at CHS.

“Jarrod, he’s special,” said Malham. “He’s a difference-maker. We put the shotgun in for him this year and a couple of times we’d have bad snaps and it turned out to be one of our best plays when he had a bad snap. He’d pick it up and he’d make something happen.

“The last time Arkansas offered one of our kids a scholarship was back in 1989, Ray Straschinske, a big tackle that went up there and played for them. So we’re excited about it and hopefully next year he’ll have another better year.

“In 35 years, this is the third offer (from Arkansas). We don’t have them very often, but it’s pretty neat.”

Malham, known well for his run-oriented Dead-T offensive attack that always has the quarterback lined up under center, for the first time added a shotgun/wildcat package this past season, solely because of Barnes’ playmaking abilities.

“We’ve had two Arkansas signees, Straschinske and (Dennis) Kirkland, but they were big linemen,” Malham said. “I’ve never had a skill person that actually went D1. He’s the best athlete that I’ve ever had at Cabot.

“In fact, the best athlete that I’ve always said ever came out of Cabot is Steve Burks, who played for the New England Patriots, played at ASU the same time I was up there, won the state decathlon when he was a senior at Cabot.

“We graduated the same year and went to ASU together and he was an athlete. I mean, he did everything in high school – played basketball, football, actually got drafted to play baseball out of high school, but decided to go to ASU and play football.

“Arkansas offered him, but his older brother played up there and had some kind of bad experience and he wasn’t going to go to Arkansas. So we got him at Arkansas State, and when he came out, he was drafted by New England and played with them for four years and then just kind of walked away from the game. He wanted to get traded and they wouldn’t trade him, and I don’t think he went back.

“But I always said he’s the best athlete that ever came out of Cabot, but now I’m not so sure. This kid Jarrod, he’s just so explosive. He’s almost full speed after one step. After his first step he’s got it going. He’s so quick off that first step and he’s almost full speed within his first couple of steps.

“He’s tough and he’s made those ole Cabot 12, 13, 14-play drives turn into one and two-play drives, which is pretty nice.”

SPORTS STORY >> LHS ladies overcome slow start for victory

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke girls picked up another 4A-2 Conference victory Tuesday night at home, and got it in relatively easy fashion, as the Lady Jackrabbits cruised to a 67-42 win over Newport.

Despite the lopsided win, Lonoke wasn’t so sharp out of the gate. Newport led 5-1 at the start of the game on a corner three by Yasmine Friar and a pair of free throws by teammate Janel Hatcher.

Lonoke scored the next four points to tie the game at 5-5, but didn’t take its first lead until 8-7 on a 3-pointer by Jarrelyn McCall with 3:33 left to play in the first quarter.

Lonoke’s full-court pressure forced turnovers and put a stop to the Lady Greyhounds’ scoring the rest of the quarter, as the Lady Jackrabbits closed the opening quarter with a 9-0 run to lead 17-7 at the end of one.

Newport (2-18, 1-13) scored the first three points of the second quarter on a basket by Hatcher and a free throw by Kiazah Moreland, but by the 6:35 mark of the quarter, Lonoke (17-7, 10-5) got its lead back to double digits on a basket and free throw by sophomore scorer Keiunna Walker.

The Lady Greyhounds scored the next bucket to make it an eight-point game at 20-12, but a corner three by McCall made it 23-12 with 4:12 left in the half. Lonoke’s largest lead of the quarter was 25-12, but the hosts still led by double digits at halftime, with the score 27-17.

Lonoke maintained its double-digit lead throughout the second half, furthering it to 14 by the end of the third quarter. With five minutes left in the third, Mickenzie Williams made a pair of free throws that upped the Lady Rabbits’ lead to 33-21, and McCall added the next pair of points with a short jumper off the glass with 4:23 remaining in the period.

McCall’s basket made the score 35-21, and the margin stayed at 14 on a buzzer-beating inside lay-in by senior forward Ashlyn Allen, which made the score 43-29 Lonoke at the start of the fourth.

Allen’s buzzer-beating basket was set up by McCall, who started her dribble from the top of the key and drew defenders to the middle of the lane before she made a precision pass to Allen, who was left wide open next to the goal for an easy bucket.

The Lady Rabbits steadily built on their lead as the fourth quarter progressed. Lonoke’s McCall, Williams and Kaley Woodruff combined for three-consecutive threes to further the lead to 62-40 with 3:40 left to play.

Woodruff added another 3-pointer with 2:59 remaining, which made the score 65-40, and Mia Brown scored the last points of the game on a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left.

Lonoke finished the game 25 of 64 from the floor for 39 percent. Newport also made 39 percent of its shots on 17 of 44 shooting. From the free-throw line, the Lady Rabbits made 11 of 20 attempts and the Lady Greyhounds made 8 of 10 shots from the stripe. From 3-point range, Lonoke was 6 for 23 and Newport was 2 for 9.

The hosts outrebounded the visitors 33-27 and won the turnover category 12-23.

Walker led all scorers with 24 points. McCall was the only other Lonoke player that scored in double figures and had the most complete game, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block.

Allen added nine points and 10 rebounds and Williams also had nine points for Lonoke. Hatcher led Newport with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lonoke girls played their final regular-season game last night at home against eStem Charter after deadlines. They’ll enter postseason play at the district tournament, which begins Monday at Southside Batesville.

SPORTS STORY >> Comets get season split, Lady Devils sweep Mills

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils fell two games behind first place Tuesday with a 70-59 loss at Mills University Studies in Little Rock.

Jacksonville (14-8, 6-4) beat Mills 54-53 last month at JHS, but struggled with matchup disadvantages in the second half on Tuesday.

The Red Devils led 33-31 at halftime, but the Comets came out of the locker room hot from outside in the third quarter. They also switched defenses and the Red Devils had trouble adjusting.

“First of all, their bigs are a problem for us because our bigs aren’t that big,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We have a little size, but no experience. So you try to go with the guys who have played, but they’re undersized. Then you try to go with your big men, but their big men can come out onto the floor. When you go big, they come out and drive around us. They just have more pieces to the puzzle than we do.”

In the first meeting between the two teams, Mills coach Raymond Cooper complained that his team abandoned the game plan. Joyner said the same thing about his squad on Tuesday.

“We had some kids that got caught up in the hype,” Joyner said. “Started trying to make it a one-on-one game instead of doing what we do. They went to that little 1-3-1 zone, and a 3-2, and it took us a while to adjust to it. We just kept trying to drive and force crap. Four times in a row we did that and just lost the ball – didn’t even get a shot. That’s why I sat them all down. They were killing us, but I don’t know if a starter scored a point in the third quarter, because they were all over there sitting by me.”

Senior post player Chris Williams did make one basket in the third and LaQuawn Smith added a free throw. The only other basket was by freshman Joe Phillips, as the Comets outscored Jacksonville 18-5 to take a 49-38 lead into the fourth period.

Jacksonville was never able to make a serious threat in the fourth quarter, though guard Kavion Waller came off the bench to score 11 points in the final frame and keep the Red Devils close.

Mills (19-6, 8-2) made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to maintain its advantage.

Tyree Appleby led Jacksonville with 20 points, but only scored four in the second half. Likewise, Smith scored 16 of his 16 in the first half for Jacksonville. Waller was the only other JHS player in double figures.

Four Comets were in double figures, led by junior post Darious Hall’s 18 points. Guard Grehlon Easter scored 16 and guard Quawn Marshall 13. Sophomore post Jeremiah Toney added 11 for Mills, all in the first half.


The Lady Red Devils (12-12, 6-4) cruised to an easy 69-27 victory in their game at Mills. Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott moved up four ninth graders to help fill a depleted roster, and two of them got on the board in the first quarter. Kayla Floyd scored four points and Deshundria Shockley added a bucket as Jacksonville built a 23-5 first-quarter lead.

Senior Asiah Williams scored eight in the first, including a pair of 3-pointers. The Lady Red Devils extended their lead to 42-16 by halftime. They led by as much as 39 in the third quarter before settling for a mercy-rule-invoking 59-25 lead going into the fourth period.

Senior post Tatianna Lacy led Jacksonville with 13 points while Williams finished with 10. Jasmine Ellison led Mills (2-13, 1-9) with nine points.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s bowlers district champs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot girls’ bowling team won the 7A-5A Central District tournament Friday in Maumelle. The Lady Panthers, who are also the defending state champions, had the top three individual bowlers and won the tournament by a wide margin with a total of 3,731 pins.

The Cabot boys’ team is also the defending state champs, but they struggled early and were unable to catch up to the Benton Panthers, who had a tremendous first round. The Cabot boys totaled 4,302 pins, but still lost by 140.

“Benton bowled well early and we were playing catch-up all day,” said Cabot bowling coach Clark Bing. “I’m not going to give a number that I think we could’ve got, but we’re better than that. It was a little disappointing but we can still win state. We just have to play better.”

The Lady Panthers won going away. Lauren Bunting was the Gold medalist with 588 pins. She bowled a modest 156 in her first game, but got better as the tournament went on. Her second game was a 199 and she bowled a 233 to close the rounds.

Her teammates Micah Perry and Hayleigh Baugh were the silver and bronze medalists. Megan Bugiel also made All-Conference.

“I was pleased with their focus and execution on the lanes,” Bing said of the girls’ team. The girls executed on the lanes. That’s the bottom line. They had a great day.”

While the boys didn’t win as a team, Josh Imhoff was the tournament’s Gold medalist and led three Panthers that qualified for All-Conference honors by finishing in the top five. Imhoff totaled 675, peaking in the second round with a 258. He opened with a 192 and closed with a 215. Blake Palladino and Cole Stillman finished fourth and fifth to make All-Conference.

Both teams will try to defend their state championships next Wednesday, and will get to do so on their home lanes. The state tournament will begin at 11 a.m. at All-Fam Bowling Center in Cabot.

The boys will be going for their fifth-straight state title while the girls will be after their fifth in the last nine years.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears defeat NP with big second half

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski’s last basket of the first half Tuesday came at the end of one of the most impressive possessions for the Falcons’ season. It all went downhill from there as Sylvan Hills overcame a late first-half deficit to dominate the second half and win 60-39 in Jacksonville.

The win kept the Bears (14-8, 5-5) in a tie for fifth place and just one game behind Jacksonville in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot from the 5A-Central Conference.

“I think effort was the difference in the two halves for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “I think it was clear they were playing with so much more effort than we were in the first half. You could really see Cordy (Winston) spending a lot more energy out there in the second half, and Jordan Washington, too. A lot of times you don’t notice him as much because he’s not out there on the floor as much, but his effort inside helped us a lot in the second half. He pulled down some pretty big offensive rebounds and gave us second chances.”

The Falcons (3-16, 0-10)got lost defensively in the last few seconds of each of the first two quarters. North Pulaski took its first lead on a steal and a pair of free throws by junior guard Justin Glasco that made the score 10-8 with three minutes left in the first quarter. Glasco’s steal was Sylvan Hills’ fifth turnover in just five minutes of play. The game alternated between a two-point Falcon lead and tied for the rest of the quarter, until only three seconds remained.

That’s when junior Leon Brooks got a steal for the Falcons (Sylvan Hills’ seventh turnover) and dished to sophomore post player Christian White for a layup. But the Falcons got caught celebrating too quickly. Washington threw the inbound pass the length of the court through a mostly unaware Falcon defense to a streaking Winston, who caught the ball running towards the basket. His layup was no good, but he was fouled by Jermaine Lopez, who tried to recover defensively. Winston hit both free throws with no time on the clock to end the first quarter with NP leading 17-15.

Lopez opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer that pushed the Falcon lead to five, but J.D. Smith answered just 15 seconds later for Sylvan Hills. Lopez hit another three, but this time Daylon Raynor answered for the Bears to make the score 23-21.

North Pulaski took possession with 2:30 left in the quarter leading 27-24, and ran its half-court offense for more than a minute and a half before finding White open inside for a layup and a five-point lead with 50 seconds remaining. It matched the Falcons’ biggest lead of the game and it was the beginning of a scoring drought that lasted practically the rest of the game.

The Bears ran it down to 13 seconds before Washington was fouled. He made both free throws to make it 29-26. NP’s Braxton McKinney then threw the inbound pass the length of the court to Glasco, who wasn’t open for a shot. He caught the ball initially, but lost the handle after putting it on the floor.

Smith picked it up for the Bears underneath the NP basket. He lost his footing while trying to dribble out of a double team and lost control. Raynor dived for the ball, flung it backwards over his head to Washington near the top of the key. He took two dribbles to the right corner of the midcourt stripe and launched a 50-footer that banked in at the buzzer to tie the game at halftime.

The Bears switched to a trapping defense in the second half and took the Falcons out of their game. North Pulaski’s defense recovered after an initial Bears’ run. Sylvan Hills led 39-34 halfway through the third quarter, but neither team scored again until the final 10 seconds when the Bears made it 41-34 on a bucket by sophomore post Alex Curry.

Sylvan Hills outscored NP 19-5 in the fourth quarter to set the final margin.

North Pulaski outrebounded Sylvan Hills 30-26, but shot only 28 percent from the floor, hitting 14 of 50 shot attempts.

“That’s where we struggle, scoring the basketball,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “We just don’t have any pure shooters, or pure scorers. But they play hard, man. That’s what you want to see as a coach. They go out there and play hard despite our disadvantages. I’m proud of them.”

Sylvan Hills made 22 of 51 attempts, including 6 of 15 from 3-point range. The Falcons were 9 of 15 from the foul line while the Bears were 10 of 17.

Winston and Washington each scored 13 points to lead all scorers. Smith added 11 for the Bears. White recorded a double-double for NP with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Lopez scored 11 for the Falcons.

EDITORIAL >> This week’s millage vote

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District millage increase passed with just a little over 600 votes — far from a landslide many predicted, but still at a comfortable margin of 55-45 percent. That’s considered a landslide in today’s political elections. A 65 percent plurality would be have been better — after all, residents voted 95 percent in favor of separating from the Pulaski County Special School District in 2014 — but the anti-tax sentiment out in Bayou Meto this week was huge.

The 7.6-millage increase lost 4-1 out in the country, where folks are not only anti-tax but many have given up on public schools and are home schooling their children. The millage was also defeated at McArthur Church, where nearby residents were vocal in their opposition.

The proposal barely carried by two dozen votes on election day, but early voting went 2-1 in favor of the millage proposal. The early voting reports came in first Tuesday night, which is always a good indicator of the outcome, but not this time.

Bayou Meto residents didn’t vote early in Jacksonville, but they turned out in overwhelming numbers to reject the increase, 441-117. It’s unfortunate, because the new millage increase will pay for a new high school that many of their children will attend someday.

The millage will also refurbish the district’s elementary schools and middle school and eventually replace all the elementary schools. So the $80 million that the new millage will generate will improve education all over the district. But if you don’t believe in state schools and think government cannot do anything right, you’re inclined to vote down anything that will cost more money.

So what would have been the alternative? Let the schools crumble, have the building inspectors condemn them as uninhabitable and let the state take over the new district and run them indefinitely?

The state Education Department is still in charge of the Pulaski County Special School District, which Jacksonville left in 2014.

The Little Rock School District is also under state supervision, as are a handful of other districts.

No, we cannot go back. Nobody likes tax increases, especially the elderly on fixed incomes. But $150 more in property taxes a year will boost the value of an average home $10,000-$20,000 and even more.

The supporters of the millage increase should pat themselves on the back. It’s never easy to get one passed. The Leader’s front page almost 30 years ago reported on a proposed millage increase in the Pulaski County Special School District. The measure failed.

The results this time show that residents want the new district to succeed. It will be a laboratory for the rest of the state and perhaps the whole nation, proving that a small district can do better than a big one.

The Jacksonville Education Corps, which pushed for the millage increase, issued a statement Tuesday, saying, “This commitment to investment is key to all of our future economic prosperity. Families will be attracted to our community because of our commitment to our new educational opportunities. We will finally keep our tax dollars invested within our community to provide our students with the 21st Century learning environments that they deserve.”

This is a week to celebrate. Let the construction begin, hire the best teachers and show those youngsters that we value all of them and will do everything to make sure they become successful adults and the pride of our community.

Thank you, voters, for believing in the new school district and its staff and especially our young people, who deserve nothing less than a first-class education.

Perhaps even the folks in Bayou Meto who rejected the increase, will come around in a couple of years and say, “You know what, this district is doing great, and we’re glad to show it our support.”

That is our hope: That everyone will rally around the new school district and help make education history happen.

TOP STORY >> Man who stood up to Castro

Leader executive editor

Eduardo Diaz was assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base in 1966 and has lived in Cabot most of the time since he left the Air Force in 1970.

Diaz, who was born in New York to Cuban-American parents in 1947, is a frequent letter writer to The Leader. He dropped by the newspaper last week and talked about growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and getting drafted in 1965 as the Vietnam War was escalating.

He flew to Memphis after basic training and got on another plane and, after several stops in between, landed in Little Rock. Most of the time, he stayed stateside and didn’t go to Vietnam.

Diaz remembers Israelis landing at the base in the spring of 1967 during the Six-Day War.

“El Al landed here to pick up cases of ammunition from Pine Bluff Arsenal,” Diaz recalled.

As a born-again Christian and a supporter of Israel, he’s proud he was among the airmen who loaded the ammo and he had a small part in helping the Jewish state survive. (See his blog,

Diaz also talked about the relatives who stayed behind in Cuba and lost everything after Castro took power. His family visited Cuba every summer until 1960, when the U.S. and Cuba broke off diplomatic relations after Castro announced he was a communist.

“I remember explicit de tails after the revolution with armed soldiers in the streets,” Diaz said of one of his last visits to Havana.

Miguel Ángel Quevedo, a relative of the Diaz family, was editor and publisher of some of the leading magazines in Cuba and South America, including Bohemia magazine, which was started in 1908 by his father.

He was a lot like Henry Luce, who founded Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated in this country.

“Bohemia was the most popular newsweekly of its day in Cuba and Latin America, known for its political journalism and editorial writing. He was also one of the pioneers of Cuban Scouting,” Diaz said.

Bohemia’s format was much like Time magazine. Bohemia was the flagship of three magazines, the other ones being Cartelles and Vanidades, which were primarily about women’s fashion and celebrity-type news.

Miguel’s father started the publishing house in 1908. “They made their money legitimately and were very rich but down to earth,” Diaz said.

“I remember that for Christmas,” Diaz said, “Miguel’s idea of fun was that he had a ranch near the airport outside Havana and the town had about 1,000-1,500 people in the area.

“Well, for Christmas, he would go to New York City with his staff and literally buy at least one unique toy for every kid in town. I remember that, though we lived in New York, when we went to Cuba to visit my grandparents and family in the summers, Miguel always had very top-of-the-line toys for my brother Ray and me. I am not talking about cheap toys either, but the latest toys. Talk about being indulged.

“He would also let us come over to his beach house that he had and for an entire summer we lived in a 12-room house with servants, a 75-foot yacht, a speedboat and a private beach. It was awesome. He was very, very generous but didn’t see that Castro was an SOB till it was too late.”

Quevedo came to the U.S. after he won a prestigious magazine award. “The award was a big thing, and I remember going to the party as a kid in New York,” Diaz said.

According to Diaz, Bohemia became the principal voice of opposition to the administration of Carlos Prio Socarras and supported the revolution against the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

“When Miguel first started writing op-ed pieces against the Batista regime, one day Batista sent one of his thugs to Miguel’s office and literally forced gasoline down his throat, and it not only came close to killing him and ruined his stomach, but it came with a warning that continued publications of similar articles would cost him his life,” Diaz said.

On July 26, 1958, the magazine published the Sierra Maestra Manifesto, a document that unified the opposition groups fighting Batista and supporting Fidel Castro.

On Jan. 11, 1959, one million copies of a special edition of the magazine were printed, and sold out in just a few hours.

But Castro soon cracked down on a free press, and Quevedo fled Cuba to the U.S. The CIA helped him restart the magazine, but it didn’t last long.

“I remember when he called mom in New York,” Diaz said. “They were very close. She then told us after the call she was worried and I guess at the time mom must have thought it was Miguel’s goodbye call.

“A few days later, in August 1969, having lost everything and despondent, he took a shotgun and put it in his mouth and blew his head off.”

TOP STORY >> Lawsuit to stop money trough

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson filed suit against state officials Friday charging that lawmakers are using planning and development districts to launder state general improvement funds and send the money to local projects and entities in the districts of those state representatives and senators.

While Wilson said they often are for good causes, they are nonetheless illegal.

He is suing defendants Larry Walther, director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Andrea Lea, state auditor; Dennis Milligan, state treasurer; and the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District.

He seeks to recover the money for the state.

Wilson wants the money returned to the state.

The suit was assigned Friday to Circuit Judge Chris Piazza.

In 2005, Wilson, himself a former state representative, filed a similar suit holding that state law prohibits using GIF money for local projects.

That money can be used for statewide education, for instance, but can’t be earmarked for particular schools or volunteer fire departments or boys and girls clubs or tornado shelters.

General improvement funds are “left-over” money and before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Willard Proctor found them illegal—and the state Supreme Court upheld his ruling—all representatives got a certain amount to spend on projects for their constituents and it would generally be approved in one big bill by both the House and the Senate.

The money helped endear lawmakers to their constituents, an advantage when re-election time rolled around.

Now the money is appropriated to the Planning and Development Districts, including the one for central Arkansas. Those wanting the money apply for it and the district doles it out with the permission of the lawmaker in question.

Wilson’s original case, filed in 2005 found direct appropriations from the General Assembly unconstitutional.

Today it’s done by subterfuge through Planning and Development Districts, Wilson said. “It’s an indirect masking device.”

“As a means of avoiding the Constitutional prohibition against local and special acts, members of the General Assembly have joined in unlawful concert with Defendant Central Arkansas Planning and Development District, Inc. and other Planning and Development Districts, in a scheme or artifice whereby appropriations of tax funds are made to the Planning and Development Districts, which privately contact by telephone individual members of the House and Senate for approval of “grants” to favored local projects. No public records of those private communications are kept,” according to Wilson’s complaint.

Currently, state representatives are allowed to fund $70,000 while state senators are allowed $285,000.

“Acts 626, 818, 612, 551, 619, 514, 786 and 654 of 2015 in total purport to appropriate $15,000,000 from the General Improvement Fund for ‘grants’ to ‘Central Arkansas Economic Development District, Inc.’ No purpose of the appropriations are distinctly stated, contrary to Art. 5, § 29 of the Arkansas Constitution,” according to the suit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

EDITORIAL >> A big win for district

Jacksonville-area residents voted Tuesday to raise their property taxes to benefit their new school district, showing once again their commitment to improving the quality of education and building new campuses, something the Pulaski County Special School District refused to do for decades.

Jacksonville-area residents have proven once again that they will reach into their own pockets to benefit their kids and expand educational opportunities, and, when votes were tallied last night, they had resoundingly passed a 7.6-mill property tax increase that did both those things.

The move to carve our own independent school district from the northern-most reaches of Pulaski County was like a relay race, with the torch being passed laterally to friends and also down through the decades.

The tax increase will raise $80 million for the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, which will pay for a $65 million new high school near Main Street and Hwy. 67/167 and a new elementary school near Little Rock Air Force Base. It will also allow for extensive renovations across the district and erect multipurpose buildings at four elementary schools.

Never has Jacksonville had so much in store for its aging school system. Under the incompetence of PCSSD, the city’s schools were lucky to get a fresh coat of paint or leaky rooks repaired.

Those days are gone.

Although JNP has an independent school board, since its establishment it has been under the thumb of PCSSD, but that will end on July 1.

The new district has a chance to build modern school buildings and bring academic programs up to par with other districts in central Arkansas. It will have the authority to radically change the approach to education.

Overtime, the district should have longer school days and extend the school calendar, as well as offer some of the most competitive teacher pay in the state.

School officials should not only strive for schools that measure up to Cabot’s, but they should try to measure up to ones in Massachusetts, where public schools are among the best in the nation. For inspiration, see what schools in Finland, which are the envy of the world, have achieved with better pay for teachers and a culture that accepts only success when it comes to education and teaching youngsters to become responsible citizens.

There are many people who deserve recognition for helping Jacksonville get to this moment.

We know the decades-long effort goes back at least to former state Rep. Pat Bond and the group she belonged to. We know it moved forward with her son, former state Rep. Will Bond, who wrote or updated the enabling legislation.

Most recently the baton was passed to the Jacksonville Education Corps and the likes of current Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board President Daniel Gray and others, including interim Superintendent Bobby Lester, who, along with current Superintendent Tony Wood and Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart, helped navigate the tricky waters of creating a new school district from an older, larger one.

We’ll miss dozens of names from along the way, but a sampling would include Dr. Greg Bollen, Jody Urqhart, Mark Perry, Pat O’Brien, Bishop James Bolden, the late Ben Rice, his partner in crime Reedie Ray, former Mayor Tommy Swaim, Mayor Gary Fletcher, Martha Whatley, attorney Patrick Wilson, Ivory Tillman of the Jacksonville NAACP, Merlene McGhee and others.

Both the appointed JNP school board and the current elected board have worked diligently to bring about the best district possible, reviewing hundreds of pages of proposed board and student policy and making difficult decisions.

And several overlapping groups, including Educating Our Children, Jacksonville World Class Education Organization and the Education Corps should be thanked.

Don Stewart and Winston Simpson conducted feasibility studies that helped move the dream forward, and both former Gov. Mike Beebe and former state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel help make it possible.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess also played an important role in advancing the cause, determining that a separate Jacksonville school district would help PCSSD achieve unitary status in facilities and spending long hours on working out details of the detachment.

The challenges facing the new district are no longer insurmountable. A new building program will provide students a place to learn and flourish. The district could become a laboratory for the rest of the state as Arkansas looks for innovative ways to educate its young people.

Thank you, Jacksonville voters, for your vote of confidence in the new school district. Better days are ahead for students and all those lucky to live in the district. A new journey begins.

TOP STORY >> Peacock gets Pinnacle award

Leader staff writer

Longtime realtor and businessman Jim Peacock received the Pinnacle Award at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on Friday night.

Larry Wilson honored Peacock in front of about 200 people.

“This award is not an annual award and in fact it is rarely given by the chamber,” Wilson told the crowd. “But Jim Peacock deserves it for all he has done for the local economy and bringing industry to Jacksonville.”

Specifically, Peacock was honored for his role in bringing Precision Ammo to Jacksonville, which in turn is bringing a Sig Sauer facility to the city that now has three firearms companies looking to come there.

Patrick Franklin was trying to get North Little Rock to allow him to come into that city with Precision Ammo, but the effort turned into a controversy. Peacock stepped in and said Jacksonville would be happy to have them and that there was even an empty ordnance plant building available that produced ammo in World War II.

Wilson said, because of Peacock, Franklin and his business came to the city and Franklin told other manufacturers about the warm welcome and positive dealings.

Wilson said Peacock had a long history of helping the city. “Starting back in 1966, he developed subdivisions and built homes and apartments.”

The banker continued, “Peacock has faithfully served on the planning commission and is in his 20th year with the Jacksonville Water Commission and spent the last seven years as the chairman,” Wilson said.

He added that Peacock’s service to the community has been “very impressive” and brought about “timely and successful efforts, which have and will continue to bring jobs to the area.”

Peacock received a standing ovation as he accepted the award.

In other business, past chamber president Roger Sundermeier and new president Brad West took time at the banquet to emphasize the positive direction of the chamber.

“This past year, the chamber made progress bettering its relationship with the city,” Sundermeier said, adding, “growth doesn’t happen unless seeds are planted.”

He also said that the new school district would be “phenomenal” for the area.

West echoed that, saying the chamber was 100 percent behind the new school district. He’s also pleased with the new highway coming through the city. West added, “An important key to bringing in new families and keeping families is to buy into our businesses, into our effort. If we are all on the same page, working together, our success is guaranteed.”

With 30 new members added in the past year, the chamber now has 351 members, including 290 businesses.

A number of those businesses were honored at the banquet for their service to the chamber and the city.

Receiving five-year pins were Chopsticks International Center, Express Printing, James Gowen State Farm Agency, Mobilized, Inc./Verizon Wireless, Two Sisters Catering, the UPS Store, St. Vincent Family Clinic and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

Ten-year awards went to A Hair Gallery, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Fraley Roofing, Jacksonville Splash Car Wash, Mind Over Matter Massage, TruService Community Federal Credit Union, Redmond Road Storage and University of Arkansas at Little Rock AFB.

Members receiving 15-year honors included CenturyLink, Crestview Optical, Immanuel Family Worship Center, Northgate Mini-Storage and Sue Smith Vacations.

Twenty-year honors went to Arvest Bank.

Celebrating 25 years were Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Johnson and Associates PA, S&J Construction Co.

North Pulaski High School was honored for 35 years of service.

At the 40-year mark were Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Jacksonville Guitar Center, Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home, Wright’s Cabinets and Zumwalt Enterprise.

Gene Bowman Shelter Insurance was honored for 45 years of service.

TOP STORY >> Challenger runs against Williams

Leader staff writer

Dist. 29 Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) is being challenged in his re-election bid by Republican R.D. Hopper, a Lonoke County justice of the peace.

Early voting for the March 1 primary will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Both attended a meet-and-greet hosted by the Ward Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

Williams said he’d like to continue serving because “There’s a lot of unfinished work.”

Hopper is running because, he said, people who have served a few terms at the Capitol have “become ingrained into the establishment” and are focusing on “big fish” corporations like Walmart and Axiom. He said he wants to represent small businesses.

Williams touted introducing legislation last year that paves the way for reducing government and wasteful spending by consolidating state agencies.

There are about 200 agencies now, and Williams said he’d like to see that number lowered to 100.

Another idea is privatizing some prisons to make cuts there. The senator, at the request of the governor, is leading that effort and directing an in-depth audit of that system.

A Texarkana company is being paid $35 a day to house inmates, while it costs the state $65 a day to do so, Williams said. He noted that Arkansas spends about 7.6 percent of its general revenue on that system, compared to the 5.2 percent other states spend.

The senator said he’d talked to hundreds who agree there is at least 10 percent waste in state government. Williams’ goal is to eliminate that much from the Senate-controlled $5 billion in general revenue, resulting in savings of $500 million, savings that would allow lawmakers to reduce the tax burden on Arkansans.

Hopper said one of the most pressing issues facing the state is Medicaid being in “jeopardy.” He said 200,000 people eligible for Obamacare are on the state’s Medicaid program and Arkansas taxpayers are taking care of them.

Hopper noted that the federal government is cutting back its first 5 percent in funding to that program next year, and the governor has proposed cutting $835 million from traditional recipients.

The JP has a problem with that because those traditional recipients are the states “most vulnerable citizens” — the physically and mentally disabled or handicapped — and 70 percent of the Obamacare people are able to work.

Williams told The Leader he’s proud to have supported a $100 million tax cut for middle-income families and passed a law that adds a fine for those convicted of committing a crime to or in the presence of a child. The fines will help fund child advocacy centers that don’t receive money from the state right now.

Hopper wants to do away with the “unfair” used car tax, citing that Arkansas can afford to do so because it has an average surplus of $48 million a year, according to the governor.

Williams noted that he wants to take Arkansas from “dead last to a respectable position” in education.

Although he says he’s one of the few blessed with great schools in his district, at the state level, “we need to continue to raise the bar.”

He wants broadband in every school and noted that Common Core is constantly being tweaked. The senator said he’d met with all superintendents in his district and they say changes must be made slowly and efficiently. He also said kids are being tested too much.

Williams said he was not a proponent of the PARCC exam based on Common Core, adding that Arkansas has now switched to ACT Aspire.

Hopper is opposed to Common Core, which he says his opponent voted for three times.

He argued that it’s not good for children to have social engineering that includes homosexuality as a topic in the curriculum. The JP also said Common Core teaches younger kids math they aren’t ready for, and it’s stressing them out.

Hopper wants to give the school board and teachers the power to set a curriculum and that teachers need more flexibility than Common Core allows.

Williams touted traveling, at his own expense, to Cuba to place the state in a position for when sanctions are lifted. That country, losing half of its drinking water before it reaches the faucets, needs better infrastructure that Arkansas can provide, he said.

Williams would also like to see Arkansas companies selling energy to Puerto Rico, which is spending 40 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the 7.23-cent average here.

TOP STORY >> Millage overcomes anti-tax opposition

 Leader senior staff writer

The margin of victory—55.1 percent to 44.8 percent—wasn’t as great as supporters expected, but the patrons in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District on Tuesday nonetheless approved a 7.6-mill property-tax hike to help fund an $80 million school facilities construction project.

The unofficial total, gleaned from results posted at polling place doors—was 2,094 to 1,702.

Superintendent Tony Wood said he expected the increase to pass with about 70 percent of the vote, “but the important thing is it passed.”

“We’re excited and relieved,” school board president Daniel Gray said. “It was a long campaign, and now we’re ready to move forward.”

“We will see the fruits of our labor immediately,” Gray said.

One reason the group that worked toward passing the millage increase expected a greater margin of victory was the approval by the same voters of starting their own district with a 95 percent vote in 2014.

Gray said he thought there was a lot of anti-tax sentiment in the Bayou Meto area, regardless of the issue.

Early and absentee votes were posted first, with 819 votes for and 420 votes against.

That was nearly a 2-to-1 margin. The 75 people at the watch party at the community center chatted easily and happily. But the air was sucked out of the room a few minutes later, as the results from Bayou Meto Baptist Church reported 323 votes against, 73 votes for.

Voters at McArthur Church also voted against the increase, 225 to 196.

Patrons at all other polling places each approved the increase.

Gray said the new $60 million Jacksonville-North Pulaski high school should open in fall 2019.

With the tax increase approved, the district should have not only that new high school, but a new elementary school, a resurrected middle school at North Pulaski High School, and all other elementary schools will be repaired and receive a new multi-purpose building each.

Eldon Bock, principal architect with WER architects, has said his group would get to work in earnest now on the design and drawings for the new school.

The Jacksonville Education Corps, which pushed for the millage increase, issued a statement Tuesday, saying, “This commitment to investment is key to all of our future economic prosperity. Families will be attracted to our community because of our commitment to our new educational opportunities. We will finally keep our tax dollars invested within our community to provide our students with the 21st Century learning environments that they deserve.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Second quarter run gives Jacksonville win

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The last-ever meeting between Jacksonville and North Pulaski was close for a quarter despite a huge foul and free-throw discrepancy, but second-quarter turnovers was the demise of the Falcons as Jacksonville went on to a 63-32 victory Friday day at JHS.

After the game, though, the rivalry was symbolically put to rest as players and coaches prayed together and called it up together at midcourt in a show of solidarity as the two schools prepare to become one next school year.

“We wanted to show that the rivalry is over and we’re all one,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “We’re all Jacksonville. We all live here, and work here and go to school here. We wanted to show that unity of us all being from the same hometown and now we finally have our own hometown school. That’s what that was all about.”

North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson felt the same way about the post-game show of unity.

“We’re all Jacksonville people and we’re about to join together,” said Jackson. “We wanted to go ahead and get that process started. So I think that’s a good thing.”

Jackson wasn’t as happy early in the game. Halfway through the second quarter, the foul difference was 9-2, and by halftime, Jacksonville had shot 14 free throws to zero for North Pulaski. But the head Falcon didn’t blame officiating after the game.

“We just always seem to have one bad quarter where we can’t make a basket and we commit a bunch of turnovers,” Jackson said. “We just struggled to score the basketball and they had a big run in the second quarter.”

Jacksonville led 15-10 at the end of the first period, but outscored the Falcons 20-2 in the second quarter. The whole second half was played fairly evenly.

Jacksonville put together another small run late in the fourth quarter to invoke the mercy rule with the last basket of the game. Caleb Kendrick scored with 1:07 remaining to put the Red Devils up by 30. His free throw set the final margin.

The decisive second quarter saw the Falcons commit 11 of their 27 turnovers in the game.

Senior guard LaQuawn Smith led Jacksonville with 12 points while senior post Chris Williams added 10 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Jermaine Lopez led the Falcons with 12 points while sophomore post Christian White had six points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Jacksonville (14-7, 6-3) made 21 of 60 shot attempts including 4 of 16 from 3-point range. The Red Devils made 20 of 31 from the free-throw line.

North Pulaski (3-15, 0-9) went 12 of 33 from the floor, 2 for 5 from outside and 6 of 10 at the foul line.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devils overcome late rally by Lady Falcons

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski ladies were big underdogs going into the very last meeting ever between the Lady Falcons and crosstown rival Jacksonville Lady Red Devils, but someone forgot to tell the Lady Falcons. In the end, Jacksonville prevailed 41-34 Friday at the Devils’ Den, but not before getting a tough fight from NP.

“You have to just give North Pulaski credit for playing hard and fighting to get back in it,” said Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott. “We stepped up on defense and created some turnovers when we had to have them and was able to pull it out. We’re still beat up. We had another player have to sit out tonight. Both our point guards are limping around out there. Our leading scorer got hurt early in the game and wasn’t able to move around like she usually does. So I give our girls a lot of credit, too, for sucking it up and going ahead and getting the win.”

North Pulaski took an early 6-2 lead but Jacksonville dominated the rest of the half. Things got worse for NP when leading scorer Kiarra Evans picked up her third foul with 37 seconds left in the third quarter and had to take a seat on the bench. From 6-2, Jacksonville outscored North Pulaski 18-4 and took a 20-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Lady Falcons’ (7-12, 3-6) climb back into the game was slow, despite Zaria Holloway hitting a 3-pointer to open the second half. Jacksonville scored four-straight after that and led 24-13 with 6:30 left in the third. Martina Knight answered with four-straight for NP and Aaliyah Bynum put back an Evans miss to make it 24-19 with 4:30 on the clock. Holloway then hit another 3-pointer 65 seconds later to cap a 9-0 run and pull the Lady Falcons to within 24-22 with 3:25 left in the third.

Scoring ceased for both teams for a couple of minutes before Desiree Williams hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, but NP answered with a basket by Evans to make it 27-24 going into the fourth.

Bynum scored 30 seconds into the final frame to make it a one-point game and the two teams traded baskets for the next three minutes with the Lady Red Devils clinging to the lead. North Pulaski had several possessions to take the lead and finally did when Holloway dished to Elisha Smith with 4:46 remaining to put the Lady Falcons up 30-29.

Scott called timeout and changed her defense to a full-court press that hounded NP into several turnovers and another scoring drought.

Alexis James scored out of the break and Williams went to the line for four-straight free throws after NP turnovers. Another turnover led to a Tatianna Lacy basket, and another turnover was followed by two offensive rebounds and a Lacy putback that put Jacksonville up 37-30 with 2:10 remaining in the game.

North Pulaski finally broke the press and scored, and then got a defensive stop. Evans got an offensive rebound and was fouled, but missed both free throws with 1:10 remaining.

North Pulaski got another chance when James air balled a free throw, and this time Evans scored after an offensive rebound with 39 seconds left that made it 37-34.

The Lady Falcons then got just what they needed when Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Lacy spun around her defender for an offensive rebound and putback with 26 seconds to play that made it a five-point game and sealed the win.

NP missed at the other end and fouled James, who made both shots to set the final score.

Lacy led all players in two categories with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Williams added 11 for the Lady Red Devils. Smith and Bynum each scored eight to lead North Pulaski while Evans and Holloway scored six apiece.

Jacksonville (12-12, 6-3) dominated on the glass, outrebounding North Pulaski 37-23. The Lady Red Devils were 14 of 47 from the floor and 11 of 19 at the free-throw line. North Pulaski went 14 of 54 from the floor and 3 of 8 from the line.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot mounts comeback to beat Wildcats

Leader sportswriter

Cabot trailed by nine points entering halftime of Friday night’s 7A/6A-East Conference game against North Little Rock at Panther Arena, but the Panthers rallied in the second half, forced overtime and completed the regular-season sweep of the Charging Wildcats with a hard-fought 69-63 win.

The Panthers (14-6, 5-3) controlled most of the game in the first meeting between the two teams last month in NLR, but Friday’s game, at least in the first half, was controlled by the Charging Wildcats.

North Little Rock (10-10, 4-4) only led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter, but extended that lead to 27-18 by halftime. The defending Class 7A state champions led by as much as 34-22 in the third quarter, but that was when Cabot began its comeback.

The Panthers steadily chipped away at NLR’s lead in the third quarter, and by the start of the fourth, Cabot only trailed 41-38. Despite only trailing by three points at the end of the third quarter, NLR maintained the lead through the bulk of the fourth quarter, but never led by more than five points.

Cabot tied the game for the first time in the second half with 2:26 left in regulation. The game-tying basket was the result of a Hunter Southerland steal at half court, and one-hand slam by the senior forward that led to an eruption of cheers from the home crowd.

Southerland’s thunderous dunk tied the game at 50-50, but NLR senior scorer Adrian Moore answered with two free throws shortly after that put the Wildcats back up by two, 52-50.

Cabot tied the game at 52-52 on a pair of Matt Stanley free throws with 2:09 to go in the fourth, and the Panthers took the lead on an inside basket by Southerland with 1:19 remaining. The go-ahead basket was set up by good ball movement from the Panthers in their half-court set, and a well-timed pass by Stanley from the free-throw line.

North Little Rock tied the game at 54-54 on the ensuing possession with two free throws by B.J. Walker, and after crossing half court, the Panthers held the ball for the last shot, but couldn’t convert on what was supposed to be the final shot of regulation.

Point guard Bobby Joe Duncan drove to the basket with nine seconds left, but his shot attempt was well defended. After the unsuccessful shot attempt by Duncan, Southerland chased down and dove for the loose ball near the perimeter.

As Southerland gained possession of the ball, while still on the floor, he simultaneously called and signaled timeout, but instead of being granted the timeout, he was called for traveling with 3.7 seconds left.

The questionable call, which gave NLR the final possession of regulation, was followed by a barrage of boos from the home crowd and protests by the Cabot coaching staff, but Moore’s contested 3-point attempt that followed fell short and forced overtime with the score 54-54.

Cabot struck first in overtime with a pair of free throws by junior guard Jarrod Barned 22 seconds into the extra period. NLR tied it up at 56-56 on the next possession with two free throws by Morris Talbert.

With 2:38 left in OT, Stanley put the hosts back up with two free throws of his own and Barnes added the next two points with one his several contested, acrobatic layups of the night. That one put Cabot up 60-56 with 1:57 remaining.

Barnes added another one of those layups with 1:24 left, and it gave Cabot a 62-56 lead. The closest NLR got to Cabot’s lead the rest of the way was 65-63 on a 3-pointer by Walker with 22 seconds left.

Needing to foul, NLR put Panther sophomore guard Jalen Brown on the line, and Brown made both free throws to push Cabot’s lead to 67-63 with 18.5 tics to play. The Wildcats turned it over on the following possession and Barnes added the game-clinching layup with six seconds left that also set the final score.

“I was proud of our guys because we grinded,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “After the first half, we talked in the dressing room at halftime. I didn’t think our shot selection was very good or our rebounding, and I thought that got better as the game went on.

“I give credit to our kids and North Little Rock. They’re still good and they got pride and they’re well-coached. It was just a grind. We grinded it out, we hit some shots to get in it and we were fortunate, but it was a good team effort by everybody. I thought we did what we had to do to get back in this game.”

Barnes, a two-time All-State quarterback on the Cabot football team, scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, with eight of those points coming in the extra period, and a good chunk of those points were scored on incredibly-athletic plays while driving to the basket.

“When Jarrod slows down and plays at a controlled pace, and I think that’s what he’s starting to do for us now, I mean, he’s a good player,” Bridges said. “He’s dynamic on the floor like he is on the football field and he’s an athlete, man. I wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t take credit for that.”

For the game, Cabot made 21 of 48 shot attempts for 44 percent, including a perfect 3 of 3 from the floor in overtime (all by Barnes). North Little Rock made 15 of 45 shots from the floor for 33 percent, including 2 of 7 in overtime.

From the free-throw line, the Panthers made 25 of 30 attempts, including 12 of 13 in the second half and 9 of 10 in overtime, and the Wildcats made 30 of 38 attempts in the game. Neither team shot well from 3-point range. Cabot was 2 for 17 from the perimeter and NLR was 3 for 18.

Cabot narrowly outrebounded NLR 28-27, and the Panthers won the turnover category 11-16. After committing eight turnovers in the first half, the Panthers had just three combined in the second half and overtime.

Stanley led all scorers with 21 points and nine rebounds. Other than Barnes, Southerland also scored in double figures for Cabot, finishing with 12 points. Duncan and Brown added seven points apiece.

Two different Wildcats scored in double figures Friday. Moore led the team with 17 points and Walker added 16.

With the win, the Panthers qualified for the Class 7A state tournament for the ninth-consecutive season. This year’s Class 7A state tournament will be held at Panther Arena on March 2-5.