Saturday, February 27, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside ladies topple Devils

Leader sports editor

A strong, dominant second quarter broke up a close game and led to a decisive 64-44 Lady Bear victory over Jacksonville on Tuesday in the regular-season finale for both teams. The SHHS senior night game had no bearing on the league standings or placement in the state playoffs that begin next week. Sylvan Hills was locked into the three seed from the 5A-Central Conference while Jacksonville will advance to state as the four seed, but it did mark the second-straight year for the Lady Bears to sweep the Lady Red Devils.

The second quarter was the big difference on Tuesday. Sylvan Hills controlled most of the action in the first quarter, but Jacksonville stayed close with sharp outside shooting.

Jacksonville’s Desiree Williams hit three long-range 3-pointers, but the Lady Devils had no answer for Sylvan Hills’ inside game. Post players Alana Canady and Reigen Thomas combined for 14 points in the opening period and led the Lady Bears to a 17-13 lead going into the second.

That’s when the Lady Bears began adding an outside touch to its strong inside game. Sophomore Jayla Bell in a pair of 3-pointers for the home team in the first minute of the second quarter. That gave the Lady Bears a 23-13 lead. Canady, also a sophomore, continued to be a force inside. She scored six points in the second quarter, all after offensive rebounds. Jacksonville did not score again until the midway point of the second quarter when a 2-pointer by Williams made it 27-15.

Sylvan Hills freshman Andrew Dolphin came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer to put the Lady Bears up 15.

Sylvan Hills final points came on yet another offensive rebound, this time Bell put back a Da’Bria Thompson miss right before the buzzer to send the Lady Bears into the locker room with a 38-19 lead.

The two teams battled evenly to 51-32 in the third quarter as Thompson began to heat up from outside. She hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, giving Sylvan Hills its biggest lead of the game at 44-19.

Jacksonville (12-14, 8-6) battled back with good halfcourt offense, scoring all five of its third-quarter baskets from inside the paint with good ball movement.

But Thompson stayed hot from outside. She hit two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Dolphin added another to stymie the Lady Devils’ comeback attempts.

Canady led Sylvan Hills with 20 points, and added five rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. Thompson finished with 18, including five 3-pointers. Bell had 10 and Dolphin eight for the Lady Bears. Sylvan Hills made 15 of 18 free-throw attempts.

Williams led all scorers with 21 points, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Asiah Williams added 12 points and five rebounds for Jacksonville.

The Lady Red Devils will open the Class 5A state tournament at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Sylvan Hills (17-7, 11-3) will play the final first-round game at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> CHS girls beat JHS, advance into state

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot girls got a 44-36 win over Jonesboro in Tuesday’s 7A/6A-East Conference game at Panther Arena, and did so without making a shot from the floor in the fourth quarter.

Though the Lady Panthers (18-11, 7-6) went without a field goal in the final eight minutes, they went 16 for 18 from the free-throw line in that time to pull away for the conference victory. Jonesboro (16-12, 6-7) made just 2 of 2 free throws the entire game, with both attempts coming in the fourth quarter.

Tuesday’s conference game against the Class 6A Hurricane had no bearing as far as Cabot’s playoff hopes, but North Little Rock’s 65-31 win over West Memphis on Tuesday guaranteed the Lady Panthers a spot in next week’s Class 7A state tournament at Panther Arena.

In the first quarter, Jonesboro jumped out to an 8-4 lead. Cabot tied it at 8-8. The game-tying bucket was a putback by CoCo Calhoon after a miss by teammate Anna Sullivan with 48 seconds left in the quarter, but Jonesboro leading scorer Starr Taylor added the final basket of the quarter on a midrange jumper, giving the visitors a 10-8 lead at the start of the second quarter.

Jonesboro extended its lead to 15-10 at the 5:18 mark of the second quarter on a corner three by Donita Webb, but Cabot scored the next six points, the last five coming on back-to-back possessions – a three by Rachel Allgood and a Calhoon steal and transition layup with 2:29 left in the half.

Calhoon’s basket put the hosts up 16-15, and the Lady Panthers held a five-point lead at halftime, with the score 20-15. Cabot made three of its first four shots in the third quarter, with the third basket coming from inside the paint by Calhoon with 4:16 left in the period.

That gave Cabot a 26-21 lead, and the Lady Panthers added the final points of the third quarter on a Haley Sobczak putback after a Calhoon miss with 2:07 left in the period.

Jonesboro had the final possession of the third quarter, but Cabot’s stifling half-court defense didn’t allow the Hurricane to get a shot off, and the Lady Panthers took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter.

Cabot led by as much as 35-21 in the fourth quarter, but Jonesboro clawed its way back into the game with a 15-4 run. That run was capped with a Taylor and-1 with 1:28 to play, and it cut the Lady Panthers’ lead to 39-36.

Jonesboro didn’t score again, and Cabot’s Leighton Taylor, Madi Nichols and Josie Vanoss combined to make 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch, setting the final score and sealing the win for Cabot.

The Lady Panthers finished the game 12 for 36 from the floor for 33 percent. The Hurricane made 15 of 36 shots from the floor for 42 percent. The difference was at the free-throw line, where Cabot made 19 of 23 attempts.

Cabot narrowly outrebounded Jonesboro 17-16, and the Lady Panthers had fewer turnovers, 16, to the Hurricane’s 20 committed. Nine of those 20 turnovers were Cabot steals.

Leighton Taylor led Cabot with 11 points. Nichols added seven points, while Calhoon and Vanoss added six apiece. Starr Taylor led all scorers with 21 points. The next-highest scorer for Jonesboro was Webb, who had seven points.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe outright champs

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Lady Badgers secured their first outright 5A-Central Conference championship Thursday with a 60-28 season finale victory at North Pulaski. Next up for the Beebe ladies is a 4 p.m. Tuesday game in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament in Hot Springs.

The Lady Falcons were hot early. Beebe coach Greg Richey wasn’t surprised on NP’s senior night. It was also the last Lady Falcon basketball ever, since Jacksonville High and NPHS are combining to form the JNPSD next school year.

“They hit some shots early,” said Richey. “We expected it. It’s senior night, adrenaline flowing. I told them, they’re going to make some shots that’ll make you say, what? But we got through that and kept playing well.”

North Pulaski made three of its four 3-pointers in the first quarter, and trailed 17-11 going into the second period. That’s when the Lady Badgers began to dominate. Over the next two quarters, Beebe outscored North Pulaski 35-10 to take a 52-21 lead into the final period.

“We tried some different things,” Richey said. “It smoothed out the way we wanted it to. Seniors got to sit a lot and not risk getting anyone hurt. I thought it was a good night for us.”

Beebe took 27 more shots than North Pulaski. That was largely due to two factors. Beebe outrebounded NP 32-21, and forced 24 North Pulaski turnovers while committing only 11.

North Pulaski only had seven players total while Beebe played 15 on Thursday. Nine Lady Badgers scored and nine also dished out at least one assist. Hannah Camp and Libbie Hill each finished with 11 points to lead the Lady Badgers. Camp went 3 for 3 from 3-point range.

Gracie Anders had nine points and nine rebounds. Kassidy Elam had eight points and Katie Turner finished with seven points, five steals and four rebounds.

The Lady Badgers were 24 of 59 from the floor, including 5 of 14 from 3-point range. They were 7 of 14 from the foul line.

North Pulaski made just 5 of 21 two-point attempts, and 4 of 11 3-pointers. The Lady Falcons were 6 of 8 from the line.

Zaria Holloway led NP with nine points. Elisha Smith scored seven while Aaliyah Bynum and Kiarra Evans scored six apiece to round out the Lady Falcons’ scoring.

SPORTS STORY >> Sr. Bear steals spotlight in defeat

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville junior Tyree Appleby turned in an incredible performance Tuesday night that hardly anyone in the packed, standing-room-only Sylvan Hills gym noticed. Appleby turned in a double-double with 30 points and 10 assists in leading the Red Devils to a thrilling 87-86 victory over the Bears in the regular-season finale. But senior Bear Cordy Winston stole the show.

Winston almost broke Archie Goodwin’s single-game school record, scoring 47 points while also dishing out seven assists in the loss. Goodwin, who now plays for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, scored 48 points in an overtime win over North Pulaski in 2012. Winston now has the school record for most points in regulation.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner deflected questions about his team, only saying it was “a lackluster performance.” Instead, he talked about Winston.

“This game was about Cordy Winston and the show he put on,” said Joyner. “We won the game, but he deserves the spotlight. This was his state tournament game. He stuck it out with the loyalty he showed to this school. He would come over with his homeboy Appleby, and watch our practices, wanting to make the tournament. But he stuck it out. He stayed with his school, and put on a performance tonight that will beat anything anybody does in the tournament.”

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis had similar praise for his four-year starter who completed his high school career on Tuesday.

“That was something,” said Davis. “We’ve had some tough breaks the last couple years with losing personnel. We’re out of the playoff race. It’s senior night. So I just told them go out and make a memory, and that’s what he did. Sam (Williams) too. They both played great and they made some great memories.”

Jacksonville sophomore Harderrious Martin made the final big play of the game, stealing an inbound pass and hitting the game-winning layup when it appeared the Bears had completed the comeback.

Williams hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13 seconds left that gave the Bears an 86-85 lead.

Jordan Washington then took a charge with six seconds to go to give Sylvan Hills (14-10, 6-8) possession under the Jacksonville basket, but Martin stole the pass right underneath the goal and hit an open layup to steal the game for Jacksonville.

“It was about time for us to play some defense,” Joyner said. “We didn’t do much of it up to that point, but like I said, I don’t even want to talk about us.”

Winston missed his first shot of the game, a layup. After that he didn’t force the ball inside. He didn’t have to. His jump shot was on point early and never wavered. Jacksonville jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead in the first two minutes of the game before Winston heated up.

He made five-straight shots without a miss, including a trio of 3-pointers and a pair of long-range 2-point shots. Winston would penetrate as far as he could without encountering contact, pull up and fire. With 2:40 left in the first quarter, he hit his third 3-pointer that gave the Bears a 16-15 lead. Winston had 13.

The score was tied 20-20 at the end of the first quarter, and the two teams combined for 16 points in the first two minutes of the second before things cooled down briefly. Jacksonville led 29-27 with six minutes left in the half, and the score stayed right there for almost three minutes before heating up again.

Jacksonville (17-8, 9-5) led 38-36 with a 40 seconds remaining, and then closed the half with a 5-0 run that gave it a 43-36 lead at the break.

The Red Devils increased their lead to 49-38 early in the third quarter before the Bears charged back into the game with a 7-0 run.

Washington was upended after going up for a shot in traffic, and somehow made the basket when he flipped the ball up over his head just before hitting the floor. He added the and-1 to complete a 12-1 run and make it 51-50 with 3:02 left in the third.

The scored was tied again at the end of the third, 62-62. Jacksonville scored first, but Winston hit his fifth 3-pointer to give the Bears their second lead of the game at 65-64 with 7:30 remaining. The game got sloppy for a few minutes at that point.

Jacksonville missed 3 of 4 free throws on one trip down the floor, leaving the score tied. The next five possessions all ended in turnovers – three by Jacksonville and two by the Bears.

Sylvan Hills finally took the lead on a bucket by Washington, and the two teams traded baskets to 73-73 with 3:15 remaining.

Appleby hit a pair of free throws to give the Red Devils the lead. Bralyn James then stripped Washington near midcourt and hit a layup for a 77-73 Jacksonville lead with 2:48 left.

Winston was fouled on the next possession and made 1 of 2 free throws. Appleby then made a 3-pointer for an 80-74 Jacksonville lead with 2:28 remaining.

Winston answered with a 15-footer before Appleby clanged a dunk off the rim and out of bounds, giving possession back to the Bears, but Red Devil sophomore Martin foreshadowed his defensive heroism by getting a five-second call on Winston.

Appleby then made just 1 of 3 free-throw attempts to make it 81-76, and Washington scored to make it a 3-point game.

James hit 1 of 2 at the line, and Winston drained his sixth 3-pointer to make it 82-81 with 42 seconds to go. Appleby got to the line and hit 1 of 2, and Winston answered by making a pair of free throws to tie the game with 29 seconds left.

Appleby then made two free throws with 26 seconds left for an 85-83 Red Devil lead and Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis called timeout. After the break, Williams took a pass at the top of the key and sank a 3-pointer to put the Bears up by one with 13 tics remaining. Appleby took the inbound pass and went the length of the court when Washington slid in front of him to draw the charge.

Williams finished with 18 points for Sylvan Hills. Washington had 16 points and 12 rebounds. J.D. Smith was the only other Bear to score, finishing with five points.

James had 16 points for Jacksonville. LaQuawn Smith and Chris Williams each scored 11.

Friday, February 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons’ phenomenal finale

Leader sports editor

The game was between the two last place teams in the 5A-Central, but that didn’t matter to the North Pulaski Falcons. It may not have been an overall successful season, but it was very successful send off as the Falcons closed the book on NPHS athletics with a 51-47 victory over the Beebe Badgers on Thursday in Jacksonville.

It was the last-ever sporting event for any North Pulaski Falcon team. NPHS is not offering any spring sports this year, so athletes wanting to participate in baseball, softball, soccer or track will do so for Jacksonville. Next year, Jacksonville High and NPHS are combining into the new JNP district.

Beebe (3-19, 1-13) did its best late in the game to ruin the night, storming back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to get to within two with 42 seconds remaining.

That’s when Beebe’s Deandre Butler hit two free throws to close a 13-3 run and make the score 46-44. North Pulaski answered immediately when a nifty interior pass from Braxton McKinney to Sean Moragne resulted in an easy layup. The Falcons got a stop when Grant Brown missed a 3-pointer and NP’s Justin Glasco was fouled after Christian White’s rebound.

Glasco made 1 of 2 with 18 seconds left, but Beebe’s Austin Moore raced up the floor and hit a long 3-pointer that made it 49-47 with 14 seconds remaining. Beebe called a quick timeout and planned to foul immediately.

They sent NP senior James Robinson to the line with 12 seconds remaining. He calmly made both shots to set the final margin.

Brown tried a long 3-pointer but missed. Moragne got the rebound and held the ball the last few seconds as time expired.

“We needed that. We needed that” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson repeated many times. “It looked like we were trying to give it away in the last few minutes, but the kids dug down, man. I’m so proud of them. This was just a little rag tag team, man, and they kept coming out and busting their butts all season long. They deserve this.”

Beebe started the game strong as well, but NP dominated the middle portions. Beebe’s K.J. O’Neill didn’t miss the entire first half, and jump-started the Badgers to a quick 8-2 lead. He and Butler each completed 3-point plays and O’Neill added another basket.

The margin stayed around six until early in the second quarter when NP began to take control. The Badgers led 20-14 when the Falcons went on a 13-3 run the rest of the half.

After five-straight, Brown hit his first 3-pointer of the game for Beebe to make it 23-19.

White then scored for NP and Glasco made 1 of 2 free throws after a steal. White then got a steal and Glasco scored to give the Falcons their first lead of the game at 24-23 with 53 seconds left in the half. It was a lead they would never relinquish.

After a third-straight steal, a McKinney alley-oop pass to White hit the rim, but Robinson was there for the rebound and putback.

Beebe then threw the ball away for its fourth-straight turnover, and White hit 1 of 2 free throws to send NP into the locker room with a 27-23 lead.

The second half started just like the first half ended, with NP on a run. Beebe missed its first five shots from the floor, its first two free throws and committed five more turnovers in the first three minutes of the third quarter, including four steals by NP.

But the Falcons (3-18, 1-13) didn’t capitalize every time, and Beebe’s defense kept it within striking distance. The Falcons scored the first six points of the quarter, but it was a slow run. NP led 33-23 with 4:30 left in the third to complete a 19-3 run that started in the second quarter.

Beebe then scored six in a row, including a 3-pointer by Bryson Bell with 2:20 left in the third, but Beebe didn’t score again in the period. McKinney scored five-straight, including a 3-point play and buzzer-beating 16-footer to make it 38-29 going into the fourth.

After two free throws by Moore opened the fourth, NP scored four in a row. Robinson’s penetrating floater gave the Falcons their biggest lead at 42-31 before Beebe started its comeback.

McKinney, a senior, didn’t score in the first half but finished with nine points, including seven in the big third quarter.

“I just told myself I had to pick it up,” said McKinney. “I knew I was letting my team down in the first half and I had to come back strong. We were just trying to get out there and have fun. We wanted to go out with a bang and have fun. But it meant a lot. I didn’t want to go out defeated. I’m happy we came out and won one.”

Moore led all scorers with 15 points, all in the second half. O’Neill scored 11 for Beebe, all in the first half.

Senior Jermaine Lopez joined Robinson as NP’s co-leading scorers with 10 points. Senior Moragne scored eight.

The Falcons didn’t shoot extremely well, going 16 of 46 from the floor and 0 for 7 from 3-point range. They were 19 of 28 from the line.

Beebe shot better from the floor, but was abysmal at the free-throw line. The Badgers were 18 of 49 on field goals, including 5 of 15 from 3-point range. But they only made 6 of 15 free-throw attempts.

EDITORIAL >> Choices for Supreme Court

Justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court—indeed, all judges—are supposed to be above partisanship and altogether inconsiderate of politics and public opinion, but voters will chose two of the seven Supreme Court members at the party primaries Tuesday instead of the general election this November. The choices could not be more important, although the immense money spent and the dark strategies used in the campaigns seem to leave confused voters no obviously sensible choices. We will try to make some sense of the chaos created by the large dumps of money into the campaigns by “independent” and largely anonymous groups outside the state.

Justice Courtney Goodson is running for chief justice, a job she has been working toward since she first entered politics as Courtney Henry eight years ago. Once on the Court of Appeals, the former Republican left her husband and married the rich trial lawyer John Goodson of Texarkana, who had lavished jewels and other gifts on her. Original supporters in the business community think she also left them for the trial lawyers and the bleeding-heart crowd who thinks people aggrieved by nursing homes and industries should be forced to pay for injuries, including punitive damages. Once on the Supreme Court, she voted with all the other justices to invalidate a part of the “tort reform” act of 2003 that limited punitive damages. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, for one, felt betrayed. Her opponent is longtime Circuit Judge Dan Kemp of Mountain View, whose ads emphasize his deep family loyalty, religious piety and independence from politics.

Running in the other race, to succeed retiring Justice Paul Danielson, are Circuit Judge Shawn Womack, a former Republican state representative and senator, and Clark Mason, a longtime practicing lawyer.

Our choices are Judge Kemp and Mason for the simple reason that they seem to be more independent of the bitter party and factional politics of our unfortunate times. We don’t know whether Kemp is a Republican or a Democrat. We suspect that Mason has Democratic leanings because he has contributed to Democratic candidates in the past, but that is a failing of nearly everyone in public life in this oh-so-recent diehard Democratic state.

Two shadowy national groups whose contributors are anonymous have poisoned both campaigns. The Judicial Crisis Network and the Republican State Leadership Committee have spent fortunes to make two of the candidates, Goodson and Mason, seem to be incarnate evil. Kemp has disavowed and even condemned the ads by the Judicial Crisis Network that demonize his opponent, Goodson, by suggesting that she is owned by Bill and Hillary Clinton who once supported her (the Clintons were married in her original father- and mother-in-law’s home at Fayetteville), that she is now in the clutches of her new husband’s evil band, the trial lawyers and that she might have secret sympathies for the evil Barack Obama. Kemp says he had no knowledge of the ads and repudiates them and that he knows nothing of the Judicial Crisis Network.

Two years ago, Justice Goodson’s husband was suspected of funneling $400,000 into a dark-money group in Washington that ran despicable ads against another Supreme Court candidate who had been a law partner of her by then estranged former husband. The targeted candidate was narrowly defeated.

Although political parties are not supposed to be involved in judicial races at all, the Republican State Leadership Committee is spending a fortune to elect Womack by suggesting that Clark Mason is a friend of Barack Obama and other Democrats and a puppet of trial lawyers. Womack has run similar ads on his own.

If you are looking for someone who might rise above this dirty business, Judge Kemp and Mason look like the safest bets.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

EDITORIAL >> Primary day on Tuesday

Tuesday is Election Day in Arkansas—two party primaries and a mini-general election rolled into one. We are voting now instead of the spring or summer for the Democratic and Republican primaries and November for part of the general election because Gov. Hutchinson and the legislature last spring thought the most important thing for Arkansas was the political career of former Arkansan Mike Huckabee, not the convenience of voters or tradition. Huckabee thought he needed the near-certain early victory in Arkansas to propel his campaign for president. So, although it would interfere with the legislative calendar and the normal rhythms of governance, all the elections that could be moved were advanced to the same wintry day.

Not so lamentably, the Huckabee campaign never got off the ground. Even before many of the caucus-goers in Iowa were counted in the first test of the season and a month before it seemed likely that he would lose his treasured native state as well, Huckabee suspended his bankrupt and lifeless campaign. His chief campaign hand, the former Little Rock TV personality Alice Stewart, went over to his arch-enemy, Ted Cruz, and his daughter, Sarah, jumped to the payroll of Donald Trump. Trump passed along some nice thoughts about Huckabee, who alone in the original giant field of candidates had never sniped at him. No word yet on where Huckabee’s two boys are alighting.

But the election has taken on some importance after all, notwithstanding the fact that moving the filing for offices up six months left most Arkansas officeholders unchallenged. It is suddenly a make-or-break election not for Huckabee but for Sen. Rubio, the establishment candidate for president, and for Gov. Hutchinson, who is not even on the ballot. Other than that, the election is largely meaningless aside from the individual aspirations of candidates for local offices. In the single statewide political race (we don’t count the nonpartisan judgeships), perennial Republican candidate Curtis Coleman will take his usual drubbing, this time by the somnolent U.S. senator, the old Razorback pulling guard John Boozman.

Virtually the entire Republican establishment, in Arkansas as well as the nation, is suddenly in the corner of the young Florida senator and son of Cuban immigrants. Hutchinson is campaigning with Rubio in central Arkansas and a big contingent of other Republican officers have endorsed him. The Republican house organ, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, has endorsed him and daily runs editorials ridiculing frontrunner Donald Trump or else op-ed columns penned by, or for, Republican luminaries explaining why Rubio is the best for the job and the most likely to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Rubio has not yet won a state primary or caucus or even come close. Arkansas is his only bet for Super Tuesday, which promises to be a big day for Trump and a somewhat lesser one for Ted Cruz, who expects to pull out a narrow win in his home state of Texas. If Rubio can’t post a win in Arkansas, he will go into the next big day, March 15, needing to win his home state of Florida or else cave. Trump leads him in the polls there. Arkansas seems to be split three ways among Trump, Rubio and Cruz. Endorsements usually mean little.

We will see Tuesday whether voters have much regard for the preferences of the governor and the political establishment. Usually, they don’t. As for us, we are clueless about which would make the best or least scary president. Trump has a slight edge in bluster and bravado, but the promises of all three seem equally unattainable or else undesirable.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton looks unbeatable by the aging Bernie Sanders, whose admirable sincerity and consistency in a life chasing utopian causes must give way to the recognition that the most difficult and stressful job in the universe, every single day and night, may be too much for a man well into the twilight of his labor and studies. For good or ill, she will be the Democratic candidate. Sanders’ Arkansas vote will be a good hail and farewell.

For Asa Hutchinson and so much of the state that depends upon the continuation of health reform—a.k.a., Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act—the election could hardly be more important. All eyes will be upon the handful of Republican primary races between candidates who are for or against the expansion of medical coverage to some 260,000 poor adults or else against it in varying degrees. Hutchinson has come out squarely in defense of Republican legislators, including Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), who have voted for the so-called “private option” of Obamacare.

If they are defeated, it will not change the composition of the House and Senate when they vote on the Medicaid program in April, but it will change the mood of legislators and the governor’s ability to get the huge majorities he needs at a special session and the following fiscal session to continue the program for another year.

If he and the Medicaid expansion fail, the state budget will suddenly be in crisis, requiring huge cuts in other services or (impossible) tax increases. It will spell the end of his highway program, which is built upon transferring state general revenues generated or saved by Medicaid to highway, street and road building. Hospitals and doctors, most of them, and perhaps those 260,000 poor people (if they are aware of it) hope he succeeds.

We do, too.

TOP STORY >> Another Grammy for Tony

Leader executive editor

Tony Bennett recently won another Grammy award — his 18th — in the best traditional pop vocal category for “The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern” (RPM Records/Columbia). The octogenarian Bennett (he’ll be 90 in August) is accompanied by the brilliant jazz pianists Bill Charlap and his wife, Rene Rosnes, who is the second pianist on “The Song Is You” and “Look for the Silver Lining.”

Bennett sings with panache on such Kern classics as “All the Things You Are,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “I Won’t Dance,” “Long Ago and Far Away,” “Dearly Beloved,” “They Didn’t Believe Me,” “Make Believe,” “Nobody Else But Me,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Yesterdays” and more.

This is the great American songbook, and no one does them better than Bennett, who has been performing for almost 70 years, longer than just about anybody. I prefer Bennett to Frank Sinatra. Bennett’s a great jazz singer up there with Billie Holiday, and, by all accounts, much nicer than Ol’ Blue Eyes. What a blessing to still have him signing and recording, accompanied by two fine jazz pianists who help make this another Bennett classic.

Bennett, who recorded this stunning CD last year at the age of 89, still has a busy tour schedule. He appeared a few years ago in Hot Springs and last November sang “America the Beautiful” at the World Series in his native New York. He’s outlasted his contemporary, B.B. King, who passed away last May at the age of 89 and performed almost till the end.

Bennett has been a singer since 1949, about the same time King started out in Memphis. Their music couldn’t be more different: King’s Delta blues won him fans around the world, and Bennett’s jazz-inflected singing continues to inspire performers young enough to be his grandchildren.

No one else has performed as long as King and Bennett. Although King is gone, Bennett is unstoppable. Perhaps he will return to Hot Springs for his 90th birthday.

In the meantime, enjoy “The Silver Lining,” and, if you want to hear Bennett in his prime, check out his duets with Bill Evans, the greatest jazz pianist of them all.

They recorded “The Tony Bennett and Bill Evans Album” in 1975 and “Together Again” the following year. The duo performs such classics as “Young and Foolish,” “My Foolish Heart,” “But Beautiful,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Some Other Time,” Evans’ beautiful “Waltz for Debby” and more.

“Together Again” includes “Lucky to Be Me,” “Make Someone Happy,” “A Child Is Born,” “Who Can I Turn To?” (an Evans perennial), “Lonely Girl,” “Dream Dancing,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and much more, along with six alternate takes, making for more than an hour of sublime music.

TOP STORY >> Woman in Cabot 100 years young

Leader staff writer

Cabot resident Opal Furr is celebrating her 25th birthday on Monday even though she’ll be turning 100 years old because she was a leap-year baby.

The extra day in February happens once every four years.

She was born on Feb. 29, 1916, in Colony, Kan. Furr is the oldest of seven children. Her dad owned a 160-acre farm that later expanded to 680 acres. They raised hogs, cattle and chickens.

After Furr graduated from high school, she said, “I wanted to work as a nurse. My dad said it was too hard. I wanted to go to beauty school and become a beautician. My dad was old-fashioned and thought I should be housewife,” Furr said.

Furr married her first husband, Clarence Donaldson, when she was 25 years old. They had a son, Ralph, who has passed away, and a set of twins, a boy, Geary and a girl, Loretta. They lived in Garnet, Kan.

Geary is a retired computer programmer, and Loretta is a retired accountant.

When the children were old enough for school, Furr went to work. She worked as a cafeteria lady at the school systems in Kansas and North Little Rock.

Her husband worked in bridge and road construction. He was then hired by Missouri Pacific Railroad as an electrician. They moved to North Little Rock in 1957 because of the railroad. They were married for 25 years until his death in 1965 from a heart attack.

“I stayed a widow for two and half years, living alone; life was a struggle. I had a dream one night that told me to put these good memories of my marriage in a book and live another life. This was something I didn’t think I could do. I never forgot those memories. Life goes on. I met another man, Robert Furr, and got married,” Furr said.

Robert was a concrete foreman who worked on many of the shopping malls in Little Rock. They were married for 18 years until his death from lung cancer.

She then moved into an apartment in Cabot to be near her daughter, Loretta, and later into Southridge Village assisted living in 2000.

Furr said her secrets to her longevity were hard work, happiness and eating the right kinds of foods.

“Hard work makes you strong. Happiness is having lots of friends and a social life,” Furr said.

“I learned to dance after my first husband died. I’d dance country western three times a week with friends,” Furr said.

She believes the exercise from dancing helped her health.

Furr said it is important to take care of your body. She said our bodies are like machinery. They can be repaired, but, when they wear out, you have to take care of them.

Furr also liked quilting. She would make the clothes while her mother worked in the garden. And Furr said she started cooking at age 12.

TOP STORY >> Primary election is down to wire

Leader staff writer

In Tuesday’s primary election, area voters will decide between the following candidates for local, state and congressional offices.

Judicial races are also held in conjunction with the primary.

Some will face opposition in November from another party, while others will be unopposed after defeating challengers from their own party.

Polling sites will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.


Lonoke County clerk candidate Courtney Ruble’s and state Dist. 29 Sen. Eddie Joe Williams’ (R-Cabot) requests for a monitor were granted Wednesday by the state Board of Election Commissioners.

Lonoke County Election Commissioner Chuck Eick explained that the monitor would meet with the commission to discuss how the election will be conducted, then watch the members to make sure they follow all applicable state laws. If violations are noticed, they would be reported back to the state board.

The monitor is another level of oversight, for absentee vote tabulating and results tallying at the Lonoke County Courthouse Annex on election night, Eick said, adding that he welcomes the monitor because he wants to know if the commission is doing anything wrong.

Ruble is facing off against County Clerk Dawn Porterfield. Both are Republicans.

In early December, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ruled that she and a constable candidate be placed on the ballot after being left off it by Porterfield for incomplete paperwork. A JP candidate and another constable were also left off the ballot for the same reason. Porterfield claimed she had no legal authority to certify the names.

The judge said he didn’t blame her because the Faulkner County clerk had recently been charged for altering documents after the filing deadline. He also didn’t think the Lonoke County situation was the same.

Ruble said she requested the monitor because of the court case and because several people had told her they’d seen Porterfield in the election office after hours. She also told The Leader the monitor is a “good, safe measure for all of us candidates and the parties involved.”

Porterfield said she welcomes the monitor, but there are already fail safes in place. For one, according to her, the clerk’s office must provide an accounting of each absentee ballot and tampering would be immediately apparent. “There is no fraud going on in the Lonoke County clerk’s office.”

She also said her office must stay open until 6 p.m. during early voting to address any problems that arise. Porterfield emphasized that she is never alone with ballots.

Williams said he made the request because officials asked him to and that he had no reason to believe there would be a problem with the election except for their concern. He also has a Republican opponent, Lonoke County Justice of the Peace R.D. Hopper.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, Richard Kyzer and Fred D. (Skipper) Clement Jr. —all republicans — are on the ballot.

Sheriff John Staley, a Republican, also has a Republican opponent, Steve Finch.

Carla Horton and Kenny Fraley, both Republicans, would like to be the county’s coroner. The winner will be unopposed in November.

There are also three Republicans seeking J.D. Hopper’s Justice of the Peace Dist. 1 seat. He’s running for Eddie Joe Williams’ state Senate seat.

The Dist. 1 JP candidates are Brent Canon, Jesse Bear and Kevin Livengood.

Three Republicans, John D. Howard, Claud E. Irvin and Gregory Gibson, are seeking the Dist. 4 JP seat.

Dist. 5 JP Adam Justice, a Republican, has a Republican opponent, Robert (Bobby) Gilliam.

For Dist. 9, Republicans Linda Waddell and Les Carpenter are the candidates.

Republicans Daniel Hayes, Kenny Ridgeway and Bob Morris are seeking the Dist. 13 JP seat. All of Tuesday’s winners will be unopposed in November.


Eick said there had been an issue with the York Township contest between Republicans Chris A. Waters and Chris Bulice.

The commissioner explained that he recently discovered maps are not drawn to reflect precincts as they relate to constable races. The result of that is only some of the registered voters in York Township will be able to vote for constable on Tuesday.

The only other option would be allowing all Cabot voters to choose the constable, Eick said.

Either way, the man who loses the election could sue, the commissioner noted.

To keep this from happening in the future, he has requested additional training from the secretary of state’s office and plans to have every township in the county mapped by precinct.

In related news, competing for Gray Township are William Anthony (Tony) Southerland and Shay Cornwell, both Republicans.

On the ballot for Gumwood Township are Republicans Stephen Wright and David C. Hankins. The victor will face Democrat Eugene Beno Duke.


Democrats Jason Chris-topher Smedley and Lillie McMullen are competing for the Dist. 5 justice of the peace seat.


Dist. 34 Sen. Jan English (R-North Little Rock) has a Republican challenger, state Rep. Donnie Copeland (R-Little Rock). The winner will face Democrat Joe Woodson in November.

Democrats Kent Walker and Victoria Leigh are seeking Copeland’s Dist. 38 seat. The district includes much of Sherwood. The winner will face Carlton Wing, a Republican, in November.


Joseph (Joe) O’Bryan is running for re-election in the Lonoke County District Judge- Northern Division race, after being arrested in August for third-degree domestic battery.

Special, appoint-ed Faulkner County District Court Judge David Reynolds dismissed his case.

Cabot attorney John Flynn and Ward City Attorney Clint McGue are opposing O’Bryan for the Cabot court position.

State Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) and Cammack Village-Wrightsville District Court Judge Rita Bailey are on the ballot, hoping to preside over both the Jacksonville and Maumelle district courts.

The two courts will soon share a judge and have countywide jurisdiction because of a 2011 law aimed at lightening the caseload of circuit courts across the state. All of Pulaski County will vote on the new judge.


Cabot has one city council race because Alderman Dallan Buchanan resigned Oct. 1 from representing Ward 2 in Position 1 to pursue a job in another city. Damon Bivins and Douglas E. Warner — both Independents — are competing in a special election that coincides with the primary.


Sen. John Boozmam (R- Ark.) is facing Republican Curtis Coleman in the primary. The victor will face off against Democrat Conner Eldridge of Lonoke, a former U.S. attorney; Libertarian Frank Gilbert and Jason Tate, a write-in candidate, in November.


In District 2, Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) is seeking re-election against Republican Brock Olree. The winner will face Democrat Dianne Curry, Libertarian Chris Hayes and two write-in candidates, Mathew Wescott and Charles Neely, in the general election.

Other important dates to know include that, if a runoff is required after the primary election, it will be held March 22. The voter registration deadline for that is Feb. 22.

The general election and nonpartisan runoffs, if they are needed, will be Nov. 8.

The voter registration deadline for that election is Oct. 10.

If a runoff is needed after the general election, it will be held Nov. 29. The voter registration deadline would be Oct. 31.

Voters must apply to register to vote one day before the actual deadline, according to the secretary of state’s website.

It also states that any deadline falling on a weekend or holiday will be extended to the next business day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panther basketball sweeps Mt. Home

Leader sports editor

The Cabot basketball teams made the long road trip to Baxter County on Friday and came back with a pair of 7A/6A-East Conference victories.

The Cabot boys had no trouble with the 6-19 Bombers, hammering their hosts 68-32. But more importantly for the Panthers, West Memphis knocked off Little Rock Central, 55-46 on Friday, giving Cabot a No. 1 seed in the state tournament it hosts beginning next Tuesday. Central’s win over Cabot last week in Little Rock gave the two teams the same number of losses against 7A-East teams, and the tiebreaker over Cabot. But West Memphis’ win puts Cabot ahead of Central and its 7A portion of the schedule is complete.

Central still travels to rival North Little Rock on Friday, but the Panthers have the top seed and a first-round bye locked up.

In Friday’s game, both teams played well offensively in the first quarter before Cabot turned up the defensive intensity in the second. The Panthers took a 20-16 lead into the second quarter, and then held the Bombers to three points the rest of the half. Mountain Home got those three points early with a long-range bucket to start the quarter, and did not score again while the Panthers closed the half on a 14-0 run.

Bobby Joe Duncan scored the last five in a row to send the Panthers into halftime leading 34-19.

The Panthers’ second half production was exactly the same as the first. They scored 20 in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth while holding Mountain Home to nine and four points, respectively. Cabot invoked the mercy rule midway through the fourth quarter when a Parker Childress basket made the score 60-30.

Duncan and junior classmate Matt Stanley led Cabot with 17 points apiece.

While the boys’ game started with a lot of scoring from both teams, the girls’ game did the opposite. Cabot led just 4-2 at the end of the first quarter before going on to a 42-29 victory. Cabot didn’t score a basket until its final shot of the period. Senior point guard Leighton Taylor hit a 3-pointer to close the quarter that put the Lady Panthers in the lead.

Cabot (16-11, 7-5) then got solid offensive production from a newcomer to the starting lineup, Holly Allen. She scored five-straight before another Taylor basket put Cabot up 11-2.

The Lady Panthers ran their lead to 20-9 by halftime and held off Mountain Home (15-11, 6-6) in the second half, outscoring their host 22-20 the rest of the way.

Taylor led Cabot with 15 points while Allen added 12. Taylor also had five steals. Rachel Allgood had four points, five assists and six rebounds for the Lady Panthers.

Cabot hosted Jonesboro last night and will close the regular season at home against Searcy on Friday before preparing for the state tournament.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS falls but gets in state tourney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville basketball teams suffered a 5A-Central sweep at the hands of Pulaski Academy on Friday in Little Rock. The boys’ team had already qualified for the state tournament, but had a chance to better its seeding with a win over the Bruins. Instead the Red Devils endured their worst shooting night of the season and lost 52-49.

The Lady Devils had also qualified for state, but the seeding from the conference could not have been changed no matter Friday’s outcome. Still, the 55-28 final wasn’t a performance Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott was pleased with.

“They were very physical, and we just didn’t compete,” said Scott. “Instead of getting tough and giving some back to them, we start complaining about this and that and trying to get calls. We’ve just got to learn how to compete when things aren’t going our way. But hey, we’re qualified for the state tournament. We’re probably going to play Vilonia or maybe Little Rock Christian, and I think we match up pretty good with both of them.”

Jacksonville lost by 19, 53-34, to Vilonia back on Dec. 4, but it was a five-point game when a player from each team was ejected. Jacksonville lost point guard Alexis James, and its backup point guard, Josie Starr, was already out with an injury.

“We were right there with them until the ejections,” Scott said. “After that we didn’t have anybody to get the ball up the court and get the offense started. It’s a tall task. Vilonia is another physical ball team and we’ll be the underdog, but I think we can compete and I think we’re capable of winning the game.”

The Red Devil boys started cold from outside and PA adjusted by packing down in a 2-3 zone. Jacksonville couldn’t bust it, hitting just 2 of 24 attempts from beyond the 3-point line, both by senior guard LaQuawn Smith.

“When they saw we weren’t shooting well they packed it in and dared us to shoot it,” said JHS boys’ coach Vic Joyner. “You hit some shots, they have to come out of it and that would’ve opened the lanes up for us. But we couldn’t hit anything. That’s all that boiled down to.”

The loss leaves Jacksonville locked in as the four seed from the 5A-Central while J.A. Fair, Mills and PA are still jockeying for the top three spots.

Jacksonville will play its first round playoff game at the Hot Springs Convention Center at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday against either Maumelle or Harrison.

Both teams are 11-2 and tied for first in the 5A-West entering Friday’s season finale between the two teams at Harrison.

The Lady Red Devils will play right before the boys at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Hot Springs against Vilonia or Little Rock Christian Academy.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe wrestling gets fifth overall

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe wrestling team wasn’t the healthiest team coming into Friday’s and Saturday’s state tournament at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but despite that, the Badgers were able to put together a strong showing and finish fifth overall in the Class 1A-5A team standings.

Greenbrier won the tournament in the 1A-5A Division, totaling 277 points. Pulaski Academy finished with 229.5 points, good for second place. McClellan took third with 212.5 points. Berryville was fourth with 202.5 and Beebe’s 184 points earned them fifth place out of the 24 teams in that division. Little Rock Christian was sixth with 141 points.

“That’s kind of what we expected coming in, that this was a top-five team,” said Beebe coach Jerry Price. “A lot of young kids stepped up, did real well.”

The highest individual finisher for Beebe was freshman Jaden Webb (9-4), who finished as runner-up of the 113-pound weight class. He advanced to Saturday afternoon’s final by winning a narrow 13-12 decision over Berryville’s Blane Nelson that morning.

Greenbrier’s Chris Whisenant (45-5) won the 113-pound final with a pin 25 seconds into round two. Still, Webb’s second-place finish was good for 22 team points, which helped Beebe advance in the standings.

“As a freshman, coming into his first tournament and finishing second, that’s huge,” Price said of Webb.

The Badgers had three other wrestlers finish in the top three of their weight classes, which earned them All-State honors. Senior Destiny Nunez (6-2), who was last year’s state champion of the 106-pound weight class and also the first female Arkansan to win a state wrestling championship, placed third Saturday.

She lost an 8-3 decision in Friday’s semifinal against Noah Forke of Berryville, but beat Central Arkansas Christian’s Zac Davidson to earn a spot in Saturday’s third-place match, where she pinned Shiloh Christian’s Wesley Solomon less than two minutes into that match. She also provided Beebe with 22 points for the team standings.

Bo Smith (15-4) and Quentin Scherer (16-3) also placed third for Beebe. Smith did so in the 182-pound class and Scherer’s third-place finish came in the 195-pound class.

Smith earned a spot in the third-place match with a fall over Berryville’s Robert Allen, and on Saturday afternoon, Smith pinned Greenbrier’s Grayson Powell 3:22 into their match.

Scherer won a decision over JT Crosby of Gentry in the consolation semifinal, putting him in the third-place match with Jonathan Andrews of CAC. He handed Andrews just his fourth loss of the year in 35 matches with a winning fall 5:53 into their match.

Those two combined for 48 team points, with Smith earning 26 for the tournament.

Nunez and Scherer each had to overcome injuries coming into the tournament.

“Quentin’s been battling injuries for a month,” Price said. “We had to literally carry him off the mat about three weeks ago and he couldn’t walk because his back was so messed up. Destiny separated a rib right after Christmas and has been battling that, and then she got sick (Friday). They’ve had to overcome all that.”

Scherer also wrestled in higher weight classes throughout the year in order to make room for other Badger wrestlers in the 182-pound class.

“Quentin is actually a 182 kid,” Price said. “He’s been underweight all year and been battling injury. Last year he had a torn ACL. They just overcome it. Hats off to those kids, they work.”

Price said Webb overcame his share of injuries this season as well. Garrett Grier (10-3) was the next-highest finisher for Beebe. He placed fourth in the 170-pound weight class and provided 19 points for the Badgers.

Karter Warner (13-7) finished fifth for Beebe in the 145-pound class, which was good for 17 team points. Justin Jackson (10-10), Noah Mercerd (3-3) and Hunter Newman (4-6) also medaled at the state tournament, with each finishing sixth in their weight classes.

Jackson’s sixth-place finish came in the 132-pound weight class. Mercerd finished sixth in the 152-pound class and Newman took the sixth spot in the 285-pound class. All three earned 15 points each for Beebe in the team standings.

SPORTS STORY >> Two Cabot wrestlers win state

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot wrestling team, because of injuries, was shorthanded coming into Friday’s and Saturday’s state tournament at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but the Panthers battled through those injuries and adversities to finish sixth overall out of the 23 teams competing in the Class 6A-7A Division.

A northwest school has claimed the top spot in the 6A-7A Division the last two years.

Rogers High won last year’s state tournament, but Springdale Har-Ber finished first this year with a total of 258.5 team points.

Har-Ber was the only school in the 6A-7A Division to eclipse 200 points. Bentonville placed second in the team standings with 195 points. Catholic High was third with 185 points. Rogers Heritage was fourth with 182.5 points.

Searcy’s 161.5 points was good for fifth place, and Cabot edged Greenwood, 152-149, to claim the sixth spot. Cabot finished fourth at last year’s state tournament, and was hoping for an even higher finish this year, but injuries have slowed the Panthers in recent weeks.

“We brought 11 wrestlers,” said Cabot coach David Payne, “two of those 11 were last-minute changes. We had to put some JV guys in with the injuries. So, we brought nine varsity wrestlers and five of those nine medaled. We had two state champions, one finished second and two finished fourth.

“To finish sixth with basically nine guys, you know, it’s not bad.”

The two state champions for Cabot are senior Dillan Frienser (32-0) and junior Harris Sutton (28-3). Friesner won the 132-pound weight class with a technical fall over Har-Ber’s Jackson Nichols 3:44 into the championship match. Friesner dominated the match prior to the fall. He was up 18-3 before the winning fall.

Friesner, a 3.9 student who’s already signed to wrestle at the University of Illinois in the fall, faced Nichols at the dual state championships in Van Buren a few weeks ago and won that match by pin in the second round as well.

“I just wanted to go wrestle my match,” said Friesner of his approach entering Saturday’s final. “I was going to do what I do whether he was different or not. I just wanted to go wrestle how I wrestle.”

Friesner was on a different level than the competition he faced throughout his undefeated senior season. He moved to Cabot from Tennessee, where he won a state championship as a sophomore in 2014. He said the amount of work and dedication he put into this season had a lot to do with his success throughout the year.

“This is what I really, really hoped for and I wanted it bad,” Friesner said, “but I feel like the work I did helped me get to where I was. If you would’ve asked me this at the beginning of the year, I would’ve said I was surprised, but with all the work I’ve done, I feel that I’ve done enough work that it should’ve happened.”

Sutton’s 220-pound championship match was much more competitive. It even took an extra round to determine the winner. He was tied at 2-2 with Har-Ber’s Jacob Robertson at the end of the third round, and got the match-winning takedown in the extra round to win by sudden victory, with an official score of 4-2.

“Oh, it feels amazing,” said Sutton of being a state champion.

Sutton faced Robertson earlier in the season and that match also went to the overtime round, but Robertson was the one that came out on top in their first meeting. Sutton said the difference in Saturday’s 220-pound final was that he brought a more aggressive approach.

“Coming into this one, I knew he had a very aggressive snap and I just went a lot harder than I did the first time,” Sutton said, “just way more aggressive.”

Payne added that Sutton, along with the rest of the Panthers’ wrestlers, did a great job of making key adjustments during their matches.

“Harris did a great job of adjusting and making adjustments throughout the match,” Payne said. “He and really all of them throughout the weekend did a really good job of listening and making adjustments on the fly.

“There’s not really a timeout or a change of possession where we can bring them to the sideline and take a break, there’s not a buddy that’s going to do it for you, you’ve got to be able to make adjustments while you’re still going and they did a really good job this weekend of doing that, especially our guys that were real successful.

“Harris, the match went exactly the way it did the first time. He really dug down and really practiced those short-timed shots and shot defenses and it paid off. He did what he needed to do and did a great job.”

Payne also had plenty of praise for his 132-pound state champion.

“Dillan is on another level,” Payne said. “He’s one of those kids that are nice to have because he makes you look really good and you don’t really have to do a whole lot. He’s fun to watch. As stressful as Harris’ match was, that’s how pleasurable it is to watch not only all of them, but especially Dillan.

“He does things you can’t teach, you can’t coach. I sit back so many times when I watch him wrestle and just tell myself, ‘wow.’”

Frienser’s championship tournament run earned Cabot a team-high 30 points and Sutton’s championship performance earned 28. Austin Dye (31-2) was the next-highest finisher for Cabot, earning a second-place finish in the 145-pound division, which earned the team 25.50 points.

With that finish, Dye, along with Friesner and Sutton, earned All-State honors. The Panthers also had two fourth-place finishers Saturday. Cameron Pitchford (24-5) placed fourth in the 126-pound weight class and Nate Bonilla (20-7) finished fourth in the 182-pound class.

Bonilla racked up 23.50 points for the Panthers and Pitchford’s tournament run was good for 21.

TOP STORY >> Grandma’s special birthday

Tokiko Ackerman celebrated her 90th birthday last Wednesday, surrounded by friends and family. She still leads an active life.
Special to The Leader

At a glance, one probably wouldn’t think much about the tiny Japanese woman sitting across from me. She’s no taller than 4 feet, 8 inches. Her soft, brown eyes, which are momentarily behind her glasses, focus on the sushi roll she’s finishing up. When she’s done, her eyes settle back on me, and she smiles.

My grandmother, Tokiko, who celebrated her 90th birthday last week, is an amazing woman. If you asked her to tell you about herself, her answer would be riddled with self-doubt and self–deprecation. She has always been this way, no doubt a relic of her strict upbringing and the Japanese values she was taught as a little girl.

Sitting in her kitchen in Cabot, I begin to look around at the random items stacked around her on the table. One could use these items as puzzle pieces, using them to shape together parts of my grandmother’s life and the things she holds dear to her heart.

Sitting closest to her is her Bible. The worn, cracked surface and the wrinkled pages filled with notes and neon yellow markings mirror her love and reverence for the Lord. When asked about her faith, she instantly lights from the inside out and speaks with a mixture of enthusiasm and regret.

Her love for Jesus is so strong that she feels guilty because, in her eyes, she cannot disciple to people. She knows her accent is so thick it is difficult for people to understand her. What she cannot see in herself is that she is one of the best disciples of Christianity that I have ever encountered.

The Bible lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. These qualities beam out from her soul and shine a light on everyone she comes in contact with. I have never heard her speak unkindly of anyone, and I have never heard her be ill-tempered with anyone. She has a genuinely kind soul that does not envy others. It is a rare quality few people in life have, and she embodies it quite perfectly.

Next, my eyes come to rest on a rice cooker. That might seem like an odd thing to feel sentiment toward, but it reminds me of both my cultural behaviors and her wonderful cooking. Although she came to America almost 55 years ago, my grandmother still holds on to many Japanese customs.

She will always place her shoes neatly next to the front door, no matter whose home she is in. When visiting friends, she will always arrive at their home with a little gift, usually food, to show respect and appreciation for the invitation. The most noticeable value she holds on to is being submissive. She will not eat or sit down when we are at her house until everyone is finished eating.

She instead will tend to everyone else, making sure they have everything they need and that the food tastes pleasing to everyone. This would not be unusual if she were hosting strangers, but she has done this each time we eat over there for as long as I can remember.

Even when we fuss at her to sit down and get off her feet to join us at the table, she waves us off with a dismissive hand.

I finally settle my gaze lovingly on my grandmother herself. She is tiny is stature, and joyful in all situations. Her infectious smile and playful attitude make a lasting impression with everyone she meets. I always know I can talk with her openly about anything going on in my life. She is the best listener and seems to always offer the best advice while not being judgmental. This is only a part of her virtuous character that I hope to inherit.

I feel extremely lucky to still have my grandmother in my life. On Feb. 17, she celebrated her 90th birthday. She has always been very active. She loves to walk and to garden.

She still drives, attends church every Sunday and lives alone with no assistance. I am in awe of her tenacity and grit. Even at her age, she still has an almost childlike wonder when experiencing things you and I would take for granted. She makes sure that she gets the most out of her life. She appreciates the little things in life, and is thankful for each day she is given. I hope I always show her how much I appreciate her and how thankful I am for each day I share with her.

TOP STORY >> Candidates hold forum as primary vote nears

Leader staff writer

Thirteen Cabot-area candidates spoke about the issues and themselves during the Cabot AARP candidates forum held Monday at the Cabot Senior Center. Early voting continues this week, and the primary election is Tuesday.

Both Republicans in the fiercely competitive state Senate race were at the forum. State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) is seeking re-election against his opponent, R.D. Hopper, who owns Sonny’s Auto Salvage.

Williams told around 30 seniors attending the candidates forum that AARP is a big part of what happens at the state Capitol. “I will not raise your taxes. Most of you are on fixed income. We’ve worked hard to take the tax burden off Lonoke County. Grocery taxes are gone,” Williams said.

“I’ve worked tirelessly to make sure electric rates are held down,” the senator added.

Williams said it’s important to people on fixed incomes that their utility rates stay the same. He said he helped write briefs for a state Supreme Court stay against the Obama administration trying to impose stricter rules on coal-fired power plants that would have caused electric rates to double.

Hopper spoke on different issues important to him.

“Teachers do not like the Common Core school curriculum. They are having to teach their children a certain way through scripts. Children learn in their own special way. Teachers need the flexibility to use their craft they learned over the years to teach their children the way they learn best,” Hopper said.

He also said students do not need to be taught how well to do on a test, but know how to think and integrate into society.

“They need to learn how to count change. They need to learn the basics, and we’ll worry about the rest later on. Parents and teachers say they want Common Core out of the school systems,” Hopper said.

He said he testified against Common Core at the state Capitol for Arkansans for Educational Freedom and would make it one of his top priorities to get Common Core out of the school systems. Hopper also said Williams may have changed his mind on Common Core but voted for it to be implemented in the school system on three separate occasions.

Hopper then focused on health care. He said health care insurance for employees at his auto savage business has gone up 72 percent in a year and small businesses cannot afford that increase.

He continued, “Arkansas, with a Democratic governor, decided to put 200,000 healthy people on Medicaid that is designed for elderly, handicapped and disabled people. If I am elected, I will fight to get the able-bodied people off our Medicaid system and have Medicaid for the people who need it and not socialized managed health care paid by the state.”

• Two of the nonpartisan North Lonoke County District Court judge candidates attending the forum were John Flynn and Clint McGue.

John Flynn said, “I’m a lifelong conservative. I believe very strongly that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. As judges, we cannot deviate from the Constitution. It is not a living document and cannot change just because society may have changed. The Constitution means what it meant 200 years ago. I would interpret things with a view toward ensuring that we’re not violating the Constitution or people’s rights under the Constitution.”

Clint McGue explained that district court deals with misdemeanor crimes, traffic citations and fines, code violations and small claims. The North Lonoke County District courts in Austin, Cabot and Ward heard 7,500 cases last year.

“The range of cases one has to deal with is vast and requires a special knowledge and a certain temperament to successfully navigate. The race for district judge is nonpartisan. We are on both ballots and a nonpartisan ballot. I’m prohibited from associating with, setting forth any polices or beliefs of any particular political party. When you are before any judge, it is important that the judge is fair, open-minded and completely unbiased,” McGue said.

He also said the Lady Justice in the Scales of Justice is blindfolded. “She doesn’t care about your race, nationality, religion, wealth or poverty or political affiliation,” he said.

• Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, who is seeking re-election, and his opponent, Steve Finch, were also at the candidates forum.

Staley, who was elected in 2013, said the sheriff’s office has provided more training for deputies in the last three years than in the last 10 years.

“In law enforcement, lawsuits are filed; we have not lost one because we do what is right, not what is easy. We will continue to do that for you,” Staley said.

“Last year, we took 71,000 phone calls at the sheriff’s office and 29,000 911 calls.

“It ranges from theft, drugs and sex offenders; an average of two calls a week are kids that have been sexually assaulted. We put these guys in jail,” Staley said.

“I am tough on sexual offenders. We let you know where they are at, what they are doing. If we can’t find them, we’ll lock them up,” he said.

Staley also said the new jail holds 150 inmates. When he took office, there were 100 inmates at the jail. Today, it holds 180 inmates because they have added beds.

Staley said Lonoke County holds state inmates because those arrested by deputies who are convicted become state inmates.

He said the county also held federal inmates, collecting $800,000 in rented beds. The funds help with the county jail’s budget of $1.2 million.

Steve Finch is a retired Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigator.

Currently, he is a security officer for Lonoke County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Elmore.

“I dedicated most of my adult life to law enforcement serving the community of Lonoke County. The training and experience I’ve obtained over the years should benefit me should I be elected sheriff,” Finch said.

“If elected, I assure you that I will go after those who use and manufacture drugs, those who steal and those who commit sex crimes,” Finch said.

He also said he would work with employees of the sheriff’s department and county residents to address any changes they feel are needed within the department.

• Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin is seeking re-election in the Republican primary.

“When I was elected in 2011, the audit report for the previous year came out and the road department had overspent their budget $1,148,000. Today, five years later, we’ve paved 100 miles of road. We bought $2 million of equipment. We don’t contract anything we can’t do ourselves. When they delivered the equipment, we paid for it. We did not need to increase any taxes, we did it with the money we had on hand,” Erwin said.

He also said the budget has been balanced each year and there are around 850 miles of roads in Lonoke County and 1,700 miles of road ditches.

“Everybody needs their roads fixed and their ditches cleaned out,” Erwin said.

He said people talk about how the county has $7 million but explained that amount is not in a savings account. It is money used to maintain and preserve the roads. It takes $100,000 a mile to repave a road.

The judge said the county has worked on Campground Road, the west end of Mount Tabor Road, Pickthorne Road, widened two miles of Kerr Station Road and helped repave Graham Road from Hwy. 89 to Jacksonville during his term in office.

• Lonoke County coroner Republican candidate Kenny Fraley attended the forum.

“We are going to do everything we can to serve this community with dignity and respect. We are working on ways to improve our response times. Sometimes, it can take up to two hours to get a coroner on scene. During that time, you have the fire department or the deputies sitting there. We need to improve that and make it better,” Fraley said.

He also said he intends to run the coroner’s office as neighbors helping neighbors.

• Lonoke County clerk Republican candidate Courtney Ruble spoke during the forum.

Ruble explained that the county clerk is the official record keeper for the county. The office holds ordinances, resolutions, probate matters, tax records, voter registrations, marriage certificates, payroll and accounting for the county. The county clerk is the secretary for the quorum court and for the equalization board.

Ruble was a probate clerk in the county clerk’s office.

“I am a person that stands for truth and fairness. I believe in God, family, honor and a duty to this county. I am a conservative who wants to build a relationship with the voters, not just as a representative. If elected, I will protect your voting rights and make sure there is honesty within our election process. I will upgrade our county’s record system into the 21st century. I feel it is important that they are open, accurate, accessible and preserved for our future generations,” Ruble said.

She also said it is important to hold the county clerk’s office accountable in its duties and responsibilities and that it is run with integrity.

• Lonoke County Justice of the Peace District 13 Republican candidates Bob Morris and Kenny Ridgeway were at the forum.

Ridgeway said he served on the quorum court for six years and learned some things.

“People don’t prepare. There were people (on the quorum court) who did not look at anything between the meetings and did not make a phone call,” Ridgeway said.

“The second thing is you have to be very careful dealing with people. You have to show respect to people. If you talk all the time like a know-it-all, when you do say something, you can’t get anyone to listen,” he continued.

“If there comes a point where I can’t just decide, I’ll just turn to Jesus Christ and get some guidance from that direction,” Ridgeway added.

He said, as a young Marine coming back from Southeast Asia on a helicopter, he had a conversion with the late Dale Bumpers, a former Marine who sat next to him.

Ridgway said they spoke about politics and he got Bumpers’ viewpoint on voting for taxes. Bumpers told him he thought about his parents who ran a small hardware store working 60 to 70 hours a week and had three kids in school.

“Is that dollar coming out of their pocket worth that tax?” he told Ridgeway.

“That is how I was on the quorum court. If there is reason to raise taxes and I researched it, then I’ll vote for it,” Ridgeway said.

Morris said, “I bring a business perspective to county government. The quorum court is very important to the success and continued growth of this county.

“We need to watch the expenditures of our tax money to keep our sheriff’s department and road department funded. The other assets that we have in this great community need to be protected. We should select our officials that are proud to be here,” Morris said.

• Doug Warner, who is running for Ward 2, Pos. 1 seat on the Cabot City Council. It’s a nonpartisan race.

He said, “I started attending the Cabot City Council and Planning and Zoning Com-mission meetings and others that go along with governing the city. I began to see the need to get involved in city service, for somebody that will take the time and go out and physically get involved with the issues,” Warner said.

He also said he would go out and look at the place where the city is going to build and ask questions to get the right answers.

“We are a democratic Republic, which means, when you elect somebody, they are your representative. They owe you a visit and communication. An elected official isn’t going to make someone happy all the time,” Warner said.

He added that, if he votes on an issue, he would talk with the people who aren’t happy with the decision and tell them why he voted the way he did.

TOP STORY >> Hero remembered

Leader staff writer

“Freedom is wonderful,” said Rev. J.E. Mitchell. “I cannot find enough words, adjectives, to describe just how wonderful it is. Freedom from an aggressive dictator is one of the greatest blessings that God can give us.”

The reverend spoke during a memorial service Saturday at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe for his uncle, Robert Elijah Mitchell, who still remains missing.

Robert Elijah Mitchell joined the Army in November 1949. Less than a year later, on Sept. 6, 1950, he was declared missing in action after his group was sent into battle during the Korean War. His sister, Beth Adams, and family remembered Pfc. Mitchell. It would have been Robert’s 85th birthday.

The Patriot Guard Riders were on hand to unveil a bronze VA marker in his honor.

Mitchell was remembered with full military honors and his sister was presented with a flag and various medals, including presentations from the Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder and VFW, and a flag flown over the Capitol in Washington.

Mitchell was born Feb. 20, 1931, in Polk County, to Rev. Marvin M. Mitchell and Bessie J. Mitchell, who raised cotton and corn. The family moved to the Oakland Hill Community near Bradford in White County, where Mitchell attended school through the ninth grade. The family moved to Garner, where he would graduate high school on April 28, 1949.

Mtichell left behind his parents; six brothers, Bill, Charley, Sam, Joe, Edward and Edwin; one foster brother, Paul Latourette; three sisters, Bessie Black, Katie Brown, who have both passed, and Beth Mitchell Mason Adams; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Mitchell’s remains have yet to be found, but the family wanted to remember him and have a spot ready for when his remains are identified. “My gravesite is there and there is a spot vacant next to it,” Adams said. “I always thought maybe they’d find him.”

Adams was 16 years old when her brother went missing.

“His group was sent in as reinforcements and, when the battle was over, they couldn’t find him,” she said. In 1998, two sets of remains were disinterred from the Punchbowl in Hawaii that were thought to be him, but weren’t. The Punchbowl houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where remains of soldiers from locations around the Pacific Theater are buried.

“This is bigger than I envisioned,” Adams said of the memorial service. “A lot of family is getting together. It’s mainly about my brother. It’s not a fresh death. It’s different than if he had just died.”

“It’s a neat thing to be part of something like this,” Adam’s son, Robert Mason, said of the ceremony. “This is something she’s longed for.”

“It would be nice if they found his remains after this is all done,” said Marvin Mason, another of Adams’ son. “I remember grandpa, grandma and momma talking about it, hoping they would bring him home.”