Friday, January 20, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Central ahead early, beat Lady Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers dropped a 7A-Central Conference game to No. 3 ranked Little Rock Central on Tuesday at Panther Arena. The Lady Tigers jumped out to a big lead early and the Lady Panthers showed grit in keeping it a competitive game throughout, but could never climb all the way back in a 58-42 loss.

Except for a brief series in the third quarter, Cabot took much better care of the basketball than in recent losses, but the much bigger Lady Tigers dominated the glass and got many second-chance points.

Central’s biggest lead in the first half came with 4:10 to play in the second quarter at 25-11. By the 5:46 mark of the third, Cabot cut that margin to 29-21 on a backdoor pass from Holly Allen to Brooklyn Stracener. Haley Sobczak then got a steal under the basket to give the Lady Panthers possession and a chance to get even closer, but Central’s Mississippi State signee Bre’Amber Scott stole it back and was fouled. She made 1 of 2 free throws and Cabot never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

On Cabot’s next possession, Central’s 6-foot-3 Abigayle Jackson blocked two shots. Cabot got the rebound each time, but Scott got another steal before a third shot could go up.

She was fouled again and made both free throws for a 32-21 lead with 4:30 left in the third. After two more fruitless possessions by Cabot, Jackson followed one with a free throw and the second with a 3-pointer that made it 36-21 at the 3:00 mark.

Central’s lead grew to its largest with 1:50 to play in the third at 42-25.

Jackson fouled out of the game with 2:20 to play in the fourth, just two blocked shots away from a triple double. She finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks, all game highs. Scott, a 6-foot guard, had 18 points and six steals while 6-1 forward Eryn Barnum finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.

Central (14-1, 3-0) outrebounded Cabot 40-24.

Senior Josie VanOss led the Lady Panthers with 14 points while Stracener added 11. Camryn Harmon, a 5-4 guard, led Cabot in rebounding with six.

The Lady Panthers (11-5, 0-3) played at Bryant last night after Leader deadlines. They will face Fort Smith Northside at home on Tuesday.

SPPORTS STORY >> Titans beat LRCA, fall in makeup at Hornets

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville played a dominant second half to pull off a 68-49 victory over Little Rock Christian on Tuesday, but the energy spent rallying from a halftime deficit in that game likely played a role in a 75-63 loss at Maumelle on Wednesday.

Titan head coach Vic Joyner missed Wednesday’s game while battling his second bout of pneumonia this season, but assistant coach Brandon Weems believes Tuesday’s game had an impact on Wednesday’s.

“We had to expend some energy on Tuesday,” said Weems. “We were down at half to Christian and had to work hard to come back. They played PA (Pulaski Academy) Tuesday, and they just sit back in that zone and you don’t have to do much.

“People might look at that score and think we got beat pretty good, but no. It was very close until about three minutes to go.”

One Jacksonville player was fresh on Wednesday. Senior guard DaJuan Ridgeway didn’t play the first half on Tuesday. But he suffered a shot to the face with four minutes left in the game that resulted in a cut under one eye. He missed the rest of the game, and that’s when Maumelle pulled away.

Wednesday’s game with the Hornets was tied 49-49 at the end of the third quarter, and Maumelle led by three when Ridgeway left the game. Maumelle’s Pat Greene got hot with three minutes left as Jacksonville went cold, resulting in the misleading final score.

Ridgeway’s presence in the second half on Tuesday was a big factor in that comeback. The Titans trailed 30-22 at halftime at LRCA. Ridgeway entered in the third quarter and scored 15 second-half points.

While Ridgeway’s offense provided a big boost, so did the defense of Antoine Davis, according to Weems.

“Everything they did ran through No. 3 (sophomore Razorback commitment Justice Hill), Weems said. “Antoine went in there and put the shackles on him in the second half. He played great defensively. Even the points everybody else got was because of No. 3, and (Davis) helped a lot with that. We also did a better job of closing out on their shooters, but we didn’t do that against Maumelle. We still have to work on being more consistent with that.”

Appleby led Jacksonville (12-9, 2-3) with 16 points against LRCA. Braylin Hawkins added 14 to go with Ridgeway’s 15.

Appleby had 21 at Maumelle while Ridgeway added 12.

The Lady Titans (10-12, 2-3) lost both of their games this week. They fell 54-33 at Little Rock Christian Academy, and 57-54 at Maumelle.

Jacksonville overcame a 35-24 halftime deficit at Maumelle to take a 43-42 lead going into the fourth quarter, but abysmal free-throw shooting cost the Lady Titans the game. The JHS girls went 11 for 29 from the foul line on Wednesday. Shy Christopher scored 20 points in the loss.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot stems Tiger rally

Leader sports editor

Four days after having to rally in the fourth quarter to defeat Conway, the Cabot Panthers had to hold off a rally against Little Rock Central. And they did so, beating the Tigers 57-55 Tuesday at Panther Arena.

Cabot scored the game’s first eight points and never trailed, but had to fend off a series of Central runs. The ebb and flow of the contest saw Central close to within a few points several times, with Cabot pulling back out to double digits after each one.

“I thought we did all right,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “They’re very athletic but I thought we defended well. We didn’t rebound like I think we should have. Our bigs have to stay out of foul trouble. This is two games in a row we’ve dealt with that. But Noah Allgood came off the bench and gave us big minutes again. Jalen Brown shot the ball really well for us, and Bobby Joe (Duncan) just does what he does. He took care of the ball, got people involved and kept us going.”

The Tigers trailed by 10 at halftime and at the end of the third quarter, but had closed to within three points during the third. Central’s Donald Richardson made a 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the third that made the score 35-30. That was still the score when Duncan hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.

Post player Logan Gilbertson then took a charge from Central center Raekwon Rogers with seven seconds remaining. Allgood then got an offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer to make it 40-30 going into the fourth period.

“That was an important series that last few seconds of the third,” Bridges said. “That made them come out on us and we were able to get some open layups. And then we made enough free throws down the stretch. We got the win, so overall I’m proud of them.”

Jarrod Barnes drove right to the rim for a layup that made it 42-30 just seconds into the fourth quarter. From that point, Central began slowly chipping away at Cabot’s lead again, but also blew several opportunities to get even closer.

Jakaylyn Jackson made a 3-pointer to make it 51-44, and Cabot turned it over on the next possession. Richardson got fouled going to the basket on the ensuing possession, but missed both free throws. Scoring stagnated for four minutes, with each team trading missed shots and turnovers. Central finally made it 51-46 with 2:07 to play when Cameron Johnson got a steal and a layup that forced Bridges to call timeout.

The Panthers (13-1, 3-0) successfully held the ball for more than a minute before the Tigers fouled Duncan. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Johnson scored at the other end to make it 51-48 with 50 seconds remaining in the game.

Central tried to press after the basket, but Cabot broke it easily. Gilbertson finished the press break with a slam dunk for a 53-48 lead, but Cabot fouled Johnson seconds later.

He made both free throws to make the score 53-50 with 35 seconds left.

Central fouled Gilbertson who made 1 of 2, but the Tigers threw the ball away on its next possession. Central then fouled Brown, who made both of his free throws for a 56-50 lead with 18 tics remaining.

Central kept feint hope alive when Henry Dudley made a 3-pointer with eight seconds to go. The Tigers fouled Brown again, who made it interesting by missing the first free throw. But he drained the second to put the game out of reach and seal the win. Central’s Tyler Moore scored a layup to set the final margin, but the Panthers did not have to inbound the ball and time expired.

Brown led the Panthers with 16 points while Duncan had 13 and seven assists.

Johnson scored 16 for Central (9-6, 1-2), while Rogers finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

EDITORIAL >> Police prevent drug deaths

All Jacksonville police officers now carry kits that can stop people from dying if they are having heroin and opiate-based prescription-drug overdoses.

The Clinton Foundation, much maligned during the presidential election, gave the Jacksonville Police Department 84 naloxone medicine kits.

It’s common for police and EMTs across the country to carry the kits these days. About 30,000 people died from prescription-drug overdoses and another 12,000 from heroin overdoses in 2014.

North Little Rock and Benton police officers also carry naloxone kits courtesy of the Clinton Foundation.

The antidote quickly restores overdose victims’ breathing and prevents brain damage.

Heroin arrests have become more common in local police reports. The drug is Afghanistan’s biggest export and has become a cheap alternative to expensive opiate-based prescription drugs, which are increasingly becoming more difficult to attain and are a leading cause of death in the U.S.

“Jacksonville is no different than other areas of the state and country that are seeing an increase in heroin and opiate-based overdoses,” the police department said in its announcement.

Thanks to these kits, the needless deaths of overdose victims will be avoided and their families and friends will be spared from agony.

EDITORIAL >> Guess did it, PCSSD lives

The Pulaski County Special School District, newly released from state control and operating under an elected school board for the first time in five years, is wasting no time in its effort to rebuild its schools and its reputation after years of mismanagement.

Last week, the PCSSD board announced a plan to modernize the Sylvan Hills High School campus in a $65 million project that will include a new main building, while vastly renovating the old one and add new athletics facilities.

It’s almost certain voters will be asked to raise taxes or at least extend the current millage 13 years longer. That will be tough. Jacksonville’s effort to raise taxes to build two new schools nearly failed.

If residents in the PCSSD reject a tax increase, Sylvan Hills will get several trailers instead.

The Sherwood high school has been on PCSSD’s to-do list for years. It helps that the board’s president, Linda Remele, is from Sherwood and is a retired assistant superintendent with PCSSD.

She worked under a string of superintendents who dodged the heavy lifting required to improve the district’s facilities and test scores.

It wasn’t until Dr. Jerry Guess was installed by the state as superintendent in 2011 that PCSSD began to show signs of hope.

Guess, playing the stern father, deserves praise for allowing Jacksonville to break away from PCSSD. None of the superintendents before him supported the plan. They were content with Jacksonville as a convenient tax base and overlooked the city’s crumbling schools.

Guess’ tightfistedness has paid off. PCSSD was nearly broke when he took over and the district seemed beyond saving. It had $3.5 million in reserves and was spending $6.5 million more than its revenues. Today, its reserves are at $26.3 million and it has spent $14.7 million less than its revenues.

He did it by doing away with teachers’ pay raises and cutting benefits, consolidating schools and lowering overhead expenses. He also stripped the teachers union of its bargaining power, which helped PCSSD save millions of dollars every year. That didn’t make him popular with teachers, but he saved the district from going under.

Because of his tenacity, PCSSD is in a position to afford to build a new Sylvan Hills High School. It will allow Sherwood to continue building rooftops and attract families to the area. Keep that in mind when a millage increase is put to a vote.

The district’s future will still be rocky, but whenever Guess leaves, PCSSD will be in far better condition than when he started.

When the school board does start searching for his replacement, it should keep up the good work and avoid the in-fighting that led to its financial ruin and state stewardship. Guess will not easily return to clean up the mess again.

He would make a knowledgeable and experienced state education commissioner. The governor should keep him in mind.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: City potential being realized

Leader staff writer

In giving his annual state- of-the-city report, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher reflected, “Upon reading the department directors’ end-of-the-year re-ports, I was amazed at all the activities and accomplishments in each of the city departments. The workload for many was massive.”

He told the council Thursday night that for years he has said that no city in the state had the potential that Jacksonville had.

“We are now starting to see the potential turn into reality, making these exciting times for our city,” Fletcher said.

The mayor told the city council that when he’s with the base commander welcoming new service members to Little Rock Air Force Base, the commander tells the new arrivals that the air base is “no sleepy hollow, and neither is the city of Jacksonville.”

The mayor said the most obvious sign of progress is the highway expansion everyone sees on a daily basis.

“When completed the six lanes will bring us a much safer highway segment that has in the past been one of the most dangerous spots in our highway system,” the mayor said, adding, “No doubt this construction has brought inconvenience to people, but the long- term benefits it will provide to our community in the end will be worth it all.”

Fletcher took time to praise the council for passing funds for capital improvements. Part of those funds, $2.1 million, were used to purchase two new pumper trucks and a ladder truck for the city’s fire department, replacing vehicles that where being used “well beyond their usefulness.”

“If I may say so without being prejudiced,” the mayor exclaimed, “They are the most beautiful fire trucks in the state, possibly the nation.”

Fletcher said plans are in the works for a new baseball and softball complex. He said something needed to be done as Jacksonville’s reputation for being a great place to have a tournament was faltering because of “cancellations of many tournaments in recent years due to flooding from Bayou Meto into Dupree Park and the economic impact it has had on the city. It is necessary to look to and plan for the future.”

The mayor cited hockey legend Wayne Gretzky whose advice to young players was “to skate where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

Fletcher said the city is looking at ways to revitalize downtown. “According to experts,” the mayor told the council and those attending the meeting, “If downtown redevelopment is done right, it will have an economic impact on home values within an easy six block radius of Main Street.”

Fletcher said the city is growing and new businesses are coming in.

SIG Sauer announced it was building an ammunition plant off General Samuels that will employ 50 people. That number has already increased to 125. “We are excited and proud that SIG Sauer has already made plans for expansion and are optimistic about their future in Jacksonville,” the mayor said.

Add to that a Hardees’s, A Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Pho and More restaurant and CM Smoke barbeque restaurant and Hibbett’s Sports, all opening last year.

Plus, the mayor said, one of Jacksonville’s older shopping centers that contained the city’s original Walmart location and later became Knight’s Super Foods, was sold to Steve Edwards in 2016 who gutted the 42,000 square foot store and renovated it into one of the “nicest and finest grocery stores and fuel stations in Jacksonville.”

And then there’s the new school district.

“Not having a new school built in over 30 years under Pulaski County Special School District, the new Jacksonville district has this past year cleared the grounds, developed the plans and will break ground this summer on a new $60 million high school complex and a $16.5 million elementary.”

TOP STORY >> Austin’s police chief takes oath

Leader staff writer

Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain swore in Bill Duerson on Friday as the new police chief.

The position has been vacant since Nov. 18 after she fired Police Chief Jim Kulesa, saying she lost confidence in him.

“I’m very excited. I’ve worked 17 years for this. I’m blessed with a great support team in Austin, the surrounding cities and Lonoke County,” Duerson said after the ceremony.

Duerson, 37, said his uncle, Ronnie Fields was a Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s and sparked his interest in law enforcement.

Chamberlain said, “He was number one out of seven interviewed. He seems the perfect fit for us.”

The chief is a 1997 graduate of England High School. He started his police career in 1999 as a jailer at the Drew County Detention Center. Seven months later he was hired by the Monticello Police Department as dispatcher and part-time officer.

In 2002, he became an officer with the England Police Department where he was promoted to patrol lieutenant and K9 handler. Two years later he was hired by the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office as a K9 deputy.

In 2007, he was a patrolman for the Lonoke Police Department. A year later he worked for the Prairie County Sheriff’s Office as an investigator assigned to the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force’s narcotics division. He served two years on the federal organized crime drug task force. Duerson was promoted in 2015 to chief deputy at the Prairie County Sheriff’s Office until being hired by Austin.

Duerson’s annual salary is $32,000, plus insurance.

“Lonoke County has been my home growing up. I made several relationships in the law enforcement while with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office. When the position opened here, I felt my heart was led to Austin,” Duerson said.

Duerson said the police department is in a reorganization phase.

“We have a wonderful team, and we welcome the community’s input. We are going to have a better direct connection with the community,” he said.

The chief said an entry-level patrol officer position is open.

TOP STORY >> Probation officer caught in sting

Mark Brooke, Ward’s probation officer, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly soliciting prostitution from an undercover officer posing as one of his probationers.

He was charged with sexual solicitation and theft of services. He was released from the Lonoke County Detention Facility on a $1,000 bond about 7:45 p.m., five hours after his arrest.

He is the son of Mayor Art Brooke and a pastor at Cornerstone Assembly church. The mayor said Friday his son is on paid leave and may be reassigned to a different department.

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office set up the sting after receiving complaints about Brooke’s conduct.

“An undercover detective was set up as a probationer and assigned to Brooke. (He) made lewd and inappropriate comments during the initial contact and subsequently made arrangements for sex for money with the undercover detective using his city-provided cell phone,” according to the sheriff’s office news release.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with more information or additional allegations about Brooke to call Lt. Matt Edwards at 501-676-3000 or email

“It is never good when someone in a position of authority takes advantage of those in difficult situations. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Sheriff John Staley said.

Cabot’s probation officer was arrested in May for similar misconduct. In that case, Jeffery Everetts, owner of CS Background Inc., a private contractor that provided probation oversight services to offenders in Cabot, was charged with attempted sexual assault. He was fired, and his trial is set for Feb. 23.

The Leader interviewed Brooke in June soon after Everetts’ arrest.

Brooke, 53, said he was paid $12.35 an hour and earned $25,688 in 2015.

Brooke said then that he helps probationers find work with local employers such as Goodwill in Cabot.

District Court Judge Clint McGue said Thursday, “Probation will continue under different personnel. The situation is unfortunate. We are as surprised as everyone else and still trying to gather information. Probationers still need to report to Ward court clerk’s office. We’ll figure out a way to make a quick transition.”

The mayor is Mark Brooke’s supervisor, McGue said. The mayor would have to re-instate him if his son wanted to return to the probation office.

McGue was elected in November and went on the bench Jan. 1 and is just starting to settle in to his new job and learn about his caseload.

It is unclear how many women the younger Brooke was responsible for tracking as probationers.

He has worked for the city for 13 years and has been its probation officer for nine years. Before that he worked two years in parks and recreation and two years in the street department.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Wolves earn road win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School got a split in a 2A-4-East Conference game, but not in the familiar way. The Lady Wolves picked up their second win of the season with a thrilling 37-35 victory, while the boys lost for the second-straight time on the road 92-83.

The girls’ game was the second win of the season for the Lady Wolves and second against Marvell, although JLCS had a much easier time in their 38-19 victory in Jacksonville in early December. Lighthouse appeared to be on its way to another lopsided win on Friday after taking a 14-5 lead in the first quarter, but Marvell showed some improvement in a month’s time.

“They certainly looked a little better,” said Lighthouse coach Chris Collier. “They had two or three scoring instead of just the one scoring the whole time. So we couldn’t just focus on one individual. So they had gotten a little better.”

Lighthouse (2-15, 2-5) also got a player back that had been out with injury, but it was a trade. Jordan Doakes sat out the first two months of the season before returning last Tuesday at Clarendon.

After getting her feet wet in that game, she posted seven points against Marvell. But the team was without Marla Dukes, who, according to Collier, is the team’s best defender.

“It was good to get Doakes back and I think she’ll contribute more and more as she gets settled in and more comfortable,” Collier said. “She’s pressing a little bit right now trying to do too much. But she’s going to get better and better.

“Losing Marla hurts us because she defends well. We’re going to miss her until she gets over this illness and gets cleared to play. I think her being out is a big reason why they scored 35 this time instead of 19. But it’s hard playing on the road so I’m not complaining.”

Marvell had cut Lighthouse’s lead to 22-16 by halftime, and to 29-25 by the end of the third quarter. Lighthouse built the lead back up to 10 in the fourth. But with about four minutes left in the game, junior Amaya English, JLC’s best ball handler, fouled out, and Marvell began pressuring to climb back into the game.

Jada Guy stepped to the line with about 12 seconds to go and made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Lady Wolves a 37-32 lead. Marvell got a 3-point play with one second to go on a foul that Collier was not pleased about.

“I called timeout after Jada made that free throw and told them, whatever you do, don’t foul,” Collier said. “So Jada is standing there with her arms folded into her chest. The girl runs the length of the court and jumps into her, and they call a foul. Only reason I didn’t come unglued is because there was just one second left and I knew all we had to do was throw the ball in to win it. But that one was bad.”

Guy led Lighthouse with 17 points while English scored 11. Tyiesha Banks led Marvell with 15 points.

Both teams were terrible from the free-throw line. Lighthouse made 8 of 24 while Marvell was just 6 for 19.

In the boys’ game, The Wolves never led from start to finish. Marvell scored the first five points of the game. Lighthouse responded with a 5-2 run, but Marvell answered with five-straight for a 12-5 lead. Lighthouse answered with a 6-0 run to cut it to one, but could never get in front.

The Mustangs (9-2, 4-1) took an 18-14 lead into the second period, and then opened that frame with a 3-pointer. That lead grew to as much as 13 at 39-26, and the margin was 42-30 at halftime.

Lighthouse pulled to within 57-54 1:30 left in the third, but Marvell closed that frame with a 7-2 run for a 64-56 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

The Wolves never got any closer the rest of the game. Marvell scored first and led by at least nine until Lighthouse briefly cut it to 81-73 with two minutes to play, but the Mustangs scored six-straight from that point to stretch the lead back to 14 in just 40 seconds.

The Mustangs’ win avenged an earlier loss to Lighthouse. The Wolves beat Marvell 82-75 in Jacksonville on Dec. 6. Marvell’s only other loss this season was to Class 4A Dollarway.

Lighthouse started the season winning 14 of its first 15 games, including an 11-game win streak from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16. Since the Christmas break, the Wolves have lost four of five, and now stand 15-5 overall and 5-2 in league play.

They played at Carlisle on Tuesday and will host Hazen on Friday. Lighthouse beat those two teams earlier this year by scores of 91-41 and 96-41 respectively during the 11-game streak.

Gerald Doakes led Lighthouse with 31 points. Devontae Davis added 12, Chris Mims 11 and Zack Bobo 10.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville turns over last chance

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Titans lost a heartbreaker Friday night at Hall High School in Little Rock by a final of 46-45. The score was tied at the end of one quarter, and Jacksonville led by two at the half and by one at the end of three quarters.

Hall (9-5,2-1) then outscored their visitor by two points in the final period to take the win. The Titans (8-7,3-2) had defeated Hall 69-65 in the Coke Classic in Fort Smith over the holiday break.

With four seconds remaining, Hall missed two double-bonus free throws. Jacksonville got the rebound and called time-out with the length of the court to go and only 3.2 seconds on the clock.

After the break, the inbounds pass went to halfcourt, but the second pass went out of bounds on the Jacksonville end of the floor. Hall had the ball with 0.1 seconds to go and only had to toss the ball in to end the game, setting the final score of 46-45 Warriors.

“It was kind of an ugly, sloppy game early,” said Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner. “The lack of execution on both teams was just atrocious. The ball wasn’t moving on our part. When they did move the ball, it was easy for us to score. We were just flat offensively. We had an opportunity to win the game, and that’s all you want to have, an opportunity. Braylon Hawkins woke up tonight, and Joe Phillips woke up tonight. We need those guys going forward. We need them to keep playing like they played tonight.”

Tyree Appleby got the Titans on the scoreboard first with a 3-point basket. Maurio Goggins and Antonio Smith answered with a two each for Hall. Chris Williams had an offensive rebound put-back for Jacksonville.

Goggins sank another two, but DaJuan Ridgeway responded with a 3-pointer to give the Titans the 8-6 edge. Ridgeway was good for another three at the end of the quarter, but Goggins finished the scoring for the quarter with two free throws to tie the contest at 12-12.

Braylon Hawkins sank a scoop shot lay-up to start the scoring in the second period for Jacksonville. Tyre Tillmon answered to tie. The lead went back and forth most of the quarter, with neither team going ahead by more than two points.

Hawkins hit a 2-point basket in the lane for the 20-20 tie, and then gave Jacksonville the 23-21 halftime advantage with a 3-point bucket from the corner off a baseline in-bounds play.

Hall outscored the Titans 7-2 to take a 28-25 lead early in quarter number three. Williams sank two from the line, and Appleby had a steal and dunk, and Jacksonville led by one.

Goggins took the lead back with two free throws, but the Titans went on an eight point scoring run to lead 37-30. Joe Phillips had six of those points, two from the stripe, and two scored under the basket. Goggins responded with six straight points of his own, and the score at the end of three periods was 37-36.

Ridgeway sank a three to start the final period scoring. The score was tied at 43-43 with 2:32 remaining. Phillips put the Titans in the lead with one-of-two free throws. The Warriors took the lead back at 45-44, and then Appleby was fouled by Goggins on a 3-point attempt, and went to the line for three free throws. He made one of the three for the 45-45 tie.

With only 40.2 seconds remaining on the clock, Hall was passing the ball looking for a shot when Shaun Juniel was fouled with 20.8 seconds to go. He made one of the two from the stripe, and Jacksonville took a time-out, down by one point.

Out of the time-out, Ridgeway drove to the basket, but was unable to score. The Warriors came away with the rebound, to set up the missed free throws and game-ending turnover.

Appleby had 13 points for Jacksonville. Ridgeway had 12, Phillips eight, Hawkins seven, and Williams five. Goggins led all scorers with 18 points and was perfect from the free throw line with 8 of 8.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS ladies hang on to victory at LR Hall

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Lady Titans held on for a 50-47 road victory over the Hall Lady Warriors in Little Rock on Friday night. Jacksonville (10-10,3-1) led by nine at the end of three quarters of play, but the Lady Warriors (2-12,0-3) scored 17 points in the fourth to pull within two points late in the quarter.

“I don’t really think they came out ready to play,” said Jacksonville coach Marian Kursh. “I’m extremely excited that they finished the game, but we made a lot of unnecessary mistakes. Twenty-eight turnovers, I don’t think we’ve done that all season long. We just try to be mindful and tell the girls that when you’re playing away, you have to be more focused than when you are at home. They made some mistakes that we just have to work through, but I’m glad they pulled it out.”

Shymaryia Christopher scored the first five points for the Lady Titans. Taking advantage of early turnovers by Hall, a lay-up by Alexis James gave Jacksonville a 7-2 advantage. The Lady Warriors then scored six straight to take the 8-7 edge.

Martina Knight scored a 2-pointer for the Lady Titans, but could not hit the free throw for the three point play. Elexis Lofland did follow with the old-fashioned 3-point play to give the lead back to Hall, but Dayzya Jordan tied the game at 11-11 with a floater in the lane. Alexias Burns answered with a 2-point basket to give the Lady Warriors the 13-11 lead at the end of the opening frame.

Jacksonville came back to outscore the home team 14-8 in quarter number two. Hall had a 17-14 lead when Allison Seats sank two free throws and Jordan one to knot the game at 17. Christopher had an offensive rebound put-back plus one free throw, and James scored on a turnover resulting from the Lady Titan press.

A 2-pointer by Seats on a baseline out-of-bounds play gave Jacksonville the 24-19 lead. Amber Brooks connected on a two at the buzzer for Hall, and the score at intermission was 25-21.

The third quarter belonged to the Lady Titans as again they outscored their opponent, this time 14-9 to take a 39-30 lead into the final quarter. Christopher had ten of the 14 points and Knight the other four.

To start the fourth quarter, Christopher extended the lead to 42-30 with the old-fashioned 3-point play on a driving lay-up. The score was 46-35 when Hall went on an eight point run to cut the lead to 46-43 with 3:16 remaining in the game. The teams exchanged free throws, then Taylor Toombs scored under the basket for Jacksonville and for a five point edge. Brooks sank her second three-point basket of the quarter for the Lady Warriors to cut the lead back to two at 49-47.

A missed one-and-one opportunity by Christopher gave Brooks another shot at a three, but it was missed and rebounded by the Lady Titans. Jacksonville was running some time off the clock, and the Hall coaches were screaming for their team to foul with 27.2 seconds remaining. Knight fielded a pass under the basket and was fouled on her shot attempt.

She made the first of two from the line, and a held ball was called on the rebound of the second. The possession went to Hall. Another 3-pointer was missed, and rebounded by Jacksonville. However, a walk was called, and the Lady Warriors had possession on the baseline of their basket.

A foul was called on the Lady Titans on the in-bounds pass, putting Brooks at the line for two free throws in the double bonus. She missed both, and the rebound and game went to Jacksonville by the final of 50-47. Hall was 7 of 19 from the free throw stripe for the game, and missed ten in the second half.

The freshman, Christopher, led Jacksonville in scoring with 25 points, and Knight was next with nine points. Burns had 18 for Hall, and Brooks had 15 points.

SPORTS STORY >> Bench prevails for Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers’ No. 1 ranking was in jeopardy for about three quarters Tuesday at Panther Arena. Cabot’s post players were plagued by foul trouble outside shots weren’t falling early, but Cabot still found a way to pull out a 55-49 win over Conway in a 7A-Central matchup.

“It was a grind, man,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “Conway is pretty good. Our bigs were in foul trouble the whole game. But I was proud of the bench for stepping in when they had to and giving us some big minutes. We needed some new people to step up or we weren’t going to win this game. And we got that. There’s a lot of things I wish we would’ve done better, and are going to have to do better, but that’s one thing I’m proud of, is my bench guys. Noah Allgood, Jared Vance, Christian Weir and Landon Vaught had to play a lot tonight and we were able to find away to beat a good team.”

Starting at the 3:20 mark of the first quarter, Conway went on a 7-0 run to take a 13-6 lead.

Logan Gilbertson scored before the buzzer to make it 13-8, and Cabot had a good start to the second. The Panthers were patient on offense with the first possession of the second frame. They moved the ball for 1:10 before finding guard Jalen Brown under the basket for a layup and a three-point game.

But post player Matt Stanley picked up his second foul a minute later, and left the court for the rest of the half.

Conway (7-5, 1-1) then went on a 10-2 run, starting with a pair of missed layups by Gilbertson. Conway’s Kendarius Smith scored after each one. A pair of turnovers by Weir led to four more Conway points for a 21-12 Wampus Cat lead. It reached its largest margin at 23-12 after another missed layup by Cabot was followed by an offensive rebound and putback by Gentrell Taylor with 1:14 left in the first half.

Cabot point guard Bobby Joe Duncan broke the run with a 12-foot floater. Cabot then trapped at midcourt and forced a backcourt violation. Vance then hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 23-17 with 43 seconds to go in the half. Smith then hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to set the halftime score at 25-17.

Cabot (12-1, 2-0) came out with pressure to start the third quarter, but Stanley picked up his third foul just 87 seconds into the period. Cabot’s defense continued to wreak havoc on Conway, but the shots weren’t falling offensively.

The Wampus Cats had scored four points on just two shot attempts through the first three minutes of the third, and still held a 29-26 lead. Stanley then picked up his fourth foul, and second of the half away from the basketball. Gilbertson also got his fourth foul in the third, but Cabot’s defense remained stingy.

The Wampus Cats scored four of their next six points at the free-throw line, and still led 35-31 with three minutes to go in the third. Noah Allgood then pump faked to get his man out of position for an open layup to cut the margin to two.

Allgood then blocked Smith’s driving layup attempt, and Duncan hit a floater to tie the game at 35-35 with two minutes on the clock. Conway’s Carson Petrucelli then missed a 3-pointer. Duncan got the rebound and went 94 feet for another floater to give Cabot its first lead of the game.

Cabot took a 38-37 lead into the final period, and scored the first six points of the fourth for a 44-37 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.

Conway was forced to start sending Cabot to the line, and the Panthers shot well enough to keep the Wampus Cats at arms length. Cabot made 12 of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter and Conway was never able to get closer than three points.

That came at 52-49 with 28 seconds to go. Weir calmly sank both free throws and Conway could not hit another shot the rest of the way.

Cabot went 0 for 9 from 3-point range in the first half, but 3 for 9 in the second. Conway outrebounded Cabot 42-29 and shot a higher percentage from the floor and the line. But Cabot took more shots because of the turnover difference. Cabot had just six the entire game, while forcing Conway into 16.

Conway made 20 of 23 free throws while Cabot went 22 for 31.

Duncan led Cabot with 14 points while Allgood scored 11. Smith led Conway with 14. Taylor had 12 and Petrucelli scored 11.

EDITORIAL >> Consensus on tax cuts

Several state legislators who had been critical of Governor Hutchinson’s $50 million tax cut for Arkansas’ lowest earners now say they will support the plan.

Tipping the scale for many lawmakers is Hutchinson’s proposal to create a legislative tax reform task force, said Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), who had called the governor’s proposed tax cuts for Arkansans earning less than $21,000 a year a “bad policy” and unfair when it was first announced in December.

Collins, who sits on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, wanted to further reduce the tax burden on upper-income earners. But he said he was on board with the governor’s proposal and excited about the task force.

“What I really want to do is reform our tax system in Arkansas, so we broaden the base, lower the rates,” he said.

Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) had floated a $105 million income-tax cut plan, but he said he’s going along with what the governor’s proposing “in order to get more in the future.”

“I don’t want this to come out wrong, but I don’t know a lot of poor people who are hiring right now,” Hester said. “You’ve got to encourage people that are doing well to continue hiring people if you ever want a chance for upward mobility.”

Rep. Matthew Pitsch (R-Fort Smith) and Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) are the House and Senate sponsors of the governor’s bill. The bill would set the members of the task force at 16 and require it to make its recommendations in the 2019 regular legislative session. Both House and Senate revenue and taxation committees are expected to consider the legislation this week.

The governor has said the $50 million tax cut will be paid for with projected revenue growth and increased efficiencies on the state level. It is projected to benefit the 657,000 low-income earners who were not part of a $100 million tax cut passed in 2015.

“When you look at the governor’s budget right now there is no margin for error,” said Rep. Joe Jett (R-Success), who chairs the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Jett expressed concerns that the state could come up short for one-time expenses not included in the Revenue Stabilization Act.

“If we flat-line our budget and we don’t meet revenue growth projections … then not only can we not fund our budget, we’re not funding the one-time money we’ve got out there promised,” Jett said. “That’s what keeps me awake at nighttime.”

Revenue collections for the 2017 fiscal year are currently $8.8 million below projections, but Richard Wilson, assistant director of research services for the Bureau of Legislative Research, told the House revenue committee that “growth is steady and slow, and we should not collect less money than last year.” He said he expects the budget will be funded with “perhaps a small surplus,” but he added that the refund season could derail this projection.

Last week, Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) filed alternative low-income tax relief legislation that would establish an earned income tax credit based on an individual’s income.

“I strongly believe that the earned income tax credit is a more effective way to deliver tax relief to lower income Arkansans,” Sabin said. “It really helps move people out of poverty. It helps remove dependence on social services.” Low- to moderate-income working people and families may be eligible for a federal EITC.

Sen. Jake Files (R-Fort Smith), who chairs the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, is sponsoring the EITC bill in the Senate.

Jett told the House revenue committee that the governor’s tax cut proposal would be considered in the near future and other tax cut bills would be shelved until the end of the session.

Hutchinson has also proposed a tax exemption for military retirement pay and survivor benefits. Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Rep. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren) are sponsors. Retired military personnel are already entitled to a $6,000 exemption under state law. The new bills would increase that amount through an exemption trade: The exemptions for the military would be funded by taxing unemployment compensation benefits, removing a partial exemption on the sale of manufactured homes, and taxing candy and soft drinks at the full sales-tax rate, while reducing the rate of tax on syrups.

“We have a lot of military who are abroad or looking for a place to come back to and we want them to choose Arkansas,” said J.R. Davis, the governor’s spokesman. “This is a game changer.”

The governor’s proposal is projected to affect 29,000 military retirees, while reducing general revenue by $13.4 million annually. The reduction of the tax rate on syrups is projected to further reduce general revenue by $6.3 million a year, according to Jake Bleed, director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Taxing unemployment benefits is projected to increase general revenue by $3.1 million. Increasing the tax on manufactured homes is projected to raise $2.5 million. The raised candy and soft drink tax should bring in $13.8 million, Bleed said.

The new taxes have their detractors. “I would think that unemployment benefits are the last place we ought to look for removing tax exemptions,” Sabin said. “These are people who are looking for work, who are on the ropes, and to give them an additional tax burden to me makes absolutely no sense.”

The Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association is not on board with an increase in taxes on mobile homes. The proposed legislation would add $1,800 in sales tax to the purchase price of a $65,000 manufactured home, J.D. Harper, executive director of the association, said.

The sales tax applied to a manufactured home is on 62 percent of the purchase price. The proposed legislation would apply sales tax to 100 percent of the purchase.

“We say houses ought to be taxed like houses,” Harper said. “The reason the formula is the way it is currently is to tax houses like houses, not like washing machines and TVs and other consumer goods.”

In Arkansas, when a house is built, only the materials are subject to sales tax — not the labor, transportation and other nontaxable services, said Harper. “All of these are included in the purchase price of a manufactured home, and would be taxed unfairly under this tax proposal,” Harper wrote in a policy statement submitted to the governor on Jan. 4.

“We’re open to other alternatives, but we haven’t been presented with any that make sense and would work,” Davis said. Arkansas is a small state with a small budget relative to surrounding states, so there have to be offsets.” — Ibby Caputo, Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

TOP STORY >> Arnold Drive kids cash in

Leader staff writer

Looking for stock tips? Want to stretch your retirement funds? Or just need some sound financial advice but don’t know who to ask?

Just check with three Arnold Drive Elementary fifth graders who placed first in the central Arkansas region of the state’s stock market game, a simulation that extends learning into social studies, math, economics, real-life situations and higher thinking.

The girls — Lanna Rogers, Deana Stafford and Nabia Northern — were honored last Wednesday at a luncheon at Verizon Arena, where they received medallions, certificates, a school trophy and cold hard cash.

The trio were one of 182 elementary school teams participating in the 10-week stock market simulation. The school sponsored four other teams, but the rest came from Jacksonville, North Little Rock, Little Rock, Conway, Lonoke and points in between.

In all, 5,700 students participated across the state in six regional contests. The Arnold Drive team, which was first in the central region, finish 20th out of 1,768 teams with only one elementary team ahead of them, putting them in the top 2 percent in the state.

The three admit they didn’t really know much when the game started. Nabia said she didn’t even know you could buy shares of companies. While Deanna said she didn’t know stocks could go down.

But 10-weeks later the trio can talk long term charts, bulls, bears, profit-to-earnings growth ratios and mean recommendations.

In the game, each team is given $100,000 in virtual money to invest and trade in real companies at “live” prices. In the end the team managed to rack in about $1,000 a week from their five-stock portfolio.

Lanna said they invested in some companies they knew about and some they found by accident. One they knew about that did quite well for them was Dave & Busters. So did Macy’s. For them they lucked out that the game ended before the department store giant announced massive layoffs.

Then they found Franklin Trust, Regulus Therapeutics by accident. “We were just punching ticker symbol letters into Yahoo! Finance to see what would come up,” Deana said.

Nabia added that at first the team was looking for companies whose mean recommendation (what the experts thought) was 2.5 or less. “The closer to one, the more experts say buy it, and the closer to five the more they say sell it. We found so many companies at one-point-something that we decided not to get any company above 1.9,” she explained.

The team was sitting in 110th place on Election Day, Deana explained, then the next morning they were in fifth. “And then first place to stay,” Nabia said.

“All of our stock choices made money, although Dave & Busters was our best stock,” Lanna said. Duluth Holdings and Macy’s did quite well for them, too.

Because of their winning strategy and first-place finish the team got to split $125 in award money.

“I can do a lot with that $42,” said Nabia, heading out of the luncheon.

The three plan to team up for the spring edition of the game that starts later this month. “We’ll be at the next banquet, too,” Lanna said as her teammates nodded.

The other four teams from Arnold Drive finished third, 23rd, 32nd, 92nd and 178th.

Teams from Pinewood, Tolleson, Murrell Taylor, Bayou Meto and Warren Dupree Elementary schools also participated in the central region along with Lonoke and England Elementary schools.

The game is sponsored twice a year by Economics Arkansas and among the other sponsors are Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Lou Graham with Morgan Stanley, Harriet and Warren Stephens with Stephens Inc. Riceland and Delta Dental.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD finances up, but still needs help

Leader staff writer

In 2011 when the state took over the Pulaski County Special School District it was spending $6.5 million more than it was bringing in and had to dip into reserves bringing that number down to $3.5 million.

But five years later, even with the breaking away of the Jacksonville district, PCSSD spent $14.7 million less than its revenues and has built its reserves up to $26.3 million.

“It was a difficult five years. At times we were sweating. We had to make a lot of hard choices along the way,” Superintendent Jerry Guess told the new board at a workshop last week.

Guess told the board that PCSSD had both an advantage and a disadvantage when it came to the millage it gets from its residents.

“The good news is that our mills are worth quite a bit,” Dr. Guess explained. “each mill in our district is worth about $2.4 million because of level of property assessment. I know a district where a mill is only worth $150,000. So that’s the good news, and as assessed values rise so do the values of our mills.”

The only dip the county has seen was between 2014 and 2015 when assessed values went from $2.74 million down to $2.49 million as it lost the assessed value of the Jacksonville residents. But the district’s assessments were expected to rebound to $2.64 million for 2016. The exact figures are not available yet.

On top of that, Pulaski County will be reassessing property values this year and the consensus is that values will go up at least 6 percent.

“But, he went on, “because we are considered a wealthy district we get no help from the state when it comes to construction projects. It all has to come out of our pockets,” Guess said.

In contrast, Cabot gets about 45 percent of its construction projects covered by the state. The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District expects about the same amount.

Even though PCSSD’s finances are improving and the state has relinquished control, facility needs are outstripping what is coming in.

“There’s three ways to increase our money to cover our facility needs: Increase assessments, millage increase, reduction in expenses or a combination of all three,” said Derek Scott, PCSSD’s director of operations.

The biggest upcoming change for the district, said Guess, was that the district would be “going back to operating like every other district in the state with the loss of the extra desegregation money it had been receiving for more than a decade.”

The board talked about the possibility of a millage increase. Each extra mill would add $20 to a resident’s property bill. Scott and Guess recommended that the board members go back and see what the patrons are willing to do.

“We don’t want to go out there and lose. You have to sell it to all seven communities of our district,” Scott said.

The district is already revamping Mills High School at a cost of about $40 million and is looking at a $65 million expansion, remodeling, facelift for Sylvan Hills School.

To fix the overcrowded Sylvan Hills School, which is at about 200 percent capacity, and possibly take care of other needs a number of options were presented to the board, which they will discuss at Thursday’s board meeting.

“We are already about three months behind if we want a new Sylvan Hills High School by the start of the 2019 school year instead of using an additional 19 portable,” Scott said.

The first option calls for a second lien bond issue based on the district’s surplus. That would bring in $36.6 million and require no vote of the district’s patrons. “It would be a start,” Scott said, “But wouldn’t do much.”

The next option would be to extend and refinance the current bond issue by 13 years. No extra taxes, just an extension, Scott explained. It would require a successful vote and would raise $65 million, enough to “fix” Sylvan Hills High School.

Another choice would be a combination of the extension and a millage increase of one, two or three mills ($20, $40 or $60 added to a resident’s property tax bill). Any of these would require a successful vote.

A one-mill increase would raise $112.2 million, a two-mill hike would bring in $161.4 million and a three-mill increase would give the district $210.5 million.

“It’s a lot to think about,” said Guess.

TOP STORY >> Mumps case at Cabot school

A staff member at Cabot Middle School North has been diagnosed with mumps.

Students and their parents were notified Monday, urging students to stay home if they’re sick. They were given information about the contagious disease from the Arkansas Department of Health, which recommends vaccinations.

“Our No. 1 goal is to make sure this does not spread and that the rest of our students, staff and faculty remain healthy. That’s why the district is being proactive and communicating as much information as possible with our students, staff, parents and patrons,” according to the Cabot School District’s announcement.

With more than 2,500 cases, Arkansas is among the states with the highest rates for mumps. Most states report fewer than 20 cases of mumps. Four states, including Louisiana, have none.

Mumps usually begins with flu-like symptoms often followed by brain infections, pancreatitis, permanent deafness and painful testicular swelling that can cause infertility. It is rarely fatal.

Adults are more likely than children to become very sick with mumps.

Mumps spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. There is no treatment for mumps, and it can cause long-term health problems.

More people are declining to vaccinate their children because of religious beliefs and philosophical views that claim, without evidence, that vaccines are not safe or effective.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman told The Leader on Tuesday this is the first case of mumps or any other contagious disease he can recall in the district.

“My recommendations (to parents and students) come directly from the health-care professionals that deal with this on a daily basis,” Thurman said.

“The Arkansas Department of Health recommends first and foremost to receive the MMR vaccine. Unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to get mumps than people with two doses of the MMR vaccine. The remaining recommendations include frequent hand washing and staying home if you are sick,” he said.

Thurman said school nurses can help parents make appointments to receive the MMR vaccine at the Cabot Health Department.

The state Health Department recommends students who have not been vaccinated for MMR and have been exposed to mumps at school should be absent for 26 days from the date of exposure until the outbreak has ended.

Not in this case though. “Since the adult (with mumps) was not in direct daily contact with any one group of students, we were not directed by ADH to exclude those students at CMSN that had not been immunized. If this had been a student, we could have been directed by ADH to excluded non-immunized students from school for a minimum of 26 days,” Thurman said.

The district’s letter to parents said, “The Arkansas Department of Health requires an individual with confirmed mumps to stay out of school until five days after they are no longer showing symptoms,”

The school district’s alert to parents reminds them to be aware of flu-like symptoms in their children that last 7 to 10 days: Fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, swollen glands under the ears or jaw.

“Custodial staff continues to be aggressive in sanitizing all surface areas that come in contact with our students. Most importantly, we are encouraging constant hand washing at all of our schools. Again, we want to stress if an individual is sick, please do not come to school,” the letter to parents said.

“If you have any questions or concerns, contact your local doctor, or our school nurses are always happy to assist in any way,” it continued.

“The best way to protect against mumps is to get the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine also protects against measles and rubella,” according to Health Department information Cabot students received Monday.

“The Arkansas Depart-ment of Health is asking that all children and adults get up-to-date with their MMR vaccine,” it said.

These are the recommended doses of the MMR vaccine:

• Children younger than 6 years of age need one dose of MMR vaccine at age 12 through 15 months and a second dose of MMR vaccine at age 4 through 6 years.

• If your child attends a preschool, where there is a mumps case, or if you live in a household with many people, your child should receive their second dose of MMR vaccine right away, even if they are not yet 4 years old.

• The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

• Your children age 7 through 18 years need two doses of MMR vaccine, if they have not received them already. The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

• If you are an adult born in 1957 or later and you have not had the MMR vaccine already, you need at least one dose.

• If you live in a household with many people or if you travel internationally, you need a second dose of MMR vaccine.

• The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

• Adults born before 1957 are considered to be immune to mumps and do not need to get the MMR vaccine.

The Health Department said mumps is mild in most children but can cause serious, lasting problems, including:

• Meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)

• Deafness (temporary or permanent)

• Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)

• Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached their puberty.

• Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty.