Friday, February 24, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers sneak past Jackrabbits

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team opened the 2017 season with an un-official exhibition win over Lonoke on Thursday, beating the Jackrabbits 9-8 in a close matchup.

The Panthers had to come from behind after giving up a run in the top of the first inning. They answered with three in the bottom of the first, and added two more in the second.

Lonoke then made it 5-2 in the fourth, and reclaimed the lead with a four-run fourth inning.

Cabot tied it in the bottom of the fourth without a base hit. Conner Linton and Caleb Harpole each walked with one out. Linton stole third before Logan Edmondson flied out to center field, allowing Linton to score after tagging up.

Zach Morris took the mound for Cabot in the fifth inning, and sat the Jackrabbits down in order.

Cabot got its first two batters on base in the bottom of the fifth when Clayton Gray walked and Blake McCutchen reached on a bunt that advanced Gray all the way to third base.

Houston King then grounded The Cabot baseball team opened the 2017 season with an un-official exhibition win over Lonoke on Thursday, beating the Jackrabbits 9-8 in a close matchup.

The Panthers had to come from behind after giving up a run in the top of the first inning. They answered with three in the bottom of the first, and added two more in the second.

Lonoke then made it 5-2 in the fourth, and reclaimed the lead with a four-run fourth inning.

Cabot tied it in the bottom of the fourth without a base hit. Conner Linton and Caleb Harpole each walked with one out. Linton stole third before Logan Edmondson flied out to center field, allowing Linton to score after tagging up.

Zach Morris took the mound for Cabot in the fifth inning, and sat the Jackrabbits down in order.

Cabot got its first two batters on base in the bottom of the fifth when Clayton Gray walked and Blake McCutchen reached on a bunt that advanced Gray all the way to third base.

Houston King then grounded out to first, but his sacrifice scored Gray and gave the Panthers the lead for good.

McCutchen later scored on a two-out single by Dillon Thomas that made it 8-6.

Lonoke got one back in the sixth when Dalton Smith drew a leadoff walk and later stole home.

Cabot got a rally going with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the sixth when Kyler Franks drew ball four on a full count.

Franks stole second base, and scored on a hard ground ball to left field by Gray that made the score 9-7.

Lonoke got a great start to the seventh inning when Casey Martin hit a leadoff triple down the third base line.

A fly ball to shallow center field wasn’t enough to score the runner, but Haven Hunter hit a ground ball single to center that made it 9-8.

After a line drive out to left, Tallon Swint reached on an error at short, putting the winning run on base and the tying run in scoring position with two outs.

After Hunter stole third, Smith grounded out to Thomas at third base to end the rally and the game.

Lonoke finished with six base hits to just four for Cabot, but the Panthers drew a whopping 12 walks.

Michael Shepherd started on the mound for Cabot, but Morris got the win in two innings of middle relief in the fifth and sixth innings.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe takes down LRCA

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Lady Badgers drew the dreaded four seed, but survived its first-round matchup in the 5A-Central District tournament to advance to next week’s state tournament in Magnolia.

The Lady Badgers didn’t get the slow, deliberate, defense-oriented pace they usually prefer, but they got the win nonetheless. Beebe gave up the second-most points it has all season, but countered that with its own highest point total, beating the Lady Warriors 64-53 Wednesday in Maumelle.

With the top three seeds in the tournament getting relatively easy first-round matches, the four vs. five game was the only intrigue in the first round as far as determining who will qualify for the 5A state tournament.

Beebe had faced LRCA (18-10) once before, and won a close game in the Beebe Christmas Classic back in December.

Wednesday’s game was also close throughout the first half. The Lady Badgers led just 21-20 at intermission, but outscored the Warriors 19-12 in the third period, and then posted 24 points in the fourth to win that quarter by three.

The 43 second-half points by Beebe was more than it had scored in nine other complete games.

Katie Turner, who missed the first two months of the season, led the Lady Badgers with 20 points. Libbie Hill added 17 and Marianna Richey scored 11.

“It was a tough game, but this marks the sixth year in a row that we’re going to the state tournament,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey.

Beebe (20-10) played a similar game against No. 1 seed Pulaski Academy in the second round on Thursday, but was on the opposite end of things.

The Lady Badgers were tied with the 28-2 Bruins at halftime, but gave up an 11-2 run to open the third quarter and eventually lost 50-36.

PA’s Morgan Wallace led the charge, and finished with a game high 21 points. Hill scored 13 for Beebe while Richey had 10.

The Beebe boys’ season ended Wednesday with a 54-36 loss to J.A. Fair. The War Eagles’ size was too much for the 14-13 Badgers.

There was no point in the game when Fair (17-11) went on a big run and put the game away. It was the gradual domination of the 6-foot-8 and 6-6 Bankston brothers, who controlled the middle against the Badgers, whose tallest player is 6-3.

The 6-8 Kris Bankston almost had a triple-double. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots. Kris Bankston had 12 points and six rebounds. Khyron Gilbert, a 6-2 guard, added 10 points for the War Eagles.

Almost all of the Badgers’ points came from two players. K.J. O’Neill led Beebe with 17 points while Brad Worthington added 16.

SPORTS STORY >> Lighthouse hammers Highlanders

Special to The Leader

Jacksonville Lighthouse advanced to the second round of the 2A West/Central regional tournament by easily defeating the Eureka Springs Highlanders by a final of 72-38 Thursday at Pangburn High School. Lighthouse (25-6) was in control the entire game, leading 23-6 after one quarter and outscoring the Highlanders (22-10) in every quarter except the last, in which the scoring was even.

“We shot the ball real well today,” said Jacksonville Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker. “I knew coming in that a lot of teams would probably play us zone because of our quickness. I’m looking forward to us shooting the ball well this whole tournament, because we’ve been having good practices shooting the ball. Once the shots start falling, it’s just like throwing rocks in a lake. The guys get their confidence like that.”

The Wolves jumped out to a 12-0 lead, and the first period was almost halfway over before Eureka Springs could score. Gerald Doakes had a pair of 3-pointers and a layup, and Cameron Shaffer scored an old-fashioned 3-point play under the basket during the opening run. Carter Drennon answered with two scores around the basket for the Highlanders.

Lighthouse stretched the lead to 20-4 on an offensive rebound putback and a three by Chris Mims and a steal and score layup by Shaffer. A pair of free throws was all Eureka Springs could manage the rest of the quarter, as they could not get any offense going against the Wolves’ defense.

Doakes hit his third 3-pointer from almost half court to beat the buzzer for the 23-6 opening period advantage.

The Highlanders did score first in the second frame, but Lighthouse kept the pressure on and kept hitting baskets, outscoring Eureka Springs 20-12. Eric Childs started the scoring with a shot in the lane, Zack Bobo and Davonte Davis each had a two and a 3-pointer, and Doakes sank yet another long three to end the half. The halftime lead was 43-18.

In the third quarter, the Wolves scored 21 points to 12 again for the Highlanders. Mims had a driving baseline layup, and Bobo had a free throw and layup for a 52-20 lead. Childs scored on two consecutive layups, was fouled on the third, and made one of the two ensuing free throws. He also had an offensive rebound put back of his own miss. Garrett Cross had five points in the period for Eureka, and the score at the end of three was 64-30.

Each team scored eight in the final frame. Lee Smith scored on a putback and a 3-point basket for Lighthouse. Courtney Jefferson was fouled in the lane and made one of two from the line, and Joshua McNair had an offensive rebound putback. JM Gregg had four of his team leading 15 points in the period for the Highlanders. Eureka did score the final four points of the game to set the final score of 72-38.

Doakes led Jacksonville Lighthouse in scoring with 20 points. Bobo contributed 12, Childs 10, and Shaffer and Mims had seven points each.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans run out on CAC

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team won an exhibition game 11-6 over Central Arkansas Christian on Thursday in North Little Rock. The Titans only got seven base hits, but showed patience at the plate in drawing 10 walks to supplement the hits.

The first two innings were scoreless, but Jacksonville posted four in the top of the third and controlled the action from there. The Titans led 11-2 until the Mustangs scored four in the bottom of the last innings.

Jordan Wickersham and Gabe Helsley drew back-to-back walks to lead off the top of the third for the Titans. Caleb Smith sacrificed the runners up and Trent Toney was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Wickersham scored on a wild pitch during Kameron Whitmore’s at-bat, and Whitmore drew another walk to load the bases again.

Caden Sample then stepped into the left-handed batters’ box and hit a two-run single to left field for a 3-0 Titan lead. Quentin Stallard then hit a sacrifice grounder that scored Whitmore to complete the rally.

CAC got two back in the bottom half of the same inning, but Jacksonville scored the next seven in a row to nearly invoke the mercy rule.

Peyton Williams reached on an error to start the fourth inning, and scored two batters later on an RBI by Foster Rash.

CAC fell apart in the top of the fifth, and Jacksonville posted four more runs on just one base hit. With one out, two walks followed a hit batter to load the bases. Back-to-back errors made it 7-2. Joe Cummings then singled up the middle to drive in two more runs and give the Titans a 9-2 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Toney and Whitmore hit consecutive one-out singles. After a double steal, Sample’s grounder to second scored Toney for a 10-2 lead.

In the seventh, Rash drew a leadoff walk and Wickersham walked with one out. Deboious Cobbs then singled to center to score Rash from second base.

CAC scored its four runs in the seventh off no hits, three walks and three hit batters.

Whitmore was the only player in the game with multiple base hits. He went 2 for 2 with one walk and one run scored. Sample had three RBIs.

Wickersham pitched the first two innings for the no decision. He gave up no hits, struck out four and walked two. Rash threw the third and fourth innings and picked up the win. Jayden Loving, Kyle Williams and Peyton Williams pitched one inning each for Jacksonville, each giving up one hit.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills makes it to state

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears played its second-consecutive game against Little Rock Chris-tian Academy on Wednesday, with a lot more riding on the outcome than in the Bears’ 65-56 overtime loss to the Warriors last Friday. Wednesday’s matchup in Maumelle was in the 5A-Central District tournament. A playoff berth was on the line, and the Bears seized it, beating the Warriors 56-50 to guarantee a spot in the 5A state tournament in Magnolia next week.

Things did not start well for the fifth-seeded Bears. LRCA jumped out and scored the first eight points of the game, but that was to be its largest lead of the contest. Sylvan Hills pulled to within 14-10 by the end of the first quarter, and a Jordan Washington free throw 80 seconds into the second quarter tied the game at 14.

The Bears took their first lead on a 3-pointer by Washington that made the score 19-17. LRCA reclaimed the lead with 1:47 left in the half, but Sylvan Hills controlled the third quarter and took a 38-31 lead into the fourth period.

Things changed dramatically and quickly after Taleh Wade scored with 7:05 left to put the Bears up 42-33. The Warriors turned on the full court pressure and were within five just 45 seconds later.

The two teams traded empty possessions and several missed free throws over the next few minutes. Justice Hill made a pair of free throws with 3:57 to go that put LRCA to within 45-42. After a Sylvan Hills turnover, Hill missed a pair of free throws. Sylvan Hills got the rebound, but Hill stole the ball and scored to make it a one-point game with 3:13 left on the clock.

J.D. Smith missed a short jumper for SH. LRCA’s Willie Chappel then made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:54 to play to tie the game at 45.

Sylvan Hills’ JacobĂ© Davis then made a pair of free throws and the Bears led the rest of the way. LRCA missed at the other end. Washington got the rebound and was fouled, but he missed both foul shots. LRCA missed again and Jamal Johnson got the rebound.

Hill stole the ball near midcourt but lost it. Smith picked it up and threw to Johnson who was alone at the time. As he went up for a transition dunk, Hill raced the length of the floor and fouled Johnson hard, sending him careening head first towards the floor.

After a few exchanged words, Johnson calmly made both free throws for a four-point Bears’ lead with 1:39 remaining.

LRCA missed again and the rebound went out of bounds. Smith was fouled with 59 seconds left and missed both shots. But the Warriors continued to be unable to find the range as time ran down. Hill’s missed 3-pointer was grabbed by Johnson.

Smith again went to the line for the Bears, and this time made both shots for a 51-45 lead with 47 seconds to go. But the game was not over yet.

LRCA’s Will Strickland finally made a long 3-pointer that made it a three-point game with 39 seconds to go, but that’s as close as the Warriors would get.

Sylvan Hills easily broke the Warriors’ press after a timeout. Johnson missed an open layup, but Smith was there for an easy putback with 30 tics to go.

The Bears lost 62-44 in the semifinals to No. 1 ranked Mills University Studies on Thursday in a game that was closer than the final score indicates.

It appeared early that the 27-1 Comets would run away, taking a 27-11 lead halfway through the second period. But the Bears rallied, and pulled to within nine by halftime.

Sylvan Hills (16-11) never got closer than eight, but didn’t trail by more than 12 again until a bizarre technical foul on Wade gave Mills a six-point possession with 3:57 left in the game.

The Comets made 3 of 4 free throws after the technical, and then made a 3-pointer that gave them an 18-point lead. The Bears played JA Fair on Friday after Leader deadlines to determine the three and four seeds.

TOP STORY >> County’s first cotton farmer

Elijah “Eli” Moses was an African American man who came from Marion County, S.C., born in November 1843, and was in Lonoke County paying taxes by 1885.

Prior to W.H. Fuller of Lonoke growing the first considerable size rice crop in this area, Moses believed the bottom land of Crooked Creek (six miles south of Lonoke) would raise rice as well as the bottomland of the Santee River of his native state, where rice was successfully grown on low alluvial lands. He had been raising rice for years.

Jack Noble, a white man living on Crooked Creek, had also been raising rice. Both men only raised small amounts, nothing compared to what Fuller later grew.

Both are mentioned in the book “The Beginnings of the Rice Industry” in Arkansas. Fuller was quoted as saying, “My seed I bought one bushel of Jack Novel (Nobel), who lives south of Seeton. There had been rice raised here in the timber for several years by Eli Moses and Jack Nobel, but not on the Prairie.”

Eli was mentioned in the The Oklahoma Farmer magazine on Oct. 31, 1906.

“Eli Moses, a prosperous negro farmer of Lonoke County, had for several years experimented with rice culture, and had found the soil particularly adaptable to its successful cultivation. His success attracted the attention of W.P. Fletcher, a wealthy planter, whose extensive land holding in Prairie Longue region made him greatly interested in the matter,” the article said.

“Fletcher had enough political influence to obtain a congressional appropriation sufficient to pay for a careful investigation of the subject by the Department of Agriculture. An experiment station was established and, from the results, Arkansas now had a new source of wealth,” according to the article.

According to a local newspaper report on Nov. 21, 1912: “Eli Moses sold $3,000 worth of rice recently. His land is watered from Bayou Meto. He was the first rice grower in this section. He raised the first rice in a small way for his own table, 15 years earlier.

In 1927, Moses owned 183 acres of land in Lonoke County. He is listed on the 1920 census living in the house with his son James. The Arkansas Death Index shows Moses died March 28, 1929.

The Museum Research Center of Lonoke County has tried for years to find relatives to obtain a picture of Moses and to locate his place of burial.

Two local historians, Rusty Eisenhower and R.D. Keever, searched through the overgrown Lemmons Cemetery, where Moses’ wife, Eliza E. Moses, is buried. If he is buried there, his grave is not marked.

Any descendants of Moses’ who have additional information are asked to call the museum at 501-676-6750 or e-mail

TOP STORY >> Spouses make a difference in Air Force

Leader staff writer

Brittany Boccher, an Air Force spouse, believes one person can make a difference. And she’s living proof.

Boccher has been chosen as Little Rock Air Force Base Military Spouse of the Year for the second time. She has been recognized as one of the top 18 Military Spouses of the Year by Military Spouse magazine. The top 18 come from the six branches of the military.

Boccher is in the top three for the Air Force. An overall winner will be announced at a luncheon held May 12 in Arlington, Va.


“We had some really wonderful individuals competing for Little Rock. It’s an honor,” Boccher said. “It’s a very humbling experience to be the representative for the spouses at the base, and I really try to utilize that title and what comes with it to reach out to spouses, get their opinion on things, what they’re wanting to see changed or improved and really be the active voice for them.”

Making it to the top 18 was a surprise for Boccher. “If you read any of the profiles, there are some exceptional spouses that are doing phenomenal things throughout the Air Force, and they all have different platforms,” she said.

Boccher’s platform is special needs families. She has a son with Down syndrome.

“It’s important to me to see those programs improve, because I believe there’s always room for improvement in any program,” she said.

Boccher says she was nominated by three individuals. “One was a fellow spouse two were colleagues, friends,” she said. “Most of it is because of the work that I’ve done not only at the spouses club, but I’m also the active parent liaison for EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) so I’ve really put myself out there for special needs families. Outside of the military community I’m extremely active in the Down syndrome community here in Arkansas.”

She says she feels it’s important to garner relationships outside of the gate and to build that community that supports Little Rock AFB. “I tie in my work with the Down syndrome community with the base in the exceptional family member program and try to really marry those two together,” she said. “So that’s, I’m assuming, how I was nominated this year.”

Boccher looks forward to the town hall and award luncheon in May.

“The town hall is an amazing opportunity not only to discuss platforms with other spouses and get networking and feedback on what they’re doing at their installations,” she said. “You get to meet individuals who can help you open doors or give you the names of people you need to pursue for your specific platform. I can tell you the Military Spouse of the Year program, as a whole, has really made my voice heard over being Brittany Boccher that’s just pounding at the door because I want a therapeutic special needs swing for children, versus saying ‘I’m Brittany Boccher. I’m president of the spouses club and I’m Military Spouse of the Year and I really want to see this get done.’ It’s just really provided me the voice. I already had the foundation and the platform but it’s opened those doors for me.”

The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® award presented by Military Spouse magazine was founded in 2008 by Military Spouse magazine and Victory Media. Since 2012, the title sponsor has been Armed Forces Insurance.


Boccher was approached last May about becoming president of the Little Rock Spouses Club. “The spouses club was in jeopardy of closing about a year ago,” she said. “I took over in May of last year and we had zero members. We’re at about 90 members now. We’re going strong. We’re really growing and making an impact on base. We’re becoming more relevant on base. People realize we have a club again and what we’re doing is not just social effort. A majority of our job is welfare and scholarships. Philanthropy work is what we do.”

She says serving as president was fitting for her as she holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management. “I knew how to come in and really save it from where it was. The board of directors that I have is phenomenal. I have people with marketing experience, social media experience, communications, fundraising, not just people who want to fill a seat on the board,” she said. “I have active military spouses who have education and experience, which will probably never happen again, to have this type of board dynamic, and we came together and pulled it out of the mud. We have it thriving. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve been able to do with it without the team of board members because they all bring a very specific niche to the team. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

The group raised $10,000 in in-kind contributions and financial donations during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons for Stuff the Pantry. “The food pantry on base was bare, and we actually stuffed that pantry to maximum capacity to where they couldn’t even take any more items,” she said. “We didn’t know it was going to be that successful. My welfare coordinator Katie Gomez really was the lead of that. She knocked it out of the park. We just did what she needed us to do.”

The group also helps with the Backpack Brigrade program and the Airman’s Attic. The club helped the base schools get pollinator gardens and physical education equipment. They also run a thrift store on base that funds the group’s scholarship program. This year around $15,000 in scholarships will be awarded to active-duty spouses and active-duty dependant high school seniors.

Boccher is active in her community and tries to encourage military spouses to do three things.

Embrace the military life. “It’s one of those if I knew then what I know now. Then, almost 12 years ago I dug my feet it,” she said. “I didn’t want to move I didn’t want to give up my job, friends, family, all of that. I probably said a hundred times I just want to go home. The whole time I was home, I was with my husband, but that’s not what I could see. So I encourage them to embrace the military life.”

Embrace the community and military community. “They’re such a welcoming community outside the gate,” Boccher said. “They’re very supportive. They provide resources for us, and the community on base. Really open up, make friends. Put yourself out there. Normally the way it works is you’re two years in, you get those orders and you’re like ‘I just started making friends.’”

Embrace the opportunities the military affords to military spouses. “There are way more opportunities than people are probably aware of, and it’s just the opportunity to learn about those opportunities, and really seeking those opportunities because they’re there,” she said. “That’s really my goal on the spouse side, is to help them in those three stages, to see where they can fit in and how they can grow.”


Boccher and her husband have a son and a daughter. Their son, 2, has Down syndrome.

There are around 350 to 400 special needs families at the base, according to Boccher.

“All bases are going to have families with exceptional needs. Some bases are better equipped to handle families with exceptional needs, which is why you’re kind of filtered to specific areas,” she said. “This area is where a lot of children are because of the children’s hospital and the ability for services.”

Boccher says she believes the military doesn’t want to see a family be stationed at an installation where they don’t have adequate resources. “The active-duty spouse is unable to do their job effectively and efficiently because they’re concerned about their family and the resources they need,” she said. “The EFMP is there to ensure the family has the resources they need so the active duty member can fulfill their duty and their work and not have to worry so much about their family.”

Boccher and her husband, Adam, a special agent for Air Force Office of Special Investigations, have founded a nonprofit called the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition. The group will work to build relationships with other Down syndrome organizations in central Arkansas.

“That is our philanthropy work outside of the base,” she said. “I’m the founder and president. This is the first year to be fully active. We’re building our membership right now. We have plans on fundraising to eventually get a Gigi’s Playhouse in central Arkansas.”

Gigi’s Playhouse is an organization designed specifically for those with Down syndrome. The organization provides resources such as math tutoring, literacy programs, life skill programs, new parent outreach, dad and mom groups. It hits really everything from social to physical, having a playground that’s equipped for children with Down syndrome, as well as the education component and the social and life skills preparedness.”

Gigi’s Playhouse, while primarily for those with Down syndrome, will also be able to be utilized by others with disabilities. It will be a free service to the community.

Arkansas has a clinic for adults with Down syndrome and Arkansas Children’s Hospital will soon have a pediatric Down syndrome clinic, according to Boccher.

“Not only will this be the first state in the U.S. to have both of those clinics, we’re talking about them being miles apart from each other,” she said. “This is really going to draw a lot of the Down syndrome community and family from surrounding states because it’s all going to be in one place. We’ll have a vast amount of resources for people. The coalition that I’ve founded will help all of the small organizations that are really pounding the pavement and say ‘let’s work together and join forces and really help you get your specific mission done’ instead of other people trying to recreate what’s already being done.”

The coalition hopes to launch a website next month. The group is “waiting on a few more legal things to come in and then we’ll be ready to launch it,” Boccher said. “Right now we’re kind of doing the behind the scenes. We’re actively working. We have our board of directors built. We’re really excited about that.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbit girls give CAC tough time in final

Leader sports editor

What was shaping up to be a thrilling showdown between the best player in the state and one of the best all-around athletes was ruined by officiating when the Lady Jackrabbits met Central Arkansas Christian in Stuttgart on Saturday in the championship game of the 4A-2 District tournament.

CAC won the game 55-47, but did not pull away until the waning moments, finishing the game on an 8-0 run over the last 1:47 of play.

The first half featured one player from each team putting on a show of highlight reel plays.

CAC’s 6-foot sophomore guard Christyn Williams, who is being recruited by NCAA women’s dynasty UCONN, and Lonoke’s Keiunna Walker were unstoppable.

Lonoke (17-8) took a 30-28 lead into intermission, but Walker went into the locker room with two fouls, while Williams had only one.

Williams had 19 of her team’s 28 points, as well as four rebounds and three steals. Walker scored 23 first-half points, and added two rebounds and two steals.

But Walker was hit with her third and fourth fouls less than three minutes into the second half. She took a seat on the bench until five minutes were left in the game, and was fouled out just a few moments later. Williams was not called for another foul the rest of the game.

The third foul call on Walker was controversial, as most present at Stuttgart High thought it should have been a charge on Williams. The fourth foul, Lonoke coach Heath Swiney did not take issue with.

“She fouled, and it wasn’t a smart foul because it was 70 feet from the goal,” said Swiney. “What I was most proud of, though, was how we played toe-to-toe with them the whole second half without Keiunna out there. We executed extremely well. We were patient and we got the open looks we were looking for. We just missed a few down the stretch, and that happens.”

Lonoke trailed 33-31 when Walker picked up her fourth foul and sat down, but CAC could not pull away. CAC tried to take immediate advantage of Walker’s absence, and went to its press that hurt Lonoke so much in their previous meeting at the Gina Cox Center.

It didn’t work this time, and the game went into the fourth quarter tied at 39 apiece.

Mia Brown opened the fourth quarter with a nifty pass to Kaley Woodruff, who scored on a backdoor layup for a 41-39 Lonoke lead. After a CAC miss, Maddie Pool hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 42-39 Lonoke lead.

CAC (27-2) missed again and Kennedy White got the rebound, but Williams thwarted a chance to extend the lead. She got a steal and passed to Jenna Davis for a layup. She then got another steal, and this time took it the length of the court herself for a layup that put the Lady Mustangs ahead 43-42 with 5:10 left in the game.

After a Woodruf miss went out of bounds, Williams scored again for a 45-42 lead and Walker finally re-entered with 4:20 remaining.

She scored just 20 seconds later, but Williams answered right back to make it 47-44 with 3:40 to go.

Walker was hacked at the other end with no call, but a series of misses at both ends left the score 47-44 until Woodruff hit another 3-pointer with 1:58 remaining to tie the game.

They were the last Lonoke points of the game.

After Davis’ layup gave CAC a 49-47 lead with 1:47 left, a series of Lonoke possessions ended in missed shots, and CAC made six-consecutive free throws down the stretch to set the final margin.

Williams finished with 34 points and nine rebounds. Davis added 11 for CAC. Walker led Lonoke with 27 points.

Both teams will take part in the 4A-East Regional this week in Cave City. CAC will host District 3’s fourth-place team, Harrisburg, at 4 p.m. today. Lonoke will face Highland at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

Other first-round games include eStem Charter taking on Cave City, and Pocahontas facing Heber Springs. First-round winners qualify for the Class 4A state tournament to be held next week in Nashville.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS Titans overcome bad seed, make state

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans saved their season Tuesday in the losers’ bracket of the 6A-East District tournament, hammering Searcy 90-53 at JHS and qualifying for the Class 6A state tournament.

The 16-14 Titans were favored over the 8-20 Lions, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner wasn’t comfortable until the game was completely in hand midway through the third quarter.

“It was just an eerie feeling all day,” said Joyner. “It’s just a strange situation. Then you get to the gym and it’s not packed or anything like it usually is. We’re playing at 6 O’clock. Just everything was different and felt eerie, and then we knew we had to win or it was over. So I’m just glad we got the win. We’re in state now no matter what, and getting there is the thing. Anything can happen once you’re there.”

The win sets up a Saturday date with either Pine Bluff or Mountain Home, who played each other late Tuesday.

Jacksonville started sloppy, but got better after their best play sat down with three fouls midway through the second quarter.

Jacksonville was up 20-16 when leading scorer Tyree Appleby got his second and third fouls in a five-second span and had to take a seat on the bench.

From that point, the Titans scored the next 11 points in a row, and closed the last half of the second quarter by outscoring Searcy 24-7 to take a 44-23 lead into intermission.

The onslaught continued in the third period, as the Titans posted 23 points in just four minutes of play. Appleby opened the quarter with a reverse layup just nine seconds in. He then got a steal and dished to DaJuan Ridgeway for a layup and a 48-23 lead.

After a Searcy miss, Ridgeway got the rebound. He passed to Appleby, who passed to Caleb Kendrick, who hit a 3-pointer for a 51-23 just one minute into the third.

The lead was 53-28 moments later when Jacksonville scored six-straight in rapid succession. It started with an Appleby pass to Chris Williams for a backdoor layup. Williams then got a steal and another layup.

Searcy fired a quick three and missed. Joe Phillips got the rebound for the Titans, threw an outlet pass to Ridgeway, who returned the favor and hit Phillips for a dunk as he trailed the ball. That gave the Titans a 59-28 lead with 5:20 left in the third.

Tony Young hit a 3-pointer for Searcy, but Jacksonville got right back on a roll.

After a Jacksonville miss, Ridgeway got a steal and hit Phillips for an alley-oop. Appleby then got a steal and lobbed his own oop to Phillips for a 63-31 lead.

Searcy threw the ball away on the ensuing possession and Appleby scored to make it 65-31 with 4:31 left in the third period.

Jacksonville carried a 77-45 lead into the fourth quarter and the mercy rule went into effect.

Ridgeway led the Titans with 16 points while Chris Williams scored 14 and had 10 rebounds. Appleby and HD Martin scored 13 apiece. Ridgeway, Appleby and Martin all had five steals as Jacksonville forced 27 Searcy turnovers.

The Lady Titans saw their season come to an end in their tournament game at Searcy, The Jacksonville girls led 28-27 at halftime, but suffered a terrible third quarter, getting outscored 26-7 and eventually losing 67-53.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills girls close with crucial victory

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears traveled to Little Rock Friday night for a 55-53 victory over the Little Rock Christian Academy Lady Warriors in the last regular season game.

It was an important game for conference tournament seeding purposes, and gave the Lady Bears the number three seed in the next weeks event in Maumelle.

The loss gives the Lady Warriors the number five seed. Sylvan Hills finished the regular season with a record of 17-9 overall, 9-5 in conference play, and will have played Mills on Tuesday in the tournaments opening round. Parkview and Pulaski Academy are seeded one and two, and Beebe fourth.

The opening quarter was close throughout, with Sylvan Hills holding a 1-point edge at the end. The lead stretched to six at the half, and ten at the end of three quarters.

Little Rock Christian went on a run in the final quarter, even taking a 1-point lead before the Lady Bears took the lead back with a 2-pointer and set the final with a free throw.

“Our main objective was to cut our turnovers in half,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “We came into this game, and we had four turnovers in three quarters, or maybe three. So we were really proud of that. We came back out in the fourth quarter and went from a 14-point spread to a 3-point game because we had four or five turnovers right there in a row. Turnovers have been probably the most inconsistent with our young team, that we just can’t seem to calm down. So, I was proud of them for that. I thought they did better tonight. We had eight turnovers tonight, but it’s better than 22, and that’s what we had at Little Rock Hall. I think they are getting better, and it’s the right time of the year to get better.”

Adrianne Chambers started the game scoring with a pair from the line for the Lady Warriors. Jayla Bell answered with a 3-point basket for Sylvan Hills, followed by a lay-up by Aaliyah Bynum as the Lady Bears broke the Little Rock Christian press.

Chambers scored twice more, but Bell had an offensive rebound put back to give Sylvan Hills the 7-6 lead halfway through the opening quarter. Aspyn Satterwhite gave the lead back to the Lady Warriors with a three, but Bell sank two free throws to tie. Andrea Dolphin scored on a transition layup for the Lady Bears, was fouled, and sank the and-one free throw.

Bynum scored again, and Bell hit a 3-pointer for the last points of the period. Satterwhite had sunk another 3-point basket for Little Rock Christian, and the score was 17-16 Sylvan Hills at the end of one.

The Lady Bears outscored the home team 9-2 to start the second frame. The Lady Warriors then scored a two, but Mallory Kimble scored a layup for Sylvan Hills. Raegan Bradley scored in the lane for Little Rock Christian, but the Lady Bears led 28-22 at the half.

Again, Sylvan Hills came out strong in the third, scoring the first seven points. Alana Canady started the scoring with a driving layup, and Kimble scored a layup on a run-out the length of the floor and added the plus-one free throw. The lead grew to 14 at one point, but a couple of 3-point baskets by the Lady Warriors helped cut the lead to 44-34 at the end of the third quarter.

Bradley cut it to eight with a two, Canady had an old-fashioned 3-point play for Sylvan Hills, but a steal and layup by Satterwhite and another two by Bradley cut the lead to seven points. After a Canady free throw, Bradley scored again, Satterwhite sank another three and the lead was only three at 48-45.

Canady scored under the basket, but a score by Jaylen McGowen and a three by Bradley tied the score at 50-50 at just over the four-minute mark. Lainie Ballard rebounded her own miss and scored for the Lady Bears, but Satterwhite gave Little Rock Christian the lead with another 3-pointer. Canady got the lead back for Sylvan Hills with a floater in the lane.

On the ensuing Lady Warrior possession, the ball was tied up by the Lady Bear defense to get the ball back. Kimble was fouled and sank one of the double bonus free throws to set the final score of 55-53.

Little Rock Christian had one more shot from the corner, but it fell short.
Bell, Bynum and Canady each had 12 points for Sylvan Hills, and Kimble added 11. Satterwhite and Bradley each scored 14 for the Lady Warriors, while Chambers had 12 points.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates OT to beat Bryant

Leader sports editor

A wildly exciting fourth quarter led to overtime, and Cabot’s defense made overtime anti-climactic. The Panthers pitched a shutout in the extra four minutes, and avenged a stinging loss from earlier this season by beating Bryant 61-53 at Panther Arena on Friday.

Immediately following the game, Cabot coach Jerry Bridges didn’t even realize that Bryant didn’t score a single point in overtime, but did know his defense played well.

“I think our defense stepped up in the second half and overtime,” said Bridges. “And that had to happen because they were beating us. Their pressure was hurting us and we got behind. And I think our big men got back on track and gave us a lift. That was important.”

Most teams this season have focused their defensive efforts on stopping the Panthers’ inside game.

On Friday, Bryant chose to defend the whole floor, leaving Matt Stanley and Logan Gilbertson with some one-on-one situations, instead of collapsed double- and sometimes triple-team situations. They took advantage.

The duo combined for more than half of the team’s points. Stanley finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Bryant forced 12 Cabot turnovers, including nine steals, and took a 30-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Cabot started handling the pressure in the second half. The first two possessions ended in layups by Jarrod Barnes and Jalen Brown, forcing Bryant to call a quick timeout just 54 seconds into the third period. It didn’t help much, at least right away.

Bryant turned the ball over and Gilbertson got another layup to make it 30-26 less than 90 seconds into the third.

Bryant (16-9, 5-17) scored the next three points, and then forced two more turnovers, but the Hornets couldn’t take advantage. Bryant’s Braylen Steen bricked back-to-back layups after Cabot turnovers. Stanley then converted a 3-point play to make it 33-29.

With four minutes to go in the third. Brown made a 3-pointer that pulled Cabot to within one point.

Steen then scored, but Duncan answered at the other end with an up-and-under layup after driving from the right wing.

Stanley posted up for a basket with 1:50 left in the quarter to give Cabot its first lead since early in the first quarter. It was also the last points of the third, and the Panthers led 36-35 going into the fourth.

The Panthers stretched it to a five-point lead for the second time in the quarter when Stanley scored with exactly two minutes remaining to make the score 51-46.

Cabot (19-4, 9-3) had opportunities to extend it even further, but blew some opportunities at the free-throw line.

After another missed layup by Steen, Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hornet Calvin Allen followed that with a 3-pointer that made it 51-49 with 1:15 to go.

Gilbertson scored just 10 seconds later, and Bryant threw the ball away to give possession back to Cabot.

The Hornets then sent Stanley to the line, and he also missed the front end of a one-and-one with 45 seconds to go.

Bryant missed from long range, but Steen got the rebound and putback to make it a two-point game with 29 seconds to go. Allen then stole the ball from Duncan, and Cabot fouled Steen, who hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game with 20 tics remaining.

Cabot got two shots off before the buzzer, but Brown missed from 3-point range, and Stanley’s putback attempt from behind the backboard failed, sending the game into overtime.

Neither team scored for the first half of overtime, but Cabot finally got a break. Allen knocked the ball loose from Brown, but it hit a defender and bounced right back to him.

With most players converging on the ball in the lane, Brown snatched it up and passed to Duncan, who was all alone in the right corner. Duncan made the 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:50 remaining.

Neither team scored again for more than a minute. Bryant’s #4 got a steal, but his court-length pass was stolen right back by Gilbertson, who had hustled down the court after the Cabot turnover.

He got the ball to Stanley under the Cabot goal, and Stanley scored and was fouled. His free throw, with 44 seconds left, gave Cabot a 59-53 lead. Bryant couldn’t find the range again, and was forced to foul after Panther rebounds.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther wins second title

Leader sports editor

Tim Wooten of Rogers Heritage showed dramatic improvement from a year ago, but not enough to come close to knocking off the defending state wrestling champion in the 220-pound division. Cabot senior Harris Sutton completed a perfect season as the defending champ, and after his 13-4 major decision victory over Wooten on Saturday, is still the reigning champ in that category.

Sutton won the title last year and finished with a record of 28-3. This year he finished 45-0 after dominating all but one of his matches in last weekend’s state tournament at UALR’s Jack Stephens Center.

Wooten finished fourth last year with an overall record of 30-22. He entered the championship bout with Sutton this year 54-6. Like Sutton, he won his first three matches by fall, and like Sutton, won a narrow decision in the semifinals. But he was no match for the Cabot champ.

Sutton brushed off his first three opponents in less than two minutes each. He beat Catholic’s Brandon Dobbins in just 1:26. Next, it took just 20 seconds longer for him to fell Jonesboro’s Bruce Heard. In the third round of action, Sutton faced Kendall Doctorello of Benton, and ended him in just 40 seconds.

Springdale’s Cree Gonzalis went the distance with Sutton, but the defending champion won 5-3, setting up the championship bout with Wooten.

Sutton was the only member of Cabot’s otherwise youthful team to make it to the finals and finish in the top six, but that wasn’t the case for Beebe.

The Badgers finished sixth overall in the Class 1A-5A competition, and though they didn’t win any individual championships, placed seventh in the final round.

Karter Warner, who finished ifth in the 145-pound division last year, came up short of a state championship when he lost in the semifinals, but won the third-place match.

Warner was the two seed entering the tournament, but he and No. 1 seed Daniel Symons of Greenbrier were upset in the semifinals. Warner then beat Symons for the first time in his career, 9-2, for third place.

“His expectation this weekend was to win it all,” said Beebe coach Jerry Price. “Sometimes it just falls a little short. But he has exceeded expectations all year as far as I’m concerned. He has matured a lot as a wrestler and a person.”

Price detailed the frustrating way in which he lost 3-2 to Kris Grile of Berryville in the semifinals.

“He caught a bad break in the semis,” Price said of Grile’s unwillingness to engage after he got an early lead, “He was down a couple of points and suddenly he got a runner. He got a kid that didn’t want to wrestle, just backing and running. I wish maybe they would’ve called a stall warning earlier. They finally called him for it towards the very end, but by then it was too late.”

Jaden Webb entered as the three seed in the 113-pound division, also finished third after defeating Chance Mahan of Hot Springs Lakeside 9-3.

Five other Badgers won fifth-place matches, including 120-pounder Dylan Winspear, 126-pounder Zach Dixon, 132-pounder Payton Free, 138-pounder Justin Jackson and Noah Merced of the 160-pound weight class.

All that was despite a round of influenza that raced through the team before and during the tournament.

“We got hit pretty hard with the flu,” Price said. “We lost one Thursday morning. We lost a heavyweight Friday. They would’ve scored some points. And we had a couple get sick while we were there. I don’t know if it would’ve been enough to bump us up, but it had an impact.

“Overall I’m pleased. Everybody we got to the last round won their matches, so we closed it out strong.”

EDITORIAL >> Reforming probation

The state legislature could pass a bill as early as this week that will protect people on probation in district courts from being sexually exploited by their probation officers.

In the last several months, probation officers in Cabot and Ward have allegedly pressured women under their authority to exchange sexual favors for good probation reports.

State law does not specifically prohibit probation officers from engaging in sex with probationers in the way it does law-enforcement officers, judges and prison guards and others who have custody of inmates and prisoners. That shouldn’t mean probation officers are free to have sex with people who have been ordered by the court to meet with them regularly.

That’s worse than inappropriate. Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and state Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) have teamed up to close the loophole. Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham has also advocated changing the law.

Williams and Farrer last week told The Leader’s John Hofheimer that their colleagues at the Capitol support their plan put forward in House Bill 1453 titled, “Prohibiting Sexual Conduct Between Probation or Parole Officer and a Person Being Supervised on Probation, Parole or Other Court-ordered Reason.”

The most recent accusations of sexual abuse by a probation officer involve Mark Brooke, who is alleged to have rendezvoused with three women under his supervision while working as a probation officer for Ward District Court.

Brooke is the son of Ward Mayor Art Brooke and is also a part-time pastor. The arrest has raised issues about nepotism. The mayor transferred his son to the city’s street department after a few days’ of paid leave following the arrest.

Ward District Judge Clint McGue immediately fired the younger Brooke as a probation officer, but the judge has no authority to intervene in the transfer.

No father should have to fire his son. Mark Brooke should do the right thing and resign from his city job. Residents are angry about the allegations, and he may be welcome to return to work after his court case is complete if he is found innocent.

Much of the alleged salaciousness is said to have taken place during working hours, all the more reason to end his employment with the city.

The case against him appears solid. The sheriff heard from two women who say they had been propositioned by Brooke.

The first woman to come forward claims she had sex with him several times in exchange for good probation reports and reduced community service.

The second woman claimed she also had sex with him for community-service credit. She alleges that Brooke told her he had other women arrested who made allegations against him. Investigators have documented that he took one of the women to a motel in North Little Rock to engage in sexual activity.

Then an undercover sheriff’s deputy — posing as a recently convicted probationer — conducted a sting operation, the likes of which we hope to never have to report on again.

The undercover deputy told Brooke she was a stripper, and the trap was set.

The mayor, before the arrest of his son, had said he will not run for re-election. The longtime public servant deserves to end his career focusing on Ward’s precipitous growth and the natural challenges posed by its population boom.

The mayor, and the public, would be served well by the departure of his progeny.

Ward should learn from Cabot’s response from a similar scandal.

Last spring, State Police arrested Jeffery Everetts of Batesville, a contracted probation officer who worked for Cabot District Court, for felony third-degree attempted sexual assault against a woman in his oversight.

Everetts’ company’s city contract was terminated, and Cabot hired a new agency to provide probation services.

Mark Brooke should be considered lucky to have so far avoided felony charges. If additional charges are filed against him in Pulaski County, where the alleged abuse took place, they very well could be felonies.

Let’s hope the proposed legislation will call for more serious charges in similar cases in the future.

Everetts’ trial was scheduled to start this week in Lonoke County Circuit Court, but it has been pushed back. Mark Brooke is set to have a plea and arraignment hearing on March 20 in Lonoke County Circuit Court. That was also previously rescheduled.

The scandals have damaged the public’s trust in the district courts’ authority and integrity.

TOP STORY >> Balance tips at senior center

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center will hold classes to help older adults improve their balance.

The eight-week program will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays starting March 20 through May 8. The location is yet to be determined. It is free to senior center members. Membership at the senior center costs $20 a year. To register for the program, call Connie Evans or Christy McMillon at 501-982-7531.

“The Focus on Balance program is in a classroom setting. People learn about the importance of balance. They will share stories. It has an exercise program that goes with the class. Physical therapist Nancy Much, with Baptist Health Therapy Center in Jacksonville, will teach a class about things that effect balance and how to correct them,” the senior center’s activities instructor, Betty Seals, said.

Joyce Deeter of Jacksonville said she took the balance classes.

“I had a bad fall. I might not have fallen since I took the class,” Deeter said.


The senior center offers tai chi exercise classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Standing tai chi is at 9 a.m. and seated tai chi is held at 10:30 a.m.

Tai chi is a gentle exercise with fluid movements. Classes average 45 minutes.

“Tai chi helps with posture, breathing and flexibilities of joints. It is slow and encourages balance. People use it as a mediation time. The background music helps,” Seals said.

“It is very relaxing,” said Sue Stiles of Cabot.

“It is peaceful,” said Lucia Tamashiro of Jacksonville.

The senior center’s tai chi classes are specifically designed to improve arthritis. They have been offered for seven years.

“New members can start at any time, and we will catch them up. Any exercise is going to help with balance as you age,” Seals said.

“A couple years ago I fell from the bed. I broke my ankle and a bone in my foot. I could not stand. Exercising with Betty, I got back walking again. The pain has subsided, and I’m off the medications,” said Gladys O’Brien of Jacksonville.

Lee Kelley of Austin said his physical therapist told him to do tai chi. He practiced tai chi 10 years before.

“My balance improved tremendously. I don’t fall over,” Kelly said.

“I like it because it helps me a lot with my feet and legs. I was having trouble walking,” said Sylvia Ollar of Jacksonville.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Cabot doing great

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert gave the State of the City report and aldermen approved a bid for the Cabot Senior Citizens Center expansion during the city council meeting on Monday.

Cypert said, “There has been $275 million in development and redevelopment projects in Cabot since 2014. (In 2013, voters passed a one-cent sales tax to support a $42 million bond issue.)

“We have projects that are bubbling and being discussed. For the 19th largest city in Arkansas that is a phenomenal number. Cabot has a bright future. We are in a city that we all can be proud of,” Cypert said.

He said progress can be seen in the city with the opening of the new events center at the Veterans Park Community Center, the opening of the Sportsplex and Aquatic Park, the groundbreaking for a new Central Fire Station on South Second Street and Ritchie Road, the opening of the new Excel Ford dealership at Rockwood Road and the bid letting of the North Cabot Interchange. Construction is underway to connect Willie Ray Drive with Hwy. 38 by early 2019.

“The key thing is first time in the history of Cabot we strategically planned the intersection. The signals and controls are already there and paid for,” Cypert said.

Cabot Wastewater completed work on the Four Mile Creek pump station. The expansion of the community center exercise facility will be finished on March 1. The city also has a new fire truck and automated residential trash collection.

He said Cabot’s current estimated population is 25,587. The school district has 10,669 students including pre-K. The chamber of commerce has 425 members. Cabot has 1,131 business licenses and 10,070 water customers. It is the second safest large city in the state, according to 2015 FBI crime statistics. Unemployment is about 3.1-percent.

The mayor said in 2016 city sales tax revenue was up 5.79 percent. County sales tax revenue was up 1.08 percent. Advertising and Promotion tax revenue increased 6.29-percent. He said Cabot District Court improved revenues to $10 per filing with outsourcing probation services and reducing staff from six to four from nearly a loss of $10 revenue per filing in 2015.

Cypert highlighted the city’s assets. He said 40 percent of Cabot residents are connected to Little Rock Air Force Base. The National Guard Armory has a meeting facility. There are 465 Guard members in Lonoke County with a $17.9 million economic impact to the county.

Cabot is close proximity to world-class medical facilities, recreational lakes, fishing, deer hunting and duck hunting. Clay target sports facilities are in Jacksonville and at Remington Arms in Lonoke. Cabot has one of the top BMX bike tracks in the central United States.

“Cabot has water and wastewater capacity well through this century. It has sound water and wastewater infrastructure with long-term capacity, strategic plans and funding,” Cypert said.

Cabot is “a caring and volunteering community with pride,” the mayor told the city council.

It has the potential for development and annexation within the Cabot WaterWorks service area. It has a state-of-the-art public library. It has one of the best school districts in the county comparable in size per capita of students. There are over 30 churches within city limits.

“We have progressive animal services. I’m proud of the fact we have a very low euthanasia rate of 3.5-percent in 2016,” Cypert said.

Construction started on a new dog park to open later this year.

A town-hall meeting will be held 7 p.m. April 4 at the new event center.

The city council adopted a resolution accepting the $106,349 bid submitted by Floyd Parker Construction for Phase I of the Cabot Senior Citizens Center renovations of the old public library on Grant Street. Construction will start within 90 days.

Floyd Parker Construction of Benton was the lowest bidder. The seniors center has outgrown its current 4,000 square foot building at 600 N. Grant St. and will be moving into the 8,000 square foot former library next door at 506 N. Grant St. Clements and Associates Architecture of North Little Rock is the designer.

Phase I includes adding five offices and four cubical spaces for employees where the adult section of the library was located. It will require building interior walls, paint and flooring.

Phase II, where the children’s section of the library was located, will include the construction of the kitchen and dining room. It has not been put out for bids yet.

The renovations will be completed by the end 2017.