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Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in Navy's sights

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Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in Navy's sights

By Arnie Stapleton AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Another wild overtime finish in the Navy-Air Force rivalry. Only, this time, the Midshipmen came out on top in their quest to regain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Navy beat Air Force 28-21 on Saturday when right guard Jake Zuzek recovered freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds' fumbled snap in the end zone. "I had no clue he had fumbled the ball," Zuzek said. "I just saw it when I was on the bottom of the pile. I wasn't letting it go for anything." After the weird touchdown, defensive end Wes Henderson knocked down Connor Dietz's pass on fourth-and-6 from the 21 to seal Navy's win, a significant first step in the Midshipmen's quest to regain the trophy that represents superiority among the three service academies. "Last year was so painful to see the seniors go out like that. To win like this is really indescribable," Henderson said. "It's probably one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life." Last year's game also went to overtime in Annapolis, Md., with Air Force prevailing 35-34 thanks to a controversial call. Officials ruled a touchdown celebration by Navy went overboard, and penalized the Midshipmen for unsportsmanlike conduct. The long conversion attempt from 35 yards was blocked by Alex Means. Then, the Falcons scored, and Parker Herrington added the conversion to give Air Force the wild win. Herrington had the chance to win it again this time, but his 51-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired in regulation. It was his second miss of the afternoon and fifth in six tries this season for the senior. After starting the season with blowout losses to Notre Dame and Penn State and then getting shut out by San Jose State at home last week, Navy (2-3) needs only to beat Army on Dec. 8 to regain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy that the Falcons (2-3) have had in their possession the last two years. Dietz said he was confident the Falcons would match Navy's touchdown in overtime because "we had only stopped ourselves the whole game." They had lost fumbles on three straight drives and blew a late eight-point lead in the second half with Navy's starting quarterback sidelined with an ankle injury. "This game never should have been this close," Means said. "It's football, you never know," Dietz said. "Obviously, I think we missed a lot of opportunities, I'll say that. But, you have to give them credit. You let somebody hang around, it never ends up good." Cody Getz rushed for 204 yards and a score, becoming the first Air Force player to post three 200-yard games in one season. He is the second Mountain West Conference running back to do that, joining San Diego State's Larry Ned (2001). It wasn't enough to keep the Midshipmen from celebrating wildly on Air Force's field -- and in the coaches' box adjacent to the press box, where some salty language reverberated loudly after Henderson's pass deflection sealed Navy's wild win. "Things have looked bleak, not just in this game, but in this year," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "But our guys just continue to fight. "Last year, I thought our loss kind of put us in a tailspin. I'm hoping this is the reverse. I'm hoping this game will propel us to some good things the rest of the year." The 9:40 a.m. kickoff was the earliest in Falcon Stadium history, and the Falcons slumbered their way through much of the game, wasting opportunity after opportunity with fumbles and foibles aplenty. Air Force scored on its first possession but didn't get into the end zone again until Getz burst up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown that gave Air Force a 14-10 lead with 37 seconds left in the third quarter. Navy quarterback Trey Miller rushed for 110 yards before hurting his left ankle on a scramble on third-and-9 with just under 10 minutes remaining. He was helped off the field, and freshman Nick Sloan kicked a 41-yard field goal to make it a one-point game. The Falcons struck back quickly, needing just two plays and 28 seconds to score when Dietz pitched to wide receiver Dontae Strickland, who pulled up and hit Drew Coleman in stride for a 54-yard strike that made it 21-13. Reynolds replaced Miller at quarterback for Navy and capped a 75-yard drive with a 15-yard keeper for the score with 6:35 remaining. Then, Noah Copeland took the pitch and slipped Miles Fisher's tackle in the backfield, diving just inside the left pylon for the 2-point conversion that tied it at 21. Reynolds and Miller both completed each of their three passes, marking just the second perfect passing day in the program's history. Coleman caught four passes for 106 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown toss from Dietz four snaps into the game, with ice falling onto the field from the television camera zip lines, and ground fog rolling off the turf as it warmed. Nothing else would come easy the rest of the half as the Falcons missed a chip-shot field goal, lost three straight fumbles, and then failed to take full advantage of the clock at the end of the second quarter. They finished with a healthy 261 yards of offense but a 10-7 halftime deficit. Sloan kicked a 39-yard field goal, and Copeland's first career touchdown, a 5-yard run, gave the Midshipmen a 10-7 lead. Copeland's TD came after safety Tra'ves Bush scooped up Broam Hart's fumble at the Navy 27. Getz was stripped by linebacker Josh Tate at midfield with cornerback Quincy Adams recovering, and Ty MacArthur coughed up the ball at the Navy 14 with senior linebacker Keegan Wetzel smothering it for his first career fumble recovery. "The two things they did better was they held the ball better and they hit it a little better off the ground," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.

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How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares. 

So, she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara. 

Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half?

Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions. 

The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially, just a dismal first half that saw them down 24 points and 73-54 at halftime.

The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seemed plausible. 

Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars played like a team wanting to play each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.

John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate. 

“That’s how we need to play,” Bradley Beal told NBC Sports Washington.

“Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.

One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve. 

The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation. The Wizards then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.

“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break.

Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span. 

“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” said Beal, who remained in the game after suffering a cut over his eye following a head-butt collision with Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A  much-needed win at that.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because of his son, Austin, Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.

“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.

“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”

Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.

We’ll see for how long.

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Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

The Wizards had just completed a 24-point comeback against the L.A. Clippers, but something wasn't sitting right with power forward Markieff Morris.

When asked by a reporter if it was nice to get the win given their recent losing and the media controversy surrounding the team, Morris couldn't help but wonder who it was who leaked comments made by players behind closed doors at a practice last week.

There were very specific quotes cited by several media outlets and Morris wants to know where they came from. 

"It's f***ed up what's going on," he said.

"The comments that's coming from the locker room, that's f***ed up."

Morris went on to say that anonymous sources leaking information shouldn't "happen in sports." Many professional athletes see the locker room and team-only events like practice as sacred. Anyone who breaks that code is, in their eyes, a traitor.

If Morris knew who the information came from, it sounds like he would do something about it.

"I don't know who it is, so it's hard to address. But it's messed up," he said.

Which player or member of the organization spilled the beans could be a question for this team all season. It doesn't sound like Morris will forget that it happened.

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