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Washington Football Fanatics – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

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Bryant’s career night not enough to stop the Nets

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photo

WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant had a career night Sunday delivering a 30-point, 13 rebound double-double followed up by Troy Brown’s stat-stuffing performance of 22 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

However, it wasn’t enough as the Washington Wizards fell late to the Brooklyn Nets, 118-110.

The Wizards played more engaged and disciplined on defense in their second contest in the bubble. The most positive developments came from Bryant, who scored in a plethora of ways aside from his usual inside scoring. He showed his outside touch by knocking down four 3-pointers and used a little bit of creativity with a mid-range step-back jumper.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” Bryant said. “My teammates had the confidence in me to knock down those shots. They kept telling me to take them, so I took them.”

One sequence from Bryant highlighted just how much he grew in his budding career. After tying the game up at 54-all and celebrating what would be his final 3-pointer of the night, Bryant narrowly missed Nets guard Caris LeVert (game-high 34 points, seven rebounds).

Bryant continued to push the ball up the court in an attempt to beat everyone down the floor for a late score and the lead going into the second half.

Generally, it would’ve been easy for a big man like Bryant to foul a faster guard like LeVert to prevent being exposed in transition. Instead, Bryant recovered just above the 3-point line. He sacrificed his body, drawing a charge as LeVert bulldozed through his body, celebrating a momentum-shifting defensive stop just moments before the halftime buzzer rang.

“I knew (LeVert) wasn’t really paying attention, he wanted to get the shot off quick,” Bryant said. “So I just tried to get my feet set, take a charge as best as I can because I knew he was going to keep moving. I got right in front of him and just took it right then and there.”

The moment encapsulated the type of effort the Wizards intended to play within the bubble, where they’ve prioritized development just as much winning.

On Sunday, the Wizards provided improved play. It wasn’t always perfect, but they executed when provided the chance.

For example, Brown showcased his playmaking chops in pick and rolls, being able to flip in floaters or fit in a bounce pass deep in the paint to Bryant for a dunk at the end of an 11-0 run early in the first quarter.

“(Bryant) brought the juice,” Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “He gave us some offense. He committed on both ends. We need him to do that consistently. That’s how he has to play. I thought he was outstanding.”

The imperfect moments came late in the contest when the Wizards were struggling to score. Brown gave up back-to-back 3-pointers after Joe Harris (27 points, seven rebounds) found some room to tie the game up at 98-all with more than seven minutes remaining in the contest.

In the final five minutes, Washington turned to isolation play with Bryant forcing up a contested turnaround shot that earned him a tongue lashing from Brooks.

On the other end of the spectrum, LeVert scored back-to-back on a layup and floater. Bryant responded with a layup to make it a one-possession game. That was the closest the Wizards cut the deficit; however, Garrett Temple came right back at the Wizards with a floater of his own.

Jerome Robinson (12 points, five rebounds) fouled LeVert on a 3-point attempt that helped Brooklyn ice the win just moments later. LeVert knocked down two of three free throws, scored two more times with a floater, and sank another pair of free throws.

Jarrett Allen (22 points, 115 rebounds) hit free throws, while Brown and Rui Hachimura padded their stats with garbage time buckets.

The Wizards are now 0-2 (24-42) in bubble play with the Indiana Pacers on the horizon today. Meanwhile, the Nets have essentially punched their playoff ticket now that they’re up seven games to the Wizards and face the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday.

“The odds are against us, but we’ve got to keep fighting. “Brooks said. “We come in here, and we don’t want moral victories. We want to keep fighting. We’ve got some tough games coming up. These next six games are against some of the best teams in basketball.”

Mystics’ undefeated streak ends after loss against Chicago

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse

BRADENTON, Fla. — Two pivotal late-game plays by forward Cheyenne Parker helped the Chicago Sky edge the Washington Mystics, 88-86, on Saturday.

The Sky (3-1) had five players score in double digits for a constant balanced attack on offense. Parker finished with 16 points and six rebounds, Gabby Williams recorded 16 points, nine boards and four assists, and Allie Quigley scored 15.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Quigley scored a layup that gave the Sky an 84-83 advantage. The Mystics’ Aerial Powers made 1 of 2 free throws on the next possession to tie the game.

Parker converted a left-hand layup, and Washington’s Ariel Atkins responded with two made free throws to tie it again at 86.

On the ensuing possession, Parker drove baseline and dished it off to Diamond DeShields for a layup to give Chicago an 88-86 lead with 5.9 seconds remaining.

Out of the timeout with 5.6 seconds left on the game clock, Atkins inbounded the ball to Emma Meesseman, who looked for Leilani Mitchell in the corner. Instead, her pass intercepted by Courtney Vandersloot as time expired. The Mystics fall to 3-1 with the loss.

Washington Coach Mike Thibault said his team’s turnovers (14) were “unbelievably costly” but also hinted that fatigue might have played a factor.

“I think we’re tired. Our depth is tough,” Thibault said. “We played tired at times. I’m glad we have the three days off right now to kind of regroup. Playing short-handed is hard. Chicago is good, but we could’ve been better.”

The game was back-and-forth with 10 ties and eight lead changes. At the end of the first, Washington trailed 20-15 but then led by two points (37-35) at halftime.

Mitchell scored 10 of her 12 points for the Mystics in the third quarter, but Chicago outscored Washington 27-25 to tie the game, 62-62, entering the fourth.

The Sky’s offensive fluidity worked to their advantage late in the game as they tallied 10 assists in the fourth while forcing four turnovers to clinch the win.

“This is a great team (Chicago) who loves to run out in transition, and once they got their shots going, it’s kind of hard to stop,” said Myisha Hines-Allen, who was the only double-double performer with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“Our defense wasn’t all there today. We didn’t have each other’s backs like we normally did, so I mean — we just didn’t play Mystics basketball today for the whole game. I think that’s what it boils down to.”

Atkins led the way again with a game-high 24 points for the Mystics while Powers registered 20 points and seven rebounds. Meesseman led Washington with six assists.

After a three-day break, the Mystics will try to bounce back when they square off against the Las Vegas Aces on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.

Nationals Notebook: Washington finish first week of MLB season strong

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

The Washington Nationals officially opened their 2020 season over the past week with sets of interleague matchups against the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. After back-to-back wins, the Nationals hold a 3-4 record in the first stretch of their 60-game season.

Here are the highlights of the past week: 

July 23
New York Yankees: 4
Washington Nationals: 1

Opening the MLB season with their 2020 home opener, all eyes were on the defending champion Nationals as they hosted the Yankees on July 23. Just hours before first pitch, news broke that star left fielder Juan Soto had tested positive for COVID-19, making him indefinitely ineligible to play.

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer jumped to a slow start, surrendering a two-run home run in the first inning to Giancarlo Stanton. Scherzer also allowed a run in the third and fifth innings. Rain began to pour in the sixth inning, resulting in the game being called off early, with the Yankees holding on to the win. 

The Nationals’ lone run came from a first-inning solo home run by Adam Eaton.

July 25
New York Yankees: 2
Washington Nationals: 9

After falling short on opening day, the Nationals redeemed themselves. 

Stephen Strasburg, the expected starter for Washington, was a late scratch due to a nerve issue in his right hand. Filling in his shoes was right-hander Erick Fedde, who threw for four innings and surrendered two runs. The Washington bullpen shut down New York, with five scoreless innings of work.

At the plate, Victor Robles and Asdrúbal Cabrera each had three hits, including each collecting a double and a home run. They combined to drive in six runs. 

July 26
New York Yankees: 3
Washington Nationals: 2

In the rubber game of their first series of the season, the Nationals jumped to an early lead with a solo home run by Trae Turner in the third inning and an RBI single by Eric Thames in the fourth. 

The Yankees tied the game in the seventh inning with a pair of solo home runs, before taking the lead on an RBI single by Gleyber Torres in the eighth. 

Nationals starter Patrick Corbin took the no-decision after surrendering one run in 6 1/3 innings.

July 27
Toronto Blue Jays: 4
Washington Nationals: 1

Continuing in their interleague matchups, the Nationals took on the Toronto Blue Jays with Anibal Sanchez on the hill. He surrendered four home runs in five innings, with Teoscar Hernández responsible for two solo shots. 

The lone Nationals run came in the fourth inning off an RBI double by Kurt Suzuki to drive in Thames.

July 28
Toronto Blue Jays: 5
Washington Nationals: 1

Going through their fifth starter in the rotation, Austin Voth threw for five innings, allowing two earned runs on a pair of solo home runs. Reliever Will Harris surrender two runs in the eighth inning on an RBI double by Rowdy Tellez. 

Toronto right-hander Tanner Roark gave up one run in his five innings of work. The Nationals offense was limited to four hits, including two doubles by Turner. 

July 29
Washington Nationals: 4
Toronto Blue Jays: 0

Instead of traveling to Toronto for the remaining slate of games against the Blue Jays, the Nationals played the role of visitors in their home stadium. The Blue Jays did not receive permission to host games in Rogers Centre by the Canadian government, and Sahlen Stadium, the home of Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons in New York, was not ready to hold MLB games.  

In a pitching duel between Max Scherzer and Blue Jays top prospect Nate Pearson, who had been making his Major League debut, the two teams went scoreless through nine innings. 

In the 10th inning, with the new league rule of starting extra innings with a runner on second base, the Nationals offense came to life, capped off by a three-run RBI triple by Cabrera.

Scherzer threw 10 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for the no-decision.

July 30
Washington Nationals: 6
Toronto Blue Jays: 4

Closing out the makeshift four-game series against the Blue Jays, Suzuki put the Nationals on the board early with the third-inning, two-run double. Michael A. Taylor extended the scoring with a two-run home run in the following inning.

Starlin Castro and Carter Kieboom each reached base four times. 

Limited to just 3 1/3 innings of work, Fedde picked up the no-decision after allowing two runs on six hits.

Up Next:

Originally scheduled to play in Miami over the weekend for a three-game series, MLB has postponed their matchup against the Marlines following a COVID-19 outbreak in the team’s clubhouse. Washington will take the next few days off before hosting the New York Mets for a two-game series, beginning on Tuesday.  

The Wizards Junkies Podcast – More All-NBA Doubt? Magic City Wings? First Weekend Out Predictions

The Wizards Junkies Podcast

Tune in every week with Brooks Warren and his special guests for The Wizards Junkies Podcast! They go over every detail on what the Washington Wizards are up to on Friday each week at 9 p.m. You don’t want to miss it!

Atkins’s 22-point performance leads the way as Mystics cruise past the Storm

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Courtesy Photo

BRADENTON, Fla. — An early-season faceoff between the 2018 and 2019 WNBA champions was a glimpse of what some expect to be a possible 2020 finals matchup.

Washington Mystics forward Ariel Atkins recorded 22 points, a game-high performance that included five 3-pointers, to lift her team to an 89-71 victory over the Seattle Storm on Thursday at IMG Academy.

The result was special for Atkins, who said she felt good leading the Mystics to the win on her 24th birthday.

“It feels good to be playing down here right now, especially what we’re playing for. Especially having Breonna Taylor’s name all over our season,” Atkins said. “It just feels good to put her spotlight on and for people to be watching us, and to be seeing her name all the time.”  

With the return of 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and star point guard Sue Bird from injuries last season, the Storm will likely contend for another title run this season. Despite missing multiple stars, Washington’s strong start to the season has raised its expectations for postseason success.

Myisha Hines-Allen continued a strong start to the season, contributing with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists to help the Mystics remain undefeated at 3-0 this season. Guard Lelani Mitchell had team highs in assists (six) and steals (four) in addition to 12 points. 

The Mystics got off to a superb start offensively, connecting 10 of 16 field goals in the first half to take a 21-14 lead after the first that blossomed to a 50-32 advantage at halftime. 

The Mystics’ largest lead of the evening came when Mitchell found Hines-Allen for an easy layup, expanding their advantage to 25 points (69-44) with about three minutes to go in the third.

Washington remained efficient in transition and held its ground defensively to maintain the comfortable lead in the second half on its way to the 18-point victory. 

While the Storm outrebounded their opponent 38 to 36, they committed 18 turnovers to Washington’s nine.

Forward Emma Meesseman added 10 points, five boards and four assists while Aerial Powers poured in nine points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Mystics.

Bird was held to only five points on 2 of 7 shooting from the field, while Stewart registered 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Storm (2-1) picked up their first loss of the season. Sami Whitcomb had 11 points off the bench for Seattle.

“They’re (Storm) a really good basketball team, they have really high IQ – especially defensively, so I was really proud of our offense tonight,” Atkins said. “And defensively, I’m really proud of what we did. I think we can be a really good defensive team if we stay solid and don’t foul.”

Washington will aim to continue its early-season momentum as it returns to action Saturday at 6 p.m. against Kahleah Copper and the Chicago Storm.

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode 15: DCU News, Lavelle leaving? and CONCACAF

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

Powers nets career-high 27 points as Mystics defeat Sun

Mystics get the best of Connecticut Sun in rematch from the WNBA finals 

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Courtesy Photo

BRADENTON, Fla. — Washington Mystics guard Aerial Powers scored a team-high 27 points, and Myisha Hines-Allen totaled 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the defending WNBA champions to a slim 94-89 win over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

Emma Meesseman added 12 points, eight assists and six boards while forwards Ariel Atkins chipped in with 16 points to help the Mystics improve to 2-0 on the season.

Powers, a fifth-year player from Michigan State, and Hines-Allen got the Mystics off to a strong start as they took a 26-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.

However, DeWanna Bonner led the Sun’s comeback as they chipped away at Washington’s lead throughout the second. Bonner sank a deep 3-pointer with just under four minutes left in the first half to give Connecticut its first lead. 

In Washington’s next possession, Powers responded with a long-range 3-pointer from the left wing to help the Mystics reclaim the lead. However, Connecticut went on a 13-7 scoring run to take a 52-48 lead at the break.

To open the third, Washington got out in transition as Hines-Allen and Powers continued to produce on the offensive end, helping their team recapture the lead with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Heading into the fourth, the Mystics held a 76-71 advantage.

Guard Essence Carson hit a corner 3-pointer off a feed from Hines-Allen, and Powers drilled another left-wing 3 to kick off the fourth quarter as Washington rebuilt a double-digit lead early on. The Mystics’ largest lead of the night, 88-73, came off of a breakaway lay-in by Hines-Allen with 5:52 left in the game.

The Sun didn’t surrender, though they were down 15 points with time ticking away. They forced multiple turnovers and went on a 7-0 run to close the gap to 88-80. Late 3-pointers by Jacki Gemelos and Bonner, along with a layup by Natisha Hiedeman, brought Connecticut within two points, 91-89, with about 1:40 remaining.

With a chance to tie the game, Bonner missed a fall-away jumper and a layup. Washington grabbed both rebounds and converted free throws to seal the win.

Bonner led Connecticut with a game-high 29 points with nine rebounds and five assists. Alyssa Thomas played a crucial role for the Sun, recording 28 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. With the loss, the Sun dropped to 0-2 to start the season. 

En route to the big win, Washington connected on 17 of 21 free throws (81%) and capitalized on 19 turnovers by the Sun. Powers was 10 of 14 shooting from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. 

Washington hopes to continue the win streak as it faces the Seattle Storm at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Analysis: Nationals rout Yankees 9-2 for first win of MLB season

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Photo Credit: Washington Nationals Twitter

After falling to the New York Yankees, 4-1, in their rain-shortened season opener on Thursday, the Washington Nationals quickly bounced back. They routed the visitors 9-2 to earn their first win on Saturday. 

On the Mound

Originally slated to start, pitcher Stephen Strasburg was scratched from the game because of a nerve issue in his right hand. Erick Fedde took the mound for the 2019 World Series MVP and provided the Nationals four strong innings of work. 

Fedde only allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits. Fedde’s lone earned run came courtesy of a solo home run by Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth inning.

Coming in relief was the quartet of Tanner Rainey, Ryne Harper, James Bourque and Kyle Finnegan. The Nationals bullpen surrendered just three hits and struck out four in five scoreless innings. 

Rainey earned the victory on his record, throwing just nine pitches in his one inning of work.

At the Plate

Batting at eighth in the order, Victor Robles served as the energy source for the Nationals offense. 

Robles opened the scoring in the second inning with a bases-loaded, two-run double. With the Nationals leading 3-2 in the fourth inning, Robles fired off a two-run home run. He finished the game driving in four runs on three hits and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Asdrubal Cabrera also came a triple short of the cycle, adding three hits of his own, including a seventh-inning home run. 

Collectively, the Nationals scored nine runs on 13 hits. Except for leadoff batter Trea Turner, each player in the lineup for Washington recorded a hit.

Defense

Fielding proved to be a challenge for the Nationals, who committed five errors in Saturday’s game against New York. Only one of the five defensive blunders, a throwing error by Turner in the third inning, cost the Nationals a run. 

Despite ranking 10th in defense last year and committing just 87 errors throughout 162 games, defensive lapses are expected for all 30 teams this season, given the coronavirus break and short summer camp.

Up Next

Despite an eight-strikeout performance in 6 1/3-innings by Patrick Corbin, the Yankees won the series finale 3-2 on Sunday. 

Up next for the Nationals is two home games against the Toronto Blue Jays. Right-hander Aníbal Sánchez is scheduled to make his season debut on Monday’s game while Austin Voth will start on Wednesday. Both games set to begin at 6:05 p.m.