Wall's return helps Wizards turn around their season
When the Wizards' John Wall was rehabilitating his injured left knee this season, he did what he could to stay involved with the team. He went to road games. He attended practice. He did everything except play basketball. Although Wall's teammates could sometimes sense his impatience, he seemed determined to make his transition as seamless as possible once he returned to the court.
It was a wise course. Led by their young point guard, the new-look Wizards are suddenly surging. So jubilant was the mood in the locker room after their most recent game, an 89-74 victory against the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, that Wall would not rule out their reaching the post-season.
Forget that Washington, for all its improved play, remains 21 games below .500 at 14-35, far out of the playoff picture, entering Monday's game at Milwaukee. Among the NBA's longest-tenured doormats, the Wizards abound with optimism.
"We're finally trusting each other," said Wall, a third-year player and former No. 1 draft pick out of Kentucky.
The victory was the Wizards' third straight, all against upper-echelon teams: the Los Angeles Clippers, the New York Knicks and the Nets. More surprising, Washington has won nine of 16 games since Wall made his season debut Jan. 12. Without him, they were 5-28.
Wall, who is averaging 14.6 points, 7.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds, is the catalyst for everything the Wizards want to do: push the ball in transition, create turnovers in the half court and swing passes around the perimeter. His value to the team is obvious.
"He challenges you as much as any point guard in the league," said Nets Coach P.J. Carlesimo, who compared Wall to Boston's Rajon Rondo, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and San Antonio's Tony Parker. "The ball is going to get from foul line to foul line quicker than it does against most other teams. It puts a lot of pressure on your team to get back, and it's not just the guy who's playing him. You need other people back."
Teammate Martell Webster said the Wizards remained a close-knit unit even when Wall was watching from the bench.
"We were always having fun," Webster said. "But now we have the wins to show for it."
■ Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points, Kenneth Faried added 17 and seven rebounds and the Denver Nuggets won their ninth straight game with a 111-103 victory over the Cavaliers on Saturday night at Cleveland. The Nuggets, who have won 15 of 17, are on their longest winning streak since posting 10 straight victories from March 30-April 15, 2005. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 26 points, but was plagued by foul trouble.
Softball splits doubleheader in Arizona
Kentucky's softball team (3-1) defeated Oregon State 5-3 and lost to fourth-ranked Arizona State 8-1 in the Kajikawa Classic at Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday.
Junior pitcher Ellen Weaver started against Oregon State, going 42⁄3 innings. She allowed three runs — one earned — on six hits with six strikeouts. Freshman Kelsey Nunley pitched 21⁄3 scoreless innings of relief for the victory. Ginny Carroll had the game-winning RBI and was 2-for-3.
■ Kentucky's women's tennis team dropped its second consecutive match, losing 6-1 to Tulane at New Orleans.
Macumber breaks another school record
Cally Macumber smashed Kentucky's 3,000-meter record at the Husky Classic track and field meet at Seattle on Saturday. Macumber's winning time of 8:59.98 broke three-time 5K NCAA champion Valarie McGovern's school record of 9:05.74.
Macumber set a new personal-best by more than 10 seconds. Teammate Chelsea Oswald took eighth with a personal best 9:06.64, which was the third-fastest indoor time in school history.
■ Bradley Szypka finished second in the shot put with a personal record-tying throw of 18.50 meters at the Tyson Invitational at Fayetteville, Ark. Keffri Neal was second in the men's 800-meter finals with time of 1:49.79.
High school basketball
Scott County boys hold off LexCath
Jalen Haddix had 18 points and Quin Richardson scored 14 to go with seven assists to lead Scott County, ranked sixth in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, to a 64-53 victory at No. 21 Lexington Catholic on Saturday night. Tanner Johnson led the Knights with 15 points and nine rebounds.
■ Seventh-ranked Henry Clay jumped out to a 17-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and went on to defeat Fleming County 57-34 in the Shoot for a Cure at Nicholas County. The Blue Devils' Trey Grundy had team-highs for both points (12) and rebounds (nine).
■ Tyler Harville scored 27 points and had six assists and three steals in Lexington Christian's 74-68 victory against visiting Franklin County. Rylan Rowe led the Flyers with 25 points and Chris Roberts had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
■ Omar Prewitt scored 33 points and Bryan Wallace had 28 in No. 9 Montgomery County's 94-77 win against host Harlan County in the Black Bear Classic. Prewitt also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
■ Lexington Catholic outscored host Tates Creek by 13 in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 70-56 victory. Octavia Wilson led the way with 18 points, five assists, five rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. Bailey Browning added 16 points and six rebounds. The Lady Commodores' Katie Pippen scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Oney Harrison had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Snedeker, Hahn tied at Pebble Beach
Brandt Snedeker had his ninth consecutive round in the 60s. One more and he might really have reason to celebrate.
Coming off consecutive runner-up finishes to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Snedeker ran off four straight birdies along the prettiest part of Pebble Beach and wound up tied for the lead with 31-year-old rookie James Hahn in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California. They were at 12-under 202.
For all the celebrity antics that are part of the Saturday show at Pebble, the lasting image was Mickelson taking a spill on the rocks. He went looking for a tee shot near the ocean on the par-5 18th when his right foot gave way and he landed hard on a rock. He made triple bogey to fall out of contention.
"I got lucky," Mickelson said. "I didn't get hurt."
■ Rocco Mediate shot an 11-under 61 on Saturday, setting a course record and building a three-shot lead over Tom Pernice Jr. heading into the final round of the Allianz Championship at Boca Raton, Fla. Mediate is trying to become the 16th player to win his first start on the Champions Tour.
Saints hire Ryan as defensive coordinator
Saints Coach Sean Payton chose Rob Ryan as his new defensive coordinator, hoping New Orleans can overhaul a unit that was historically bad last season. Ryan, the brother of New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan, spent the past two seasons as Dallas' defensive coordinator. He was fired after last season, when his defense ranked 19th.
The last word
Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self after his team's third straight loss:
"It hasn't been a good week for us by any stretch, but let's be real. We were ranked No. 2 in the country seven days ago, and you don't go from being a good team to a bad team overnight. We've had a couple of bad outings, but we're still a good team."