The future of Air Force basketball was on display for about 20 minutes Wednesday at Clune Arena.
It was an impressive showing.
With the underclassmen taking over down the stretch against an exhausted New Orleans team, the Falcons shot 71 percent in the second half and pulled away for a 90-48 victory in their final nonconference game of the season.
“It was amazing,” said Kamryn Williams, a Sierra High School graduate who scored a season-high 10 points. “I’m glad that we got to play together. We always play in practice and we talk about that chemistry. … It feels good to come out here and put up a show.”
Williams lit the spark that ignited the run with a thunderous dunk just before halftime. To that point New Orleans (5-13) had prevented Air Force (11-6) from running away, but Williams’ two-handed putback narrowly beat the buzzer, extended the Falcons’ lead to 13 points and ended any doubt about the outcome.
For Williams, it also ended several days as the butt of jokes after missing three dunks over his previous two games.
“It was good to get that off my back,” Williams said. “Everybody was making fun of me -- the whole team, parents, everybody. I needed it.”
The group – particularly Williams, fellow sophomore Justin Hammonds and freshman Tre’ Coggins – showed the Falcons will not be depleted when its group of five seniors graduates.
Hammonds scored nine points with four assists. Coggins, a point guard, scored nine points with eight assists and just one turnover.
The tro shot 12-of-15 from the floor.
“It was good to get those guys minutes and let them play,” coach Dave Pilipovich said. “It was good to rest some starters, put some tired guys on the bench and also to see what we have in the future. We like our young guys, we really do.”
It’s not like the seniors didn’t contribute. Mike Fitzgerald led the way with 16 points and Todd Fletcher and Michael Lyons each added 14.
Lyons is now eighth on Air Force’s all-time scoring list after passing Antoine Hood.
That group was able to sit back and watch for much of the second half.
“A lot of our games they play 30-plus minutes and the next day at practice they’re all tired,” Hammonds said. “Obviously it’s fun to play, but it’s nice that our starters are well-rested so we can keep winning games.”
New Orleans was completing a stretch in which it played three games in five days – including a triple-overtime contest Monday. When Air Force was able to bring in fresh legs throughout the second half it turned lopsided, with the Falcons outscoring the Privateers 47-18 over the final 20 minutes.
“We knew we had to play pretty flawless defensively, and we just had some stretches there where we got winded and had some breakdown defensively,” coach Mark Slessinger said.
The hope for Air Force, which faces a road trip Saturday to Wyoming, is that some extended time for that second group will pay dividends immediately.
“Coach always says we want to go up and not down when the bench comes in, especially in our conference,” Hammonds said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to provide that.”