BOULDER – Even if Air Academy had a program used to cranking out state titles or hailed from an area rich in championship history, this performance would have stood out as something special.
But when you consider this was the program’s first and was an absolute rarity for the Pikes Peak region, it puts the Kadets’ 72-53 victory over D’Evelyn in Friday’s 4A state championship game into a whole different perspective.
“It’s surreal,” senior Miranda Beal said. “I think it shows that we were meant to be here. We made a statement out there and went out with a bang.”
A bang pretty much sums it up.
Air Academy (26-2) shot out to an 8-0 lead and was never seriously threatened at the Coors Events Center. The lead reached double digits in the first quarter and was at 20 early in the third quarter.
As always, the Kadets did it with balance.
Brittany Hernandez scored 18 points with 11 rebounds, but she was just one of four from her team to reach double figures. Kate Louthan had 15, Kellyn Roiko and Kauna Kama each had 11.
Beal scored seven points and led the way with six assists. Tori Reifshnieder added eight points and blocked a shot.
All of those players are seniors.
“For the most part we just played solid and patient and played the basketball that we knew how to play,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s just senior experience, just maturity. We knew we had to get our heads right on the way up here.”
D’Evelyn (23-4) was led by Madalyn Neely’s 20 points, but that was the lone bright spot. Air Academy outrebounded the Jaguars 40-20 and shot 51 percent vs. D’Evelyn’s 37.7 percent.
Air Academy also made 14-of-15 free throws, collected 14 steals and made 8-of-15 3-pointers.
Despite the season-long build-up, the moment just never overwhelmed the Kadets.
“I guess for me personally, it was just time to take a deep breath,” Louthan said. “We’ve done this a million times before.”
Though they’d played so many games, the stakes had never been this high.
In fact, the area had rarely placed a team on this stage – let alone come away with a 19-point win on it.
Before Friday, Doherty was the only area 5A or 4A team to have captured a state title in girls’ basketball – and the second of the Spartans’ two titles came in 1995.
That drought is over and Air Academy's celebrated senior class not only won a title, but made a mockery of the 4A bracket with five wins by an average of 22 points.
“All year long we talked about our goal,” coach Bob Wingett said. “And nothing was going to get in the way of that goal.”