One by one last season, amid a 21-win campaign, Palmer Ridge gained measures of revenge against all of the teams that had downed the Bears during their first four years.
Well, all but one.
And that last one fell Tuesday.
Madison Thomas led a balanced scoring attack with 10 points, Ali Meyer grabbed 15 rebounds and Palmer Ridge scored 13 consecutive points during a decisive second-half run, as the Bears beat 4A defending state champion Air Academy for the first time in a 44-34 road victory.
“We finally did it,” said Meyer, a junior. “This is a big deal to have finally beaten Air Academy for the first time since the school opened (2008). We were able to rally together in the second half and play how we know how to play.”
Trailing 25-22 late in the third quarter, Palmer Ridge (8-2 overall, 2-1 Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) got points from four different players in a 13-0 run. When Thomas drained a 15-footer from the right elbow with 6:06 left in the game, the Bears had built a 35-25 lead.
“We gave up a 10-0 run to Sand Creek last week, and it cost us the game,” Bears coach Dennis Coates said about a 46-41 loss Jan. 8. “We try not to give those up. We had the big run. The whole second half, we attacked the basket and played aggressive. That’s what we have to do to be good.”
For all but that 4-minute stretch, the teams played nearly even.
The Kadets (5-6, 2-1) led 17-16 at halftime after trailing by one (10-9) after the first quarter. And after the Bears’ run, both teams scored nine points the rest of the way.
“We figured it would be a defensive struggle, but we had a little stretch where things didn’t work out the way we wanted,” Kadets coach Bob Wingett said. “Those few minutes were the difference.”
Laura McCarthy and Michelle McCoud added nine points apiece for Palmer Ridge, and MacKenzie Gouner scored six off the bench. Meanwhile, Meyer controlled the low post, holding Kadets’ leading scorer Kassady Huffman to seven points, including just one field goal.
“They played tough defense, and that made it frustrating for all of us,” Huffman said. “Playing tough teams like Palmer Ridge will make us better.”
Hayley Rhein led Air Academy with 10 points. Madison Rasmussen and Justine Jenkinson each added seven.