The Air Academy roster has a consistent homework assignment to find a word — any term that motivates them or frames the way they hope to play.
Hustle, compete and tenacious are among the terms that are fueling the Kadets' breakout season. They moved to 7-3 on the back of three consecutive wins Tuesday in a 78-52 victory over Coronado.
Juniors Corbin Garver and Finn Horsfall led the scoring efforts with 28 and 18 points, respectively. Grant Featherston, also a third-year player, chipped in 15 of his own, along with controlling the offensive glass throughout — a catalyst for the team overcoming shooting rust.
A two-minute stretch in the first quarter saw the Kadets get four offensive rebounds in one possession. They did it once more later in the contest.
"We had probably our worst shooting half since I've been at Air Academy (to start the game)," Horsfall said. "A lot of bouncing back was busting our butt on defense and just flying around."
Coronado chose to sit leading scorer, senior Rayzel Cunningham, in the first quarter. In turn, the Kadets flew to a 21-9 lead after just the opening eight minutes.
The second quarter, led in part by Cunningham, saw Coronado claw back in, cutting the deficit to single digits for the first time since early in the first stanza.
It was the closest they came to taking over.
"I asked them, 'Where are you going to pick up?'" Coach Barry Clark said. "I think in the first quarter we did well, but totally fell apart in the second. We corrected it in the final two quarters. There's some rust and it's a good learning game."
Garver, after relying on looks inside to get 10 first-half points, found his stroke in the third and fourth quarters, much like the rest of the roster. He scored 13 of his points in the final eight minutes.
Air Academy's meddle has been tested several times already this season.
Green Mountain and Douglas County, both top-10 teams in their classifications, were able to edge out single-digit wins despite entering the games as favorites. In 16 games, the two standout squads have only lost a game apiece.
It's consistent effort that Horsfall feels will push the Kadets over the bigger schools in Colorado. Handling the smaller ones, like Coronado, is just a portion of that.
"If we can win games through our defense, the sky is the limit," Horsfall said. "We want to always stay ready, so we don't have to get ready. We're not going to go into 5A games and just be able to flip a switch.
"We have to take care of the smaller opponents and win behind our defense, effort and hustle."