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LAKEWOOD — Air Academy’s boys basketball team didn’t waste anytime getting up to full speed Thursday, Dec. 2.

The Kadets grabbed steal-after-steal defensively that led to a handful of layups and dunks in the first quarter of the Paul Davis Classic opener at Green Mountain High School. Air Academy easily advanced into the semifinals with a 87-39 victory over Lakewood.

“We really wanted to focus on our defense. That all we really wanted to focus on,” Air Academy coach Barry Clark said. “The old cliché is defense turns to offense and it did. If we play good defense we’ll be competitive.”

Air Academy (2-1 record) was more that competitive against Lakewood (1-3). The Tigers graduated 10 seniors last season and couldn’t keep pace with the high-flying Kadets.

“They are awesome,” Lakewood coach Daryl Johnson said of Air Academy that took a 56-16 lead at halftime.

Air Academy finished with five different players in double-figure points. Juniors Finn Horsfall, Corbin Garver, Grant Featherston, Theron Coleman, along with sophomore Noah Hellem all hit double figures.

Horsfall led the way scoring 18 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half.

“We are super excited to just get out here and play,” Horsfall said. “We are best friends, a bunch of us. This means a lot to us to fly around and have some fun.”

Clark returns its top three scorers — Horsfall, Garver and Featherston — from last year’s team that had a 7-6 record during the shortened COVID season. Air Academy added Coleman into the mix.

“Theron Coleman is the man. We brought him back,” Horsfall said. “He gives us a different dimension of speed and athleticism.”

Coleman grew up with most of the Air Academy players before moving to California his freshman year. He moved back to Colorado and showed off his skill pouring in a dozen points against Lakewood.

“It helps a lot,” Clark said of having a strong core of juniors back. “We really didn’t have to rebuild or reinstall anything. We’ve had a head start of where we were last season.”

Air Academy defeated Palmer in the semifinals Dec. 3, but fell to the host Green Mountain Rams 66-65 in the tournament title game Dec. 4.

We are excited that we have this year and next year,” Horsfall said. “Obviously we want to bring home a state title after one of those two years. We want to exceed expectations this year.”

Johnson admits its going to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers that graduated 10 seniors from its squad that went 7-6 and qualified for the 5A state tournament.

“Because of our age and experience it’s a development time,” Johnson said. “We are just trying to get better in each quarter. Now we are trying to get better in the first two minutes of the first quarter. The last two games we’ve given up 28 points in each of the first quarters.”

Lakewood dropped its opener 76-53 against Denver South on Tuesday. The Tigers did get their first win of the season with a 50-47 victory over Battle Mountain in the consolation semifinals of the Paul Davis Classic.

Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.