DENVER – Air Academy coach Phil Roiko doesn’t like to think of deficits in terms of points, but rather possessions. So when Frederick came out of the gates swinging and took a nine-point lead in the first half of the Class 5A girls basketball Great 8, he thought of it as down three, not down nine.

That three-possession hole was erased quickly in the second half and the Kadets beat the Golden Eagles 45-39 to advance to next week’s Final 4 at the Denver Coliseum.

“We do a thing where we have three possessions in a row; if we get three defensive possessions in a row [without the other team scoring], it’s a bonus point,” Air Academy coach Phil Roiko said. “Rather than focusing on being down nine, we focus on three possessions. And that got us going.”

Forward Caitlin Kramer struggled to finish her shot attempts in the first half, but as Air Academy broke out on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter, starting finding her groove. She finished with a team-high 13 points in the win.

Frederick junior Zoe Wittler led all scorers with 15 points.

For the Kadets it was more about overcoming nerves and settling down. They’ve been dominant this season as they’ve earned the No. 1 seed in the 5A tournament, but they’re not immune to getting nervous in big games.

“We were nervous,” Kramer said. “The first-half jitters always get to us in playoff games. We knew that’s not how we play. That’s not the intensity we bring out. We knew we were a much better team than what we were in the first half.”

The Golden Eagles refused to let Air Academy just have total control of the game. They continued fighting, even taking a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

A layup from Lydia Flowers got Air Academy ahead and then Audrina Nelson hit a 3-pointer that put the game out of reach.

Roosevelt 60, Montrose 45

(Doug Ottewill/

If anyone had preconceived ideas that the defending state champion would easily dispatch of a No. 7 seed from the Western Slope, they were sadly mistaken.

Roosevelt did what it needed to in the end to beat Montrose and advance to next week’s Final 4, but it was a win that they had to go out and earn.

“We weren’t expecting [that fight],” sophomore forward Kyla Hollier said. “But it was a good one.”

The Roughriders had a distinct size advantage but the Red Hawks used speed and effort to counteract it. They led by just one at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Maggie Legg, but maintained their composure and never panicked throughout the course of the second half.

Collier and Kinsey Trujillo each scored a team-high 14 points and Hollier polished off a double-double with 10 rebounds.

“We can never just expect to win,” Hollier said. “We have to work and we have to battle so that was a good wakeup call.”

Roosevelt will head back to the Denver Coliseum next week and face Mead. The Mavericks beat Standley Lake in the first Great 8 game of the day. The Roughriders and Mavericks did not play in the regular season this year.