DENVER – It felt like a long time since Air Academy had been in a bit of a fight. Since the Kadets last lost back on Dec. 10, they’ve won every game they’ve played and they have won them all by at least 11 points.

But they knew they were in a slugfest with Pueblo South on the docket and the game being played at a neutral venue.

But this was a fight that the Kadets were ready for and knew that they needed to accomplish their mission of winning a state title. They rose to the challenge, beating the Colts 64-58 in the Class 5A Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

“It was a confidence booster,” Finn Horsfall said. “That we can come together as one and compete as a unit and grind out a game like that is big. There are no freebies left.”

The Colts led for the entire first half before the Kadets (24-2 overall) took control in the second half. Their run was sparked with Horsfall’s hot hand as he knocked down four 3-pointers in the second half (six total) to help Air Academy gain control. He finished the day with a game-high 28 points, 17 of which came in the second half.

Grant Featherstone added 13 and Noah Heller added 10.

Despite falling in an eight-point hole after the first quarter, the Kadets never lost their poise and went into halftime with a calming message.

“Be us,” coach Barry Clark said. “We missed our lay-ins and free throws and they made all theirs. We need to take care of business, control what we can control. We played great defense and we got stops.”

And then the offense clicked in the second half. After shooting 25% from 3-point range in the first two quarters, the Kadets were 50% in the second half.

“Sometimes, the basket, you can hardly see it and sometimes it’s as big as the ocean,” Horsfall said. “Once you hit the first couple, it starts to open up and you feel good about every shot you’re taking.”

Maurice Austin led the Colts (19-7) with 19 points.

The Kadets are now one win away from playing for a state championship for the first time since 2015, when they beat Longmont to claim the 4A title.

“We all want that feeling,” Clark said.

(5) Frederick 76, (4) Mead 61

(Doug Ottewill/

For the second straight year, Frederick is heading to the Final 4. The Golden Eagles put together a solid performance to down area rival Mead 76-61 in the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

Prior to last year’s semifinal appearance, Frederick hadn’t made deep postseason run since 1956 when it won its first, and only, boys basketball state title. With the win over the Mavericks, the hopes to add another banner to the school remain alive.

Harry Singh and Luke Justice paced the offense, specifically in the first half, by scoring 10 points apiece. The Golden Eagles shot 50% overall from the floor in the first 16 minutes of the game.

JJ Stronjinc and Matias Aldana picked up the offensive output in the third, scoring eight and seven points, respectively, to keep the Golden Eagles up by double digits going into the fourth quarter.

The Mavericks cut the lead to six at one point, but the Golden Eagles weren’t going to surrender the lead. A Justice 3-pointer put them back up 14 with just under three minutes to go, all but assuring Frederick’s survival.

The Golden Eagles will face top-seeded Air Academy in the Final 4 next week at the Denver Coliseum.