MONUMENT – A quick glance at the scoreboard after the first quarter and no one would think the Air Academy boys basketball team needs any motivation to play at a high level. But the Kadets may have gotten some anyway.

With just over four minutes remaining, Theron Coleman was going for a fastbreak layup but came down hard directly on his knee cap. He was assisted to the Lewis-Palmer training room where he emerged postgame on crutches and a heavy bag of ice wrapped around his right knee.

That incident took a bit of the wind out of the sails of Class 5A No. 2 Air Academy’s 61-45 win against No. 8 Lewis-Palmer.

“Every team has to go through adversity at some point,” Kadets coach Barry Clark said. “We’re going to get through this adversity together.”

In many ways, the victory for Air Academy should serve as a bit of a statement. The Kadets (16-2 overall, 6-0 Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) got after the 2022 4A state champions early. Their full-court press resulted in errant L-P passes and outright steals that got the Kadets going on offense early.

“Our offense is (generated) out of rhythm,” Clark said. “When we can turn people over and get out and run, our shots fall a lot easier.”

That was the case on Tuesday. Corbin Garver got things rolling with a 3-pointer for the first points of the game and that one stone seemed to break the dam. Air Academy connected on 10 field goals in the first quarter alone.

The Rangers (13-6, 4-2) made just seven field goals in the entire first half.

“We love to get going fast right out of the jump,” Finn Horsfall said. “We like to fly around and that’s what that press is all about.”

Air Academy had three players score in double figures as Garver led the way with 17, Noah Hellem had 12 and Horsfall added 11.

(Dan Mohrmann/

Eli Robinson shouldered the offensive load for the Rangers, scoring a game-high 19 points. But it wasn’t enough for last year’s state champions and now with two league losses at the hands of the Kadets, it seems like the road to the PPAC title requires a checkpoint stop at the south gate of the United States Air Force Academy.

“Our next goal is to win conference and we still have to come out and perform these next four games,” Clark said. “This conference is still up for grabs and our goal is to win it outright.”

Two losses – both of which came against 6A teams – have Air Academy sitting at No. 2 in the Coaches’ Poll but it sits at No. 1 in the playoff selection and seeding index.

Winning conference is the next goal as Clark points out, and although they won’t outright say so, it’s not the only goal the Kadets have their sights on.

With Mesa Ridge occupying the top spot in the CHSAA poll, the Kadets aren’t quite getting the attention they normally would with the resumé they have. But they know that their performances night after night are getting plenty of attention, even if it’s a tad covert.

“We’re on a big winning streak and everyone knows that Air Academy is winning by a lot,” Garver said. “I feel like we’re under the radar a bit because we lost twice, but people are definitely taking notice.”

The Kadets return home to face Discovery Canyon on Friday before finishing the regular season with three straight road games which begin at Cheyenne Mountain on Feb. 7.

“Throw out the records for that one,” Horsfall said of their rivals.

If Coleman is unable to play due to his injury it will fuel an already burning emotional fire for the Kadets. And it’s the kind of adversity that can unexpectedly create championship performances.