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Air Academy pulls away from Indians to stay unbeaten in league
Air Academy coach Bob Wingett and Cheyenne Mountain coach Janie Mueller are the closest of friends - nothing proved that more than when the scoreboard margin drifted further and further apart.
The two girls' basketball coaches, who have worked together at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes over the past three years, embraced after the Kadets beat the host Indians 57-39 Tuesday night.
“It was fun. It was awesome,” said a beaming Mueller, who last played Wingett when his team knocked the Indians out of the state quarterfinals last season. “It was a good game for our girls to play. … If I had to choose a team to win besides us I’d choose them.”
In fact, the two friends wanted to help each other out before the season began. They shuffled this game from earlier in the season to the last day in January in order to help each other’s teams see better competition.
“We moved it to tonight because we wanted a challenge. They wanted a challenge,” Wingett said. “We wanted this game where we were going to work. (Mueller) does a great job getting her kids ready to play.”
Air Academy came out with a hard press and took four blink-of-an-eye turnovers and made them into its first eight points in just under 2 minutes.
“Well we try to press really hard to start the game to show we mean business, “said Brittany Hernandez, who scored a team-high 16 points. “We practice it like every day.”
For Cheyenne Mountain (10-6, 6-2 4A Metro), it was led out of the gate by the Dwight Howard of the 4A Metro in Janae Vander Ploeg, who scored her team’s first six points.
But Air Academy’s plan was pretty evident after that as Vander Ploeg hit only one field goal the rest of the game and finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
“We really wanted to stop Janae (Vander Ploeg) and Amanda (Weber), who are really great players,” Wingett said. “I still think they got some points but at least we made it tough.”
After the half, Weber hit only one field goal and finished with 16 points.
The rest of the points for the two seniors came from the line where they shot a combined 13-for-15.
The Indians kept it reasonably close through the first 16 minutes -- but maybe it was a sign that before the game a padded mat fell off the gymnasium wall and then the PA system shorted out minutes after.
Because in the second half the Kadets finished bringing down the house at Cheyenne Mountain.
Air Academy’s Kauna Kama, who finished with 14 points, hit back-to-back 3s with just a dribble over 2 minutes left in the third to give her team the 20-point lead to all but seal the Kadets’ (16-2, 9-0) eighth win in a row.
After the game rowdy Kadets fans rocketed out of their bleachers to celebrate. But Air Academy's coach wouldn't get ahead of himself.
“Our goal is to win against Woodland Park (Saturday),” Wingett said. “It’s one game at a time.”