Annie Louthan (16 points) moves the ball down the court Tuesday, as the Kadets take on the Sand Creek Scorpions at Air Academy High School. Air Academy prevailed 58-45.

During a timeout late in the fourth quarter of Air Academy’s 58-45 win over Sand Creek on Tuesday in the Kadets’ gym, Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Michael Jackson's “Smooth Criminal” played over the public-address system, repeating a variation of the same question.

“Annie, are you OK?”

Air Academy sophomore guard Annie Louthan was more than that, scoring 13 of her 16 points in the first half of the Kadets’ victory.

“She was great,” Air Academy coach Phil Roiko said.

“We needed that spark early on because the other girls weren’t hitting shots, and she made some big shots for us. That was awesome.”

Louthan’s third bucket of the opening quarter helped the Kadets to a 16-8 lead after one.

She opened the second quarter with a steal and a transition layup before hitting a 3-pointer, two free throws and another field goal to help Air Academy to a 29-22 advantage at the half.

“I definitely feel like it was one of my breakthrough games for sure because I kinda hit a dry spell earlier,” Louthan said, “but I feel like our team really came together tonight.”

That early production from Louthan was critical as Sand Creek (12-6) closed within five to start the fourth quarter behind some hot shooting from sophomores Nikki Derrell and Malena Portillos. Despite not getting the start due to missing school with an illness, Derrell managed to lead the Scorpions with 13 points, while Portillos added 12.

The loss was a big step forward for a team that Air Academy beat by 35 earlier this season.

“I think this year we’ve made such strong strides with the group that we have that we have the potential to still do something pretty special,” Sand Creek coach Payden Goldberg said.

Kadet junior Kylee Blacksten, who matched Louthan’s 16 points to share the game-high, scored half of her points in the fourth as Air Academy stretched the margin of victory to double digits.

It was a rare game for Air Academy that wasn’t decided far in advance of the final buzzer, and the Kadets coach welcomed, the physical, hard-fought game.

“We like that,” Roiko said. “We need that challenge, because we haven’t had that challenge (often) this year.”

After a 16th-straight win to start the season, it was time for more music as Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” blared from the home locker room following the game.

“It’s a fun tradition we like to do,” Louthan said.

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