Air Academy boys' basketball rebounds for a strong start

112917 woodland park hockey Woodland Park players and coaches gathered for a photo following the team's Green and White inter-squad scrimmage Nov. 22 at the Air Force Academy. Courtesy photo

Soaring Kadets

Air Academy boys' basketball is off to its best start since it won the state championship three years ago.

The Kadets returned from the holiday layoff and beat Discovery Canyon in overtime Wednesday and Sand Creek by a point Friday to improve to 8-3 on the year. Air Academy was 1-22 a season ago.

"At the start of the season we were cautiously optimistic," longtime coach Barry Clark said of the turnaround. "It's kind of what we were hoping for this summer when we saw some of the changes."

The Kadets (8-3, 2-0) trailed by double digits in both games last week only to storm back and execute down the stretch.

Last season the Kadets were out of it more times than not in the final minutes, only having two games decided by less than five points. This year, they're 3-1 in those five-points-or-less games and are 2-1 in overtime games.

"Surprised? Not as much," Clark said. "But I'm still very pleased. . These guys have really not faltered."

The only other time the Kadets started a season 8-3 was in 2014-15 when they ended their season on a 14-game winning streak and beat Longmont in the 4A state finals.

Air Academy will look to stay atop the Pikes Peak Athletic League Conference when it hosts Palmer Ridge on Wednesday.

"The kids have broken out of the shadow in their own minds," Clark said.

Learning moment

Canon City's wrestling team's second-place finish at the Bobby Hawk Martinez Colt Classic will sting for a while.

Luis Ronquillo won his 195-pound title but the Tigers settled for three other runner-up finishes, including two that came in extra time.

The back-breaker, though, came in a spout of bad judgment that Canon City coach Duff Seaney hopes can be a learning moment. The Tigers were deducted a point when one of their wrestlers threw headgear after a match. Poetically enough, it proved to be the difference between second (156 points) and a tie with Adams City (157) for the tournament championship.

"That's exactly the point we lost by," Seaney said. "Crazy, huh?"

Zeon Ortega (106) and Shane Coffey (132) both fell in sudden victory in the final for Canon City, and James Ruona (126) lost by major decision. The Tigers hope to use their unsettling end as a reminder in the future.

"It's certainly a teachable moment," Seaney said. "All those close matches that we gave away, any one of them would have won the tournament for us. It's a coachable moment for them to learn that every point counts, every match counts."

Cheyenne Mountain took third (128.5) out of 15 teams, as breakout sophomore Deonte Bridges (220) added another tournament win to his budding resume. Doherty tied for fourth (126) on the back of championships by Maverick Keigher (138) and Tony Llamido (145).

Finding a groove

Pine Creek's hockey team is playing with a confidence it didn't have while struggling last season.

Spencer Sykes had three goals and an assist, and the Eagles beat Doherty 7-3 early Saturday morning to improve to 4-3 on the season. Pine Creek totaled just two wins last season.

Asked about the upward trajectory of his team, Pine Creek coach Ed Saxer pointed to his young core of players.

"We had a good sophomore class last season, which now they're juniors, and now with this freshman class and a couple of sophomores that we got, they're good players, which makes us a better team obviously," he said. "And we only have two seniors, so the future looks pretty good."

Home sweet home

In its inaugural season, Woodland Park's hockey team finally got to play host Wednesday.

Designated the home team at other arenas around town this season, the Panthers got a chance to play at their outdoor facility at Meadow Wood Sports Complex. They fell to Dakota Ridge 11-1.

According to chsaanow.com, the association's policy is that teams can play one outdoor game per season.

Woodland Park and Chaparral made their hockey debuts this season.

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