Air Academy boys' basketball doesn't show its age in first win


As player introductions rang out from the loud speaker at Mitchell High School's gymnasium, Air Academy's youth again creeped in as many of its first-year varsity players botched the pregame ritual.

"We have a steep learning curve," Kadets coach Barry Clark cracked.

Celebrating a win went much smoother.

Brock Bendrick scored 16 and Kristian Hooker had 15 as Air Academy overcame its lack of varsity experience, spoiling the Marauders' home opener with a dominant 72-50 win on Tuesday night.

"None of us have played varsity so it's been tough," Hooker said. "But we're starting to get used to each other."

AJ Murphy had 10 points for the Kadets (1-3), whose defense forced 25 turnovers. Luke Louthan added eight points and Troyer Morse tossed in seven.

For a night at least, Air Academy eased its growing pains and snapped a three-game losing streak.

"I think it's hard right now but it's going to build up through the season and years ahead," said freshman Thad Dewing, who nonchalantly drained a 40-foot shot as time expired in the second quarter. "And I think we'll be better for it."

Quindell Bryant had 21 points, and Ty Curry added 13 for the Marauders (0-1), who trailed 40-20 at the half under first-year coach Jamie Anderson.

"They were nervous and you could tell," Anderson said. "I think (Air Academy's) three-game experience helped them and we weren't as sharp as we need to be."

Air Academy didn't waste time getting started. Bendrick swished a pair of technical free throws before the game started because Mitchell had a clerical error in its lineup.

The Kadets pressed from there, taking a 24-7 lead by the second quarter.

Hooker started a 17-0 run when he flipped a Mitchell turnover into a breakaway layup with 4:30 left in the first. Louthan capped it off with 7:04 left in the second, finishing an odd-man advantage also created by a takeaway.

"Turnovers were killing us," said Bryant, the team's only returning starter. "I think we have a team that isn't used to playing at the varsity level and the varsity speed."

In the final seconds of the half, Dewing dribbled from under his own basket and lifted up just past midcourt. He stood in disbelief as the shot swished through the net.

"We were ahead by quite a bit so I didn't want to throw up a crazy shot," the freshman said. "AJ Murphy, who was inbounding the ball, just told me to dribble it out. But they weren't really pressuring me so I was like 'Why not just go for it?'"

Mitchell kept pace in the second half but only could cut the lead to as few as 14.

The undersized Kadets stayed aggressive on both ends of the floor, using their speed to stay in control. They snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season.