BROOMFIELD -- They are reigning champions in title only, not in the construction of their rosters or in the names of their marquee players.
Nonetheless, Legacy's 48-31 home win against Air Academy on Thursday night featured the state's championship squads in the two largest classifications.
The aura surrounding the teams isn't quite the same as nine months ago, when Legacy was busy defeating Monarch for the 5A crown and Air Academy was disposing of D'Evelyn for the 4A title.
Each entered at .500 and trying to establish a new identity. Legacy appears farther along in the process, as sisters Caitlyn and Courtney Smith, contributors to last season's title, are rounding into form.
Each narrowly missed a double-double as the tandem combined for 22 points and 23 rebounds.
"The chemistry is definitely clicking more now than it was at the beginning," said Courtney Smith, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. "We're just going to keep developing it as we move on."
Caitlyn Smith, who will play at Colorado Mines next season, added eight points and a game-high 12 boards for the Lightning (4-3), who retooled nicely after a one-sided loss at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday.
"It definitely gives us some good momentum to take into the break and will allow us to have some good energy at practice," Caitlyn Smith said.
Legacy limited Air Academy to a mere seven field goals, and the Kadets (3-4) might have endured a larger defeat if they hadn't nailed 14 of 17 free throws. Center Kassedey Huffman led Air Academy with 13 points (including a 9-for-10 performance at the line).
Legacy was nearly equally proficient at the line, drilling 13 of 16. The Lightning also converted five 3-pointers, including two by Courtney Smith and one apiece by Emiley Lopez, Bree Paulson and reserve Jenna Fenton.
"We've scheduled some of these games early on because we know it's going to be a good test for us," Legacy coach Craig Van Patten said. "Highlands Ranch is a always going to be a great test, the (Boulder Valley Invite) was good for us, and of course Air Academy is a always a good program, too. Early games like this only make you better."
The contest marked only the second home game for the Lightning, which doesn't get back to action until Jan. 4 at Boulder in the Front Range League opener.
"It's always good to win at home with all the fans we have, because with girls basketball you don't always get a lot of fans," Courtney Smith said. "We just need this momentum going into conference play."
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LEGACY 48, AIR ACADEMY 31
At Legacy HS
AIR ACADEMY (3-4)
Downey 1 2-2 4, Rehein 0 0-0 0, Rasmussen 3 0-0 8, Jenkinson 1 2-3 5, Huffman 2 9-10 13, Wilborn 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 1-2 1. Totals 7 14-17 31.
Lopez 2 0-0 5, Neely 2 4-6 8, Ca. Smith 2 4-4 8, Paulson 2 2-2 7, Co. Smith 5 2-2 14, Gallegos 0 0-0 0, Fenton 2 0-0 5, Aicega 0 1-2 1. Totals 15 13-16 48.
Score by quarters:
Air Academy 9 9 7 6 -- 31
Legacy 10 14 17 7 -- 48
3-point field goals -- Air Academy (3): Rasmussen 2, Jenkinson; Legacy (5): Co. Smith, Lopez, Paulson, Fenton. Total fouls -- Air Academy 10, Legacy 11. Fouled out -- None. Technical fouls -- None.