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Gracie Tesillo puts up a shot as teammate Alexa Riggs looks on during the second quarter of the Lady Bulldog basketball team’s season opener Tuesday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)

Gracie Tesillo puts up a shot as teammate Alexa Riggs looks on during the second quarter of the Lady Bulldog basketball team’s season opener Tuesday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team got its 2015-16 season off to an unusually early start Tuesday, hosting the Class 6A Lady Tigers of Alamogordo at Bulldog Pit.

And while the Artesia girls came up short of Alamo in the end, 48-37, the mid-November test will provide them with a clearer knowledge of where to focus their efforts in the two weeks separating them from their next outing Dec. 1 against Santa Teresa at the Pit.

“We haven’t ever played this early before,” Lady ‘Dog head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “This is usually time for a scrimmage, but we needed a game and Alamogordo needed a game, and this was the only time they could play.

“Unfortunately, we came up short, but it wasn’t a bad game for us to get early. Alamogordo is a good opponent.”

The Lady ‘Dogs struggled to get their offense started in the first quarter Tuesday, going scoreless until the final second, when freshman Paityn Houghtaling put up a bucket. Despite the drought, Artesia trailed by just eight going into the second as Alamogordo managed only 10 points of their own.

The girls in orange began to click as the second quarter continued, with Houghtaling delivering two more baskets and Gracie Tesillo a pair of free throws. A Gracie Puentes bucket midway through the period brought the Lady Bulldogs within four, 15-11, and the Lady Tigers would lead by just six at the half, 19-13.

Alamo outscored Artesia 13-8 in the third quarter, however, to bump their lead to double digits, 32-21, and as senior forward Kristyn Archuleta continued to go on an offensive tear, was able to maintain that margin through the end of the bout.

Down by 20 late in the fourth, a pair of baskets apiece by Houghtaling and Shyann Spence and three free throws by Chelsea Evans helped Artesia match the Lady Tigers in points for the quarter, but it was not enough to bridge the gap.

Houghtaling finished with 10 points to lead the Lady ‘Dogs, followed by Puentes with six. Archuleta posted 27 for the Tigers.

“The kids who’ve been with me the last two weeks were ready to play, but on the flip side of that, I’d just gotten a handful of players from volleyball Monday, so they didn’t even have one full day of practice with us,” Coach Houghtaling said. “But for the ones who’ve been in offseason, it was a good measuring stick to see where we’re at.

“We did a lot of good stuff, we had some problems, but I think probably the best part of having a game this early is that it’s two weeks before the next one. We’re going to watch the film another time or two, kind of pick it apart, and identify the areas we need to prepare for Santa Teresa when we play them here.”

The Lady Bulldogs (0-1) will resume their schedule at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, against Santa Teresa and will take their first road trip Dec. 8 to Moriarty before joining the Bulldogs in hosting the City of Champions Classic Dec. 10-12. The ‘Dogs will compete in one game prior to the tournament, hosting Ruidoso at 7 p.m. Dec. 8.

Houghtaling said he was impressed with the turnout Tuesday and hopes to see even more basketball fans begin turning out in two weeks. One potential added draw this season will be the abolishment of the “no food or drinks in the gym” rule, meaning fans can now take their snacks to their seats rather than gathering at the west end of the Pit.

“I thought we had a great crowd last night for a first game that was this early, and we were really appreciative of the support we had,” said Houghtaling. “They’ve also changed the rule about eating in the stands now, so I think that’s one little extra thing that might encourage a few more people to come out.”

The Lady ‘Dog and Bulldog basketball boosters are also currently selling raffle tickets for the second annual car raffle. A Jeep Renegade is this year’s prize, and tickets may be purchased for $20 each from any basketball booster or at the games.