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A hard-fought second half by Moriarty and a rash of shooting woes for Artesia proved to be the difference Tuesday in the Lady Bulldog basketball team’s 45-32 road loss to the Lady Pintos.

After trailing by just seven at the half, 23-16, the girls in orange struggled to establish an offensive rhythm as the Pintos continued to pull away.

“Moriarty is a good, solid team, and they were a good opponent for us, being a 5A school,” Lady ‘Dog head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “I certainly wish we’d beat them. I think it would’ve helped us down the road with the seeding process, but we’re just going to have to become a little more consistent in our scoring.”

Houghtaling said he was pleased with Artesia’s continued aggressiveness on defense Tuesday but that easy misses on offense held the team back.

“We’re playing well defensively, we just didn’t match them basket for basket,” said the coach. “We got a lot of great shots, we just missed. And we can’t blame it on first-game jitters anymore, because it’s the third game.

“I’d just like to see us get a little more consistent with our shooting, especially with the easier shots. We missed a handful of layups that really made a difference in the game.”

The Lady Bulldogs (1-2) will have the chance to get back on the plus side this weekend as they join the Bulldogs in hosting the City of Champions Classic at Bulldog Pit.

The Artesia girls will open at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against El Paso Bowie.

“I’d like to see us continue our intensity on the defensive end,” Houghtaling said of his tournament goals. “I think we’re making strides there, and we’ve spent the majority of our time in practice working on that. That said, I can’t be too disappointed in our offense, since we haven’t spent as much time on it as our D.

“But I would like to see us shoot better in our gym. I felt like we had a really good game against Santa Teresa, and any time you score 60 points, you’re shooting the ball well. I’d like to see us come out with a lot of confidence and make it an exciting game on the offensive end, too, not just on defense.”

The Lady ‘Dogs’ game Thursday will immediately follow the tournament’s dunk contest at 6 p.m. A three-point shooting contest will be held Friday, and Houghtaling says he hopes to see Artesia fans turn out in support of both the Lady Bulldogs and Bulldogs, as well as to enjoy the fun atmosphere the tourney provides.

“There’s something each night, whether it’s the three-point contest or the dunk contest, and those things make a tournament a lot of fun, for the fans as well as the kids,” said the coach. “The girls’ and boys’ basketball boosters will also be selling raffle tickets for a 2015 Jeep Renegade, so we want to encourage fans to come out and buy a ticket for a chance at a new car.

“We also really want to thank our sponsors. We have a lot of good folks helping us out this year. Tate Branch Dodge is our title sponsor and is taking care of meals for all the teams and helping us with some hotel costs. The chamber is giving us a big hand feeding teams a couple of times and taking care of the cost of our tournament programs, so we want to thank them and the lodger’s tax. It’s going to be a really good tournament, as always, and we hope to see everybody there.”