Published: 1:00 pm, Fri. Jan. 8th, 2016Updated: 3:13 pm
For three quarters Thursday, the Runnin’ ‘Dog basketball team was right there with the Class 5A top-ranked Pirates of Grants in the opening round of the Gallup Invitational.
The Artesia boys fell into a slight hole early but were able to keep pace with Grants in the second quarter to trail by just nine at the half.
But the Pirates quite literally pillaged the perimeter in the third, draining five three-pointers in the period, four of those consecutively, to take a 20-point lead before the ‘Dogs knew what had hit them. And although Artesia would rally in the fourth, outscoring Grants 25-18, the damage had been done in the 75-62 loss.
The Pirates bolted out to a quick 7-2 lead Thursday, but the boys in orange were able to trim their deficit to two, 10-8, on a Caleb Brewer layup, a Justin Houghtaling trey, and one of two from the free-throw line by Ethan Duff.
Grants’ second longball of the quarter, however, helped make it a seven-point affair, 15-8, heading into the second.
There, the Bulldogs went blow for blow with the Pirates, logging layups from Carlos Carrasco, Houghtaling and Tanner Harris and pulling within five with around four minutes remaining in the half, 25-20, on a Houghtaling old-fashioned three-point play and a shot off the glass by Brewer.
Two more three-pointers, however, helped Grants stay in front, and the boys in red led by nine at the half, 33-24.
Houghtaling would answer two quick baskets by the Pirates with his second trifecta of the game to start the third, but then came Grants’ air strike.
Mike Chambers hit back-to-back three’s and Matt Vail and AJ Madrid followed with one apiece to propel the Pirates to a 49-27 lead with over five minutes still remaining in the period.
Chambers followed buckets by Houghtaling and Carlos Caldera with another trey, and when the smoke cleared, the ‘Dogs trailed by an even 20, 57-37, going into the final eight minutes.
With the full force of the Gallup home crowd – Grants’ biggest rivals – behind them, Artesia was not about to go down without a fight.
Two from the stripe by Santiago Morillon were followed by layups from Brewer and Duff, and Caldera would prove his own perimeter prowess midway through, dropping a trio of bombs that gave the Bulldogs new life, 64-55, with 3:39 still to play.
Chambers answered in kind, however, and despite a Carrasco layup and a late three by Houghtaling that kept Artesia within striking distance, the Pirates went 6-10 from the line in the final minutes to put the final margin back in double digits, 75-62.
Houghtaling led all scorers on the contest with a season-best 22 points, followed by Caldera with 15 and Carrasco with eight. Chambers finished with 18 for the Pirates and Richie Lucero 17.
With the loss, the Bulldogs (4-5) dropped into the consolation bracket, where they took on Deming at 1 p.m. today. Results of that contest were unavailable at press time.