Published: 2:20 pm, Wed. Nov. 30th, 2016Updated: 2:12 pm
If there was any sign of first-game jitters for the Lady Bulldog basketball team Tuesday in Santa Teresa, it was simply that it took a few minutes to warm up their shooting hands.
Once they did, there was no looking back as the girls in orange romped to a 55-27 opening victory over the Lady Desert Warriors.
“We played well,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “I was really excited to be back in the swing of games, and I know the girls were, too. We’ve been practicing for about three or four weeks, and we were all ready for games to start.”
Gracie Tesillo tore the lid off with a three-pointer to get Artesia on the board Tuesday in an all-orange opening quarter.
Buckets by Paityn Houghtaling and Alexa Riggs, and a free throw by the former, made it 8-0 midway through, and the Lady ‘Dogs reeled off the final seven points of the period in rapid succession as breakaway layups by Gracie Puentes and Tesillo, and a second Tesillo trey made it 16-0 going into the second.
Artesia played turnover-free ball in the second eight while continuing to force cough-ups by the Lady Warriors. Riggs opened the quarter with a longball, and four points from Mikinli Taylor and a Kali Crandall jumper continued to build on the Lady ‘Dogs’ commanding lead, 25-0.
Victoria Lira ended the drought for Santa T. with a three-pointer around the four-minute mark, but Artesia would close out the half with a 6-0 run comprised of a pair of baskets by Karie Bratcher and a last-second, fast-break layup on the steal by Tesillo.
The Lady Bulldogs began the second half just seven points away from putting the mercy-rule clock in motion, 31-3, but Santa Teresa’s 5’9” sophomore Dianne Hefner would finally breathe some life into the Warriors’ game in the third quarter.
Proving just as effective in the paint as out, Hefner posted 10 points in the period to carry Santa T. into double digits, while the Lady ‘Dogs added just three points to their total to lead 34-15.
Tesillo would kick off the fourth with another steal and breakaway layup, however, and three consecutive baskets by Puentes were followed by an Elisa Cardenas trey to make it 45-17 with five minutes remaining.
Hefner answered Cardenas’ longball, but the Artesia junior would drain another from long range a few seconds later to keep the lead well in hand for the Lady Bulldogs. Jennifer Salazar would hit a bucket and a trey late for Santa Teresa to make it a 24-point game before the Lady ‘Dogs closed the book on buckets by Stacia Martinez and Puentes, 55-27.
“Santa Teresa is down a little bit this year,” Coach Houghtaling said. “They don’t have the experience they’ve had the last couple of seasons, and we were able to take advantage of some mismatches here and there.
“The girls played well. They played hard, which is something we want regardless of a win or loss, and they stayed focused. We had about four things we were trying specifically to get done last night, and we got three of the four done, so it was a good start for us. There are certainly a lot of areas we’re going to need to improve on to be more competitive when we get down the stretch, but it’s always good to start with a win on the road.”
The Lady ‘Dogs, who have struggled on and off with offensive accuracy over the past few years, had few problems in that department Tuesday, logging 23 field goals, including five three-pointers. Tesillo led the charge with 13 points, followed by Puentes with 10 and Cardenas and Taylor with six each.
“Over the past couple of seasons, it seems like we’ve gotten into a drought where we just couldn’t make a basket, and not to say that won’t ever happen again, but we had eight or nine different girls score last night,” Houghtaling said. “Everybody can kind of chip in here and there. If one or two people are cold, we have enough experience this year that we can continue to get some good shots and score.”
The Lady Bulldogs will now have a week off to prepare to join the Bulldogs in hosting the annual City of Champions Classic tournament Dec. 8-10 at Bulldog Pit, and Houghtaling hopes to see his athletes continue to build on their solid opening road performance.
“The kids did a good job traveling,” said Houghtaling. “They handled the bus trip well, and I thought they did a good job of shaking off the trip once we got there. We got in the gym a little early, stretched our legs, put up some shots before the game, and stayed focused, and the girls were excited to play, so that was positive.
“We’re looking forward to our tournament next week. It looks like it’s going to be a good tournament, so we want to encourage folks to come out to the City of Champions if they can.”