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Laci Taylor puts up a jumper Thursday during the City of Champions Classic. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)

Laci Taylor puts up a jumper Thursday during the City of Champions Classic. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team established its perimeter game early and played heads-up defense throughout its City of Champions Classic opener Thursday at Bulldog Pit, and the result was a 58-29 victory over the Lady Warriors of Ruidoso.

The girls in orange bounded out to a 15-1 lead in the first quarter and maintained their comfortable advantage from there, shooting well in the first and fourth quarters and forcing a whopping 35 Lady Warriors turnovers.

“I thought we did a lot of good things last night,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “We were able to come out and play with a lot of energy, and I thought we did a good job of shooting with confidence early.”

Alexa Riggs drained a pair of three-pointers in the first two minutes of play Thursday to, along with a breakaway layup off the turnover by Gracie Puentes, give Artesia an 8-0 lead, and a pair from the free-throw line and last-second trey by Elisa Cardenas made it 15-1 in favor of the Lady ‘Dogs heading into the second.

Ruidoso finally shook off its offensive funk with two quick treys by Andee Roach and Karina Vintere, and a third seconds later by 6’1” Lia Mosher. Mosher added a shot off the glass to bring the Lady Warriors back within five, 17-12. But Artesia would close out the half on a 8-2 run that included a Cardenas longball and an old-fashioned three-point play by Riggs to lead by 11 at the break, 25-14.

Both teams struggled to find the hoop in the third quarter, managing a combined eight points, but with their lead cut to nine to start the fourth, 29-20, the Lady ‘Dogs went on a tear.

Artesia posted 15 unanswered points, 13 of those coming on a rash of six straight turnovers by Ruidoso, to quickly make their advantage 22, 44-20. Puentes logged a trio of layups in the final two minutes of play and Riggs one off the baseball pass to round out the final, 58-29.

The Lady Bulldogs shot 33 percent overall from the field – 42 percent in the second half – to Ruidoso’s 26 and were 13 of 25 from the stripe to the Lady Warriors’ 3-17.

Puentes and Riggs led all scorers on the night with 17 points apiece, followed by Cardenas with nine and Kali Crandall with six. Mosher had 12 for Ruidoso.

“There’s still a lot of jitters and nerves, this being our second game, but I felt like we did a good job of settling in as the game progressed,” said Houghtaling. “We’re excited to get the win and advance in the winners’ side of our bracket.”

The Lady Bulldogs will take on Silver at 6:30 p.m. today at the Pit for the chance to move on the championship bout. The Lady Colts topped Santa Teresa 49-23 in the first round.

“Silver is going to be a challenge for us in terms of what they do,” said Houghtaling. “So far, the two games we’ve played, we’ve just seen zone defense, and Silver has a man-to-man, up-in-your-face kind of high-pressure defense. So it’ll be interesting to see how the girls respond to that.

“I think the game might have a different complexion because of that, but it’s something we’re going to see down the stretch anyway. We’re going to come across good teams that are going to play real aggressive man-to-man defense, so it’s good to get a challenge like that at home in a tournament instead of on the road somewhere in a little tougher circumstances.”

Houghtaling says the Lady ‘Dogs will also need to limit Silver’s 6’1” Katelynn Limardo and shooting guards.

“I thought we had a great crowd last night,” said the coach. “We were excited to see that, and we’re expecting another good crowd today. The boys and girls both won, so I think it should be a good Friday night for folks to come out and watch some basketball.”