Published: 12:21 am, Sun. Dec. 18th, 2016Updated: 12:18 am
Between two games decided by a combined total of three points and a bus that failed them four-and-a-half hours from home, it’s safe to say the Lady Bulldog basketball team had its fill of excitement on a long road-trip weekend north.
But the squad headed back to Artesia amidst snowfall late Saturday with two solid wins under their belts – a 48-46 victory over Capital Friday and a 45-44 edging of Los Alamos Saturday afternoon.
“Two real close games – closer than they should’ve been,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday from the road. “We were actually behind Friday and came back and got Capital right at the end to win, but we had a pretty good lead going into the fourth quarter today against Los Alamos.
“We were up by 10 or 11 points and just missed a couple of foul shots down the stretch that would’ve sealed the deal, and they were able to close it to one. But I’m really pleased with the girls’ effort. To get on the road and play two 5A games like that – I’m super proud of how hard they competed.”
The Lady ‘Dogs came out solid Friday against the Lady Jaguars, taking a 17-11 lead into the second quarter. Both teams struggled to find the hoop in a low-scoring second, but Artesia carried a slight advantage into the locker room, 24-20.
Capital rallied in the third to go up 35-34 heading into the final eight minutes, but the girls in orange turned the tables, outscoring the Jaguars 14-11 in the fourth for the two-point win.
“I thought we did a fantastic job of rebounding this weekend,” said Houghtaling. “Obviously,we’d like to shoot better from the free-throw line, though. I think our defensive effort probably gave us the edge both nights. We were able to force a few turnovers late against Capital that let us get a couple of baskets and the lead, and we got a couple of stops right there at the end against Los Alamos when they were kind of heating up.”
The Lady ‘Dogs fell behind the Lady Hilltoppers early Saturday afternoon, 7-5, but posted 18 points in the second quarter to take a 23-21 lead in at the break. Artesia continued its solid scoring in the third, delivering 18 more to make it 41-31, then held on in the face of a 13-point rally by the ‘Toppers for the 45-44 win.
“We didn’t have anyone do any incredible scoring, but we had 10 different kids score tonight, so it was a group effort,” Houghtaling said. “Friday night at Capital, we had two girls come in off the bench and hit big buckets to get us into the lead. We have depth, and our depth is helping us. Even at elevation, I felt like we were a little fresher in the fourth quarter than even Los Alamos was, and that’s probably what gave us the edge down the stretch.”
Houghtaling said he was pleased overall with the Lady ‘Dogs’ offense, which is finding its rhythm as the athletes continue to gain experience.
“It’s nice to win road games,” said the coach. “The past couple of years, we’ve really struggled on the road, and these tight games like this that we were often on the other side of, it’s nice to be on the top side of them this year.
“I think the girls are real excited about playing. It’s nice when they get to the gym and are looking forward to the game, and I’m real proud of where we’re at so far. I think we’re getting better each night. Our youth and inexperience the past few years are kind of turning around, and the girls are starting to come into their own. We’re still relatively young, but the girls are starting to hit their stride on the offensive end.”
Houghtaling was also pleased with the pair of wins over Class 5A opponents, something he says should serve Artesia well when seeding and selection time rolls around.
The Lady Bulldogs (5-1) will now prepare to join the ‘Dogs in hosting Carlsbad Tuesday at Bulldog Pit in a quick rematch of the City of Champions Classic girls’ division championship bout.
“It’s going to be a tough one Tuesday, but we’re going to enjoy these two for a day or two before we start thinking about Carlsbad again,” Houghtaling said. “We’re going to take tomorrow off to rest, have a good, short workout Monday, and get ready to play hard against Carlsbad. We’re looking forward to getting back out on the court and having a better game this time around.”