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The Runnin’ ‘Dog basketball team took plenty of good-natured ribbing Wednesday for the “football score” they put up in their opening game of the Poe Corn Invitational in Roswell. And while Artesia certainly wasn’t satisfied with its 29-point total, the more significant stat lay on the opposite side of the scoreboard: 23 points for Class 5A No. 4 Farmington.

“One thing we can take away from that game is that we held them to 23 points,” head coach Michael Mondragon said Thursday. “We played great team defense, probably the best team defense we’ve played as far as the whole team is considered this year.”

The ‘Dogs limited the Scorpions (8-2) to single-digit scoring in all four quarters Wednesday. And despite breaking the 10-point mark just once themselves in the opening set, Artesia hit the shots it needed – including five from long-range – to nab the 29-23 victory.

The boys in orange fell behind early in the contest but would battle back to take a 7-4 lead midway through the first quarter on a pair of buckets by Taylor Null and an Enrique Cosio trey.

Joe Willingham took a charge and followed up with one off the glass, and a Chaney Hardt longball gave Artesia a four-point cushion, 12-8, heading into the second.

Neither team could buy a bucket in the eight minutes preceding the half, but the ‘Dogs were at least able to match the Scorps to maintain their lead, 16-12, on shots in the paint by Null and Devon Torres.

Farmington inched back within two to start the third quarter on a pair from the free-throw line by Sol Rascon, but a big three by Torres and another basket inside by Null gave Artesia what turned out to be a crucial seven-point advantage, as the Scorpions closed out the period with six unanswered.

The Bulldogs were able to rebuild that seven-point edge in the early goings of the fourth as Cosio nailed consecutive three-pointers. And following one on the other end of the court from Nicholas Granger, Caleb Dean put down both ends of a clutch one-and-one with 54 seconds on the clock to give Artesia a six-point edge they were able to hold onto through the horn.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we had a really hard time scoring,” Mondragon said. “It was a really sloppy game, a lot of unforced turnovers and a lot of lack of execution on offense. But we’ve really been focusing on our defense, and that showed. We rebounded the ball really, really well, which is something we struggled with against Hobbs and in the past. We were able to control the boards and also control their big, 6’9” kid (David Riley). He’s been averaging anywhere from 27 to 29 points per game, and we held him to two.

“So like we told the guys last night, sometimes you may not be able to throw it in the ocean, but if you defend, you’re going to give yourself the opportunity to be in the game, and that’s what we did. I’m proud of the way the guys continued to fight and make enough plays to come out with the win.”

Cosio led all scorers on the night with nine points, followed by Null with eight. Rascon finished with eight for Farmington.

The Bulldogs will now prepare for an early preview of District 4-AAAAA play as they head back to Roswell to take on Goddard (7-5) at 7:30 p.m. today at Goddard.

“They’ve got LeAnthoney Harrison, and he’s very, very deadly from the three-point line,” Mondragon said. “He can definitely fill it up and fill it up in a hurry, so we have to be sure we locate him. And then they’ve got the Stanford kid (Dalin) who’s strong and physical inside.

“Like we talked to the boys about this morning, if you can’t get up for Goddard, there’s something wrong, and I know a few of the boys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder after that whole experience during football, so they’re definitely anxious to get out there. It’s going to be a challenge, but we should be ready to get after it.

“We also really appreciate all the fans that came up last night. If you’re not doing anything this evening, come up and watch a good game against a district opponent. Hopefully we’ll see another good crowd and can come out, play a good game, and get the win.”