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The Lady Bulldog basketball team got off to a solid start Tuesday against the Ramettes of Class 4A Portales on the road, trailing by just a pair after one quarter of play, 12-10.

But the Artesia girls struggled to establish an offensive rhythm in the final three periods, managing just single-digit scoring in each, as Portales romped away for a 56-29 final.

“It was a tough game,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “It was a real physical game, but honestly, that’s good for us. It was good for us to see a good, stiff, physical team like Portales and to go on the road and play in that kind of environment.

“It was pretty comparable to a state-tournament style of game, so I liked it for that.”

A pair of three-pointers by Alexa Riggs and Kyrah Gonzales, along with shots off the glass by Stacia Martinez and Mikinli Taylor, combined to give the Lady ‘Dogs a 10-6 lead with two minutes to go in the first quarter Tuesday. But the Ramettes rallied in the final moments, posting six unanswered to go up 12-10 heading into the second.

A Gracie Tesillo trey cut the Lady Bulldogs’ deficit back to three, 16-13, early in the quarter and a long two by Laci Taylor kept Artesia within four, 19-15, midway through. But another run by Portales, this time eight points, helped propel the girls in red to a 10-point lead at the break, 27-17.

Turnovers plagued the Lady ‘Dogs to start the third, significantly limiting their offensive opportunities. And while Portales wasn’t able to convert the majority of the mishaps into points, they outscored Artesia 9-4 in the period to lead 36-21 going into the final eight minutes of play.

That margin was by no means insurmountable, but the Ramettes were able to reel off eight straight to start the fourth, bumping their advantage to 20, 44-24, and effectively putting the game on ice.

Paityn Houghtaling and Mikinli Taylor logged buckets in the quarter, but the rest of Artesia’s time was spent at the free-throw line, where they went 4-11.

“I felt like we played pretty well with the exception of about a three- or four-minute stretch at the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Coach Houghtaling said. “We had a few turnovers and they were able to stretch the lead to 20, and once they got that far ahead, we couldn’t close the gap anymore.

“We were 10 to 12 points away from them for most of the game until that little stretch, so the game was better than the score looked. The girls played hard, they competed, they did a lot of good things. There was just that little stretch there where the wheels kind of fell off, but it was a good game and good to see a quality opponent like Portales.”

Mikinli Taylor finished with six points on the night to lead the Lady Bulldogs, followed by Martinez with five. Zamorye Cox led Portales (9-2) with 10.

The Lady Bulldogs (7-4) will now prepare to return to Bulldog Pit for the first time since Dec. 20, 2016, for a weekend double header against Class 6A Clovis and Class 5A Deming. The Artesia girls will host the first set of Lady Wildcats (6-7) at 7 p.m. Friday and the second (11-2) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Clovis is very comparable to Portales in their style of play, so that’ll be another really good opportunity for us to play a tough 6A team,” said Houghtaling. “Games like that are only going to make us better, and the kids know that. They’re getting better each game, and I think Friday night will be real competitive. If we come out and play well, I think we have a shot.

“Saturday is a little different. Deming isn’t quite as good as the teams we’ve been playing, but they’re going to be ready to play, so I’d like to see us come out Saturday really focused with the idea that the 5A games are the ones we really need to hone in on, and I think the girls understand that.

“It’ll be nice to be back home after a pretty good road stretch, and I think the girls are excited about that.”