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Paityn Houghtaling puts up a basket in the paint during the first half Saturday against Deming at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team was clearly happy to be back on their home boards Saturday afternoon, riding overall solid performance on both offense and defense to a 53-24
thumping of the Class 5A Lady Wildcats of Deming.

Competing at Bulldog Pit for the first time since Dec. 20, the Lady ‘Dogs shot 46 percent from the field and forced a whopping 29 Deming turnovers on the contest.

“I was really pleased with the outcome,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “This was a 5A team we needed to do well against, and I thought we had a good game plan for them.”

The Artesia girls came out with the hot hand Saturday, as an opening layup off the turnover by Gracie Puentes was followed by back-to-back treys from Kyrah Gonzales and Alexa Riggs, and consecutive buckets by Gracie Tesillo, Puentes and Paityn Houghtaling made it 14-2 late in the first quarter.

Gonzales added a second longball with a minute-and-a-half to go in the period, and a Puentes layup off the Tesillo steal late put Artesia up 19-6 going into the second.

There, Houghtaling put one off the glass to get things started, and Kali Crandall delivered an offensive putback and a free throw that, combined with a shot in the paint by Puentes, kept the Lady Bulldogs in front by a comfortable margin, 26-11.

The Lady ‘Cats would end the half on a 5-1 run, but Artesia was still up by double digits at the break, 27-16.

As turnovers continued to hound Deming, the Lady ‘Dogs kept gunning from the field in the second half. Riggs kicked off the third quarter with a three-pointer, followed by a jumper from Deming’s Vanessa Garcia. But that shot would comprise the Wildcats’ only two points of the period, as Artesia closed out the third with 14 unanswered, six from Crandall, five from Puentes, and three courtesy of Elisa Cardenas.

Gonzales dropped one in from long range as the fourth quarter began, and buckets from Cardenas, Gonzales and Puentes would end the contest, 53-24.

“We kind of extended our defensive pressure a little bit and were able to turn them over a lot,” Coach Houghtaling said Saturday. “Some of those turnovers led to some pretty quick baskets in transition, and we were able to jump out early on them.

“We really shot the ball well. We hit some big shots early and ended up with six three-pointers in the game, which is pretty good for us. I thought the kids played hard, and we were able to get 12 girls in the game, so it was good to get down the bench.”

Puentes led all scorers on the afternoon with 16 points, followed by Gonzales with 11 and Crandall with nine.

With the victory, the Lady Bulldogs improve to 8-4 on the season as they prepare for three more outings against 5A competition this week.

“I think we’re getting better,” Houghtaling said. “I really wish we could’ve played Clovis. Playing Carlsbad, Hobbs and Portales really helped us get better, and I think Clovis would’ve been one more opportunity to see a real tough team that could’ve challenged us and taught us a few things.

“But we’re in the stretch of the season here where we need to play well. We’ve got a handful of 5A teams coming up, then Carlsbad and Gadsden again. I’d like to see us continue to get better, but I think we’re coming along. I think our team chemistry is pretty good, and I think the girls are really starting to kind of mesh and play well together.”

The girls in orange will host Chaparral at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bulldog Pit and Santa Teresa at 5:30 p.m. Friday before hitting the road again Saturday, where they’ll meet Albuquerque Academy at 1:30 p.m.

“Chaparral is going to be a tougher game than Deming,” Houghtaling said. “Chaparral isn’t bad. They’re pretty small, but they’re scrappy, and they’re a really good shooting team. I expect to see them play some zone, shoot the three a lot on offense, and just be a good challenge for us.

“We’re glad to get to play them at home. I felt like we defended our court pretty well today, and the girls tend to shoot better at home. We’ll need to have pretty good prep on Monday, watch some film and game plan a little bit, to get by them and be up for Santa T. and Academy.”