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Kyrah Gonzales prepares to set up the offense during the second half of the Lady Bulldogs’ game against Chaparral Tuesday at Bulldog Pit. (Maegan Lemon – For the Daily Press)

A bit of a shaky start turned out to be the fuse that ignited an offensive explosion for the Lady Bulldog basketball team Tuesday at Bulldog Pit, as the girls in orange posted 60 points in the latter three quarters of play to earn a 68-41 decision over the Lady Lobos of Chaparral.

In a low-scoring first quarter for both squads, the Lady ‘Dogs managed just eight points – four from Gracie Puentes and two apiece by Kali Crandall and Gracie Tesillo – to trail Chaparral by one, 9-8, heading into the second.

“I felt like we were in good shape, we just missed some easy shots I felt like we would eventually start hitting,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “They had some good shooters that hit some shots early, but by the second quarter, we’d kind of figured out what they were doing offensively and make a defensive adjustment that helped slow them down a little bit.

“We started hitting some of those shots we were missing and went from being down one at the end of the first to being up at halftime. And then we really kind of closed it out in the second half.”

Paityn Houghtaling went on a tear under the basket in the final 24 minutes that began with an eight-point showing in the second. With Houghtaling establishing ownership of the paint, Laci Taylor and Kyrah Gonzales added five and two points respectively from the perimeter in the period to put the Lady Bulldogs up 24-16 at the break.

The Artesia girls went on to dominate the third quarter, posting 28 points from the hands of nine different players. Taylor and Ana Leyva nailed treys in the quarter, Puentes delivered five points, and Houghtaling, Tesillo and Elisa Cardenas came through with four each to send the Lady ‘Dogs into the fourth up by 21, 52-31.

Artesia didn’t let up in the fourth, with six athletes tacking 16 more points to their final tally, including a three-pointer from Karie Bratcher and four more from Houghtaling.

“I thought the girls did a really good job of making some adjustments and being confident in their shooting at home,” Coach Houghtaling said. “I was really proud of the way they played. They have a really good effort, all 15 kids got in the game, everybody chipped in, so it was a good night for us.”

Houghtaling finished with 16 points on the night for Artesia, followed by Puentes with 12 and Tesillo with nine.

The Lady Bulldogs move to 9-4 on the season with the win as they head into another weekend of Class 5A bouts. First up will be Santa Teresa at 5:30 p.m. Friday during Homecoming night at the Pit. The Artesia girls will then hit the road north Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game against Academy.

“I feel like we’re kind of hitting our stride here, but there’s still room for improvement,” said Houghtaling. “I’d like to see us come out with a strong performance Friday night here at home, and Saturday, I’m hoping we can travel well.

“Academy is going to be a kind of benchmark game for us to really see where we’re at. Academy is really strong in 5A and plays well at their place, so it’s going to be an exciting weekend for us.”