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Paityn Houghtaling battles Lady Rocket Bailey Beene for a rebound in the second quarter Friday at the Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team couldn’t get the monkey that is turnovers and inaccuracy off their back Friday in their final first-round district game at Bulldog Pit.

After hanging with the Lady Rockets of Goddard through the first quarter of play to trail by just six, 16-10, going into the second, the Artesia girls couldn’t keep pace as the Rockets ignited from beyond the arc.

Down by 12 at the break, the Lady ‘Dogs struggled to create opportunities between turnovers in the third, and an improved showing in the fourth unfortunately came too late to help them gain ground in a 63-42 final.

“It was tough,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “We knew going in that Goddard was going to be really good. We knew they could shoot.

“I thought we had a pretty good game plan, but we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and probably do a couple of things differently to give ourselves a chance against them next time around. We kind of got outworked here and there. There were a couple of quarters where we played pretty good and a couple where they just outhustled us to loose balls and rebounds.”

The Lady Bulldogs were within a shot of the Rockets through the midway point in the opening period thanks to an offensive putback from Stacia Martinez and a Gracie Tesillo trey. But back-to-back longballs by Goddard’s Micaela Kolker pushed the Lady Rockets further ahead, and drives to the hoop by Paityn Houghtaling and Gracie Puentes could only keep the Lady ‘Dogs within six going into the second.

A quick shot off the glass by Kali Crandall and another Tesillo three quickly made it a one-point game again for Artesia, 16-15, but from there, the Lady Rockets began a veritable shelling from the perimeter.

Katherine Kolker delivered a pair of three’s, her sister one, and Desi Flores another to help propel Goddard to a 15-point lead with just over two minutes to go in the half. Puentes posted an and-one and a shot in the paint in the final moments, but Artesia headed into the locker room down by double digits, 34-22.

Martinez and Puentes combined to bring the Lady ‘Dogs back within 10 to start the third, but the Lady Rockets would outscore the girls in orange 10-2 from there to lead 46-28 going into the final eight minutes.

There, six points from Houghtaling and five by Alexa Riggs led the Lady Bulldogs to their most successful offensive quarter, but Goddard kept up their intensity en route to the 21-point
win.

Puentes led Artesia with 12 points on the night, followed by Houghtaling and Tesillo with eight each, while Micaela Kolker posted 17 for the Rockets.

Waking early the next morning for a road trip to Ruidoso likely left the Lady ‘Dogs a bit groggy, and it showed to start their makeup contest of a Jan. 21 postponement Saturday.

Artesia could get nothing going offensively against the Lady Warriors, who rode 6’1” standout Lia Mosher to a 14-5 lead after one complete.

But the Lady Bulldogs awoke with a vengeance in the second quarter.

Mosher got off to a strong start with six points, but buckets from Crandall, Houghtaling and Elisa Cardenas brought Artesia back within 10, 23-13, and an eight-point run that included treys from Tesillo and Kyrah Gonzales and a layup by the latter saw the girls in orange down by just a shot, 26-24, at the half.

“We kind of got off to a slow start,” Coach Houghtaling said. “We really played Ruidoso well the first time we saw them, and it’s always tough to play somebody after you’ve beaten them pretty well. You tend to think you’re going to do it again, but Ruidoso has really improved over the course of the season, and it’s been a long time since we saw them.

“They came out and really played well. They got to the basket quite a bit. We started in our zone, and they were able to get the ball into their big girl. But we shook it off and had a really good second quarter to close the gap, and then we came out with a big third and were able to open it up on them a little.”

Shots in the paint by Houghtaling, Puentes and Martinez gave the Lady ‘Dogs a 32-30 lead and helped set the stage for a trio of treys by Riggs that provided additional breathing room, 41-33. Mosher was able to answer with five points in the final moments, however, to haul the Lady Warriors back within three, 41-38, going into the fourth.

Crandall, Mikinli Taylor, Tesillo and Houghtaling all contributed to keeping the Lady ‘Dogs’ lead semi-comfortable through the midway point, but Ruidoso was able to rally late, scoring four unanswered to move back within a shot, 51-48, with 30 seconds on the clock.

A free throw by Riggs prevented the chance of a single-possession tie, however, and an offensive putback by Mosher in the final seconds was all the Lady Warriors had time for in a 52-50 defeat.

“They made a little charge at us at the end, but we were able to hang on,” Coach Houghtaling said. “I was real pleased with the way the girls played. I thought our man-to-man stuff was really good in the second half, and we hit some big shots when we needed to.

“It was good for us to shake off that loss Friday night. Like we told the girls, the one good remedy for a loss is to get right back in the gym and play, and we were able to do that. We know Ruidoso isn’t a district team, but it certainly helped us to get a win at this point in the season. Coming off three district losses in a row, I think this will be good for our confidence, and I’m proud of the girls for getting the win.”

Riggs finished with 12 points on the day, while Mosher led all scorers with 29.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-9, 0-3) will now have a week to prepare for the start of the second round of District 4-AAAAA action Friday when they host Lovington at 5:30 p.m. After defeating Artesia 47-33 Jan. 27, the Lady Wildcats (10-13, 2-1) went on to defeat Goddard 48-47 Jan. 31 before falling to Roswell High Friday, 63-33.

“I’m glad we have a little stretch here where we don’t have any games,” said Houghtaling. “We can take some time to go back, look at film, and see if we can find a way to make up some points. We definitely need to do a better job of rebounding and taking care of the ball.

“I honestly think we’re better than we played in all three of those first district games. I think the girls were kind of tight and nervous, and you could tell by the way they played. But the pressure is off us now. We’ve seen all three teams. We don’t have anything to lose at the bottom of the district, so I think we’ll come out and play a little looser in this next round. I think the girls understand we’re better than we played, and we’re looking forward to some different outcomes. I’d like to see us get a win or two, but even so, I’d just like to see us play better, and I think we will.”