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Elisa Cardenas prepares to fire a baseline pass after dribbling through pressure Friday in Roswell. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

With anything higher than a four seed in regular-season District 4-AAAAA play out of the cards, the Lady Bulldog basketball team took a “nothing to lose” attitude into Friday’s bout with Goddard at Ground Zero.

And through one half of play, it looked as though it was about to pay off.

But the bugaboo that is turnovers and accuracy came back to haunt the Artesia girls in the third and fourth quarters of play, and the Lady Rockets were able to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 21-point victory, 64-43.

“The girls were real loose there to start,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “We wanted to win, but we were loose. Like we talked about before the game, we just wanted to go in playing hard, and we did.

“I was proud of them. We shot the ball real well in the first half and had the lead there for a little bit. I just wish we could have sustained it through the third quarter.”

The Lady ‘Dogs matched Goddard in terms of shooting percentages in the opening quarters with 44, posting just four fewer buckets than the girls in blue.

After the Rockets jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the contest, a pair of treys from Gracie Tesillo and one by Kyrah Gonzales quickly put Artesia in front, 10-9, with three minutes to go in the first, and a second Gonzales longball and offensive putback from Paityn Houghtaling expanded that advantage to seven, 16-9, with 1:22 on the clock.

Goddard was able to end the period on a 4-0 run to pull within three, but the Lady Bulldogs were clearly fired up.

Two more from beyond the arc by Alexa Riggs and Tesillo, combined with a jumper by the latter, saw Artesia in the lead once more midway through the second, 24-23. Unfortunately, a few misses and some breakdowns on the boards helped the Lady Rockets compile an 8-0 run. Four straight from the stripe by Gonzales, however, helped the girls in orange keep their deficit at five, 33-28, at the break.

The Lady ‘Dogs were able to stay within seven through the first minute-and-a-half of the third on a shot off the inbound pass under the basket by Gracie Puentes, but off-the-mark shots helped the Rockets set up back-to-back treys in transition and turnovers handed them a pair of layups. Two from the line by Tesillo and buckets by Puentes and Mikinli Taylor could only trim the gap to 14 going into the fourth, 50-36.

There, the girls in orange would go colder still from the field, posting just a single basket, courtesy of Puentes, and managing five points from the line as Goddard pulled away for the 64-43 final.

“Goddard just got hot in the second half,” said Coach Houghtaling. “They had some three’s we weren’t able to answer, and that kind of opened up the gap.

“But even so, the girls played hard the whole game. I thought we rebounded well and played really hard on defense. We did a lot of good things last night.”

The Lady ‘Dogs’ struggles in the second half resulted in a 16-percent showing from the field to Goddard’s 48. Tesillo finished with 14 points, followed by Puentes with 10, and Lady Rocket Camaryn Villalpando led all scorers with 17.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-12, 0-6) will now set their sights on the District 4-AAAAA Tournament, which they’ll open with a 5:30 p.m. first-round game against Lovington Tuesday in Lovington.

“We didn’t win a district game, so now everybody’s looking past us,” said Houghtaling. “We’re in the underdog role, and hopefully, we can make that work for us. I think we can get Lovington. We played them real close last time and didn’t really play that well, so if we can put together a good game, I feel real good about it, and the girls do, too.

“This is a really resilient group. They’re still excited about basketball. Sometimes when you lose several in a row, it kind of takes the wind out of the kids’ sails, but this group is still pretty fired up and looking forward to the tournament. We’re excited about Tuesday, and I think if we get a win, it’ll guarantee us a spot in the state tournament. If we don’t, who knows, so we’re going in with the idea of continuing to play loose and trying to get a win on the road.”

Should the Lady ‘Dogs do so, they would next head to Goddard Thursday for a likely 5:30 p.m. rematch with the Lady Rockets. The winner of that contest moves on to the tournament championship Friday at Roswell High.