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(Courtesy Photo)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team had just integrated its fall-sports athletes prior to the Nov. 28 season opener against Santa Teresa at Bulldog Pit, and the expected first-game glitches were there.

But so were 61 points.

The Artesia girls put their shooting potential on full display in a 61-24 defeat of the Lady Desert Warriors, and with another full week of practice under their belts, they’re looking to pick up where they left off in this weekend’s City of Champions Classic.

“We’re off to a good start, I think,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Wednesday. “We had a great offseason, and then we had about a week-and-a-half of practice as a full team before we played Santa T.

“We definitely had some first-game-jitters type of stuff, a lot of turnovers and things like that, but we played well overall. And we shot well. I hope we can keep that up.”

The Lady ‘Dogs will open their CoC tournament run at 6:30 p.m. today against Class 4A Ruidoso (0-3). This year’s girls’ bracket is a solid one, with district rivals Lovington and Goddard also in the mix, along with Carlsbad, Kirtland Central, Gallup and Silver City.

“It’s a tough tournament,” said Houghtaling. “There’s some good teams here, but if the girls just come out, play hard, and compete, I think we’ll be alright. They’re excited to get going. The tournament is always a lot of fun, and they’re looking forward to playing in front of some good home crowds.”

Houghaling says the girls in orange will need to focus on taking care of the ball and executing well tonight versus the Lady Warriors. Should they succeed, they’ll face Silver in a 6:30 p.m. semifinal Friday.

With 37 athletes out this season between varsity and JV, and eight seniors leading the way, Houghtaling is excited about his squad.

“We have a good group,” said the coach. “Have a bunch of sophomores, a little bit smaller junior class this year, but a lot of seniors, so it’s a really good mix. And they’re all eager to play, which makes my job a lot easier.

“We’re working on a few things right now: turnovers, how much we can score and what we can hold our opponents to, and then just a couple of statistical things like deflections and steals, so in the short-term, I just really want to see the girls focus on the little things that, if we get a lot better at them now, will help us in the long-term.”