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Things didn’t work out quite the way the Artesia High School basketball teams had hoped Friday in their final pre-Christmas outings of the season.

Taking on Class 6A Carlsbad in the hostile confines of Caveman Gym, the Lady Bulldogs let the fourth-ranked Cavegirls get away from them in the second half en route to a 73-40 loss, while the Bulldogs showed little of the spark that carried them to a victory over Hobbs Thursday, falling 51-42 to the Cavemen.

“We played a great first half,” Lady ‘Dog head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “Carlsbad is really good, but we did a lot of good things in the first half.

“I felt like we got the shots we wanted in both halves, we just missed them in the second and got a little sloppy with the ball.”

In the first game of the double header Friday, the Lady Bulldogs left Cavegirl junior standout Carsyn Boswell open one too many times beyond the arc in the first quarter of play, and she made them pay, draining a trio of three-pointers.

With Alexa Riggs notching one of her own, and Gracie Puentes and Paityn Houghtaling delivering a pair apiece in the paint, the Artesia girls were able to stay within eight by period’s end, however, 21-13.

Puentes continued to produce in the lane for the Lady ‘Dogs in the second quarter, adding a trio of buckets to her total, and jumpers by Kyrah Gonzales and Kali Crandall helped keep North Eddy County within striking distance at the break, 35-24.

“I felt like we did a good job of dictating the tempo on offense in the first two quarters,” Coach Houghtaling said. “We were able to keep it close score-wise, but we had trouble all night stopping them defensively.

“We tried to do a few different things on the defensive end, but they’ve got a lot of depth and a pretty good combination of guard and post play. When they cooled off from the outside, they were able to get it going inside.”

Meanwhile, the wheels fell off the Lady Bulldogs’ offense as the second half began.
With turnovers compounding the issue, Artesia managed just two baskets and two free throws in the third quarter, and Carlsbad took full advantage of the situation, racking up 26 points of their own to turn the bout into a runaway, 61-30.

The Lady ‘Dogs continued to struggle from the field in the fourth, logging just a pair of buckets by Brehnan Davis, a Puentes and-one, two from the stripe by Gonzales, and one from Houghtaling in a period that saw the mercy-rule quickly drain the final eight minutes.
Puentes finished with 17 points on the evening to lead Artesia, while Boswell had 30 for Carlsbad.

“I definitely thing it’s our defensive effort against Carlsbad that needs to be worked on,” said Houghtaling. “I feel like we’ve done a good job of that lately; we’ve been playing pretty well defensively overall, but Carlsbad has the ability to expose your weak spots, and they kind of did that to us last night.”

The Runnin’ ‘Dogs, meanwhile, fell into a significant hole in the first quarter of the nightcap that ultimately hindered their comeback efforts later in the game.

Without the services of a significant presence on the boards – both offensive and defensive – in Taylor Null, Artesia produced little under the basket in the first half of play Friday.

A trey and a bucket from Clay Houghtaling, a Luke Nelson jumper, and a Cody Smith and-one comprised Artesia’s scoring in the opening period, while Carlsbad racked up 23 to carry a 13-point lead into the second.

There, the ‘Dogs posted just 10 points again, all courtesy of Smith, whose hard drives to the hoop combined with a three to keep Artesia within 10 at the half, 30-20, after the defense picked up the slack by limiting the Cavemen to seven points.

The boys in orange were able to pull back within five by the end of the third quarter, 38-33, on four points in the paint by Joe Willingham, another Houghtaling three, a Nelson and-one, and a bucket ad a free throw from Anthony Armendariz.

But while Artesia’s D was doing enough to get the job done in the fourth, their offense didn’t match it, as a trey, a layup, and a free throw from Smith, a pair from the line by Tyler Greenwood, and one from Nelson made it a nine-point quarter, while the Cavemen finished out with 13.

The Smiths owned the night, with Cody leading all scorers with 19 points for Artesia and Shamar Smith posting 15 for Carlsbad.

With the losses, both the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs drop to 4-3 on the season. They’ll have a week to prepare for the holiday tournaments that will close out the 2017 portion of their schedules: the Poe Corn for the boys and the Los Lunas Holiday Tournament for the girls.

The Lady Bulldogs will open at 4 p.m. Dec. 28 against Bloomfield (6-2), while the ‘Dogs will meet Los Alamos (5-3) at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 at Roswell High.

“We’re going to take a few days off here and go back to practice Tuesday and Wednesday before we head out,” Houghtaling said. “We don’t really know much about Bloomfield, but I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about what they do and instead try to focus on us… we’ll try to respond to whatever we see once the game starts, play hard, compete, and try to stay on the winners’ side of the bracket.”