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Chaney Hardt puts up a shot over pressure from Chaparral’s Gerardo Robledo as Joe Willingham looks on during the first half Tuesday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Bulldog basketball team could essentially do no wrong Tuesday against Chaparral.

Their shooting was on point. Their defense was nothing short of suffocating. Their turnovers were limited, and they performed well overall on the boards. The combination of all of that was a 65-34 victory over the Lobos that bumps the ‘Dogs’ record to 10-4 on the year.

But while head coach Michael Mondragon was pleased with the victory, he wants to make sure his athletes don’t become complacent.

“Like I told the guys, we could sit here and talk about how great we’re doing, but we still have a lot of improving to do on the little things, and that’s where our focus needs to be,” the coach said today. “I don’t care about beating the Chaparrals, I want to get to The Pit and beat the Espanolas and the Roswells, the teams that are the top teams in the state right now.

“We just need to stay hungry and humble, and focus on doing what it takes to get better every game.”

Artesia got out to a bit of a slow start offensively Tuesday.

Chaparral was up 4-0 before the ‘Dogs finally found the bottom of the net on a jumper by Cody Smith, but the junior would follow with a layup to tie things up before a fast-break layup off the turnover by Chaney Hardt and a Joe Willingham free throw put Artesia in the lead, 7-4.

Clay Houghtaling would hit from beyond the arc as the opening quarter fell under a minute, and Anthony Armendariz racked up five quick point, including a shot from under the basket at the buzzer, to make it 15-6 going into the second.

“We came out a little sluggish on offense at the beginning of the game,” Mondragon said. “We didn’t execute quite like I wanted us to, we had some brain farts here and there and just weren’t doing the right things.”

Compensating for that lag, however, was the Bulldogs’ defense, which was a blur of activity in the opening quarters, limiting the Lobos to six points in the first, nine in the second.

“To hold a team to 15 points in the first half is exceptional, and we’re playing great defense right now,” Mondragon said. “We still can get better, though.”

The Lobos again opened the second with four unanswered points, but Willingham finally delivered the ‘Dogs’ first field goal of the period at the 5:55 mark. From there, solid free-throw shooting combined with buckets by Smith and Armendariz, and a Tyler Greenwood trey to give Artesia a 32-15 advantage at the break.

Chaparral had a bit more success from the field in the third quarter of play, but the Bulldogs didn’t let up, with Hardt contributing six points and Willingham four to a 48-27 lead heading into the fourth.

There, another Greenwood three and a 10-15 showing from the stripe closed the book on the 65-34 win.

The Bulldogs will now prepare to head north once again for a 7 p.m. game against Los Alamos Friday and a 2:30 p.m. bout with Del Norte Saturday.

“These are two more 5A games on the road, and we just have to go up there and play like we know we can,” Mondragon said. “We have to take care of the ball and execute on offense, and if we can do those two things, keep guarding the way we have been, and handle the trip well, we should be fine.

“We’ve played well on the road to this point, we just have to make sure we’re fine tuning everything – getting better with our free-throw percentage, getting better with our offensive execution, making sure we limit teams to one shot. And we’re getting there. We also want to continue to thank everybody for supporting the program, and we’re looking forward to two good games this weekend.”