Published: 2:13 pm, Wed. Jan. 31st, 2018Updated: 2:12 pm
Through three quarters of play Tuesday at the Coyote Den in Roswell, the Lady Bulldog basketball team held onto a slight lead over the host Lady Coyotes.
All that remained was to hold on in the fourth.
A three-pointer by Roswell’s Alexandra Gonzalez to start the period quickly brought the Coyotes within a shot, 33-30, but from there, the Artesia girls stiffened.
Gracie Puentes set up shop in the paint and proceeded to deliver four buckets for the Lady Bulldogs that, combined with an Alexa Riggs trey, gave Artesia their largest lead of the night, 44-32.
Gonzalez – who led the Lady Coyotes on the night with 11 points – would deliver two more baskets in the final moments, but with both answered by a pair of Paityn Houghtaling free throws and a layup from Stacia Martinez, Artesia was able to maintain that 12-point margin to defeat Roswell 48-36.
The victory marked the Lady ‘Dogs’ first over the Lady Coyotes since the 2010-11 season.
“I thought it was a great game, and obviously, we’re real excited to get a win on their home court,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “We played well overall, and we executed our game plan like I’d hoped we would.”
Both teams’ offensive opportunities were limited in the first quarter, thanks to some easy misses and a bevy of turnovers.
With Houghtaling and Puentes delivering offensive putbacks, however, Puentes adding a breakaway layup, and Ali Mauritsen putting down two from the stripe, the Lady Bulldogs were up by three, 9-6, going into the second.
Riggs opened that quarter with a longball, but it was answered by Roswell’s Kaitlyn Holl to kick off an 11-1 run by the Lady Coyotes that put them in front, 17-13, with three minutes remaining in the half.
Riggs would hit again from beyond the arc, however, and a pair of Martinez layups off the steal and a drive to the hoop by Brehnan Davis allowed the Lady ‘Dogs to turn the tables by halftime, 22-21.
At that point, both squads were shooting around 30 percent from the field, but Artesia would improve their offensive effort in the second half.
A pair of buckets by Houghtaling and a Kyrah Gonzales three gave the Lady Bulldogs an eight-point cushion early in the third, 29-21, which served to minimize the effects of 6-0 clip by the Coyotes.
Davis and Houghtaling closed out the period with baskets to make it 33-27 heading into the fourth, and Artesia’s strong play in the paint would lift them from there.
“I thought we had a pretty good first half, so we just went back over our strategy at halftime and talked about being more aggressive on offense, which I thought we were,” Coach Houghtaling said. “I think we got 10 to 11 more shots in the paint than they did and we outrebounded them offensively, which is something I was really pleased with.
“Probably the thing I’m most proud of is that we got better. I’ve been lucky to have this group for three years now, some of them even for four years, and our goal has always been to just keep getting better and increasing our basketball IQ, and I feel like we’ve done that. I think it instills a little confidence in these girls. They’re more confident in their skill set, they’re not afraid to take some shots, and that’s certainly rewarding for me as a coach.”
Puentes led all scorers on the contest with 13, followed by Houghtaling with 11 and Riggs with nine. Artesia ended 40 percent from the field on the night and was 75 percent from the line.
While Houghtaling and his squad are obviously pleased with the long-time-coming win, he says review of the film shows the team they’ll need to be even more on their game Feb. 13 when the Lady Coyotes come to town for the district rematch.
“(Roswell) missed a lot of shots last night,” Houghtaling said. “I think they’re probably a better-shooting team than that, so it was good for us they weren’t on last night.
“We’re going to keep that in mind as we prepare for next time. There’s a good chance they’ll shoot better, so we’ll need to maintain what we did plus add a little bit more.”
For now, however, the Lady Bulldogs’ (13-9, 2-0) focus is firmly on Goddard. They’ll take on the Lady Rockets at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Ground Zero.
“They’re the defending state champs and they’re going to be at their place,” said Houghtaling. “That’s almost enough said. They’re also coming off of two losses to Lovington and Roswell, so they’ll be playing with a fury, I’m sure.
“We’ll have to come in with a pretty level head and a lot of composure. But if we do what we did last night and make sure we get better shots than they do, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. We’re excited about being 2-0, but there’s still a lot of work yet to do.”
Houghtaling also expressed appreciation for the vocal crowd at last night’s road bout.
“The crowd was huge for us last night,” said the coach. “We had a good lead in the second half, and our crowd was rowdy. I think that helped quiet the Roswell crowd and kind of take away their home-court advantage. Our fans have always done a good job of traveling, and we were really thankful for that.”