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Kali Crandall is fouled by Goddard’s Bailey Beene during the first half at Ground Zero. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Through three quarters Friday, the Lady Bulldog basketball team had the Goddard Lady Rockets in their sights.

They committed only a handful of turnovers while forcing an abundance, their shooting was acceptable if not stellar, and their defense was sufficient to limit the girls in blue to 28 points through 24 minutes of basketball.

Then came the fourth.

A pair of Lady Rockets baskets to kick off the period made it a four-point game, 36-32, and through the first two minutes, Artesia managed just a pair of misses and a pair of turnovers.

Gracie Puentes converted two from the free-throw line to put the Lady ‘Dogs back up by six, then answered a Camarynn Villalpando layup to keep them there. But with misses and ball-handling issues still plaguing Artesia, Goddard reeled off seven unanswered to take their first lead since the opening moments of the ballgame, 41-40.

Paityn Houghtaling and Puentes posted back-to-back buckets to turn the tables, and a Puentes shots off the glass at the 46-second mark had Artesia on top by three, 46-43. But Bailey Beene would toss up just the Rockets’ second trey of the night with 37 seconds to go, and traded turnovers by the two squads took the clock under 20.

The Lady Bulldogs needed just one point to win it but opted for a shot from beyond the arc, which fell short, sending the contest into overtime.

There, it all came apart.

The Lady Bulldogs would score just three points in the session – all from the stripe – while Goddard posted a trio of baskets and went 8-10 from the line to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, 60-49.

“Goddard’s gym is certainly a tough place to play; always has been,” Artesia head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “I honestly thought we played well enough to win, we just didn’t shoot well in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“We were 4-22 from the three-point line last night, and that killed us. If we could have hit just one more shot in regulation, we’d have won. We got a pretty good open shot there at the end of the fourth, it just didn’t go in. And in overtime, we couldn’t get anything going offensively, and we put them on the foul line a bunch.”

The Lady Bulldogs got off to a slow start Friday in their final Round-One game of District 4-AAAAA play but took an 8-4 lead early on a pair of three’s by Alexa Riggs and Brehnan Davis, and a Puentes drive to the hoop.

Goddard outscored Artesia 7-2 from there, however, to go up 11-10 heading into the second.
There, the Lady ‘Dogs stepped up their game, using solid D to force eight Rocket turnovers while posting 17 points to lead 27-23 at the break.

Artesia was never quite able to bump their lead to double digits – which, as it turned out, would have spelled victory – in the third but increased their lead to eight with help from a Kali Crandall longball and baskets by Puentes, Stacia Martinez and Kinli Taylor.

A rash of nine turnovers in the final eight minutes, however, limited the Lady Bulldogs’ offensive opportunities just enough to allow Goddard to force the tie and the overtime.

“I still feel real good about where we’re headed,” Coach Houghtaling said. “We’re still leading the district, and I also feel good about us having our last two district games at home. We have a week now till we play again, and I think that’s going to help with some of the sore ankles and bangs and bruises we have.

“Probably the best thing is that the girls still feel real positive. We had a chance to win last night, and they understand that if they’d just hit some of those shots, we’d have done it. But they still have a good attitude about the season. We had practice today, shot around, got in the weight room, and talked about the film, and I think everything’s still heading in the right direction.”

Puentes finished with 20 points for the Lady Bulldogs, followed by Houghtaling with eight.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-10, 2-1) will look to get back on track with the start of the second round of district play Friday in Lovington. Artesia defeated the Lady Wildcats 48-33 in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 26 at Bulldog Pit.

“I don’t think we’re going to change our game plan too much,” Houghtaling said. “They’ve got an injured player back they didn’t have the first time they played us, and she really helps them, so we know we’ll have another concern defensively. They’re also playing at home, and they’ve beaten both Goddard and Roswell at their place.

“But we’re just going to go back to the drawing board this week and do what we’ve done all season – work on the things we do well. We’ll spend some time shooting, try to get some of our confidence in our three-point shooting back, and have a couple of good days of practice. The best solution after a loss is to play again, and I think the girls are doing a good job of not letting that one game get them down.”