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Pictured from left Coach Dusty Bean, Brehnan Davis, Josey Jackson, Taysea Powell, Bri’Le Ybarra, Christa Bratcher, Coach Ridge Bowden and Coach Jeff Davis. (Courtesy Photo)

Sometimes, every ingredient and step of preparation can be perfect, and the cake still falls.

It’s painful but common in sports. The teams that most feel should don’t always win. And while that’s a bitter pill to swallow, it’s also part of what makes us love sports. Any given day, anything can happen.

Tuesday was that day for the St. Pius girls’ golf team.

Leading Artesia by just two strokes after Day One of play in the Class 5A State Tournament at Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, the Lady Sartans had a monumental task ahead of them. The Lady Bulldogs had dominated their competition from start to finish over the course of the 2018 regular season, and the majority of the state predicted a hard charge from the two-time-defending 5A champs in Round Two.

But it simply wasn’t the Lady ‘Dogs’ moment. They shot well under their first-round tally of 334 on the second day of competition, finishing with a 348. St. Pius, meanwhile, bettered their Day-One 332 with a 327. And by 23 strokes, Artesia’s reign came to an end.

A runner-up finish in any state event is something of which to be proud, but that’s still cold comfort in the days immediately following defeat.

“We’ve been saying all year we had to play our best golf at state, and we didn’t play our best golf,” head coach Dusty Bean said Thursday. “It was disappointing, but at the same time, for our girls to finish second in the state is great.

“St. Pius is a phenomenal team. We’d beaten them two years in a row, and this year, they got us.”

The Lady Bulldogs were not left without a reason to celebrate Tuesday, however. After two seasons of being edged out in individual competition, standout senior Josey Jackson finally earned her well-deserved first-place medal, defeating sophomore teammate Taysea Powell and St. Pius’ Ashlee Garrett in a playoff.

“I’m very proud of Josey and Taysea,” Bean said. “We can say we have the No. 1 and No. 2 best golfers in 5A on our team, and they proved it Monday and Tuesday at the state tournament.”

Jackson, Powell and Garrett all finished with a two-day total of 156, with Jackson shooting a 76 on Day One and an 80 on Day Two, and Powell going 77 and 79.

“For Josey, being a senior this year, this was her goal,” said Bean. “She’s always been a team player, and she’s one of the best senior leaders I could ask for as a coach, but her personal goal was to win the individual championship. And I’m so proud of her for that accomplishment. I know when she goes to college, she’s going to keep trucking in her career and do a fantastic job.

“Taysea is a sophomore. She’s got two more years with us, and my expectations for her are high. I think Taysea can win the individual championship her junior and senior years; she’s that good, and she’s got that much potential.”

Tying for 14th on the tournament was junior Brehnan Davis (88-89=177), followed by seniors Bri’Le Ybarra (93-100=193) and Christa Bratcher (104-104=208).

It was perhaps an even more frustrating two days for the Bulldog golf team.

The Artesia boys had showed every indication of peaking at the right time in their last few tournaments of the year but found themselves at the bottom of the pack after Monday’s first round with a team 335, nine shots back of third-place Lovington and 21 away from leader Los Alamos.

As was the case for the Lady Bulldogs, things just didn’t improve for the boys in orange on Day Two, as they finished with a 342, putting them seven strokes out of the hardware.

“I went in there thinking we really had a chance, but again, we just didn’t play our best golf,” said Bean. “And that happens. It happens.”

Bulldog senior Parker Sanders capped off his final season with a solid individual performance, however, taking seventh overall with his rounds of 77 and 76.

“Parker Sanders played his tail off and finished seventh in the state, which is huge,” Bean said. “He led the team this year, and he did a great job.”

Rounding out the ‘Dogs’ outing were Canon Carter (83-88=171), Wesley Davis (87-89=176), Hector Flores (88-92=180) and Clay Houghtaling (96-89=185).

“A lot of people didn’t even think our boys’ team would qualify this year, and they finished fourth in the state,” said Bean. “That’s something.”

The Artesia High School golf program will lose six key seniors to graduation this year, three from each squad: Jackson, Ybarra and Bratcher, and Sanders, Davis and Flores.

Not being able to send those athletes out on top was difficult, but they leave behind a legacy that speaks for itself. The Lady Bulldogs’ blue trophy in 2016 was the program’s first ever, and their follow-up in 2017 capped an undefeated season. The 2017 Bulldogs, meanwhile, delivered that team’s first state title in a decade.

“I can’t be disappointed,” said Bean. “These kids did a great job all year. We’re holding our heads high. We’re going to graduate three boy and three girl seniors, and I’m proud of how they handled themselves this year and how they led the team.

“Those seniors are going to leave some big shoes to fill.”