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The Lady Bulldogs knew what awaited them Tuesday at the Carlsbad High School gym.

The Class 5A Cavegirls have become a perennial power, and Artesia was introduced to their latest installment in the third-place game of the City of Champions Classic Dec. 8, falling by a margin of 47, 70-23.

But knowing what needs to be done doesn’t always make it easy to do, and as has been the case for several years now, the hoops at CHS may as well have featured lids as far as the Lady ‘Dogs were concerned.

Artesia struggled for three quarters to find its offensive rhythm in the contest, finally having some success from the field when it was unfortunately too late. The Lady ‘Dogs outscored Carlsbad 19-11 in the fourth to round out the final: 61-32.

“It was a tough game,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said today. “Carlsbad’s good. That’s no secret. But I think we saw some improvement on our end. Last time, they beat us by 50 or so, and we were able to narrow that down. It’s certainly not good, but it was better, so I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.

“We’re getting better at doing a lot of things we’ve been working to improve in practice each day, and I feel like the girls are really figuring out our scheme and the plan. We’re on track, and playing good, tough teams like Carlsbad just helps make us better.”

The Lady ‘Dogs actually drew first blood in the contest Tuesday, with Kaylee Wagner posting a turn-around jumper in the opening seconds. From there, however, it was all Cavegirls, as Artesia failed to score again in the period, trailing 15-2 going into the second.

There, the girls in orange were able to produce a few more points, but they came scarcely and in amidst long runs by Carlsbad.

Brehnan Davis hit a jumper early in the quarter that was followed by 11 unanswered points from the Cavegirls, and eight more Carlsbad points trailed a free throw at the 4:11 mark by Faith Evans. Paityn Houghtaling stepped in the final seconds of the half with a shot under the basket and a pair from the stripe, followed by a trey at the buzzer, but Artesia found themselves down by 26 at the break, 38-12.

Unfortunately, the start of the second half wasn’t a fresh one for the Lady Bulldogs, who posted just a single point – on a Makinli Taylor free throw – in the third. A pair of Davis three’s, one from Evans, and four points by Abi Trevizo helped Artesia end on a high note in the fourth.

“We’re disappointed with the loss, but I’m pleased with some of the execution we had and the effort we gave,” Coach Houghtaling said.

The Lady ‘Dogs will have little time to dwell on the defeat, as they host Santa Teresa in a 5:30 p.m. contest Friday at Bulldog Pit, followed by a road trip to Hobbs for a 7 p.m. bout Saturday against the Class 5A Lady Eagles.

“We have a big game Friday against Santa Teresa, and hopefully we can play well against them and get a win there,” Houghtaling said. “It’ll be a tough one in Hobbs Saturday. They’re really good, but again, it’s another chance for us to get better.

“Games happen so fast now – we’ve got three or four a week, and it seems like we don’t have a lot of time to game plan in between. We just have to continue to practice the things that are going to make us better for district.”

Following this weekend’s outings, the Artesia girls will host two more contests next week – a 5:30 p.m. game Tuesday against Chaparral and a 5:30 p.m. rematch Jan. 18 with Carlsbad. Tuesday’s bout with the Lady Lobos will serve as the Lady Bulldogs’ Pink Out game to raise funds for cancer awareness, rescheduled from Friday.

“Really, all the games at this point are just opportunities for us to improve on things we think are going to give us the edge in district,” Houghtaling said. “We just need to keep working on that stuff and keep picking up wins where we can along the way.”