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Kaylee Wagner sails through the paint for a shot during the first half Friday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog basketball team shot lights out Friday on their home court in a mercy-rule-abbreviated win over Santa Teresa.

Unfortunately, things would take a turn for the opposite Saturday at Tasker Arena in Hobbs.

After making short work of the Lady Desert Warriors 64-13 Friday, the Artesia girls struggled from the field against Class 5A’s top-ranked team, giving the Lady Eagles a 22-8 leg up in the first quarter and never recovering from there.

“Today was a rough one,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday from the road. “I don’t think we played bad; they’re just tough to keep up with. They’re pretty athletic, and the tempo got the better of us a time or two.

“I felt like our effort was good, and I thought the girls played hard and smart. We got some good shots early that just didn’t fall, but we came back and made some of those late in the game, so I was glad to see the improvement from the first half to the second half.”

Hobbs opened Saturday’s bout with a 12-2 run that put the Artesia girls immediately on their heels.

The Lady ‘Dogs followed an opening basket by Kaylee Wagner with two from the free-throw line and a jumper by Makinli Taylor and an Elliot Harrison shot off the glass, but down by 14 heading into the second, making up ground was becoming a more daunting task by the second.

Paityn Houghtaling kicked off the ensuing quarter with two from the stripe, but from there, Hobbs would fire off nine unanswered, then follow a Wagner offensive putback with 11 more to take a 30-point lead with around a minute remaining in the half.

Kyrah Gonzales hit from three-point range and Houghtaling added three more free throws before period’s end, but with help from a long trey at the buzzer, the Lady Eagles carried a 47-18 advantage into the break.

A 12-0 run to start the third by Hobbs put the mercy-rule clock in motion, shortening significantly a quarter that saw the Lady Bulldogs post just a single bucket on a drive to the hoop by Houghtaling.

Artesia’s shots finally began to fall in the fourth, as Brehnan Davis posted seven points and Taylor four, but the clock continued to tick unabated until the final 30 seconds of play en route to the 72-34 loss.

“Hobbs has some good shooters, and they hit some three’s in the first half that kind of opened that gap up on us,” Coach Houghtaling said. “But that’s a good environment to play in, and I thought our girls played hard and competed.”

Artesia was led in scoring by Houghtaling with nine, followed by Taylor with eight and Davis with seven.

“We played maybe 10 girls tonight, so we got some kids off the bench and got them some really good experience against a really good team,” Coach Houghtaling said. “I think that’s part of the process as we prepare for district.

“That’s one thing I think can give us a little bit of an edge as we get to district is our depth. Our eight, nine and 10 girls are getting better, they’re able now to come in and contribute, and that’ll help us a lot in getting where we want to be.”

The Lady ‘Dogs had a much more successful offensive evening Friday at Bulldog Pit, taking an early lopsided lead of their own in the contest and holding Santa T. to single-digit scoring for much of the night.

With Artesia on top 5-0 on a pair of Houghtaling free throws and a Gonzales three, Santa Teresa got on the board with 4:15 to go in the first quarter. That would, however, mark the extent of the Desert Warriors’ scoring in the period – and half their total for the opening 16 minutes.

Taylor posted five points off buckets in the paint in the opening quarter and joined Davis in knocking down a pair of late treys to send Artesia into the second with a 24-2 advantage.

David kicked off that quarter with another longball that was followed by four points from Houghtaling, a Gonzales three-point play, and a basket apiece by Wagner, Veronica Soto and Riley Wortley to put the mercy-rule clock in effect early, 40-2.

A pair from the line by Santa Teresa was followed by a Taylor free throw and a layup by Harrison to set the halftime tally, 43-4.

With the entire second half played under a running clock, there wasn’t much time for additional scoring, but the Lady ‘Dogs got four points from Soto and an Estrella Villa three in the third, which – combined with a bucket each by Faith Evans, Taylor, Harrison and Wagner and two free throws by Ashley Hogan in the fourth – as they cruised to the 51-point win.

Taylor finished with 11 for Artesia, followed by Houghtaling with 10 and Soto with eight.

“It’s nice for us to have a game like that in terms of confidence,” Coach Houghtaling said. “I just wish we could shoot like that against Hobbs and Carlsbad. I know part of it is a mental thing. The kids know they’re on a bigger stage against teams like that, but we’re getting the right shots in the right spots, and we know we can make them. Night to night, it just seems to depend on our confidence level when we start the game.

“We had a good talk about that last night and tonight. We have to approach every game like it’s a game where we’re going to shoot a really high percentage. I think our first three possessions tonight against Hobbs, we had two open three’s and a shot in the paint, and we missed all of them. Last night, we came out and hit all of those shots right away.”

Houghtaling said he was pleased with his team’s defense in both contests.

“We turned Santa Teresa over a bunch last night, but we turned Hobbs over a lot tonight, too, so defensively, I think we’re doing a lot of good things. We just need to work more on our consistency on offense, but I think the kids are headed in the right direction.”

They’ll be able to work on maintaining their confidence from the field against a big opponent this week as they host a pair of contests at the Pit – 5:30 p.m. outings Tuesday and Friday against Chaparral and Carlsbad respectively.

Tuesday will serve as the Lady Bulldogs’ Pink Out game, while Friday – which will also see the Bulldogs hosting the Cavemen – will be Basketball Homecoming.

“We’re looking forward to the week,” Houghtaling said. “I think we’re going to have a couple of good games. Carlsbad is coming to our place this time, and I think we’ll come out with more confidence that night. Homecoming week is a fun week; there’s lots of positive things going on around campus and a lot of excitement around our game and the boys’ game.

“Our girls are really a spirited group. They’re behind everything going on at school, and when the school gets behind us, I think it’s good for us.”

For the Pink Out game Tuesday against Chaparral, the Lady Bulldogs will be raising funds for cancer research by way of a bake sale and other events. The community is encouraged to turn out, cheer them on, and aid them in their charitable efforts.

“Tuesday is a chance for us to give back a little bit, and Friday will be a lot of fun celebrating Homecoming,” said Houghtaling. “It’s also one more week closer to district, which is what we’re really looking forward to.”