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Still battling to overcome the recent effects of illness and injury – and competing once again minus one of their starters in Cody Smith – it took the Bulldog basketball team a while to find its rhythm Tuesday in Chaparral.

But Artesia was finally able to put together a solid quarter from the field in the fourth, pulling away from the Lobos for a 58-49 victory that brings them back to .500, 8-8, on the season.

“I’m real proud of our guys,” an also-ailing head coach Michael Mondragon said this morning. “They’re doing what we’re asking them to do. They’re playing hard, they’re being coachable, and they’re doing a lot of good things.

“We just have to get more consistent – do a better job of making shots, do a better job of guarding. Those are things we can get better at, and we know that. Any time you have a road trip like that, where you have to get off the bus and play a quick game, it’s a challenge, but the boys did a good job, they responded, and they found a way to win a game.”

With Anthony Armendariz and Luke Nelson doing the bulk of their damage in the paint, the Runnin’ ‘Dogs went bucket for bucket with Chaparral through the majority of the first quarter.

A 9-2 run saw the Lobos pull away late, but a drive to the basket in the final seconds of the period by Johntae Rodriguez kept Artesia within three going into the second, 16-13.

The Bulldogs opened that quarter with an Armendariz bucket, followed by two from the free-throw line by Clay Houghtaling and a basket by the junior after a steal of the ensuing inbound pass.

A Jacob Creighton offensive putback midway through the period would be it from the field for Artesia, however, as the ‘Dogs picked up the rest of their eight points at the stripe, going 10-10 overall in the second to help spur them to a one-point lead at the break, 29-28.

A Kale Mauritsen layup to open the second half was answered by a pair of three’s from Chaparral’s Pedro Medrano to return the advantage to the Lobos. Artesia was able to outscore their opponent 7-4 from there in an overall low-scoring third to knot things up at 38 heading into the fourth.

There, the ‘Dogs finally began to hit from the field, with Armendariz opening the period with six points in the paint and Mauritsen draining a three as Artesia slowly began to pull away, 50-40.

The bulk of the final minutes played out from the line, and while each Bulldog attempt went 1-1, it was enough to keep the boys in orange in front through the horn, 58-49.

Armendariz led the ‘Dogs with 14 points on the contest, followed by Houghtaling and Mauritsen with 12 each. Chaparral’s Israel Retana finished with 17.

The Artesia boys will now look to get back on the plus side this weekend, starting with a 7 p.m. Homecoming bout against Carlsbad at Bulldog Pit. The ‘Dogs came up short of the Cavemen Jan. 8 on the road, 71-58. The ‘Dogs will also be at home at 2:30 p.m. Saturday to take on Santa Teresa.

“We’re excited to get our whole team back together and healthy,” Mondragon said. “That’s the biggest thing right now. I don’t think we’ve had the whole team together since probably Game 5 or 6 of the season, so we have a lot of work to do.

“These guys are battling and finding a way to win games, though, and right now, we’re on a little streak, so we’re hoping to carry that momentum into Friday. We haven’t been at home very often this year, so I just want to encourage the community to come out and support these guys and girls, get behind them, and help them win a couple of games this weekend.”