Published: 3:00 pm, Tue. Jan. 28th, 2020
With four minutes to go in the game Friday, the Lady Bulldog basketball team was mid-rally and just 10 points away from Class 5A top-ranked Hobbs.
Down 37-18 heading into the final quarter, the Artesia girls had kicked off the fourth with an Elliot Harrison trey, which was followed by a pair of buckets from Cora Cox and one by Sadie Ramirez. Harrison then posted a jumper to make it 41-29 and – following a Makinli Taylor steal – took the ensuing pass in stride en route to a wide-open layup.
At that point, plenty of time remained for the Lady ‘Dogs to do additional damage. But unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
Three consecutive turnovers cost Artesia precious minutes, and although Cox and Taylor would answer Hobbs’ next two field goals with a shot off the glass and a pair from the free-throw line respectively to maintain the 10-point margin, just 49 seconds remained on the clock when Taylor sank her second.
The Lady Eagles proceeded to log a three-point play and a bucket off another turnover by Artesia, and a Harrison jumper in the final seconds could only round out the final, 50-37.
It was a frustrating finish, particularly considering a bit better showing in the opening quarter could have made things more interesting still.
“I thought we played pretty good last night, outside of the first quarter,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Saturday. “I don’t know if we weren’t quite ready for the speed and tempo of the game or if we were a little nervous or what, but we missed some easy shots and had too many turnovers in that opening quarter.”
The turnovers – of which Artesia committed 16 in the opening half – combined with a lack of rebounding not only limited the Lady Bulldogs’ offensive opportunities but gave Hobbs, who also didn’t shoot particularly well from the field in the first quarter, more than their share of second chances.
The Lady Eagles led 5-0 by the time Artesia got on the board at the 4:36 mark on a Harrison free throw, and the Lady Bulldogs would not manage a basket in the period. Two from the stripe by Taylor in the final minute rounded out Artesia’s scoring in the first as Hobbs carried a 13-3 advantage into the second.
There, Kaylee Wagner would open with a three, but the Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Bulldogs 11-3 from there, Artesia’s only other field goal coming on a late drive to the hoop by Harrison that made it 24-11 at the break.
But for all their offensive difficulties, the girls in orange were giving Hobbs plenty of their own, limiting the scoring of a Lady Eagle time averaging 63 points per game going in and giving them few open looks at the hoop.
“After that first quarter, I thought we played well,”
Houghtaling said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but so was Hobbs. We had a pretty great second half. That was our challenge at halftime was to just focus on improving in the second half. We told the girls, ‘Hey, just focus on us, don’t worry about them, shoot with confidence, take care of the ball, box out, and rebound.’ And I thought we accomplished those goals in the second half.”
With buckets from Harrison, Cox and Ashley Hogan, the Lady ‘Dogs were able to keep their deficit under 20 heading into the fourth despite their firsthalf woes, 37-18, giving them a chance on which they very nearly capitalized.
“We made a good run at them, we just couldn’t close the gap all the way,” said Houghtaling.
“But I thought the girls really played hard and competed. We did a lot of the things we’ve been working on. We played some really stiff man-to-man in the second half, did a good job of communicating and talking on screens, and I thought we rebounded and handled their pressure pretty well in the second half.
“To hold them to 50, I was pretty pleased with that effort.
Hobbs is pretty athletic, but we were able to stay in front of them most of the night and play pretty good defense, so I was pleased with that end of the floor. We just missed a few too many easy shots and had too many turnovers in that first quarter.
We had a great crowd last night, and I was a little disappointed for the fans. I wish we could’ve snuck up on them, but we played tough, and I think we had them nervous there for a little bit.”
Harrison finished with 16 points to lead all scorers on the contest Friday, followed by Cox with nine. A’niya Heckard had 15 for Hobbs.
With the win, the Lady Eagles remained perfect at 19-0, while the Lady Bulldogs dropped back under 500 at 9-10. Artesia will now have 10 days off to prepare for the start of District 4-AAAA play Feb. 4 against Lovington at the Pit.
“We’re going to start looking real closely at the teams in our district now, spend a lot of time watching film, and get to know our opponents a lot better,”
Houghtaling said. “We’re really going to focus in and try to make sure we have a good game plan for each team and a good understanding of what they want to try to do against us.
“We’re also going to use this week to get a couple of kids healed up. This time of year, you have some bumps and bruises, so it’s a good time for a break, and we’re also going to take some time this week to go watch some Zia and junior high basketball. It’ll be a long week, but I think if we break it up right and do the things we talked about, it’ll be very productive.
I think we’re going to be hitting our stride at the right time going into district.”