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It was a mixed bag for the Bulldog and Lady Bulldog basketball teams Tuesday in their District 4-AAAA openers at Bulldog Pit.

The evening ended on a high note, with the Bulldogs overcoming a slow start in the first quarter to put Lovington on its heels through the remainder of the contest en route to a 61-44 victory. But the Lady Bulldogs were not so fortunate, struggling heavily with their accuracy on the evening and coming up just short of the Lady Wildcats as a result, 42-36.

After kicking off the nightcap with a three-pointer from Tucker Smothermon Tuesday, the ‘Dogs went quiet from the field. A free throw apiece from Cole Kincaid and Braxton McDonald were all Artesia could manage to interrupt an 11-2 run by the boys in blue. But despite the drought, late layups from Cord Cox and Smothermon were still able to send the Bulldogs into the second quarter down by just two, 11-9.

There, the Artesia boys began to find their offensive rhythm.

Clay Houghtaling, McDonald and Johntae Rodriguez posted consecutive buckets to give the ‘Dogs the lead, 15-11.

Lovington was able to tie it up on four from the stripe, but another trey by Smothermon and an offensive putback from Rodriguez returned the edge to Artesia, 20-15.

The Wildcats were able to outscore the Bulldogs 7-6 in the final minutes of the half, but the boys in orange still held the advantage at the break, 26-22.

The quarter that made all the difference was the third.

Not only did the ‘Dogs put forth their breakout offensive quarter, with Jacob Creighton contributing five and Cox and Rodriguez four apiece to the team’s 20-point total, but Artesia stepped up its defensive game as well, holding the ‘Cats to just a single basket amidst five forced turnovers.

Lovington used solid shooting from beyond the arc in the fourth to put up 20 of their own, but with the Bulldogs posting 15 – including a pair of three’s from McDonald and six points by Creighton – the damage had been done, and Artesia moved to 1-0 in D4 play with a 61-44 win.

Rodriguez finished with 12 points to lead the Bulldogs, followed by Creighton and Smothermon with 11, and Cox and McDonald with 10. Isaac Hinson and Kobe Salcido posted 13 apiece for Lovington.

The ‘Dogs shot 52 percent from the field on the day to the ‘Cats’ 29 percent, and while Artesia was only 50 percent from the line, they only made eight trips. Lovington finished at 82 percent, going 9-11.

The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, could just never get a rhythm going in their contest, and while Lovington didn’t fare much better, poor shooting overall doomed the Artesia girls to a six-point loss.

The Lady ‘Dogs managed just five total field goals in the opening half Tuesday, scoring five points in the first on two baskets in the final two minutes by Cora Cox and a Makinli Taylor free throw. On the legs of a trio of three-pointers, the Lady Wildcats subsequently carried an 11-5 lead into the second.

Cox posted an old-fashioned three-point play and Elliot Harrison followed with a breakaway layup off the steal in the second to bring Artesia within three, 13-10, but after the ‘Cats hit another trey, the majority of the final six minutes of the half would play out from the stripe.

The Lady Bulldogs went 2-6 from the line to Lovington’s 4-8 with a bucket from Taylor in between, leaving both teams with nine points on the quarter and the Wildcats with a 20-14 halftime lead.

While Artesia continued at about the same pace offensively in the third quarter, however, Lovington went on a tear, adding three more longballs to its total amidst a 16-point effort. With that, they doubled up on the Lady ‘Dogs and headed into the fourth up by 14, 36-22.

The girls in orange were finally able to make some noise from the field in the final eight minutes, with Cox and Kaylee Wagner hitting treys amidst a 12-0 run that opened the quarter and had the fans on their feet in hopes of a comeback.

With 2:58 on the clock, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves down by just a shot, 36-34, but two consecutive unforced turnovers cost them the chance to tie or take the lead. The squad also lost Taylor to fouls at the 1:19 mark, and after Lovington hit both ends of a one-and-one, Artesia would turn the ball over again as the game fell under a minute.

They were able to get it back with 52 seconds to go but missed a pair of shots, and the Lady Wildcats followed two more from the stripe with a breakaway layup off the steal in the final seconds to put the game away, 42-36.

Cox tied for leading-scorer honors on the night with 13, matching Lovington’s Amber Borunda. The Lady Bulldogs were 25 percent from the field to Lovington’s 32, 33 percent from the line to the Lady ‘Cats’ 69 percent.

The Artesia High School teams will now hit the road today for their second district outing against Portales. The Lady Bulldogs are set to tip off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the ‘Dogs at 7 p.m. The teams will return to the Pit Tuesday for 5:30 and 7 p.m.

games against Goddard.