ARTESIA — Jeff Houghtaling the head girls basketball coach at Artesia High School said the start of Saturday’s game against Albuquerque Academy was a little slow.
It was as the first points were scored by Artesia’s (9-7) Gracie Puentes with 5:14 showing on the first quarter clock. For the home team that score was probably the spark they needed coming away with a 48-28 win over the Chargers (3-13).
“It’s this point in the season where we have quite a few games each week and it takes you a minute to get your legs going I think,” Houghtaling said. “They played a big game Thursday against St. Pius and we played last (Friday) night in Santa Teresa, so it looked like both teams had a little bit of fatigue.”
Puentes who is a senior had 6 points at the end of the first quarter and was the leading scorer for the Lady Dogs with 10.
Artesia led 8-2 at the end of the first period.
“Once we got going I felt like that we did a fine job on the defensive end,” Houghtaling said. “I really felt like our defense drove our offense and we were able to get some steals and some transition baskets and those easy baskets kind of help you build your confidence.”
On the play of Puentes, Houghtaling said, “Gracie is our leading scorer and she is doing a good job, she’s gonna get some good looks around the basket. She’s getting better and better, we’re really pleased with the way Gracie is playing.”
Puentes had 4 points in the second half, however, fellow senior Stacia Martinez picked up the slack scoring 7 points. All of them in the final half.
“Stacia plays hard,” Houghtaling said. “She plays hard all the time, she’s really good on the defensive end. It’s a defensive spark she gives us that helps us. They’re seniors, both of those girls, they’re playing because they have lots of good experience.”
In the second quarter, Artesia was able to pull away late from Academy and had an 18-8 lead at the half. In the second half, the Lady Dogs were able to keep their distance from the Chargers as Artesia increased the lead to 32-16 at the end of the third quarter.
Artesia is getting ready for another busy week with three home games coming up. Tuesday, Jan. 16, Artesia hosts Carlsbad for round two of the Eddy County War. Carlsbad took the first match last month in the Cave City.
Then on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 Artesia hosts Alamogordo and Ruidoso. The game against the Warriors will be a matinee.
Artesia 60, Del Norte 56
In Albuquerque, the Bulldogs went 1-1 on a quick northern trip.
Friday night, Artesia lost at Los Alamos and on Saturday afternoon the Bulldogs avenged that loss to the Hilltoppers.
Artesia (11-5) Head Coach Michael Mondragon said his team battled against the Knights (5-11).
“We came out in the third quarter and really thought our zone (defense) baffled them a little bit,” he said.
The home team had a slight edge in the first half, leading the Bulldogs 27-25.
Mondragon said the biggest difference for Artesia in the victory was hitting key shots from the foul line.
“That’s where it’s at,” he said. “If you wanna win games you’ve got to make free throws, we were able to make enough to win the game.”
Mondragon said the Bulldogs continue to, “learn and improve.”
The Bulldogs were able to take over in the second half outscoring the Knights 12-8 in the third quarter and 23-21 in the fourth.
“I’m really proud of our guys and looking for a big week next week,” he said.
Artesia will host Carlsbad on Jan. 16 and then will travel to Alamogordo on Jan. 19 and Santa Teresa on Jan. 20.