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Artesia boys ready to step up

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ARTESIA — Artesia head boys basketball coach Michael Mondragon has been missing several players since practice started a few weeks ago.

There’s good reason why guys like Chaney Hardt, Trent Taylor, Tyler Greenwood, Anthony Armendariz, Taylor Null, Joe Willingham, Alfonso Rodriguez and Andrew Veloz are missing.

They are getting ready for the state football semifinal game Saturday in Farmington.

Mondragon said he believes in the multisport athlete.

“Success breeds success,” he said. “The success they have in the football program helps us on the basketball side.”

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Mondragon said the season won’t start for his squad until Dec. 7 when they host the City of Champions Classic.

“With that being said it gives us plenty of time to really hone in on those guys that are with us right now,” he said.

He’s asking guys like Cody Smith, Kale Mauritsen, Luke Nelson, Josiah Sariana and Clay Houghtaling to carry the load until football season concludes.

Mondragon has also been calling on some junior varsity players to help carry the load during the practice sessions.

Some big names in area high school basketball will be making a stop in Artesia for the City of Champions Classic.

Onate, Rio Rancho, El Paso Parkland, Carlsbad, Gallup and Goddard will be participating in the three day tournament.

There is a twist for Artesia as they are starting the season against their district rivals, the Goddard Rockets. That game will tip off at 10 a.m. on Dec. 7.

“We never really start with district teams at our own tournament,” Mondragon said.

Mondragon wants the Artesia Public Schools and the community to show up at the Bulldog Pit for that opening game.

“We’re gonna do a buyout for the whole school, we’re gonna try and get the whole school at that game,” he said.

“That’s something we’re excited for and looking forward to,” Mondragon added.

This year, Mondragon said the Bulldogs will be “Road Warriors.”

After the City of Champions Classic, the Bulldogs will head to Valencia and Capital on Dec. 15 and 16. Those two teams played in Artesia last season.

“We’re definitely going to be on the road a lot,” he said. “If we want to win the whole thing and get to where we want to be in Albuquerque and The Pit, you’ve got to win three games in a week up in Albuquerque so I feel that, that schedule we have and the travel that we have will prepare us for that.”

The Bulldogs return home Dec. 21 to take on Hobbs and the next night they travel to Carlsbad.

Artesia ends the year at a tournament and they start 2018 at another tournament.

The Bulldogs head to Roswell Dec. 28-30 for the Poe Corn Tournament and then Jan. 4-6 they travel to Gallup.

The Bulldogs end the non-district portion of their schedule on Jan. 20 at Santa Teresa. District play starts Jan. 26 with a home contest against Lovington.

Who is the team to beat in league play?

“It’s gotta be Roswell,” Mondragon said. “I’ve said this for the last four years, until somebody beats them, they’re the favorites.”

Mondragon said the Coyotes have a new coach in Dude Burrola and the Lovington Wildcats have a new coach as well in Ezau Rios.

“Lovington is definitely going to be improved. We’ll be right there in the mix and Goddard is going to be much improved,” Mondragon said.