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Artesia girls prep for first game of season

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ARTESIA — “We had a good offseason.”

With that being said, Artesia head girls basketball Jeff Houghtaling has been spending some time drawing up game plans for the upcoming season.

The action gets underway Tuesday night at the Bulldog Pit as Santa Teresa comes to Artesia.

“I feel the fall was pretty productive, we’re probably like most teams in our area, we share most of our athletes,” he said.

“The majority of our varsity kids were in volleyball,” Houghtaling added.

He said the volleyball team made it to the state semifinals, “we didn’t get our girls out until about a week ago.”

“We’ve got a big group of seniors this year,” Houghtaling said of the 2017 Lady Dogs.

Ten seniors to be exact and Houghtaling said there are 36 players right now in the Artesia program.

“Good group, we’ve got a lot of senior leadership, the majority of those seniors have a little bit of experience and almost all of them are multisport athletes,” he said.

Houghtaling is entering season 11 as the Lady Dogs head coach.

“This may be the most athletic group I’ve ever had, maybe since I’ve been here,” he said.

“We’re not very big in size, but a lot of quickness (and) a lot of athletic ability (and) I have more returning experience this year than I’ve ever had.”

When it comes to future seniors, Houghtaling said, “we’ve got a good mix. We don’t have a lot of juniors experience-wise on the varsity coming back. But, I do have three or four.”

Regarding the schedule, Houghtaling said Tuesday’s opener against Santa Teresa is a tradition for Artesia.

“They’re a good 5-A opponent from another district,” he said.

After the season opener. Artesia will host the City of Champions Classic Dec. 7-9.

Carlsbad, Kirtland-Central, Goddard, Gallup, Lovington, Silver and Ruidoso will be participating in the tournament along with Artesia.

“It’s a good one,” Houghtaling said of the teams participating in the December tourney. “(It’s) the best field in quite some time. Good team field.”

Artesia hosts Capital and Los Alamos Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 before the hitting road to Carlsbad on Dec. 22 and the month will end with a three-day tournament in Los Lunas.

“It’s a good schedule for home games,” Hougtaling said.

The new year will start with games against Portales and Clovis, with the last non-district contest Jan. 23 at Gadsden.

District play starts Jan. 26 with a home game against Lovington. The regular season ends Feb. 16 with a league contest against Goddard in Artesia.

Houghtaling said the district race will be tough adding that the Lady Rockets and Roswell Lady Coyotes have been past state champions.

“Roswell is tough as nails and Goddard is really competitive,” he said.

“Goddard is the team to beat right now until the season gets going,” Houghtaling added.

Houghtaling said Lovington can’t be ruled out in the district race and he says Artesia could be in the mix as well.

“It’s hard to say until the season gets going,” he said of Artesia’s chances.

Houghtaling added that his team has struggled for the past few years and his team should be competitive in league play.