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Artesia girls coast in opener

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Artesia head girls basketball coach Jeff Houghtaling watches a recent practice session. After defeating Santa Teresa on Tuesday night in Artesia, Houghtaling and his crew have nearly a week to get ready for Ruidoso in the opening round of the City of Champions Classic. (Mike Smith Photo)

ARTESIA — “We’re very eager to get going.”

That was how Jeff Houghtaling head girls’ basketball coach at Artesia High School (1-0) summed up Tuesday’s 61-24 win over Santa Teresa (0-3).

It was the season opener for the Lady Dogs.

“It was exciting to get back out there on the court,” he said. “The girls had a lot of anticipation.”

Houghtaling said his team get off to a slow start in the early stages of the contest.

“Two or three possessions into the game we kind of hit our stride,” he said. “We started getting some baskets in transition and had a few stops on the defensive end.”

Artesia had an 18-4 lead at the end of the opening quarter and Artesia was in cruise mode for the rest of the game.

“Halftime the score was 39-16,” Houghtaling said. “Third quarter was pretty strong, after the third quarter it was 55-18 and we ended up 61-24 in the end.”

Houghtaling said everyone on the bench got to see some action.

“Saw a lot of positives,” he said. “Saw a lot of things we need to work on.”

Artesia had two players in double figures. In fact junior point guard Kyrah Gonzales and senior power forward Gracie Puentes had a combined 40 points in the win.

“Both of them had a real good game offensively,” Houghtaling said.

Houghtaling added it was good having those student-athletes who were involved in volleyball and soccer to be in the basketball fold.

“Those girls make a big difference,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of girls who are just basketball kids who are really good and really help us out a lot, but it’s good to have those two or three sport athletes to come out and join us.”

He cited that successful seasons soccer and volleyball had, “and carries right in to basketball.”

Now that the Lady Dogs have the opening game jitters out of the way, Houghtaling said they can now concentrate on next week’s City of Champions Classic which will be held in Artesia.

“I have mixed feelings,” Hougtaling said. “I like playing this game the week before the tournament, before our second game, for a lot of reasons.”

Houghtaling added,”it’s always exciting to get going a little early at the same time there’s always the need we can evaluate and say ‘hey what we did not so well’ we got a week now to get ready for the next one and we can’t say that very often throughout the course of the season.”

Houghtaling added he wishes the team could play another game, “leaving the court last night(Tuesday) I was thinking to myself, ‘gosh I wish we had a game in two days instead of seven.’

Between now and next week, Houghtaling and his crew will be getting back to the basics. “Santa Teresa does a good job of exposing the things that we need to work on. It’s been our first game the last ten seasons, we’re going to go back and look at the film.”

Artesia will take on Ruidoso at home Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the opening round of the City of Champions Classic.