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Artesia splits games with Carlsbad

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Artesia Lady Dogs Head Coach Jeff Houghtaling and Assistant Coach Jayde Burnell watch the team practice before hitting the floor last month in Carlsbad. The Cavegirls sweep the season series defeating Artesia 65-35 Tuesday night at the Bulldog Pit. (Mike Smith Photo)

ARTESIA — The rematch of the Eddy County Basketball War produced mixed results for Artesia High School Tuesday night at the Bulldog Pit.

In the opening game of the basketball doubleheader, the Carlsbad Cavegirls (16-2) defeated the Artesia Lady Dogs (9-8) 65-35.

Jeff Houghtaling, Artesia’s head coach said his team struggled during the contest with their in-county rivals, who defeated them last month in the Cave City.

“After the first quarter, the score was 11-10, Carlsbad,” Houghtaling said. “It was very competitive, the game was nip-and-tuck and back-and-forth.”

Houghtaling said the second quarter was a different story as Carlsbad outscored Artesia 26-5.

“The second quarter kind of tells the overall outcome of the game,” Houghtaling said. “They opened a gap there that we eventually couldn’t close.”

In the third quarter, the home team was able to outscore the visitors 13-9. “We kind of took momentum back in the third quarter, but again with that big gap from the second quarter, it was not enough,” Houghtaling said.

Houghtaling said the fourth quarter was almost a repeat of the second quarter as the Cavegirls outscored Artesia 19-7.

“Two good quarters for us and two good quarters for them,” Houghtaling said.

Senior Gracie Puentes was Artesia’s leading scorer with 12 points.

So what does Artesia take from the loss to Carlsbad?

“The best thing I think we can take away from it is that Carlsbad plays really good zone defense and everyone in our district plays zone,” Houghtaling said.

“It was a great opportunity for us to probably play against one of the best zone teams maybe in the state to have some success scoring against Carlsbad I think can equate for us to have some success in district,” he added.

Houghtaling had praise for Carlsbad’s Carsyn Boswell, she led her team in points on Tuesday night.

“Each team in our district has a leading scorer,” he said. “We’re trying to use that as an opportunity to prepare for the best scorers in our district. The Carlsbad game is a tough one no doubt, but it’s a good opportunity to practice and prepare.”

The second game saw the Bulldogs avenge the loss of the Lady Dogs earlier in the evening and a loss that they suffered last month on the Cavemen’s (8-10) home court. Artesia (12-5) won 57-45.

Artesia Head Coach Michael Mondragon said his team struggled in the opening half.

“Thought we turned the ball over a little too much,” he said.

He said the Bulldogs were down eight at the half. Artesia adjusted the game plan at halftime.

“I really thought our pressure really got to them at times,” Mondragon said. “We just took care of the basketball and had maybe four or five turnovers in the second half.”

Artesia’s defense kept Carlsbad’s offense in check in the third period as the Cavemen scored seven points.

Senior Joe Willingham was Artesia’s leading scorer with 16 points. Junior Cody Smith had 15 points and fellow junior Tyler Greenwood had 10 points.

“Joe’s our big post inside,” Mondragon said. “He continues to play well and finish on the rim and Cody, he’s a catalyst for us, we can bring him off the bench. He’s kind of like a spark plug and plays extremely hard. Tyler defends really well, is a great shooter and can hit some big shots for us.”

Mondragon also mentioned senior guard Chaney Hardt, “(he) takes care of the ball and does a lot of good things for us.”

The Bulldogs hit the road this weekend with stops at Alamogordo on Friday and Santa Teresa on Saturday.

Mondragon said Artesia will be looking, “to get better.”

“We just gotta go and improve,” he said. “Alamogordo is going to be very athletic, we’re gonna have to make sure we keep them off the glass and make sure we guard and defend.”

Mondragon added that Artesia will also be looking to fix things and get ready for the start of district play Jan. 26 at home against Lovington.