ARTESIA — Taylor Null may have made another major statement for the Artesia Bulldogs Friday night.
Null of course made a major statement on the gridiron last year as Artesia claimed state title no. 30.
Null’s hardwood statement was made on a last second basket as Artesia (14-6, 1-0) edged the Lovington Wildcats 40-39 (10-11, 0-1) in the league opener for both schools.
Null, a senior, was Artesia’s leading scorer with 10 points. The Wildcats kept him in check in the first half as he only had 4 points. Lovington kept him quiet in the third period. In the final stanza, Null decided he was going to go Wildcat hunting.
He scored his first four points close to the midway point of the fourth quarter. In the final stages of the game Null saved his heroics as the clock was ticking down to the end.
With under a minute left in the game, Null went up for a rebound when he was fouled. He went to the line and missed both shots.
Lovington’s Colby Vanceleve made what looked to be the go ahead basket for the Wildcats as they led 39-38.
A short time later, Null scored his final and probably most important basket of the night as the Bulldogs overtook Lovington for good. Null went underneath for the winning shot.
In the final two seconds, the Wildcats fired a desperation shot, however it missed and the Bulldogs held on for the victory.
Artesia junior Cody Smith had 9 points and senior Joe Willingham had 8 points. Willingham fouled out with a minute to play in the game.
Lovington senior Gage Sandoval was the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 13 points.
Artesia Lady Dogs 48, Lovington Wildcats 33
The opening game of the district twinbill at the Bulldog Pit didn’t have the last second heroics as the second game.
Artesia (11-9, 1-0) started slow against Lovington (8-13, 0-1) as the score was 7-7 at the end of the first period.
“We knew coming in Lovington was fierce,” said Artesia Head Coach Jeff Houghtaling. “They really got after us and gave us all we wanted, they’re scrappy and a little undersized.”
Houghtaling was pleased with the play of the home team. Despite the slow start early in the game, the Lady Dogs picked up the tempo.
“We came out a little tight I thought,” he said. “This is a big game for us and the girls were a little nervous I think.”
He said the team missed some easy shots near the basket.
“In the first quarter I knew there was a lot of the ballgame left, we came out slow, but we made a run. They were ahead 7-1, but by the end of the quarter, it was 7-7. I think we got them in every quarter after that,” he said.
Senior Gracie Puentes was Artesia’s leading scorer with 20 points.
“She’s just one of the seven seniors we’ve got,” Houghtaling said. “They’re playing as hard as they can and the ball gets into Gracie’s hands, right now she’s doing a good job of getting to the basket. Gracie’s doing a fine job, she’s showing her three years of experience this year, I’m really proud for her doing the things she’s doing.”
Houghtaling was also pleased with the home crowd.
“A lot of folks in the Pit tonight it was really good. I think it’s good for our kids to play in front of a big crowd, if we get lucky enough to make it into the state tournament, I think this kind of like a state tournament crowd. It was a lot of fun and a big game for us, we’re happy for the win,” he said.