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District unbeatens clash at Coyote Den

Artesia’s Elisa Cardenas drives to the basket against a Lovington player in Friday’s district opener in Artesia. Tonight, Artesia’s girls and boys face Roswell at the Coyote Den in a key league double dip. (Greg Brown Photo)

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ARTESIA — When the smoke clears from the Coyote Den tonight in Roswell there will only be one undefeated team left in the boys District 4-5A race.

The Artesia Bulldogs (14-6, 1-0) make the trip to Roswell High to face the Coyotes (16-5, 1-0) for a 7 p.m. contest.

Both teams won their league openers last week, the Coyotes defeated Goddard 59-47 at Ground Zero and the Bulldogs edged Lovington on a last second shot by senior Taylor Null.

“I just didn’t want him to miss it,” said Artesia’s head coach Michael Mondragon. “Sometimes those little gimme’s like that are hard to make. It’s something we’ve run in this program a lot in the past and we played a game earlier in the year where we had an opportunity to win like that and we didn’t execute down the stretch.”

The game he’s talking about took place at the start of the season during the City of Champions Classic in Artesia as the Gallup Bengals edged the Bulldogs 51-49.

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“At the end of the day anytime you win a district game, you’re going to be happy with that,” Mondragon said of the win over the Wildcats.

“Obviously we know we didn’t play very well, we could play better, the way the guys responded (and) to be able to come out and execute and make a play to win the game with two seniors right there with Chaney (Hardt) and Taylor, good win,” Mondragon added.

“I’d rather take an ugly win than a pretty loss,” he said.

Mondragon said tonight’s game will be a tough one against the defending 5-A state champions.

“The two Burrola kids (Taymon and Tarren) can definitely fill it up, the big boy (Logan) Eaker in the middle, he is every bit 6-7 or 6-8, the main thing for us is we have to take care of the ball,” Mondragon said.

Besides taking care of the basketball, Mondragon said team execution will be another key tonight.

“And we guard them, that’s one thing we’ve done a great job against them in the past is we’ve been able to guard them. We just make too many mistakes on the offensive end, that allows us to get us where we need to be,” Mondragon said.

This will be the first of three straight district road games for Artesia. Friday the Bulldogs return to Roswell with a stop at Ground Zero and then Feb. 9 starts the second half of league play at Lovington.

“You can’t look past anybody,” Mondragon said of league play. “We got ready for them (Roswell High) on Saturday, just get ready to focus on getting ready to play Tuesday night.”

“It’s always good to win your first district game on the road,” said Dude Burrola, Roswell’s head coach. “They always say ‘try to split on the road and win at home.’ It was a good win for us to get that at Goddard.”

Burrola said the Bulldogs have some size and athleticism.

“They’ve got a lot of football kids that are physical,” he said. “We played them in the Poe Corn and it was a tight game, we had a pretty big third quarter against them. They’re not gonna go away.”

Burrola added, “I think we’ve got the best district in the state. Every night is going to be a battle, we’re looking forward to them.”

The rematch will take place Feb. 13 in Artesia.

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