Home Sports Local Sports State tourney opening round: Is it Deja Vu for Artesia?

State tourney opening round: Is it Deja Vu for Artesia?

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Artesia's Kyrah Gonzales launches a long range shot last week against Goddard in the district postseason tournament title game. The Lady Dogs open the 5A state tournament at Alamogordo tonight. (Greg Brown Photo)

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ARTESIA — While most basketball teams in New Mexico this weekend maybe wondering about the opposition in the opening round of the state basketball tournament, Artesia High School will be facing some familiar opponents.

In 5A, the ladies start tonight and the guys play Saturday. The Artesia Lady Dogs (15-13) are the No. 9 seed and will travel to Alamogordo (15-12) and will play the No. 8 seed at 6 p.m.

“It’s not what it used to be, the seeding and selection process is pretty scientific now,” said Jeff Houghtaling, Artesia’s head coach.

“There’s really no disputing when it comes to it. It’s based on six criteria, it is what it is. It used to be when you had a few guys in a room whose opinions went into it, really it could sway things one way or another,” Houghtaling added.

“But now there’s no argument to be made, it’s pretty accurate. We wished we could have gotten a higher seed, but we should have played a little better earlier in the season, we got the nine spot,” he said.

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Both teams squared off earlier this year in Artesia as Alamogordo won 45-42. Is Houghtaling expecting to see the same game plan tonight?

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “This time of year, I think most coaches are pretty much the same. They want to stick with what got them there and I expect Coach (Manny) Vigil to pretty much do what they did before.”

Houghtaling said Alamogordo went undefeated in District 3-5A.

“I’m sure they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, so I can’t really see them changing their game plan,” he said.

“I think it will be a good game, his kids always play hard. Their well coached and disciplined. I certainly think they’re going to defend their homecourt as hard as they can,” Houghtaling added.

He said Alamogordo is a young team. “As I look down the roster, they only have three seniors,” Houghtaling said.

“I feel like their strength is in their guard play, they’ve got a couple of real outstanding guards. No. 30 Faith Silva (a junior) is their leading scorer, probably their best player overall. She gives them a little bit of everything, she’s a good rebounder, she’s a good shooter and pretty good on the defensive end,” he said.

Along with Silva, Houghtaling said Artesia will need to look out for another guard in junior Calysta Jacob.

“She’s a good shooter and kind of makes them go,” he said.

Houghtaling said that the Tigers have a good mix of inside-out play and they employ a man-to-man defense.

He said his team is up to tonight’s challenge.

“I feel real good about which direction we’re headed,” Houghtaling said. “I’m certainly pleased to get into the tournament, it’s not a given by any means in a year. Getting into the tournament is very rewarding, I think our kids know that and we’re doing a lot of good things.”

Houghtaling said team chemistry has been one of the keys for this year’s Lady Dog squad.

“A team that plays well together and has good chemistry and is coachable and enjoys each other, I think that’s successful and I think that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

Saturday night at the Bulldog Pit, the Bulldogs (19-7) are the No. 5 seed in 5A and will face a team that they have played numerous times this season.

Artesia defeated Lovington (14-15) last Saturday night in the district postseason tournament title game.

The first time both squads faced each other was in late December at the Poe Corn Tournament in Roswell. The Bulldogs won the game 47-36.

The Bulldogs swept the Wildcats in district play.

“We’re excited, we feel that’s where we should have been,” said Artesia’s Michael Mondragon of his teams fifth seed.

The Wildcats are the No. 12 seed.

“I’m sure they’re gonna do some things different,” Mondragon said of Lovington’s game plan. “At the end of the day, they’re Lovington and we’re Artesia. It’s one of those things, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it and who executes the best, and all the fundamental things of basketball will help you be successful.”

Mondragon said the Bulldogs will have to take care of the basketball and make sure they get rebounds as the two square off Saturday at 7 p.m.

Mondragon said his team was “ecstatic” when they found out they were going to be in the state tournament.

“It’s what you work for, it’s what you get yourself in position to do is not only get into the state tournament, and give yourself an opportunity to have a home game,” he said.

“That’s huge, all these teams are good and they’re here for a reason and they all qualify for the state tournament,” Mondragon added.

“This time of year, you’ve got to play basketball and make sure you take care of business and if you don’t come out and don’t play well, you’re done,” he said.

In last Saturday’s win, Artesia senior guard Chaney Hardt was the leading scorer with 22 points and junior guard Kale Mauritsen had 11.

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