Home Sports Local Sports Artesia advances in tournament after win over Lovington

Artesia advances in tournament after win over Lovington

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ARTESIA — Senior Taylor Null made a clutch basket in the closing seconds and senior Chaney Hardt sank a couple of key foul shots with practically no time left on the clock as the Artesia Bulldogs (20-7) defeated Lovington (14-16) 58-54 in the opening round of the 5A state tournament Saturday night at the Bulldog Pit.

Artesia is the no. 5 seed in the tournament and will play the no. 4 seed Santa Fe Capital Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in Albuquerque. Lovington was the no. 12 seed.

It was the second time in as many weeks that the Wildcats and Bulldogs squared off. The week before they faced off at the Bulldog Pit in the title game of the district postseason tournament. Artesia defeated Lovington 48-39 in that game.

Saturday’s game had a state playoff atmosphere as both squads knew what was at stake and for a majority of the game the Wildcats held onto slim leads.

Lovington led Artesia 15-14 at the end of the opening quarter. Senior Alijah Ballard had 6 points for the Wildcats in the opening period as they had a wide lead in the early stages. Toward the end of the quarter, Artesia was able to close the gap.

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The Wildcats had a one point lead at the end of the second quarter as both squads scored 13 points each.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats led 43-40 as Ballard and senior Christian Fitts paced the visitors. Null and senior Joe Willingham helped Artesia keep the game within striking distance.

In the final period, Artesia threw the hammer down as senior Tyler Greenwood and Null sank a pair of shots from downtown. Greenwood’s long range bomb came with 5:05 showing on the clock as Artesia went ahead 48-46.

With under a minute left in the game, Greenwood fouled out as Fitts was attempting a long range shot of his own. He went to the foul line and was 2-3.

A few seconds later Hardt was fouled and made the front end of the one-and-one. He then made the back end and it was 54-51 Artesia.

The Wildcats then tied the score on a 3-point shot and then Null changed the score on a last second prayer underneath.

Both teams decided to take a series of timeouts, then with nine-tenths of a second left on the clock, Hardt was fouled again and his free shots iced the game for Artesia.

Null had 17 for the Bulldogs and Willingham had 16. Hardt had 8.

Lovington was led by Fitts’ 15 points. Ballard had 12 points and junior Colby Vancleve had 11.