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Lady ‘Dogs come from behind in fourth to top Lady ‘Cats, 45-40

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Lorin Wagner, left, and Kymber Beltran, right, battle a Lady Wildcats for the ball. (TJ and Jennifer Palma – For the Daily Press)

Down by one going into the final eight minutes, the Lady Bulldog basketball team was still in the process of atoning for a disastrous second quarter.

After jumping out to a 13-7 lead over Lovington in the opening period of their inaugural District 4-AAAA Round-Two bout on the road, the Artesia girls had managed just a pair of field goals in the second, opening the door for the Lady Wildcats to erase their deficit and take a 20-17 edge into the break.

The Lady ‘Dogs were able to make up a bit of ground in the third with improved shooting from beyond the arc, but they needed more in the fourth on both ends of the floor.

An old-fashioned three-point play by Lovington’s Erlin Salcido wasn’t the best start to the quarter, but Artesia buckled down from there, posting seven unanswered on a pair from the free-throw line by Kymber Beltran, a Kailee Padilla trey, and a bucket in the paint from Hattie Harrison.

The ‘Cats broke their drought with a jumper from Salcido, effectively flipping the script as the teams headed into the final four minutes of the game with Artesia up by one, 38-37.

Senior Lorin Wagner would take charge with a layup on one end of the court and a rebound on the other, setting up a second basket inside from Harrison that made it 42-37. But the Lady Bulldogs would turn the ball over with 2:48 remaining before following a missed shot by Lovington with one of their own.

As the contest fell under two minutes, Aubrey Aranda was left wide open for a Wildcat three that cut Artesia’s lead to two, 42-40, bringing the Wildcat faithful to their feet. Wagner would answer with another shot off the glass, however, and after the ‘Cats missed another attempt from beyond the arc with just over a minute to go, the Lady ‘Dogs were able to go into stall mode.

Padilla was fouled with 52 seconds remaining and went 1-2 to ultimately round out the 45-40 final. Despite Artesia going 0-2 in their final trip to the stripe, the Lady Wildcats’ final two shots from three-point range were off the mark.

It was another nerve-wracking finish for the girls in orange, who bested Lovington by the same margin in the teams’ first meeting Feb. 2 at Bulldog Pit. But in unfriendly confines, it was a solid win that puts the Lady ‘Dogs in good shape at 3-1 in the district.

Artesia got off to a strong start Friday, with Wagner and Harrison giving the Lady ‘Cats fits in the paint for four points apiece. A trey from Ashelynn Borunda put Lovington up by three, but the Lady Bulldogs would close out the period with a Beltran jumper and a long three at the buzzer by Ashton Craft to lead 13-7.

Baskets by Jenna Whitmire sandwiched a Salcido free throw to make that 17-8, but from there Artesia would go ice cold from the field, surrendering turnovers and rebounds in equal measure as the Lady Wildcats rattled off 12 unanswered to lead by three at the half.

The Lady ‘Dogs would deliver an improved offensive performance in the third, however. A three and a free throw from Beltran brought them back within a point, 22-21, and Craft would bat for the cycle with a three-pointer, a jumper and a free throw to return the lead to Artesia, 27-24.

Malaiya Castro and Harrison traded longballs as the period fell under three minutes, but the ‘Cats were able to outdo Artesia 5-1 in the final moments to regain the one-point lead they’d carry into the fourth, 32-31.

Harrison finished with 11 points on the night to lead the Lady Bulldogs, followed by Craft with nine and Wagner and Padilla with eight apiece. Salcido led all scorers with 12. The Lady ‘Dogs’ offensive output was hampered by a rough night at the stripe, where they went 8-22 to Lovington’s 5-7.

Artesia (17-6, 3-1) will now prepare for its most significant test to date when they host Portales at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for a key district rematch. The Lady ‘Dogs fell to the Ramettes 53-49 Feb. 6 on the road and will be looking to put themselves in the D4 driver’s seat after Portales (18-6, 3-1) fell to Lovington (15-9, 2-2) Feb. 9 by a score of 57-46.

The Artesia girls will then close out their regular-season district slate at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 23 on Pack the Pit night against Goddard (7-16, 0-4).

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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