Bulldog head coach Michael Mondragon indicated one of the keys to hanging with the top-ranked Roswell Coyotes lay in not letting them force the pace. And through the majority of two quarters Tuesday at Bulldog Pit, the ‘Dogs were successful in creating offense on their own terms.
But the boys in red are nothing if not opportunistic. A few misplaced passes, a few generous whistles, and an eight-point lead with just under three minutes to go in the first half became 14 at the break. And with Artesia slowing from the field in the third quarter and committing eight costly turnovers in the fourth, the second half belonged to the Coyotes en route to a 79-44 win.
The Bulldogs got off to a solid start Tuesday, with Carlos Caldera opening the scoring on a trey, and a Joe Willingham free throw and pull-up jumper by Ethan Duff matching Roswell’s scoring through the five-minute mark, 6-6.
Willingham battled through two defenders and Caldera drove hard to the hoop to continue to match the Coyotes shot for shot through the final minute-plus. A breakaway layup off the steal by Tarren Burrola and an unwhistled charge for a basket by Logan Eaker, however, preceded a Duff layup, and a trey with 10 seconds to go in the period by Garret Smothermon gave Roswell a five-point edge going into the second, 17-12.
A shot in the paint by Taylor Null, a Willingham three-point play, and the front end of a one-and-one by Caldera kept Artesia within six, 24-18, with just over four minutes to go in the half. Willingham also answered a Chris Mesquita three with a spin move in the paint to keep the deficit under 10.
But as the half fell under three minutes, the Coyotes were repeatedly sent to the stripe, going 5-6 to take a 32-20 lead. A Burrola trey exacerbated the problem, but a long two by Carlos Carrasco and another Caldera layup helped keep the gap bridgeable at the break, 38-24.
The Bulldogs would struggle offensively in the third quarter, however, primarily from the perimeter. Inside, Willingham delivered a trio of buckets, but they combined with a free throw apiece by the sophomore and Duff weren’t nearly enough to counter Roswell’s 18 points, and the Coyotes headed into the final eight minutes up 56-32.
Roswell had a literal field day from beyond the arc early in the fourth, with Mesquita sandwiching a Chaney Hardt trey with two in the opening seconds, then tacking on a third to follow one from Burrola at the five-minute mark.
That combined with an Eaker and-one activated the mercy-rule clock, and two late three-pointers by Caldera and a second from Hardt were not enough to stop it.
Willingham led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 points, followed by Caldera with 14. The Coyotes had five players score in double digits on the night, led by Mesquita with 22.
The loss drops the ‘Dogs to 10-12 on the year, 2-3 in D4 play. They’ll be looking to even their district mark Friday, however, when Goddard comes to town for a rematch of the teams’ hotly contested Feb. 5 meeting, which the Rockets took 59-44.