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Monday, June 17, 2024

Runnin’ ‘Dogs stay in control with wild win over ‘Cats, 57-50

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Charlie Campbell sails in for a layup Friday in Lovington. (TJ and Jennifer Palma – For the Daily Press)

Eleven lead changes. Six ties. Two very exhausted fan bases.

Friday’s District 4-AAAA second round opener between Artesia and Lovington in Wildcat Country was a wild ride to say the least. But when the smoke cleared on the hotly contested and occasionally chippy bout between longtime rivals, the Runnin’ ‘Dogs had gotten the job done, staying unbeaten in D4 play with a 57-50 win.

The ‘Cats and ‘Dogs spent the opening quarter trading blows.

An offensive putback by Lovington’s Kayle Covington was followed by a Jarren Wadkins three. Another shot off the offensive boards by Mika Pando preceded two from the free-throw line by Diego Wesson, and a Julian Arroyo trey was answered in kind by Wesson.

As the period fell under four minutes, Covington gave the Wildcats a one-point lead, 9-8, with a layup but missed the and-one, and Rickey Armendariz took it right back for Artesia with a successful old-fashioned three-point play, 11-9.

Another and-one on a breakaway layup off the steal by Charlie Campbell and 1-2 from the stripe by David Hammond put the Bulldogs up by six, but the Wildcats were able to trim that back to three, 17-14, going into the second, sandwiching a Clay Kincaid layup with a three from Pando and a last-second Covington dunk.

And then, suddenly, it was as if someone put a lid on both baskets.

Artesia produced just a pair of field goals and Lovington one in the final eight minutes of the half, and likely due in part to that offensive frustration, things got a bit physical — and verbal — prior to the break.

An offensive putback from Nye Estrada and another three by Wadkins expanded the ‘Dogs’ lead to eight, 22-14, but some extracurricular activity put Julian Arroyo at the charity stripe for four straight attempts following a technical foul call, and he sank all four.

Another questionable whistle moments later had the Sea of Orange making their displeasure known to the officiating crew through the entire duration of a time-out as Lovington’s fans attempted to shout them down. And following a 2-2 showing from the line by Hammond and a Pando putback, halftime provided a much-needed break with the Bulldogs up by four, 24-20.

The Wildcats came out gangbusters for the third, with Demarcus Thompson Jr. delivering back-to-back offensive putbacks and Arroyo an and-one that vaulted Lovington into the lead, 27-24. The Bulldogs would go scoreless through the first two minutes before a Campbell running jumper woke them up, and three-pointers from Wesson and Estrada knotted things up at 32-all after Arroyo fouled out of the game with 2:55 to go in the period.

The squads then closed out the third with traded buckets — both of Artesia’s coming courtesy of Campbell — and a free throw from Armendariz that gave the ‘Dogs a one-point edge, 37-36, heading into the final eight.

Covington and Thompson put the ‘Cats back up by two, 39-37, in the opening minute, but the deadlock would be thrice reinstated from there, with Estrada posting a short-range jumper, Kincaid an offensive putback, and Wadkins his third trey of the night.

With the score at 44-44, a big block by Kincaid was followed by a Campbell jumper, but a second block by Artesia’s 6’7″ sophomore was deemed a foul, sending Covington to the line. He went 1-2 to pull Lovington within a point, but Armendariz would go off in the paint from there, following a shot off the glass on a dish from Campbell with an and-one to make it a two-shot game, 51-45, with two minutes to go.

Two Artesia turnovers and one from Lovington later, Wildcat Peyton Hernandez got an and-one out of a charge, but Campbell followed with a pair of big free throws to make it 53-48 with 58 seconds remaining. Campbell was perfect from the line again 22 seconds later to make it a three-shot affair, and following a Covington putback, he’d cap off a near-perfect night from the stripe with two more to set the 57-50 final.

The Artesia sophomore led all scorers on the night with 18, followed by Wadkins with nine and Armendariz and Wesson with eight eace. Arroyo and Covington both finished with 13 for the Wildcats.

With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 14-8 on the season, 4-0 in district play as they prepare to close out their regular-season D4 slate at home. They’ll start with a 7 p.m. game against Portales Tuesday at Bulldog Pit, followed by Pack the Pit Friday against Goddard.

Both Lovington and Portales currently stand at 2-2, with the Rockets trailing at 0-4.

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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