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Monday, May 20, 2024

Lady ‘Dogs drop to 1-1 with close loss in first D4 road outing

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When the third quarter came to a close with the Lady Bulldog basketball team having erased a nine-point halftime deficit while outscoring Portales 15-7, it looked as though Artesia was poised for another big District 4-AAAA finish.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t manifest this time around in the unfriendly confines of the Portales High gym.

A few untimely turnovers and misses from the field stymied the Lady ‘Dogs’ comeback efforts and saw the team take its first D4 loss, 53-49 to the Ramettes.

“It was a tough game,” head coach Jeff Houghtaling said Wednesday. “I thought Portales had a good shooting night. And I thought we played well enough to win, we just didn’t get enough stops and they made some good shots.”

After a quick start that saw Lorin Wagner post a pair of baskets in the paint, the Lady Bulldogs would find their inside game put on lockdown by the Portales defense and struggled to get things going from further afield.

The Ramettes would go up 7-4 by the time Artesia added its third field goal: a bucket and one from Kailee Padilla. Portales proceeded to end the period on an 8-1 run to lead 15-8 heading into the second.

The Lady ‘Dogs again struggled to find the basket in that quarter, getting 10 of their 14 points at the free-throw line. Adding their second and third three-pointers of the night to four points apiece from Evannie Fulfer and Myleigh Banda, the Ramettes were able to take a 29-14 lead before a late 8-0 run by Artesia — comprised of layups by Hattie Harrison and Kymber Beltran and two from the line by the latter and Wagner — pulled the girls in orange back within single digits at the half, 31-22.

The third quarter felt like a turning point for the Lady Bulldogs.

Wagner was able to battle back in the lane for a trio of buckets and went 3-3 from the line, while Beltran hit a groove from beyond the arc, sinking back-to-back treys to help make it a one-point game going into the fourth, 38-37.

But the Ramettes would reassert themselves from the field in the final eight minutes to hang onto their slight edge.

Consecutive turnover-aided layups opened the quarter for Portales, and a Beltran jumper and a pair of free throws from Jenna Whitmire were answered by a pair from the stripe by Fulfer, a Banda trey, and a long two by Skyler Massey to make it 50-42 Ramettes with just under four minutes to go in the game.

Another Artesia turnover saw the Ramettes begin to stall, and time wasn’t on the Lady ‘Dogs’ side.

Angel Ornelas went just 1-2 from the line after a forced foul, but the Lady Bulldogs missed their ensuing three-point attempt, giving the ball back to the Ramettes for a Tya Rippee bucket with one minute remaining. Beltran converted two at the stripe with 56 seconds left to make it 53-44, but traded turnovers took 35 seconds off the clock before Wagner could deliver a shot off the glass to cut Artesia’s deficit to seven, 53-46.

The Lady ‘Dogs got a steal but missed another attempt from behind the arc, and though Massey went 0-2 from the line, just six seconds remained at that point. Whitmire hit a long three to bring Artesia within four, 53-49, but at the buzzer, it could only round out the final.

“I thought early in the game, we gave up too much in transition, but we executed our game plan pretty well,” Houghtaling said. “It was just back and forth all night. It’s a tough place to play, and we knew going in that they were going to play well at their place.

“They had a good plan of attack last night and ended up double-teaming us on the inside, and we weren’t able to hit enough perimeter shots to stretch them back out again. But we talked about it, and the season’s not over. We’ve got another crack at them down the line, so we’re going to try to steal some road games and then hopefully beat Portales here at home.”

Despite the Ramettes’ efforts to thwart her, Wagner took top-scoring honors on the night with 19, followed by Beltran with 14. Banda finished with 18 for Portales.

“I’m really proud of our seniors,” Houghtaling said. “We have such a good group there. Lorin, Kymber and Abby [Hauschild] have played their tails off all season and done a fine job leading us. We don’t get the breaks every night, but those girls are playing by far the best basketball of their careers, and as a coach, that’s something you always shoot for: making sure your seniors are playing their best basketball when they’re seniors. I feel like that’s very rewarding not just for the player but for the program, and these girls are doing that.”

The Lady ‘Dogs will now prepare to close out Round One of district play at 5:30 p.m. Friday against Goddard at Ground Zero. The Lady Rockets are 7-14 on the year thus far, 0-2 in D4 following losses to Portales (49-34) and Lovington (69-34).

“Goddard’s a tough place to play, too, and it seems like we always get everybody’s best game,” said Houghtaling. “They’re the other big team in district in terms of size. Addycen Luck is a little bigger than Lorin, and they’ve got some other height to complement her and a really good, solid guard player in Eden Chavira. It’ll be a tough game, but we’re going to keep pressing here and there and trying to get tips and steals on defense and be ready to handle some pressure and them trying to speed up our guards.

“Ultimately, we’re just going to shake off that loss this afternoon, regroup, do our scouting report, and get ready to play those guys. We want to encourage all the fans to come out and get behind us and the boys Friday night. The boys are on a good track, and we want to get back on that track. And we can do that with a good game Friday.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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