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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Runnin’ ‘Dogs roll over Rams to remain unbeaten, 71-48

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Through one quarter of play Tuesday at Bulldog Pit, it looked as though the Bulldog basketball team was headed for another barn-burner with the Portales Rams.

That is, until the ‘Dogs found another gear.

The Artesia boys turned a 17-14 lead after one into a 71-48 win Tuesday, powering past the Rams in the second half to lock up the District 4-AAAA title with one game to go.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” head coach Michael Mondragon said Wednesday. “They came out and played a really good game.

“I thought we did a good job of handling their runs, and our defense was definitely better in the second half. I’m just really pleased about the fact that we’re playing that team ball. When you have 24 assists as a team, it shows that you’re sharing the ball, and guys are also really starting to hit their shots.”

Diego Wesson was the first to prove that point in the opening quarter, dropping a trey to start things off. Fueled, as they would be throughout the evening, by Paxton Culpepper, the Rams were able to move in front midway through, but a three from David Hammond, four points in the paint from Clay Kincaid, and back-to-back layups from Jarren Wadkins kept the ‘Dogs in front going into the second, 17-14.

There, Culpepper continued to be lights out from the field, but Artesia was having an offensive field day of its own.

Wesson launched another trey and added two buckets in that period, Kincaid tacked eight more to his tally, and Nye Estrada added a jumper to give the ‘Dogs a bit more breathing room at the half, 36-28.

Artesia stepped up its defense in the third and it showed, as the Rams managed just eight points out of the locker room to the Bulldogs’ 14. A turnaround jumper from Kincaid got the ball rolling, with Charlie Campbell getting in the book for the first time on the night with a three, Wadkins adding a pair of baskets, and Hammond and Rickey Armendariz hitting one apiece to send Artesia into the fourth with a comfortable advantage, 50-36.

Campbell went on a tear from there, racking up 15 points in the final eight minutes to help cap off the dominant 71-48 win.

“We talk all year long about starting to come together and peaking at the right time, and we’re getting close,” Mondragon said. “We’re really doing a lot of good things out there on the court, and the score is showing it.”

Campbell and Kincaid both finished with 18 points to lead Artesia, followed by Wesson with 12, while top-scoring honors went to Culpepper with 27 of Portales’ 48.

The Bulldogs (15-8, 5-0) will now prepare to join the Lady ‘Dogs in closing out the D4 regular season with Pack the Pit night Friday. The girls will tip off at 5:30 p.m. and the boys at 7 p.m. against Goddard.

“It’s all about getting better still,” said Mondragon. “We’re still not quite where we want to be, so the focus is still on us. There are always things we need to get better at: taking care of the ball, for instance; I thought we had too many turnovers Tuesday night, and we can always get better on offense.

“Those are all things we can control and focus on. We’ve already secured the No. 1 seed in district, and now we need to make sure we get those wins and focus on the things that are going to help us come state seeding time.”

The Bulldogs hope to see a packed house Friday to help spur them on.

“Pack the Pit night is a great tradition,” said Mondragon. “All the elementary kids get in free, we’ve got the Sixth Man tailgate going, and it’s just a great night for Artesia basketball and a great night for us to finish up district. We’ve had a great handle on it so far, and we want to make sure to continue that Friday.

“We’ve love to have a huge crowd to support these guys. They’re fun to watch, and we really appreciate everybody who comes out to support us. We’ve got this Friday at home, the district championship next Friday at home, and then a first-round state game at home, so we want to encourage everybody in Artesia to Pack the Pit for these next few games.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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