There is more to the Carlsbad Cavemen’s 0-3 record during the early stages of the 2022-2023 basketball season. Carlsbad’s losses have come in the last second including a 55-54 loss to Los Lunas in the opening round of the City of Champions Classic in Artesia on Thursday.
Cavemen comeback falls short in fourth quarter
The Tigers led throughout the game and in the final period it looked like Los Lunas was going to coast to a victory.
In the closing stages of the contest, Carlsbad whittled away at a double-digit Tiger lead as RJ Amos and Damian Perez sank two key 3-point shots.
The Cavemen overtook the Tigers and with 24 seconds remaining Devi McWright scored the go-ahead basket.
The lead did not last long as Los Lunas’ Geleio Griego was fouled and sank key free throws giving the Tigers the victory.
“I was really happy with our effort. Our execution wasn’t where we wanted it. We’re early in the season. But our guys played hard I’m really proud of them,” said Carlsbad head coach John Zumbrun.
Zumbrun addresses close losses
Carlsbad opened the season at home with a 46-45 loss to Albuquerque El Dorado. The Cavemen lost 56-54 to the Las Cruces Bulldawgs on the road Tuesday.
“We’ve lost two games by one (point) and the other game we lost by two,” Zumbrun said. “We’ve played three good teams and we just have to work on execution. We’ve just got to execute a little bit better and take away some of the easy points (from the other teams).”
“I’m proud of our kids. We’ve got a long season. In the blink of an eye, it could be the other way (undefeated). We’ve got to get better (Friday),” Zumbrun said.
Rio Rancho next opponent
Carlsbad plays the Rams Friday at 10 a.m. on the consolation side of the bracket. The Hobbs Eagles defeated the Rams 43-42.
The Cavemen have won first place at the City of Champions Classic eight times, including 2021.
Artesia Lady Bulldogs handle Ruidoso on opening day
Artesia led Ruidoso 23-0 at the end of the opening quarter and never looked back against the Lady Warriors advancing to the winner’s side of the bracket with a 58-17 win.
Artesia “missed opportunities”
Despite the large margin of victory Artesia head coach Jeff Houghtaling said some adjustments were needed going into Friday afternoon’s second round.
“We missed a few easy baskets and had few too many turnovers,” Houghtaling said. “We played a lot of girls which is a good thing. I think what we did wrong was we didn’t stay with our kids long enough to a rhythm in the game. I think we were subbing a bit too fast.”
“The kids that were coming out almost as fast as they were going in and therefore, we didn’t get into a good rhythm and sometimes when you’re not in a good rhythm you make bad passes and make bad turnovers and miss easy shots,” Houghtaling added.
What Ruidoso players said
“I think we definitely could have put more work and effort into it. That’s something we need to look towards too in our upcoming next games,” said Kylene Blaylock.
Senior post player Gabriella Portillo said the Lady Warriors are a family and expected improvement as the season continues.
“As (head) coach (Troy Schmidt) was saying this is our ladder to district, state and to anything,” said starter Savannah Mendez. “As long as we can capitalize on this game and put it to our other games, I think we should be OK.”
Ruidoso will play on the consolation side of the bracket the rest of the tournament that concludes Saturday night at the Bulldog Pit.
Artesia Bulldogs upset by Fort Sumner
After an El Paso school backed out of the tournament Artesia head coach Michael Mondragon asked the Class 1A Foxes if they would play in the tournament.
Fort Sumner accepted the challenge and defeated the 4A Bulldogs 57-52. Artesia was missing eight players from the 4A state championship football team.
The football players got into early basketball mode Monday and had a short time to prepare for Thursday’s opener.
Fort Sumner also started their 2023 campaign in Artesia and grabbed an early 10-0 lead in the opening quarter.
Bulldogs get into groove
Artesia overcame the early deficit and took a 23-20 lead with nearly five minutes remaining in the second period. The Bulldogs maintained the lead 30-26 at halftime.
The game went back and forth in the third quarter as Artesia led 46-43 at the end of the quarter.
Fort Sumner pulls away late
Artesia had a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Foxes pulled away in the final 90 seconds as 6-foot-7 junior forward Cash Burney sank some key free throws in the end.
Fort Sumner advances to the championship side of the bracket and plays Alamogordo on Friday. The Tigers defeated Deming 50-41.
The Bulldogs play the Wildcats on the consolation side of the bracket.
Cavegirls wrap up opening day and night against El Paso Bel Air
Marianna Sepulveda scored 13 points as Carlsbad defeated El Paso Bel Air 40-32 to advance to the championship side of the bracket.
Abbey Dugan contributed eight points as the Cavegirls grabbed an early 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
The Cavegirls take on the Alamogordo Lady Tigers Friday as the winner will play either El Paso Riverside or Artesia for the title Saturday night.
Bel Air plays Goddard on the consolation side of the bracket. The Lady Rockets were defeated by Alamogordo 45-35.
City of Champions Classic Friday Schedule
8:30 a.m. El Paso Bel Air Lady Highlanders vs. Roswell Goddard
10 a.m. Carlsbad Cavemen vs. Rio Rancho
11:30 a.m. Deming Lady Cats vs. Ruidoso Lady Warriors
1 p.m. Alamogordo boys vs. Fort Sumner
3 p.m. Carlsbad Cavegirls vs. Alamogordo Lady Tigers
5:30 p.m. Artesia Lady Bulldogs vs. El Paso Riverside
7 p.m. Artesia Bulldogs vs. Deming Wildcats
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.