SPRINGFIELD – There was nothing memorable about the way Blue Eye’s Taylor Arnold started out in Saturday night’s Lions Club High School Basketball Classic.
Arnold was the lone area representative playing in the event, which featured 10 graduated seniors from Springfield and southwest Missouri, split into the Purple Team and the White Team.
Playing for the White Team, Arnold missed her first four shots – three of them from 3-point range – as her squad trailed 15-6 after one quarter and 30-16 at halftime.
But there’s nothing to argue about when it comes to the way Arnold and the White squad finished things up at W.E. Dowell Fieldhouse on the Baptist Bible College campus.
Arnold finished with 14 points, second-high on her team, and she drained a 3-pointer off an inbounds play with 1:05 to play, giving her team a 54-52 lead in an eventual 56-52 victory.
“It was like I couldn’t hit anything at the beginning, it was so frustrating,” Arnold said. “But then our team started to get some momentum going, so that helped.”
Arnold scored 10 of her points after halftime, when the White team outscored the Purple squad, 40-22.
It was a nice way to officially end Arnold’s time as a high school player. She earned second team All Tri-Lakes honors as a senior, leading the Lady Bulldogs to their second consecutive district championship.
Arnold averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, making a team-high 112 shots from 3-point range.
“It feels so weird,” Arnold said. “This is the end, I guess.”
After her cold start, Arnold broke the drought with a mid-ranked jumper late in the first quarter, then scored on a driving layup on a fast break at the end of the first half.
She added a bucket in the third quarter, when the White team cut the deficit to 37-34, then added a short jumper and the 3-pointer in the final minutes to help seal the victory.
Arnold also participated in the 3-point shooting contest at halftime, making 5-of-15 shots from the three locations on the court and failing to advance to the finals.
Arnold has taken her talents to Evangel University for next season, where the three-sport standout – she won Tri-Lakes Player of the Year honors on the volleyball court last fall, then helped the Blue Eye track and field team claim the Class 1 state championship in the spring – will continue her basketball career.
“I’m super-excited, I love Evangel already, and things are going so well with the coaches and other players,” Arnold said.
Arnold and the other players in the program are participating in regular open gyms, and going through individual workouts.
The Lady Crusaders only had four seniors on last year’s 16-player roster, and has 23 newcomers scheduled to join the program this fall as it beefs up its JV-level teams, as well.
With a roster that could reach 35 players, Arnold is letting her play do the talking and not worrying about where she will land within in the program.
“I’m just going to keep working hard, and hopefully will get a shot,” she said.