High school girls basketball: Steady Arnold grinds out 1,000 points

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — It’s late on a Wednesday night, but West Rowan head coach Ashley Poole and Lauren Arnold, a junior standout for the undefeated Falcons, are still in the gym.

In the game of basketball there are always things to work on, so Arnold works before, during and after practice.

A reward for Arnold’s diligence are the team conference championships that West has won this season, ending a seven-year drought.

Individual accolades have come along for the ride with those team titles, as they usually do.

Arnold, who has led West in scoring all three of her seasons, was recently announced as South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year.

Another satisfying reward came in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. Arnold reached 1,000 career points during the first-round playoff blowout of West Charlotte. She needed 21, so she got 21. She reached the milestone quietly with a free throw, but her teammates were ready to celebrate the moment. They went crazy. Arnold was fortunate not to have broken ribs. There were at least 1,000 hugs and lots of stomping and dancing.

Arnold is the 16th Falcon to reach the 1,000-point milestone. There have been quite a few during Poole’s 10-season coaching tenure  — Khaila Hall (Class of 2016), Egypt Alexander (2017), Mary Sobataka (2019) and 2,000-point scorer Abigail Wilson (2020).

“I knew it was possible to score 1,000 points, but I thought if it happened it would be toward the end of my senior year,” Arnold said. “I never thought about doing it as a junior. I had no idea I was getting close until I saw on Twitter that I had more than 900.”

Arnold averaged 12.4 points in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and pumped in 16.7 per game as a sophomore.

She has averaged 16.3 this season, third in the county behind monster scorers Bailee Goodlett (North Rowan) and Kyla Bryant (Salisbury).

But Arnold’s average is pretty impressive because it’s been a season of running clocks for West. The Falcons are a juggernaut. Their points are distributed among a lot of people.

“Scoring average is not something I’ve ever worried about,” Arnold said. “All I worry about it what my rebounding average is. I’m 10 times more worried about rebounds than points. I know that as long as I’m getting rebounds the points are going to come.”

She’s a position rebounder, not a leaper. She’s played with some of her teammates since they were in elementary school, so she knows where they’re likely to shoot from and when they’re likely to shoot. She understands the angle where the ball is most likely to come off the rim if they miss. She’s great at getting to that spot.

“I have to get position,” Arnold said with a modest laugh. “I’m not going to out-jump many people.”

She got started with basketball when she was 4 years old. Her father played hoops.

It’s a family thing. Her cousin Shamya Arnold is the sixth person for defending 2A state champion Salisbury.

Lauren says basketball always was fun but she got more serious about the game when she arrived at West as a freshman.

That was a season West counted on a group of five freshmen for a lot of minutes, knowing that the future was going to be very bright.

“I coached Lauren in middle school, so I knew she was going to be a player for the high school,” Poole said. “There was never any doubt about that.”

Arnold has kept growing at West. She’s 5-foot-10 now, so she’s highly recruitable if she wants to play in college. She’s basically a power forward for the Falcons, but she could easily transition to a small forward role for a Division II or III school.

Arnold’s line in the scorebook almost always includes a solid mix of 3s, 2s and 1s. She’s a high-percentage 3-point shooter, but she also gets lot of stick-backs and trips to the foul line because of her offensive rebounding skill and tenacity.

“She’s got some of the characteristics of other really good players that I’ve coached, but I think she’s unique with her style of play,” West head coach Ashley Poole said. “She’s Lauren. You don’t see many girls who can rebound the way she does who also can shoot like she does. That makes her pretty special.”

The points have come for Arnold in a steady flow.

Rarely spectacular, but always productive. She’s never missed a game.

She’s never scored 30 in a game, but she’s scored 20 or more 19 times and she’s been in double figures in 58 of her 65 high school outings. When a game starts, you can pencil in Arnold for 16 or 17. If West needs more than that, Poole knows she will provide it.

“You know what you’re going to get from Lauren,” Poole said. “The effort is always there in the games. Great work ethic in practice. Always asking questions and always looking for ways to get better. She’s a stellar person, a stellar player, a stellar student. She’s been a dream to coach.”