There is a Bailey on the court and Bedford, Ind., is head over heels for its basketball team.
It has been 23 years since Damon Bailey led Bedford North Lawrence to a single-class state championship, closing his legendary high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer with 3,134 points.
Today it’s Alexa Bailey, Damon’s daughter, and the Stars’ girls team that has captured the imagination of the community, taking a 26-0 record into Saturday’s Class 4A semistate game against Roncalli at 6 p.m. Damon is there, too, his name is on the Bedford court and he’s serving as an assistant for the team.
Fans packed the 5,640-capacity gym for last week’s stunning 71-45 win over top-ranked Columbus North, and another huge crowd is expected Saturday. There are decals on cars and signs up in business windows.
It’s 1990 all over again.
“This is a basketball community,” Damon Bailey said. “It always has been. It’s been a little bit under par for the boys and girls the past few years, so the community has been starving for something like this to happen. I’m glad we’ve been able to give it to them.”
It’s no surprise that Alexa, a sophomore guard, is the leader of the team, a role that she cherishes and takes seriously.
But Alexa isn’t completely built from the mold of her father. This is perhaps a surprising comment coming from the daughter of the state’s most prolific high school scorer:
“I don’t score,” she said. “That’s fine with me. We have people for that. I’m the leader. If I see something that needs to be done, I take care of it. I’ve never been scared to tell somebody where they need to go.”
It’s not that the 5-7 Alexa can’t score. She put up a season-high 20 points in the win over Columbus North in the regional semifinals. But she rarely shoots more than five or six times a game, instead feeding the ball inside to 6-3 sophomore Jenna Allen (14.2 ppg, 7.9 rebounds) and 6-2 sophomore Dominique McBryde (14.7 ppg, 6.0 rebound) or to junior shooting guard Brittani Rizzi (11.5 ppg, 76 3-pointers).
Alexa averages 6.8 points, a number that could probably be higher. But the tradeoff is a team-high 92 assists.
“A lot of these kids have made sacrifices,” Damon said. “Everybody wants to score 30 points a game, but that just can’t happen. It takes more than that to win a championship. It’s a credit to these kids that they understand that.”
Bailey coached many of them, going back to their early elementary years. Both he and Alexa laugh now, recalling those days.
“We didn’t win a game for two years,” Alexa said.
But the group has stayed mostly intact, which BNL coach Kurt Godlevske said has played a role in the team’s current success. The Stars won 23 games and made it to the regional final last year, the program’s first sectional title since 1997.
“This team’s basketball IQ is extremely high,” said Godlevske, who grew up in Bedford but moved with his family to Michigan after his sophomore year of high school in 1987. “I keep my motivational speeches to a minimum because they take care of it. They understand the fans don’t come out here to see them pull a rabbit out of a hat.
“They come to see them because they play hard and together.”
The girls program at BNL has a strong history as well, winning state titles in 1983 and ’91 under Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coach Pete Pritchett.
This postseason run recalls those times, as well as the days of Damon. Alexa said she has heard more stories recently about her dad and his teams than she has in a while.
“It’s fun to hear about it,” she said. “His name is on the floor, but it’s not that big of a deal to me. I live with him. He’s my coach on the court and my dad at home.”