LYNN – There’s a reason a player gets his name put on a banner on the gym wall when he scores 1,000 career points. It’s up there because it’s a difficult thing to do.
St. Mary’s senior point guard Dennis Bailer joined the club last week when he scored 23 points in a two-point win over Billerica, a tough Division 1 team that qualified for the state tournament. The shot that earned him a spot on the wall (and helped the team win the Spartan Classic) was a three with 3:58 left in the game.
What made Bailer’s feat particularly impressive is that he started his senior season needing 551 points to hit the milestone. He wasn’t even halfway there 22 games ago. Bailer had to put up some lofty numbers to get there and he did just that, averaging about 25.1 points per game.
St. Mary’s coach David Brown knows what the pressure is like when the 1,000-career point milestone is within reach. He’s one of the former Spartans whose name is on the banner in the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium. That list also includes Brianna Rudolph, Jennie Mucciarone, Thad Broughton, Tori Faieta, Loren Green, Tyler Grillo, Ed Lewis, Derrick Norris, Nick Gagliolo, Robyn Mazin and Peter Gray.
“I could tell he was nervous starting off,” Brown said. “Some of his shots that would normally fall were going around the rim and out. But once he made a couple, he was ok.”
Bailer, who lives in Malden and transferred to St. Mary’s from Malden High his sophomore year, didn’t score in the first quarter and only had seven points by the half.
“Getting those first two shots to go was a big confidence booster,” Bailer said. “I kind of got into a rhythm, got my confidence.”
Bailer said as a freshman at Malden High, he didn’t do any scoring. He admits his grades weren’t what they should be and that coming to St. Mary’s, where he didn’t know anyone at first, helped him focus on his school work. Bailer is hoping to play basketball in college. Wheelock College is on his short list, as is Westfield State University. Antonio Anderson, a star player at Lynn Tech who went on to play in the NCAA Final Four as a member of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team, is an assistant coach at Wheelock.
For Brown’s money, Bailer is one of the best players in the area.
“I don’t think there’s a player on the North Shore who has had the season he has had,” Brown said.
Bailer is also not a guy you want to see on the line if you’re the opposing coach. He shoots 89 percent from the stripe (the team shoots 65 percent). He shoots 38 percent from three-point territory.
Bailer, who averaged around 12 points per game last season, said Brown told him at the beginning of the year he would have to step up his scoring. The Spartans had lost a huge part of their offense through graduation and as a result of Anthony Silfa’s decision to return to English, where he had played as a freshman. Bailer said Silfa, who scored his 1,000th point this season as well, averaged over 20 points per game last year. The Spartans also lost a key player, Joe Fama, early in the season. Fama broke his leg in the Boverini Tournament against English.