FORT WAYNE — Damon Bailey wasn’t swarmed by fans after his Class 4A No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball team handed South Side a 49-28 loss Saturday afternoon, but his popularity in the state was still evident.
Carl Risch, the Bellmont cross country coach, and Bellmont junior Adam Garner asked Bailey to sign pieces from the middle school basketball court the former Indiana Mr. Basketball played on.
“We’re kind of big fans of yours,” Risch told Bailey as he signed the floor pieces and posed for a picture with Garner.
Bailey said autograph seekers are fewer than before, but the all-time scoring leader in Indiana high school history with 3,134 points has time to give to fans.
“It is still a part of it,” said Bailey, who is in his first season as the Stars’ coach after being an assistant last year when the team defeated the Archers 54-51 for the 4A state title.
“That’s something for me I’ve always enjoyed to know you had a game, a career, a whatever to merit that recognition from people.”
Bailey is still known for being mentioned in John Feinstein’s book, “A Season on the Brink,” winning the 1990 state title with Bedford North Lawrence and helping Indiana win two Big Ten titles and reach a Final Four.
He didn’t have a great pro career as knee injuries hampered him after he was drafted in the second round by the Indiana Pacers. Bailey never played in the NBA, but he spent four seasons with the Fort Wayne Fury of the CBA.
But for opposing players, Bailey is looked at as just an opposing coach.
“I know he’s really good, top notch, but I haven’t really focused in on him,” South Side senior Brittni Clopton said. “At Spiece (Fieldhouse), they have a lot of stuff about him, so I grew up basically in Spiece, so I knew his name and everything. I was like, ‘That’s the guy?’ ”
South Side (12-6) could have had a chance to beat that guy’s team, but the Archers struggled on offense to start the game and at the free-throw line throughout against Bedford North Lawrence (18-1).
The Archers didn’t get their first points until Chelsea Rogers connected on a jumper with 1:41 to play in the first quarter and trailed 17-3 entering the second quarter.
South Side closed its deficit to 21-12 at halftime, but the team failed to take advantage of its free shots. The Archers went 5 of 14 on free throws in the opening half and missed four straight free throws after Bailey was called for a technical for arguing calls with 4:21 left in the second.
“I think missed free throws really killed us,” said South Side coach Juanita Goodwell, whose team went 8 for 19 at the line. “Not just because on the scoreboard, but because of the emotional attachment that they brought.”
Rogers led South Side with nine points, and Clopton and Lakethe Stephen had seven. Sammy Dillman scored 11 for Bedford North Lawrence.