WORCESTER – It’s fitting that Burncoat High senior Maire Gallagher scored her 1,000 career point on a three-pointer last week against Fitchburg High. When you think Maire Gallagher you think three-pointer. When you think three-pointer you think Maire Gallagher.
Of the 1,025 points that Gallagher has scored so far in her career, almost 500 – 498 to be exact – have come from behind the three-point line.
“I’m a three-point shooter,” Gallagher said quickly when asked what her basketball “specialty” was. “I just love to shoot the three. Once I hit a few they keep coming and I keep on shooting them. I know I’m on fire so I just keep on going.”
Her teammates know it, too.
“Maire (pronounced Mare, the Gaelic word for Mary) has a look when she gets going,” fellow senior Katie Pasquale said. “She gets really serious. Her eyes narrow and she gets really focused. You look at her after she’s hit a couple of threes and you know she is in that zone she gets in. As a teammate you just want to keep feeding her the ball and have her keep shooting.”
The 17-year-old Gallagher has always had the gift of being to drain a three-pointer from anywhere on the court – she hit 45 of them as a freshman and sophomore – but her three-point accuracy has exploded the last two seasons.
Through 14 games this season she has made 113 field goals, a Central Mass.-leading 59 coming from beyond the three-point arc. Of the 104 field goals she hit as a junior, 62 were three-pointers, also the highest total in Central Mass.
So far this season Gallagher has had games where she has hit nine three-pointers (once, against Blackstone-Millville), eight three-pointers (once, against South), six three-pointers (twice, against South and Westborough) five three-pointers (once, against Fitchburg), fourth three-pointers (four times, against Notre Dame Academy, South, Douglas and Worcester Tech), three three-pointers (twice, against North and Abby Kelley) and one three-pointer (three times, against St. Peter-Marian, Bartlett and Doherty).
Gallagher has had at least one three-pointer in every game this year.
“Watching her against Blackstone-Millville was just amazing,” said Paul Keenan, in his third years as Burncoat’s varsity coach. “There was a point where I was turning to my assistant coaches and I really didn’t know what to say to them. Blackstone-Millville was throwing all kinds of defenses at her but it just didn’t matter. She just took the game over.”
Gallagher is averaging 23.9 points per game – second-best in Central Mass. – this year for the 10-4 Patriots, who qualified for the Central Mass. Division 2 tournament for the first time in her career with Burncoat’s win over Fitchburg. As a junior she averaged 16.3 points per game.
“Maire has come a long way as a basketball player in the last three years,” Keenan said. “She’s always working on her game during the offseason. She’s always going to clinics and camps and she plays AAU basketball as well.
“Basketball is a high priority to her,” Keenan said. “She’s always going after it; she’s always trying to get better. Each year she works hard over the summer and comes to practice on that first day having added something new to her game.”
Gallagher credits an offseason program she has participated in the last two years as making her not only a better three-point shooter, but also a better all-around basketball player.
“Andy Sears, my AAU coach with the Central Mass. Lightning runs a six-week program during the summer that focuses on shooting and ball-handling and lifting weights,” Gallagher said. “We work for an hour on shooting the ball and an hour on our ball-handling. Then we go into the weight room and we lift for an hour.”
Gallagher has also played AAU basketball for Diago McClain, Ryan Connor and Adrian Machado, three well-known coaches in Central Mass. basketball circles. Over the last few years, when she wasn’t playing in AAU tournaments for Sears and the Central Mass. Lightning she would play for another AAU club, Team United, which is coached by Machado.
Last summer the 5-foot-4 Gallagher played for the Central Mass. team in the Bay State Games. She plans to play in the Bay State Games again this summer. She has also played with her Burncoat High teammates the past few summers in the Shrewsbury Girls’ Summer Basketball League.
“I mainly played for the Central Mass. Lightning, but if the Lightning didn’t have a tournament on a particular weekend I would go and play with Team United,” Gallagher said, referring to her AAU experience. “I probably play 100 AAU games a year, maybe more.”
Keenan said Gallagher often provides scouting reports on some of the players Burncoat will be facing during the season.
“She knows all the kids we face during the season from her AAU days, so she’s always providing information on this girl or that girls,” Keenan said. “And when she doesn’t know someone, I usually recognize them because my daughter, Julia, plays AAU and I go to a lot of AAU games in the summer.”
Gallagher, who played quarterback and wide receiver in the Worcester Youth Flag Football League when she was younger, started playing basketball when she was 10.
“When I was in the sixth grade at Clark Street Elementary School they had a Biddy Basketball Program. I was looking to play a sport and that’s all they had, basketball, so I joined the program,” Gallagher said. “At about the same time one of my teammates in the Biddy Basketball Program, her mom worked at St. Peter’s Parish. She was involved with the Rec League they run there and she was able to get me on a team.”
After playing at Clark Street Elementary School, Gallagher graduated to the basketball program at Burncoat Middle School. That’s where she met Pasquale.
“We’ve been playing together since our middle school days,” said Pasquale who has had a front-row seat to Gallaher’s development as a basketball player and a person. “We hit it off on the first day we met and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Gallagher said the idea of being a 1,000-point scorer for Burncoat originally began when she was an eighth-grader, on the first day of practice as a member of the junior varsity team. On that day she walked into the Patriots’ gymnasium, affectionately known as “the Green Graveyard” and “The Pit” and saw the banner on the wall of all the 1,000-point scorers in school history.
A year later she was part of a team that tried valiantly to get a teammate, Khadijah Hames, on that 1,000-point banner.
“Khadijah was so close to scoring a 1,000,” Gallagher said. “I think she ended up about 25 points away from scoring 1,000. Being involved in helping her try to score her 1,000 really motivated me to try and do it. Last year and this year I’ve tried to really step it up to make it happen.”
Despite keeping busy with all her basketball exploits, Gallagher has found time during her high school career to become a standout field hockey and softball player for the Patriots. She also participates in the dance magnet at Burncoat. As part of the Burncoat dance magnet Gallagher is enrolled in advanced level classes in classical ballet, modern jazz and modern dance.
While Gallagher isn’t sure yet where she will continue her education, she is sure about three things: she wants to play basketball in college, she wants to major in psychology and she wants to become a high school guidance counselor.
Gallagher has received interest from about 20 colleges and universities that would like her to continue her athletic and academic careers with them, including WPI, Anna Maria, Emmanuel, Rhode Island College and Bridgewater State University.
“Right now I’m considering a few schools,” Gallagher said. I don’t really have a top choice. It’s so hard to decide.”
Gallagher said she wants to be a high school guidance counselor because of the impact Connor – her guidance counselor at Burncoat – has had on her.
“I see the way he helps kids and gives them direction and that’s something I want to do, too,” Gallaher said.
There will be time for all that down the road. Right now there are still many three-pointers to take – and make.
Cover Photo by Ken Powers: Maire Gallagher (right) with teammate and co-captain, Katie Pasquale.