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Flying solo: Leadership, competitive edge define lone Falcon senior
It was a long season for Madi Boyd, the only senior on the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team.
South Whidbey’s team was short on veteran leadership. Of an eight-player varsity roster, four were freshmen. It was a far cry from her freshman year when head coach Andy Davis first took over and had ample players, enough for three teams. Numbers dwindled the past two seasons, older players lost interest or pursued other sports, sometimes exclusively in the case of select soccer or club volleyball. That led to Boyd being the “last one standing this season.”
Surrounded by friends and fans at Erickson Gym, she was often alone and burdened with the lonely weight of leadership. She could not afford to take off a play or jog a line or be late, a nagging issue for Boyd, who was late to the gym for the team’s first home game of the season. Per team rules, she did not start the game even though it was the first home game of her final season.
“I couldn’t be lazy at practice,” she said. “I knew all these girls already looked up to me … They all wanted to work hard.”
South Whidbey’s record didn’t help her feel better either. The Falcons finished with a 2-12 record in Cascade Conference play and went 3-17 overall while failing to make the playoffs.
“I expected us to win more games,” said Boyd, 18. “But I knew it was going to be hard.”
There is a lot of fight in her little frame; Boyd stands 5 feet, 3 inches tall, despite the team’s official roster listing her as 5-4. And she admits to being fiercely competitive when put in competitive settings — everything from a basketball game with her brother to footraces. Boyd, a three-sport athlete every year in high school and a multi-year letterer in soccer, basketball and track and field, never quit a season. And there were times where it would have been easy, like when the team started with a five-game losing streak, followed by another five-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak.
Love for her teammates, many of whom she remembers meeting and coaching at a Falcon basketball camp a couple of years ago, and love of the game kept her dribbling, kept her running lines, kept her launching shots. In camp, she took note of girls’ names and faces and identified which ones would be her teammates some day.
The swell of freshmen brought a new attitude to the team this year, Boyd said. Several that were her teammates on varsity were close friends, and their relationships created a tight bond. They had team sleepovers, which Boyd could not recall doing in past years. They also had a team banquet at a Red Robin in Seattle after watching a college basketball game at Seattle Pacific University. Because there were only a few players on the team with a driver’s license — because the rest were too young — they had to make sure to take their families’ vans and SUVs.
Then there was the time they all sang Christmas carols to people in Friday Harbor, eventually joining with what she called an “actual” caroling group.
Organizing trips like that helped garner her teammates’ admiration. But it was her day-to-day attitude that resonated with the Falcons, like the time she was mad at an opposing team’s player for being a little too physical with her on the court. Abby Hodson, a junior who played with Boyd all three years, recalled Boyd coming off the court to the bench and loudly complaining of the other player grabbing her stomach. It was a quote that was eventually printed and posted in Davis’ classroom at South Whidbey High School.
“It’s probably really hard being the only senior,” said Abby Hodson, a junior who played with Boyd all three year. “But everyone looks up to her … There’s no doubt you could tell when she was mad. That’s good though, she’s the leader. If you saw she was frustrated or mad, it was time to pick it up.”
Coming to terms
For all the team sleepovers and team meals, frustration and disappointment took their toll. She copped to complaining at home to her parents. Eventually, she elected to take the season as it was: a growing year for her teammates and friends. But that meant she would not find glory in her senior season. There would be no playoff run to the state tournament, no great last shot for Madi Boyd.
“I wasn’t giving up,” she said. “I was accepting that we weren’t going to be as successful as I originally thought.”
With a crop of capable freshmen joining the team, Boyd saw her role change. In previous years, Boyd was the main ball handler. Plays often started with her pass.
This year, she was lucky if the play started at all. Teams keyed on her with pressure defense, trap defense and double teams. If they weren’t isolating her, opponents flustered her teammates and forced turnovers.
As the season went on, South Whidbey’s offense found better footing. The Falcons’ scoring increased from the 20s to the 30s and 40s, capping the year with a season-high 56 points in the last game of the season.
During the season, there were games where Boyd’s shot selection was not ideal. Her shots came too early in the shot clock, or she took a contested three-pointer. Those moments were easy for spectators to identify, because Coach Davis would holler her name: “Madi Boyd!”
Boyd said Davis knew her well enough to read her body language on the court. When she slouched or didn’t rush to guard, he admonished her to be a leader. When she was upset, furrowing her brows or recklessly fouling, he’d tell her to calm down, to which she often Boyd countered, “I am calm!”
But her passion for roundball had its benefits. She celebrated her teammates’ successes, including the growth Abby Hodson and Megan Drake made by season’s end. Boyd recalled a game when Drake spun into the key for a layup, which prompted her to leap from her seat on the team’s bench and jump onto the court. Davis had to lift her out of the way to avoid a technical.
Basketball is a Boyd family pastime. Her father, Keith, once worked for KeyArena back when the Seattle SuperSonics were the main tenants. Since Boyd can remember, he encouraged her to work on her form by laying on her back and flicking a basketball up. Before the season started, they hit the driveway to work on her shot’s arch. He held a broom that she had to shoot over.
“He saw that in a movie,” she laughed.
Her brother, Kellen, was a freshman on the boys basketball C team. They watch basketball games together, practiced together in the offseason and argue about sports. It’s a bonding experience for them, either way.
“We fight a lot about sports,” Boyd said of her brother, whom she grudgingly admitted could beat her in a game of one-on-one, crediting his arm length and height. “But it also brings us together.”