Kentucky’s First Region contains lots of talent in the sport of girls basketball. But when it came to eye-popping stat totals and highlight performances this season, perhaps no one stood out more than Ballard Memorial senior Mady Calvin.
The Lady Bombers finished below .500 at 9-11 in 2021 but were a must-watch thanks to Calvin’s feats on the court. She posted 15 double-doubles in those 20 games and closed the year averaging 29.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game en route to finishing her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,961 points. She accounted for 54.7% of her team’s total scoring on the season and her point and rebounding averages ranked second and 14th, respectively, in the state.
All of that makes for quite a senior season, and First Region coaches and select media members took notice, voting Calvin the 2021 All-Purchase girls basketball Player of the Year. She also earned a $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of WoodmenLife.
“It’s a big honor because it has taken a long time to even be recognized,” Calvin told The Sun upon learning she had earned this recognition. “I’ve kind of flown under the radar for a long time, and this year has been a big year for me. It’s just a privilege and an honor to be able to be chosen for this.”
With all the talent in the First Region, Calvin was somewhat surprised to be named as the top vote-getter.
“There are a lot of girls out there that are really good players, and to be voted as the Player of the Year, I’m kind of shocked in a way because they saw something in me that they didn’t see in the other girls,” she said.
Coaches are unable to vote for their own players in the balloting process, but Ballard Memorial head coach Tim Adams said she would’ve been at or near the top of his list.
“Mady performed night in and night out strong enough to earn Player of the Year. Her stat line proves it. Every game she played, she was double-teamed and box-and-oned, and she was still able to perform at a high level,” Adams said. “The points and all the stats came as the result of her competitiveness. That, to me, is the big key. She was a hard competitor every single night, and all the stats were the result of that.”
Still, Adams described having one of his players earn this honor as “humbling.”
“There are some very talented young ladies in the First Region, so it’s humbling to know that the coaches respected Mady and respected how hard she played and respected her game, and I think they respected her improvement over the course of the past three or four years enough to give her this honor,” he said. “I’m really proud of her, and it’s been an honor to coach her.”
On top of averaging a double-double on the season, Calvin shot 51.3% from the field and 68.2% from the foul line and around five assists per game.
“I don’t really know what else you could ask of an individual while she’s having to handle the basketball 75 to 80% of the time,” Adams said. “When you put all of that together with all of the weight that was on her shoulders, to watch how she carried herself on a nightly basis through the good and the bad, and then put the stats with that, and what people don’t see is the attitude she had when she came to practice every day and how she encouraged her teammates. I definitely believe she is deserving of the honor of Player of the Year.”
Calvin, who averaged 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds as a junior, put together some memorable performances this season. She scored a career-high 56 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in an 83-77 overtime win over Christian Fellowship on Feb. 20 and went for 36 points and 17 rebounds in a 69-68 victory in a rematch on March 5. And she added a 49-point, 15-rebound effort in a 70-61 win at Dawson Springs on March 6, when she surpassed Leah Shelley’s 1,883 career points to become Ballard Memorial’s all-time leading scorer.
“My senior season went really well,” Calvin said. “It challenged me, but it was really fun. I think that’s why I was so successful this year was because I had so much fun while playing.”
Looking back, Calvin said her proudest accomplishment was becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“It’s an honor, and I’m really proud of that because there’s a lot of history behind it, and for me to be on top is amazing,” she said.
That’s not what her head coach will remember most from this season, though.
“I’ll remember the smaller moments of being in certain games and seeing the look in her eye when she realized we needed a big basket or we needed her to step up and take the game over, and she was able to do that. And I’ll remember her calmness on the bench. When I might be a little upset, she would say, ‘Coach, we’re all right. We’ve got this,’ ” Adams said. “For me, it’s those things that I’ll take a lot further than her having the all-time scoring record even though that is a phenomenal feat.”
Despite her strong season, Calvin was lightly recruited by college programs. But her basketball career will continue, as she has signed with John A. Logan College, a two-year community college located in Carterville, Illinois.
“She’s a super-talented player, and we really like her drive — she really wants to win, and she does whatever she can to carry her team. She’s an overall good talent on both ends of the floor, and she plays at 120%,” John A. Logan women’s basketball head coach Amanda Shelby told The Sun at Calvin’s signing ceremony. “She never stops, and those are the types of players we’re looking for, and she’s going to fit in perfectly. She’s part of a great foundation that we’re getting going. We can’t wait to get her on the floor.”
Upon her graduation, Calvin will leave behind a Lady Bomber team that Adams hopes will carry on some of her greatest traits, including her nonstop effort and competitiveness.
“Mady’s teammates have a ton of respect for her, and Mady has earned that respect. There are a few individual players that learned a lot from her, and I think it’s going to encourage them to step up into a bigger role,” Adams said. “As a player, any time you leave a program, you leave some kind of legacy, and I think she has left a legacy of competing and playing hard and embracing the moment when your time comes and stepping into that role and enjoying it.”
Nine other players joined Calvin on the 2021 All-Purchase girls basketball team.
Cayson Conner, senior, Marshall CountyConner averaged a team-high 13.1 points along with 3.7 rebounds per game in leading the Lady Marshals to Fourth District and First Region championships this season. She shot 53.4% from the field and 71% from the foul line.
“Cayson is one of the best all-around players that I have ever coached,” head coach Aaron Beth said. “She is true leader both on and off the court.”
Ranked near the top of the Associated Press poll all season, the Lady Marshals are bringing a record of 22-2 into their KHSAA Sweet 16 matchup with Pikeville next Thursday.
Halle Langhi, junior, Marshall CountyLanghi averaged 12.6 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the field and 77.5% from the foul line this season.
“I think Halle improved in all aspects of her game this year,” Beth said. “She is very versatile for a post player. She can score inside and outside and is a dominant presence on the defensive end of the court.”
Avery Myatt, senior, Graves CountyMyatt averaged 14 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — both team highs — while shooting 75% from the foul line and totaling 28 assists, 41 deflections and 50 steals this season. The Lady Eagles went 19-4 and advanced to the region semifinals.
“Avery had a tremendous season this season,” head coach Lyndon Dunning said. “She was a leader from day one in everything we did. Avery played with great passion, and our program is blessed to have been part of her success.”
Skylar Waller, 8th-grader, Calloway CountyWaller averaged 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.4 steals per game while shooting 43.9% from the field and 77.4% from the foul line this season as the Lady Lakers went 19-7 despite missing senior leader Elle Carson for several games due to injury.
“She worked very hard during the COVID shutdown, and I think that showed this season. She really didn’t play like an eighth-grader,” head coach Valerie Waller said. “The big thing that stands out for me is not just that as an eighth-grader she averaged nearly 19 points a game but the other aspects of her game that helped lead her team. Her overall play while running the point guard position is what really elevated her game to another level.”
Angela Gierhart, senior, MurrayGierhart averaged a team-leading 14.2 points along with 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 70.8% from the foul line this season.
“Angela has been a big part of our program for several years now but saved her best for last,” head coach Tom Foust said. “She is the epitome of a ‘do-it-all’ player. She always drew the toughest defensive assignments and could lead us in scoring on any night.”
Kierra Whitaker, freshman, Carlisle CountyWhitaker averaged a team-high 18.9 points along with 3.9 rebounds per game this season as the Lady Comets went 14-8 and won the First District championship.
Caroline Sivills, sophomore, McCracken CountyHaving to step up and help lead a young roster this season, Sivills averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 77.2% from the foul line.
Sivills combined with freshmen Claire Johnson and Mikee Buchanan to help lead the Lady Mustangs to a record of 15-8 and a region runner-up finish.
Gracie Howard, freshman, Christian FellowshipHoward averaged 22.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while making 39 3-pointers and shooting 76.1% from the foul line this season in becoming the first Christian Fellowship girls player to make the All-Purchase Team.
She has already amassed 1,350 points and 518 rebounds in her career.
“Gracie is the most humble player I’ve ever coached. She didn’t even know she was close to 1,000 points and was genuinely surprised when the game was stopped to recognize her,” head coach Trevor Jackson said. “The expression on her face never changes, no matter whether she’s having the game of her life or hasn’t scored a single point. Best of all, she would always rather win than score a single point. She is the ultimate team player and a true joy to coach.”
Jada Driver, junior, Marshall CountyDriver averaged 9.7 points and three rebounds per game while making 55 3-pointers and shooting 81% from the foul line this season.
“Jada is one of the most pure shooters that I have seen,” Beth said. “She committed to getting better in the offseason, and it really paid off for her this year.”