With 31 of the 33 points she needed to become only the third woman in Ivy League history to reach the 2,000 point plateau, Peljto had one last chance and just under 10 seconds to finish the job in last Friday’s contest with Cornell.
Receiving the entry pass from a wide-open Tricia Tubridy, Peljto drop-stepped and spun to the rim for what might have become the most memorable lay-up of her career.
Three offensive rebounds later, Peljto was still one bucket shy of the record books.
“Before the last play coach took a time out and told the team [about the record] because we usually don’t take the last shot if we’re winning,” Peljto says. “It’s kind of difficult to set up a play like that and just make it happen. I was a little bit nervous, but I wasn’t too frustrated or disappointed, because the points will come.”
Indeed, those missed shots may have been a blessing in disguise, because now Crimson fans will have the chance to see history in the making at home against Yale on Friday night. Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith hopes Hana’s achievement will attract some student attention.
“I’d actually rather it happen this weekend. It’s parents weekend, senior weekend, and so it’s a nice time to achieve such an incredible honor,” Delaney-Smith says. “I think that Hana is a treasure and a special basketball player, and it’d be great to get some students down here to see her.”
The delayed gratification also gives Peljto the chance to reflect on the magnitude of her accomplishment.
“I never really set goals like that for myself. It’s nice that it will happen and it will be nice to be honored but when I came here I never had anything like that in mind,” she says. “I’m just lucky to have the teammates that I’ve had, and to be surrounded by the coaching staffs that I’ve had. More than anything I’m just happy that my time playing basketball has been with such wonderful people.”
Will the attention devoted to that first basket affect the way she plays?
“I’m going to try not to think about it, but the nice thing about it is that it’s only two points, so after it happens, it’s done and I can just play out the rest of the game.”
Beyond the attention of the Crimson faithful—and likely several professional scouts—Peljto has received accolades from friends in high places. Former Minnesota Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura—on campus as a teaching fellow at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics—is also the former mayor of Peljto’s hometown of Brooklyn Park, Minn.
“I knew about Hana when she was in high school, and she was the best player in the state her senior year,” Ventura recalls. “I was disappointed at first when I found out she was choosing Harvard over Minnesota but that tells me she’s intelligent as well, and now she’s doing great things here.”
Peljto’s feat is not only a personal milestone. Her achievement will combine with those of another Harvard standout to break new ground in the Ancient Eight. Peljto and Allison Feaster ’98—the Crimson’s all-time scoring leader, now with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting—will become the first pair from a single Ivy League school to reach the 2,000 point mark. Earlier this season, Peljto tied Feaster’s single-game scoring mark with a 39-point performance against Lafayette.
“We always hear stories about [Feaster],” Peljto says. “To be mentioned in the same light as her is a true honor.”