COYNE TOSS: Peljto Robbed Of Top Honors

Quick! Somebody alert the FBI, State Police, HUPD!

Well, maybe not HUPD.

A robbery has been committed. Except in this crime, it was the Jewel that did the stealing.

Last Thursday, Penn senior forward Jewel Clark swiped the Ivy League women’s basketball Player of the Year (POY) award from its rightful owner, Harvard senior forward Hana Peljto.

“I really have no idea what happened,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said.

You see, that trophy belongs to Peljto.

In 2002, as a sophomore, the 6’2 “Euro-four” averaged 20.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, and was rightfully granted the award.

Last year, Peljto won Ivy Player of the Week four times, led the league in scoring and rebounding with 21.3 points and 9.8 boards per contest, and was unanimously voted POY.

“What could Peljto have done this year to forfeit her claim to the hardware? O! How drastically must her numbers have dropped for the two-time defending Queen of the Ivy to lose her crown!” one might say.

Actually, she was never better.

She was again Player of the Week four times over this year.

She was again voted First-Team Academic All-American, only the third person in Ivy history to grab the honor twice.

She broke the 2000 career point mark, becoming only the third player in Ivy history to do so and finishing with 2109 points.

She improved her scoring average up to 23.7 per game, a mark good enough for first in the Ivy League and second in all of Division I.

Of the top eight leading scorers in the nation, seven were voted player of the year in their respective conferences.

Peljto was the lone exception.

If it appears that it would have been impossible for Clark to match Peljto, that’s because it was.

Peljto outdid Clark in almost every major statistical category, including points and rebounds per game; and free-throw, field-goal and three-point percentage. Clark wrapped up her career with 1729 points.

Head-to-head, Peljto outplayed Clark each time. In Harvard’s first game against Penn, at Lavietes Pavilion on Feb. 2, Peljto scored 22, grabbed seven boards and dished four assists. Clark, in the 19 minutes she played before fouling out, had only nine, three and one, respectively. On March 6, in Philadelphia, Peljto poured in 19 points and snatched 10 rebounds compared to Clark’s 18 and six. Additionally, Peljto came up big in the final minutes, scoring nine straight points in the final three minutes and blocking Penn’s potential game-tying shot with less than 10 seconds to go.

Perhaps the other Ivy coaches, who vote for the award, were still stinging from the thrashings that Peljto dispensed during the regular season. She averaged 23.4 against Ivy competition, compared to the 19.5 that Clark posted.

Or perhaps the coaches went with the old “Give the Award to the Best Player on the Team That Wins” thing. That philosophy is all well and good for a player of the game or series award, but not for a player of the year award. The player of the year, or MVP, award should go to the best player of a competitive team. Thus Tom Brady did not win the NFL MVP even though his team owned the best record and went on to win the Super Bowl. But Steve McNair and Peyton Manning shared the award while captaining contending teams.

Peljto was certainly not toiling in futility. The Crimson finished with a 16-11 record and tied for second in the league.

Clark should not be rewarded for her team taking the Ivy League Championship. Traveling to Bridgeport, Conn. this Saturday to take on Diana Taurasi and the UConn Huskies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, she is getting prize enough.

She didn’t need to take Hana’s.

—Staff writer J. Patrick Coyne can be reached at coyne@fas.harvard.edu.

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