Women's Basketball Will Miss Senior Captain

CLARK KNIGHT RISES
Meredith H. Keffer

In the Crimson’s first-round WNIT matchup against Iona, co-captain Christine Clark hit the game-winning layup with six seconds left to advance the squad to the second round. Clark’s collegiate career came to an end with Harvard’s loss to Rutgers on Monday night, 63-52.

The Other Lin Girl

Playing in just her second Ancient Eight game ever, then-freshman guard Christine Clark caught a pass from senior guard Brogan Berry, drove into the lane, and pulled up for a jumper with four seconds to go. One defensive stand later, and the women’s basketball team survived a road test at Columbia, 69-68.

Fast forward three years. Similar situation, different personnel—of that original starting lineup, only Clark remained.

Up against Iona in the first round of the WNIT, Clark had not had a great night offensively. Stymied by Gaels guard Joy Adams—a defender that Delaney-Smith termed “more athletic than Clarkie, not something you usually see”—the senior was shooting at 29 percent, well under her usual field goal percentage, which hovered just below 40 percent on the season.

Almost every other starter on the women’s basketball team had had a more successful night finding the basket, but trailing by one against Iona with the postseason run on the line, Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith made the call. Clark was to get the ball, drive down the court, and find a spot to pull up and shoot—all in the span of six seconds—to win the game for the Crimson.

The co-captain did one better. She grabbed the inbounds pass, snaked her way down the court, and—seemingly without effort—tossed in an uncontested layup. Off of Clark’s shot, Harvard moved on to the second round of the WNIT for the third-straight year.

Maybe it would be surprising, that Delaney-Smith had chosen to give Clark the last-second possession, or that Clark would come up with the game-winner after being bottled up by Adams, given her relatively lackluster performance all night. But for anyone who has followed the senior through her career in a Harvard uniform, none of the heroics were surprising.

From the time she stepped onto the court as a rookie, Clark has been an offensive force to be reckoned with. A four-year starter, the Tucson, Ariz. native has contributed in the double-digits each season, and from her sophomore year onwards has led the Crimson in scoring.

But especially during her final campaign, Clark contributed far more than her average 16.7 points per game. There were questions coming into the 2013-2014 season as to whether Harvard would be able to replace recently-graduated forward Victoria Lippert, who spearheaded the offense alongside Clark.

But the senior turned from an individual—who had always excelled at creating her own shot but would force up an errant shot after drawing a double or triple team—to a captain, one who created shots for teammates, led pregame shoot-arounds, motivated her team in huddles, and still somehow managed to increase her own offensive output.

With the loss to Rutgers in the second round on Monday night, Clark’s basketball career—at least with Harvard, as the senior will endeavor to play overseas—is over. It has been a decorated career for the three-time All-Ivy first team honoree, who is now No. 4 on the all-time Harvard scoring list.

In fact, if the senior can name one of the few disappointments of her career, it’s likely the lack of an Ancient Eight title. Back-to-back losses to Penn and Princeton at home made it nearly impossible for the Crimson to re-claim the top spot, and after watching the Tigers take the championship for the previous three years, Harvard saw the title go to the other Killer P this season.

But in Clark’s four years playing in Lavietes Pavilion, the Crimson has accomplished nearly everything short of the elusive title. In Clark’s sophomore season, Harvard became the first Ivy League team to win a game in the WNIT—a trend the squad has since continued—and this year, the Crimson received an at-large bid to the tournament, another Ancient Eight first.

Without the senior, the team likely would not have even received that bid. Paced by Clark’s 25 points, Harvard pulled out a victory against Princeton in the teams’ first matchup, defeating the Tigers at Jadwin for the first time since 2009. That win kept the Crimson undefeated in Ivy play and catapulted the women atop the league until Princeton-Penn weekend rolled around again.  So while Clark’s last-second layup against Iona was perhaps not wholly expected, it was almost fitting that it was the captain who ensured that the seniors had another game in their future.

Of course, Harvard will miss something from every one of its seniors—guard Jasmine Evans’ speed and sharp-shooting abilities, guard Melissa Mullins’ defensive grit and rebounding skills, and center Elise Gordon’s presence in the post.

And, just as Harvard adjusted following the loss of Lippert, Delaney-Smith will work her magic and manage to fill the hole left by Clark. Sophomore guard Kit Metoyer, with her dangerously accurate shots from an NBA-three-point distance and game face that eerily resembles Clark’s, will probably be slotted to fill the shooting guard role. Junior forwards Erin McDonnell and Temi Fagbenle have both had outstanding finishes to their seasons and will look to pick up the slack on the scoring end of the floor.

But regardless of however Delaney-Smith pulls together another team that will—considering the coach’s track record—in all likelihood, contend for an Ivy League Championship, there’s no denying the fact that when the 2014-2015 season rolls around, No. 22 will be missed.

—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at samantha.lin@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Linsamnity.

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