Their heads snapped from side to side, eyeing passes their tangled feet had little chance of carrying them to. But despite Lafayette’s inability to control the perimeter passes the Harvard women’s basketball team whipped across court, the visitors might have stood a chance, if only they had been able to stop the player inside the paint whose hands nearly each and every one of those deliveries eventually found—co-captain Hana Peljto.
Rotating into the low post and then out beyond the arc, Peljto’s troublesome size and range left out-of-position defenders struggling to plant a hand in her face. The senior’s flawless touch, guiding shots beyond those outstretched arms and through the cylinder, left them struggling to find answers.
The 39-point, record-tying performance was one she had always been capable of, but rarely called upon to deliver.
But with junior Reka Cserny sent to the sidelines with a bruised sternum and the Leopards creeping back into the game as the second half began, Harvard desperately needed a stopgap to prevent the struggles it has endured all season long with its starting center riding the pine.
This time, Peljto answered.
The first half should have tipped the Leopards off to the Crimson’s offensive scheme for the evening: getting the ball into Peljto—who attempted one more shot in the opening frame than Lafayette’s entire squad—and letting her go to work against an inferior defensive unit. Had Harvard not surrendered a 15-4 run to close the half, Peljto’s 16 points would not just have led all scorers.
They would have outnumbered the Leopards’ team total as well.
And though Lafayette attempted to adjust following the intermission, Peljto—who was subsequently named Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance—was just getting started.
Each time down the floor, the ball travelled around the arc, drawing defenders outside of the paint and away from Peljto.
And each time she made them pay.
Over the course of a 7:36 stretch during the middle of the second half, Peljto knocked down eight consecutive shots, stretching a three-point Crimson lead to 12.
Allowing defenders to step between her and the ball, she easily gathered lob passes over the top of her head, laying them in without opposition on three occasions.
And just when the Leopards figured out what was headed their way, Peljto decided it was time to showcase her sharpshooting skills.
It couldn’t have come at a better moment for the Crimson.
With Lafayette drawing to within eight and 11:58 remaining, a Harvard collapse, while unlikely, seemed suddenly possible.