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HANOVER, N.H.—And with that, No. 23 went off into the sunset the same way she arrived—shooting the lights out.
Co-Captain forward Hana Peljto’s Harvard basketball career ended last night at Dartmouth’s Leede Arena, and she sure made the most of it—raining a barrage of jumpers, lay-ins and sky-hooks on the exasperated Big Green.
It was everything you’d expect from Peljto, a star from Day One who, after point number 2,109 fell at 5:32 in the second half, had played out a spectacular swan-song.
“You always want to feel good on your last game,” Peljto said. “That’s sort of the last mark you leave on the program.”
Peljto’s numbers tonight were a small contingent of her career stats, but tell a lot about what’s made her one of the best in all of women’s basketball. The 6’2 Minnesotan hit her first seven shots of the game and had 17 first-half points. She finished with 26, and was one rebound short of recording her 41st career double-double.
More than that, she exhibited the same old frantic energy and intense leadership that has long made her the emotional center of Harvard women’s basketball.
Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said she was “very sad” to see her star player move on.
“She’s a verbal leader, but her real legacy is...her level of intensity,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s inspirational and motivational.”
Above her legacy as a leader, she’ll also be known as having jammed the Harvard record books. Her career point total puts her second on the Crimson career list behind Allison Feaster ’98—and third on the Ivy League list behind Penn’s Diana Caraminico—and she owns three of Harvard’s top-five record seasons in total points.
Her 39-point game against Lafayette on Jan. 15 tied the single-game Harvard record and her 962 career rebounds are third all-time.
“I’m very sad. I’m sad. Hana is a tremendous player,” Delaney-Smith said. “One of the best that’s ever played in the league.
“But above that, she’s a better person. Her leadership is her work ethic. You don’t see another player that puts out the effort—the visible effort—that Hana puts out.”
After last night’s final buzzer, Peljto wore a happy expression as she gathered the Crimson for her final team huddle. She showed little trace of sadness, but said that would come later.
“It almost hasn’t hit me yet, because in the past, we’ve always gone on to the tournament,” Peljto said. “But I’m going to miss this team and the coaches a lot.”
Peljto called last night’s game a “perfect ending” to her career. Delaney-Smith, when asked what she thought about Peljto’s “last game,” had a different reaction.
“Did you say ‘Hana’s last game?’ Do I need to punch you?” she asked with mock agitation.
Like another famous No. 23, it will be tough to keep Peljto out of the game for long. Her professional prospects are bright and she has been reported to say she would be interested in playing professionally overseas. The WNBA isn’t out of the question, either.
But until now, she has not been able to make any final decisions.
“Now that the season’s ended,” she said, “I can figure it out.”
A chapter over, a new story has begun. Stay tuned, folks—Hana Peljto isn’t done with basketball just yet.
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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