February 27, 2007

Perry Leaves Final Mark

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As the women’s basketball team finished off its home schedule this past weekend, the Red’s lone senior, Claire Perry, left her final mark on Newman Arena — and she made sure it was one that would be remembered.

Though hobbled by a recent injury, Perry made a courageous start and set a tone that would help lift Cornell to a 41-36 win over Brown. The 5-11 guard connected on her first and only two attempts in the first 2:20 of the game to give the Red an early 5-0 lead.

“It was surreal and incredible,” Perry said. “I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect senior night.”

“That’s pretty much a good example of what she is,” said sophomore forward Shannon Scarselletta, a Sun columnist. “It was such an emotional game for everyone, and she got us off to such a great start. That’s just how she is — she gives whatever she can to this team.”

Although Perry, playing in a limited role, went scoreless from there on out, her teammates took care of the rest to send their captain out with a victory. Appropriately, the final buzzer sounded with the ball in her hands.

“It was great to end the game that way,” Perry said. “I just had this huge smile, and it was like my four years at Cornell were flashing in front of my eyes.”

The win also raised Cornell’s Ivy League record to 8-4, tying the program’s high mark for conference victories and moving the Red into second place in the current standings.

Although unlikely, Cornell still has an outside shot at earning a share of the Ivy crown if it wins its two remaining games and first-place Harvard drops all three of its last contests.

Nevertheless, if the Red can win at either Dartmouth or Harvard next weekend and finish the Ivy season with its best conference record ever, it would be huge for a program that appeared to be at a low point just a couple seasons ago.

“It would make a huge imprint on the program,” Perry said. “This team has worked very hard for it and we really want to be the best ever.”

Perry has been one of the key participants in Cornell’s rise from the ashes in the past two seasons. In her freshman and sophomore campaigns, the Red won just five conference games between the two seasons, including a 1-13 Ivy mark in 2004-05.

After showing some progress a year ago — the team started its Ivy schedule 3-0 en route to a 5-9 conference record — the Red blossomed into a full-out title contender this season.

“Sophomore year was rough,” Perry said. “It has been an incredible journey as we slowly, but surely got better. I can’t describe what it feels like to have gone through the worst and now have the chance to be part of the best Cornell team ever.”

Heading into this final weekend, Perry is fourth on team in points (8.0 ppg), fourth in total assists (30) and leads all regulars on the team with a .882 free throw percentage. In fact, her career throw percentage of .855 is on pace to smash Cornell’s current career-high mark of .772 set by Mary LaMacchia ’96.

Beyond playing an integral role in the Cornell offense throughout her career as one of the team’s primary sharpshooters, Perry has also benefited the Red with her leadership. Serving as a tri-captain this season, she has a set a fine example for the team’s core group of underclassmen as one of the team’s top defenders, taking on any role asked of her and aiding her teammates in any way she can.

“When you’re confused or frustrated, she finds you and says something to calm you down and focus and get you back in there,” Scarselletta said. “She really helps the team get through the year with the maturity she brings to every practice and game.”

Even with just two games to go in her career, Perry continues to show that maturity as she this weekend’s road trip approaches.

“I told coach that I want the team to do whatever we have to do — even if it means I don’t play — to win and be known as the best ever.”