VILLANOVA, PA. 12/23/2020 – There was a women’s basketball game at the Finn. But there was much emotion in the building as it was the final regular season home game for Coach Harry Perretta, and it was Senior Day. The Wildcats honored Mary Gedaka, Bridget Herlihy, and Cameron Onken prior to the game. And capped off the day by upsetting nationally ranked DePaul 76 – 58 at the Finn. An emotional day and a celebration day on the Main Line.
The group of seniors have led the Villanova team to three twenty win seasons. Their record to this point is 78 – 48 and 42 – 28 in the Big East. The seniors have an NCAA Tournament appearance, and twice went to the WNIT getting to the semifinal round in 2017.
Getting 17 in this game Gedaka has posted 25 double digit scoring games this season and has done so 78 times in her career. She is second on the team and fifth in the Big East in scoring at 17.5 points per game. Herlihy is the third leading scorer on the team with 8.8 points per contest and 5.4 rebounds. She pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds in the game against Saint Joseph’s earlier this season. Onken poured in a collegiate-best 17 points in the Temple game. In this game she became only the second player in school history to record a triple-double scoring 12 points, pulling down a career-best 18 rebounds, and handed out a collegiate-best 10 assists. It was a value add to be part of the day and get the win.
“I’ve never seen the Pavilion this packed before,” Onken said. “It was amazing. We knew it would be a great game because they are a great team. Everyone played great. Every single person who came off the bench played their role.”
For Gedaka being a Villanova basketball player is part of her family. Her mother, Lisa, played for Perretta and is one of the leading scorers in program history.
The Wildcats defeated #12 DePaul playing a complete game. Freshman Maddy Siegrist scored a game-high 29 points. With her reverse layup at the 5:10 mark she set the Villanova freshman record for most points in a season. Siegrist now has 529 points which breaks the record of 504 set by Shelly Pennefather during the 1983-84 season.
All of the players who could play, got into the game.
“It was pretty cool,” said Perretta. “Doug (Bruno) called off the press with a minute to go so we could get everybody into the game which was great. He is a great guy and you saw the class of him today. It was wonderful for everybody to get in.”
Once the game was complete, it was time to thank the Coach for his 42 years on the sidelines.
Perretta has 781 wins which ranks him as the winningest coach in the history of Villanova basketball for both men and women. Only Perretta and Yvonne Kaufmann of Elizabethtown College have coached 42 seasons at the same school the most in the history of NCAA Women’s College Basketball.
But those are just statistics.
Harry Perretta means much more than numbers. He is a caring man that has helped so many and meant so much to his players and others.
Perretta has first and foremost tried to put them in a position to succeed. Perretta was taught that “it was not about me, it’s always about them.” And make sure that he could help them as he could. There are so many instances that illustrate this points.
When the seniors speak of their coach at the end of the season banquet, they will always say “Harry”, and with much appreciation in their voices. And they stay in touch.
Academics, during finals in December guard Kelly Jekot said that the team was doing homework at the facility prior to the game, and when Harry walked in looked at those studying and said this only happens here and at Princeton.
A Perretta post game press conference turns into a coaching clinic at times. He will go on the floor to show the reporter (me) the spots on the court and what percentage they shoot from there. It illustrates his point in a manner that words cannot do.
And he cares about other team players as well.
Nykesha Sales was about to set a Connecticut scoring record, but was injured in the previous game. Perretta wanted her on the court and told his team to allow her to make a layup to set the record. Late in a game Perretta reminded the Georgetown coach that Sugar Rodgers was one basket away from a record, and told him to put her back into the game. Rodgers set the record.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be and Doug was the same way today,” Perretta said. “We were brought up in the same teaching environment where it’s what’s best for the players, and it doesn’t matter if they’re on your team or somebody else’s team. It’s about the kids, not anybody else.”
And there was the instance when his senior guard Caroline Coyer was injured in the game before Senior Day. Perretta wanted her to start. Going out on the floor in a knee brace Perretta told her to foul immediately, then come to the bench. Why? To let her get the full experience of Senior Day, and not allow injury to deprive her of that.
That gives a picture of Harry Perretta that you can not measure by Big East titles, although the win over Connecticut still ranks as one of his biggest thrills. There will be more honors and awards, but he prizes getting a piece of the Palestra floor from Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin as one of the biggest. Having so many former players in attendance is a trill.
The celebration will be remembered, and so will he.
The season is not over yet as there are still two Big East games left on the schedule at Creighton and Providence, then the Big East Tournament.
Work starts on Monday!
Written By: Glenn Papazian