Perry is player of year

"My attitude was, 'I can't get down, because I never want to let my teammates see me get down,' " said Woodrow Wilson's Chanelle Perry (right), player of the year. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
"My attitude was, 'I can't get down, because I never want to let my teammates see me get down,' " said Woodrow Wilson's Chanelle Perry (right), player of the year. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 23, 2014

She was the best player on her team.

But she was so much more.

She showed her teammates how to move on a basketball court, how to respond when things were down. She showed them what it takes to win, what it means to work hard.

Chanelle Perry could handle any situation, and her Woodrow Wilson teammates followed her lead.

And in a season with so many highlights and big moments, there was one low point that was a perfect illustration of what Perry meant to the Tigers.

In the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions, Perry missed two free throws that could have won the game for Woodrow Wilson. Immaculate Heart Academy grabbed the rebound and tied the score with seven seconds left.

Wilson called a timeout. Perry walked to the huddle with her head up, patted her teammates on the back, encouraged them, listened intently to her coach, and got excited about the play that was drawn up - which did not involve her, the team's star, taking the last shot.

"My attitude was 'I can't get down, because I never want to let my teammates see me get down,' " said Perry, this season's Inquirer player of the year in South Jersey girls' basketball.

"I tell myself that I have to keep a positive attitude. I know my teammates look up to me, and I wanted to show them what it takes."

The result of that moment was that Tamara Sellers hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer and Wilson won the game in regulation, another signature moment in a season in which the Tigers (24-9) won the state Group 3 championship.

In her senior season, Perry accomplished every one of her goals.

It started when she broke the school record of 1,780 career points on Feb. 11. Then, on March 8, she became the 24th girls' basketball player in South Jersey history to score 2,000 points.

After each milestone, Perry said essentially the same thing: It's nice, but I want a state title.

"That's what I worked so hard for," she said.

On the court, Perry did everything. She could play inside and outside at the same high level. She could hit threes, drive the lane, and guard the quickest and/or the biggest player on the court. She averaged 21 points, eight rebounds, three steals, and three blocks.

Her missed free throws in the T of C were perhaps the only times she didn't come through under pressure. Her team was losing by 10 points in the South Jersey semifinals before Perry put the Tigers on her back and led them to victory over Winslow Township, recording 28 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 blocks.

In an overtime win at Timber Creek for the sectional championship, she recorded 21 points, six rebounds, and four blocks. And she hit all four of her foul shots in the extra period.

Perry put up similar numbers in the state playoffs.

But her unselfishness might have been her biggest contribution to her team's success during its run to the title.

Perry was clearly the team's superstar, but her ability to give up the spotlight allowed her teammates to flourish. And a host of Tigers came up big in a wild postseason in which virtually every game came down to the last possession.

"I love the spotlight," said Perry, a 5-foot-10 Clemson recruit. "But my teammates can have it all they want. Why not? It's a team. That's what a team is all about."

That attitude is the first thing that comes to mind when Tigers coach Bernie Hynson sums up Perry.

"All year, when somebody got down, she made sure they got back in it," Hynson said. "She kept everybody going.

"She's just been perfect. A player like her doesn't come around often."

Perry was a shining light in Camden, a city often mired in negative publicity. And this, too, was on her mind throughout this season.

She struggled to put into words how much each big win meant to her.

But her motivation was clear.

She did it for her city. She did it for her teammates. She did it for her family, for all those who supported her throughout an amazing ride.

"I believe that hard work pays off, and this season showed it," Perry said. "You have to keep believing in order to achieve what you want to achieve.

"And I'm just so proud to have been a part of this season with my wonderful teammates."


rallysports@phillynews.com

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