With the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament occurring this week, Montclair State University’s women’s basketball team has been on a tear in the second half of the 2021-2022 season, clinching the third-seed in the conference tourney with a 14-9 regular-season record.
Many people will look at a scorecard and believe the team’s top scorers, junior guard Nickie Carter, senior guard Julia Sutton and sophomore guard Kendall Hodges are solely responsible for this success. But another, under-the-radar player has dominated the court and stat sheet. That would be senior guard Trisha Peterson.
Peterson has proven to go far past the traditional “role player” label and has been pivotal to the on-court success of the Red Hawks. Currently, she is leading the team in rebounds (9.0 avg/g, 207 total) and is tied for first in steals (2.2 avg/g, 51 total) as well as being second in blocks and assists.
The one place where Peterson has never been ranked highly is scoring. In the vast majority of games played this season, she will only string together a few layups and foul shots. Overall, she’s only averaged 5.3 points despite playing the majority of minutes each game. However, Peterson says she doesn’t need to be a flashy scorer to be a great basketball player.
“My style of play is definitely not traditional, I’m not a huge scoring threat or anything like that,” Peterson said. “I like to do the things that aren’t noticed as much, like the rebounding, the defense, the steals. My style of play is really just hard work driven more than being the big headline.”
Peterson shows that it’s possible to be a valuable part of the offense without needing the ball in her hands as much. Her situational awareness on the court, especially while in transition, allows her to easily identify a wide-open Hodges or Sutton. Couple that with great passing, and it often leads to an easy bucket for Montclair State.
Sutton emphasizes that Peterson not just excels at her role, but also takes great pride in being able to facilitate points.
“She lights up when she makes a pass and being so unselfish is what makes her a special part of our team,” Sutton said.
But what makes Peterson’s game completely unique isn’t the inability to score. There have been multiple games where she has let her shooting ability shine, scoring a season-high 16 points against New Jersey City University (NJCU). It’s been her willingness to play team basketball and put the team ahead of her personal stats.
Head coach Karin Harvey pointed out how valuable Peterson is in her role.
“She is very, very unselfish,” Harvey said. “She doesn’t care if she has two points or 10 points, and she’ll have 17 rebounds, 10 rebounds, 11 rebounds, against much bigger players. What Trish does for us is invaluable and it’s hard to even take her off the court.”
Look no further than Montclair State’s game against Rutgers-Newark on Feb. 9. The big story was Carter’s incredible 34-point performance. Peterson took just as much pride in providing the opportunity for her teammate through rebounds and assists as if she had done it herself.
“I like making my teammates feel good,” Peterson said. “[Carter] having 34 points [against Rutgers-Newark on Feb. 9] was amazing and I love being able to [help her do that]. That makes me, as a player, feel good when my teammates achieve those types of things.”
Defensively, Peterson takes over. She is an aggressive defender that is always a threat for a block. Peterson has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the rebounding game. To put it in perspective, she has collected 207 total rebounds while her next best teammate has 120. In addition, she frequently steals the ball.
Peterson believes the effort she puts in on defense makes a difference.
“All of those little things add up so much,” Peterson said. “And I love being able to be the one making those little plays that all add up in the end.”
Peterson’s work ethic is evident and she plays with an incredibly high amount of energy whether she is diving for loose balls or rejecting an opposing player at the rim. Harvey says that attitude rubs off on the whole team.
“Trish always tries to bring a toughness to our team,” Harvey said. “She always has positive energy and she has the ability to dictate how hard we work and how tough we play.”
When reflecting on her four seasons as a Red Hawk, Peterson said she wants to be remembered as a player who left it all out on the court.
“I want to leave a legacy for this team and all the underclassmen that I was the girl that worked really hard,” Peterson said. “I think that would be a really cool [reputation] to have.”