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Boxed in: Rodriguez’s defense leads Banneker over Grand Street

Jenipher Rodriguez had one job and one job alone against Grand Street Campus. The Banneker junior was to stick on Wolves dead-eye shooter Clarissa Gallagher like glue in the Warriors’ box-and-one defensive set.

“My coach (Jonathan Anderson) was like, ‘If she goes to the bathroom, go to the bathroom with her – stay with her everywhere,’” Rodriguez said with a laugh.

The pint-sized guard did exactly as instructed, holding Gallagher, arguably the best 3-point shooter in the city, to just one trey and five points, all of which came in the first half. With Grand Street’s best offensive weapon nullified, Banneker was able to pull off a 56-48 win last Wednesday in PSAL Brooklyn AA Group 2 girls basketball in Williamsburg.

“It’s big, because we stopped the shooter from shooting,” Banneker star sophomore guard Africa Williams said of the victory. “[Rodriguez] played great, playing defense. If we didn’t put a box-and-one on, I believe she would have hit most of her shots.”

Banneker wasn’t able to pull away until the fourth quarter, though. Grand Street didn’t score for the first 3:19 of the final period until Quanisha Ratley’s basket brought the Wolves within 42-35. But an Amanda Fields basket inside and a banked 3-pointer by sophomore Diara Adger gave Banneker what would end up being an insurmountable 49-39 lead with 2:19 left.

Two foul shots apiece by Tamara Jones and Ratley gave Grand Street another late push, getting the score to 52-48 with 36 seconds left. But Banneker made most of its free throws down the stretch to hold on.

“We like to run, but we slowed it up,” Anderson said of the fourth quarter. … “We hit our free throws. We missed some, but we were clutch down there.”

Williams, who came in averaging 31.8 points per game, led the way with 22 points, including a 30-foot buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter . Rodriguez was also impressive on the offensive end, taking care of the ball, making free throws and hit a big baseline jumper to give Banneker a 41-33 lead with 5:20 left in the game.

“That girl’s got heart right there,” Anderson said. “She played with a lot of heart today.”

Most of it was demonstrated on the defensive end. Ratley had 22 points and Jones had 16, but the third member of Grand Street’s triumvirate – and perhaps the most important – was locked up. Rodriguez said she was trying to deny Gallagher the ball at all costs.

“She’s the go-to, best girl,” said Rodriguez. “I was just trying to make her score less. We would have lost by 30 if she would have been on today.”

Instead, Banneker walked away with perhaps its best victory of the season, on the road against a strong division opponent. It’s the kind of win that could help the young Warriors when it comes time for playoff seeding.

“They’re at the top of our division,” Anderson said. “We wanted to go into the Christmas break over .500. So we needed that win. That was a big win.”

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