The Lafayette girls’ basketball players come into gyms with all the usual equipment: jerseys, sneakers, kneepads and headbands. But they’re also wearing something else — a huge chip on their shoulders.
The Patriots compete in PSAL Class B, but they feel strongly they are better than that label.
“We really don’t get enough credit,” coach Kareem Benson said. “We feel like we can compete against the ‘A’ and the ‘AA’ teams.”
On Sunday, Lafayette proved it. Behind senior Essence Hopkins’ 21 points, the Patriots defeated Class AA’s Banneker, 56-51, at the Big Apple Recruiting Christmas Classic at Bishop Ford HS in Brooklyn.
Lafayette (8-1) fell in the semifinals of the PSAL Class B playoffs last season and was not moved up for various reasons. But since then, Benson said, the girls have been ultra-motivated to show they are not just the class of ‘B,’ but also more than capable of playing with higher-level teams, too.
The Patriots’ only loss came to August Martin, an ‘AA’ team, and Banneker (4-3) has wins against Boys & Girls and Lincoln on its résumé this season. The Martin loss came on a buzzer beater in overtime.
“This season, they’ve come out with a vengeance,” Benson said.
Hopkins, an athletic guard, averaged 35.7 points per game last season. She’s only scoring 19 per this season, because the rest of the Patriots have stepped up, especially point guard Jodyann Pitt, who had 18 points against Banneker. Junior Raven Simone Bryant added 10 points for Lafayette.
The Warriors got within 48-47 with 2:47 left in the game, but the Patriots used a 6-0 run, capped by a Hopkins free throw, to seal the deal. Junior Alexcia Barnes had 14 points and junior Kunnu Wisseh added 11.
Benson is not done lining up quality opponents for his team. Lafayette will play St. Francis Prep on Monday at Bishop Ford and a match up with PSAL Class A power Medgar Evers is awaiting at the Martin Luther King tournament.
“The competition is so low, it’s hard to get the girls motivated,” Benson said of the ‘B’ league.
Lafayette also has some big league games coming up. It will play one-loss New Utrecht on Jan. 6 and undefeated Goldstein on Jan. 8 with Brooklyn B South supremacy on the line.
The Patriots certainly seem to be up to the challenge.