Makayla Pippin played varsity basketball as a freshman at Institute of Notre Dame, which competed at the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference.
Wanting a chance to compete in the A Conference, she transferred last year to St. Vincent Pallotti, where she is now part of a starting lineup that has no seniors.
The young Panthers of Laurel have showed promise this season but have had their share of close losses with the regular-season play winding down.
"We always put a (strong) effort in our games, I would say," said forward Pippin, who is from Severn and attended Old Mill Middle School. "We may get down by 16 but we have the heart to get back up. We are only losing by two or five possessions some games. We need to take every possession count."
Pallotti was 8-9 overall and 2-7 in the IAAM following a 56-47 loss at home to Seton Keough on Jan. 20 in which the Panthers dressed just eight players.
Pallotti is slated to play at Roland Park on Jan. 29 (4 p.m.) and then finish the regular season Feb. 3 against John Carroll at home. The IAAM playoffs begin Feb. 9.
The first-year head coach for Pallotti is Tameka Addison, a 1995 graduate of Hammond High who grew up and still lives in Columbia.
She was an assistant coach last season at Glenelg Country and took over at Pallotti when former coach Rod Hairston parted ways with the private Laurel school.
"She has been telling us since we have young girls that we have to work harder than the other team," Pippin said of Addison. "Our chemistry is starting to build. She told us we have to keep working. She told those juniors they have to take charge now; they have to be the leaders on the team."
The regular starters for the Panthers have been sophomores Pippin, Amani Ball and Hannah Franklin, junior center Musha Alhassan and freshman guard Tian Addison, the daughter of the coach. Franklin and Ball were starters last season for the Panthers.
In the first 17 games Pippin averaged 16.1 points per game; Ball averaged 11.4 points and 4.9 rebounds; Addison averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 assists; Franklin averaged 8.5 points, 3.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds; and Alhassan averaged 7.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
Addison said she has been satisfied with the play of her daughter. "She has been able to adapt as far as her defensive abilities. Sometimes she has to take on a leadership position on a squad that is very young," said the coach.
Addison and Franklin have been able to alternate as the point guards and shooting guards, depending on the opponent. "They both have dual roles. Hannah is a great guard in transition and she finishes," Addison said.
Ball is a captain who can play the small and power forward spots. "She can shoot the ball from the outside," Addison said.
Pippin plays mostly the power forward spot. "We have been working with her facing the basket. She is definitely making progress this year," Addison said.
Alhassan is a transfer from National Christian. "We love having her in the paint as a defender," the coach said.
So what are the goals for the rest of the season? "I would say our goal is to keep working hard and get better as a team," Pippin said. "I just think we need to build as a team and work hard and be there for each other."
Notes: Pallotti graduate Tiffany Padgett, a redshirt junior forward from Laurel, had 11 points and two rebounds on Jan. 22 for George Mason in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at George Washington University. Padgett started the first 20 games and averaged about nine points and a team-high six rebounds for the Patriots, who fell to 8-12 overall and 3-4 in the conference with the 82-68 loss at GW (17-3, 7-0). "We left it all on the court," Padgett said after the game. "My rebounding has gone down in the conference; I had high expectations but we still have several games left." Padgett played two seasons at Loyola of Baltimore before transferring to Mason...This season Pallotti also has a junior varsity girls program, which was not the case last year. "I am super excited about our junior varsity program," coach Addison said. "We have six players on our roster. They are not in our A Conference. It has been awesome for the program" to have a JV squad.