Pallotti survived a rash of late turnovers to upend previously unbeaten McDonogh, 56-53, in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference basketball game Thursday night.
The Panthers, who led from start to finish, survived by hustling, crashing the boards and scrapping for possessions.
“At this point in the season, we’re just trying to get better every time we come out,” said Pallotti coach Joe Matthews. “We’ve got a long way to go because we turned the ball over a bunch of times. But these girls fight all the way to the end and want to be on the floor, and we just have to get better from experiences like this.”
Eniya Russell, ESPN’s 43rd-ranked player of the 2020 recruiting class, led the way for Pallotti with 11 points. Three of her four field goals were 3-pointers. She also was one of 10 scorers on her team.
“It’s important because it leads an example for the underclassmen that are on the team,” Russell said. “I just feel like if I lead by example it’ll build up – I feel more chemistry and more positivity on the bench and on the court and it made us play better.”
The game came down to a couple of key defensive stops at the end, with Pallotti’s Larri Sydnor making a block and getting a few rebounds along with Jasmine Valentine in the post. Sydnor’s sister, Larrin, also gave Pallotti a boost with her energetic play.
Matthews was complimentary of their collective effort.
“They’re long and they attack the ball — Jasmine and Larrin are forces on the boards,” said Matthews. “That’s what we rely on and they came through for us in the fourth.”
Pallotti led from the beginning until the end, starting off hot with a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Russell had six points in the quarter with McDonogh’s Makaela Quimby scoring five. At the end of the half, Pallotti led 27-22 with Russell making a free throw and Lauryn Russell scoring six. McDonogh’s Jayla Oden had 11.
The third quarter finished with a 45-35 lead for Pallotti, but the fourth quarter saw some back and forth. Oden drained a 3-pointer with just 2:51 remaining for McDonogh to trail just 52-47. Under the 1-minute mark, Jania Hall made a shot for the Panthers and the Eagles’ Baylee DeSmit scored to make it 56-53.
“We’re a really young team,” Eagles coach Brad Rees said. “We lost something like 22 seasons of varsity experience with our seven seniors that graduated. We’re a really young team, we’re still trying to figure each other out — coaches, players, everything.
“We’ve got a lot of improvement to do defensively. We had some big defensive breakdowns tonight and we had some really costly turnovers. We cut it down to one and then we had two or three turnovers and all of a sudden, it goes back to a 7-8-point game.”
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