No. 2 Pallotti tops McDonogh in IAAM A basketball opener, Russell scores 11

St. Vincent Pallotti girls basketball may have preferred a less daunting season opener Thursday than playing at McDonogh School in the IAAM A Conference opener. But the reality is the road to the IAAM A championship, which Pallotti expects to travel this winter, will somehow involve the Eagles.

The second-ranked Panthers got their league campaign off on the right note with a 56-53 victory over the fifth-ranked Eagles in Owings Mills. University of South Carolina recruit Eniyah Russell led Pallotti (2-1 overall, 1-0 IAAM A) with 11 points.

Russell was the lone Panther in double-figures, but the Laurel school received major contributions from Larri and Larrin Syndor and Jasmine Valentine in the final seconds to preserve victory. Pallotti led wire-to-wire.

The Syndor sisters from Catonsville are among several transfers for Pallotti, which lost to Roland Park Country School in last season’s IAAM A semifinals. The biggest newcomer is Russell, one of the nation’s Top 50 seniors who played for Institute of Notre Dame last season.

After losing twice to McDonogh by a combined 53 points last season, Pallotti constructed a 27-22 halftime lead Thursday. The Panthers led 45-35 entering the fourth quarter before McDonogh pulled to three late in regulation.

Jayla Oden led all scorers with 21 points for the Eagles (3-1, 0-1 IAAM A), and Makaela Quimby added 16. It was the first loss for McDonogh after victories over St. Paul’s School, St. Maria Goretti and Springdale Prep.

St. Vincent Pallotti, which lost to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference stronghold Bishop McNamara (82-66) and defeated Maret School from the District (62-50) at the Cobras United Tip-Off Classic at McNamara last weekend, head to Northern Virginia to participate in the Art Turner Classic at Paul VI. The Panthers play New York’s Ossining Saturday.

Tuesday, Pallotti hosts four-time reigning IAAM A champ and No. 1 St. Frances Academy.

No. 2 St. Vincent Pallotti 56, No. 5 McDonogh School 53

Pallotti – E. Russell 11, Hall 6, Waled 5, L. Russell 8, Brown-Stangerhlin 2, Rideout 5, Sydnor 4, Valentine 4, L. Syndor 7, Whitaker 4. Totals 23 1-2 56.

McDonogh – Mitchell 8, DeSmit 4, Oden 22, Quimby 11, Class 4, Jenkins 1, Yarborough 3. Totals 18 12-22 53.

Pallotti 14 13 18 11 – 56

McDonogh 8 14 13 18 – 53