McDonogh overwhelms No. 3 Pallotti as Umeh returns
In her first action since suffering a knee injury in September, Eagles’ senior star comes off the bench to score 14 points
Kennedy Umeh could not have been happier to be back on the court with her No. 1 McDonogh girls basketball team Friday night.
The 6-foot-4 junior post, a veteran of last summer’s world champion USA Basketball U17 national team, played in her first game after suffering a knee injury in September and she made a difference right away against No. 3 St. Vincent Pallotti.
Her teammates got a little separation in the first quarter when Anaiah Jenkins capped a three-point play and Paris Locke hit a 3-pointer within 19 seconds for a six-point lead. Then Umeh came off the bench for another three-point play and the defending champion Eagles were well on their way to a 60-41 victory in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference season opener for both teams.
“I definitely think Kennedy coming in changed the game a little bit. She’s an excellent player, so she’s going to impact the game,” Pallotti coach Rashida Joiner said.
Umeh, who wasn’t expected see game action until next week, played sparingly for the well-balanced Eagles (2-1) and finished with 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks. She and Jenkins, a 6-foot senior forward, proved a tough matchup for Pallotti (5-1) on the inside as Jenkins had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“Umeh is “such a physical presence both offensively and defensively,” McDonogh coach Brad Rees said, “that it changes the opponent’s focus I think a little bit, and it just frees up our guards to do some different things. Tonight, Anaiah Jenkins did a great job with the physicality, rebounding, defensively playing their big kid (6-4 Arianna Harris-Mott) and it takes some of the pressure off Anaiah and allows her to do the things she’s good at too, so once we get [Umeh] back more consistently, everyone’s going to have to adjust a little bit. We’re excited to have her back.”
Even though she could only play a few minutes in each quarter, Umeh was excited to be back in the game ahead of her original rehab schedule.
“I was just so happy to out there, just running up and down with the team,” Umeh said. “I kind of help out being a presence in the middle and that helps my teammates get more open looks.”
In the second quarter, the visiting Panthers pulled within 21-15 on Mary Amoateng’s free throw, but the Eagles answered with nine straight points and finished the half with an 11-4 run. Umeh hit three straight layups in the run, the last one off a feed from Jenkins, who then added two free throws and a layup as the Eagles took a 32-19 lead into the break.
In the third quarter, the Eagles’ guard play helped them run out to a 22-point lead. Pallotti’s Camryn Jones-Howard fed Harris-Mott to cut the lead to 32-23, but McDonogh’s stellar freshman point guard Autumn Fleary hit back-to-back 3-pointers from opposite corners to spark a 13-2 run that also included a 3-pointer from Makaela Quimby.
Fleary led the Eagles with 15 points while Quimby and Locke scored 10 each.
“We knew that they had the plan to come in here and dominate,” Jenkins said, “and through our practices, coach Brad make it known that this was not going to be an easy game. We were going to have to be physical to win this and we handled that.”
For the Panthers, who finished third in the A Conference last season, McDonogh’s inside strength and experience wasn’t the only problem although Joiner said they had not prepared for Umeh.
The Panthers’ strength is in their guards, including Sydney Anthony who led them with 12 points, but they came out flat and never managed to pick up their game unlike how well they played against the Washington D.C-area teams they’ve already beaten, including Elizabeth Seton, Riverdale Baptist, National Christian and Bullis.
“We didn’t play our game,” Joiner said. “We didn’t play our game defensively. We have an identity about ourselves and we didn’t show up today. I think that the players that usually play consistently, we didn’t have the game from them that we needed.”
The Panthers will have their chance to avenge the loss in the new year. Each of the seven A Conference teams plays the others twice, so the Eagles and the Panthers will meet again on Jan. 25 at Pallotti.