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.

December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) puts up a shot in between Pallotti forward Savannah Whitley (20) and Mary Amoateng during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)

“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.

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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.”

December 10, 2022: McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) celebrates after a three-pointer during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)

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.

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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.

December 10, 2022: McDonogh Head Coach Brad Rees reacts to a call during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)

“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.

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December 10, 2022: Pallotti guard Mary Amoateng (11) looks for a basket during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)

“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.

NO. 1 MCDONOGH 60, NO. 3 ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI 41

Pallotti 12 7 13 9 — 41

McDonogh 19 13 17 11 — 60

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Pallotti — Sydney Anthony 12, Nia Grymes 3, Gabrielle Clary 3, Mary Amoateng 5, Savannah Whitley 8, Arianna Harris-Mott 10. Totals: 14 11-18 41.

McDonogh — Autumn Fleary 15, Ava McKennie 1, Paris Locke 10, Anaiah Jenkins 10, Mikaela Quimby 10, Kennedy Umeh 14. Totals: 19 17-23 60.

December 10, 2022: McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) vies for a rebound against Pallotti guard Autumn Edison (30) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: Pallotti guard Mary Amoateng (11) looks to pass the ball during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh center Kennedy Umeh (45) drives to the basket against Pallotti forward Savannah Whitley (20) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) drives to the basket and is fouled during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh center Kennedy Umeh (45) and Pallotti forward Savannah Whitley (20) fight for a loose ball during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland.
December 10, 2022: McDonogh center Kennedy Umeh (45) and Pallotti forward Savannah Whitley (20) fight for a loose ball during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) drives to the basket against Pallotti forward Arianna Harris-Mott (25) and scores during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: Pallotti wing Camryn Jones-Howard (22) is blocked during a shot by McDonogh center Kennedy Umeh (45) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh shooting guard Makaela Quimby (21) drives to the basket against Pallotti guard Sydney Anthony (0) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) brings the ball up court during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) celebrates after driving to the basket against Pallotti forward Arianna Harris-Mott (25) and scoring during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) drives the the basket for a shot through Pallotti guard Sydney Anthony (0) and Mary Amoateng during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: Pallotti guard Mary Amoateng (11) looks for a basket during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh center Kennedy Umeh (45) looks to take a shot against Pallotti forward Arianna Harris-Mott (25) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) drives to the basket against Pallotti forward Arianna Harris-Mott (25) and scores during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: Pallotti guard Sydney Anthony (0) tries to drive past McDonogh shooting guard Makaela Quimby (21) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: Pallotti guard Mary Amoateng (11) drives to the basket past McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh small forward Anaiah Jenkins (15) drives to the basket during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)
December 10, 2022: McDonogh point guard Autumn Fleary (2) dribbles past Pallotti guard Mary Amoateng (11) during the girlsÕ high school basketball matchup between St. Vincent Pallotti and McDonogh in Owings Mills, Maryland. The Baltimore Banner photo by Scott Serio (Scott Serio for the Baltimore Banner)