The Pallotti boys teams are leaving the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference at the end of the 1999-2000 season to join the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, Pallotti Athletic Director Steve Walker said yesterday. Pallotti's girls teams also are leaving the WCAC at the end of this school year and likely will join the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, Walker said.

"To tell you the truth, we cannot compete [in the WCAC] in all sports," Walker said. "We wanted to find teams that were like us in terms of enrollment and athletics."

The MIAA and IAAM mostly consist of Baltimore area private schools. The 28-team leagues are divided into "A", "B" and "C" conferences, with "A" being the most competitive. Pallotti's boys soccer and softball teams will compete in the "A" conference, with the other teams competing in the "B" conference.

Pallotti is the smallest WCAC school, with an enrollment of 430. Walker said he hoped the Panthers still would be able to play some WCAC teams after they leave the conference.

"We hope to keep some of the rivalries we had with O'Connell in softball and DeMatha and Gonzaga in soccer," Walker said. ". . . A lot of our kids are not going to go on and play in college, so we wanted them to have the best high school experience possible."

A Major Statement

On the other side of the country, against a team that is the consensus No. 1 in the nation and is loaded with Division I prospects, with a bevy of college coaches watching, it might have been easy for Mount Vernon to feel out of place at the girls Tournament of Champions at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The 16-team field in the National Championship bracket includes 13 teams ranked by USA Today or Fox Sports, two media outlets that keep national high school polls. And the Majors, ranked No. 6 in the Washington area by The Post, drew top-ranked Narbonne of Harbor City, Calif., in their opener.

Majors Coach Kenny Farmer took one look at 6-foot-3, 210-pound Gauchos senior center Ebony Hoffman (who has committed to Southern California) and thought his team might have difficulty with her size. But Mount Vernon (4-1) set its up-tempo play in motion, put on its full-court press and nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament, putting a scare into Narbonne before falling, 52-46. Sophomore center Lauren Troupe held Hoffman to nine points, the first time she was limited to single-digits since her freshman year.

"There are about 400 college coaches out here," Farmer said. "I asked a lot of them if they, on their teams, have as many athletes as Narbonne does. They all said no."

If the Majors were unfazed about being one of the few unranked teams nationally at UCSB, they looked downright indignant Saturday when they thumped No. 15 Oregon City, 66-55.

"I told the kids afterward, if we go out and win the rest of our games here, and Narbonne wins the rest of their games, doesn't that make us the number two team in the country? I don't know," Farmer said.

Today, the Majors play Berkeley, Calif., ranked No. 14 by USA Today. But this tournament is no longer the biggest date on Farmer's calendar. The coach's new red-letter day is Jan. 15, when the Majors meet Robinson, ranked No. 1 by The Post.

"We just want to keep winning, and we want Robinson to keep winning, because that's the big one," Farmer said.

Meeting the Challenges

The Holy Cross girls basketball team is off to its best start in eight years with a 9-1 record, including two wins in the past five days over then-No. 19 Stone Ridge (5-3). Coach Tom Splaine knew his players were talented, but worried about their inexperience (the Crusaders start two sophomores, two juniors and one senior). So far, the team has met all challenges.

In the semifinals of the Georgetown Visitation tournament Saturday against Stone Ridge, Holy Cross was in control throughout and cruised to a 57-49 victory. That win came after Holy Cross needed overtime Tuesday for a 65-58 win against the Bethesda private school. Holy Cross's 5-9 freshman guard Krystal Slade hit a shot with three seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 56. The Crusaders then made 7 of 10 free throws in overtime to seal the win.

"At first, I wasn't sure how the season would go with so many new players," said senior forward Kate Matelis, who had 13 points, 2 steals and 2 blocks in Saturday's win. "We've been really strong and focused through all our games. We've been able to win and show everyone what we can do." . . .

Defending Montgomery County 3A girls champion Wheaton has struggled this season, and was outscored 133-81 in losses last week to Paint Branch and Damascus. Wheaton (1-2) is having trouble finding a scorer other than 6-1 senior center Keka Agba, who scored 26 points in Saturday's 67-44 loss to Paint Branch.

"I think the girls have to realize they're doubling down on Keka," Coach Kim Hayden said, "and [they] have to shoot a lot better."

Wheaton also has had difficulty against pressure defenses. "We're short on guards--literally and figuratively," said first-year coach Hayden. "It's the fast breaks and turnovers that are killing us. They pour on the press and we get flustered." . . . North County girls coach Sally Entsminger will try for her 300th career victory for the third time when the Knights (1-2) play Annapolis on Tuesday.