MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Dunbar High's Pete Pompey is the coach of the country's No. 1-ranked basketball team in USA Today. The Poets have won 32 straight, including a 90-70 victory against No. 21 Male High of Louisville Friday night in a Beach Ball Classic quarterfinal.
So why does he look worried?
Call it first-round syndrome. The Poets have played three first-round tournament games this season, and in all three they have struggled early against lesser competition.
"We didn't have that intensity," Pompey said after Friday's game before a packed house at Socastee High. "We were a little sluggish."
His comments were similar after the Poets' season opener in the War Memorial Tournament in Johnstown, Pa. The Poets couldn't pull away from a smaller, slower and less-talented Blackhawk High team but prevailed, 92-71.
In the opener of the lolani Classic in Honolulu last week, the Poets trailed by 11 at the end of the first quarter before ripping Kamehameha,74-48.
"I don't know what it is," said junior forward Keith Booth, who sparked the Poets with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in their rather sluggish victory Friday. "It seems like every tournament in the first game we don't play right."
The Poets have been fortunate and more talented than their first round opponents. They have been able to use their superior skills to overcome lethargic starts.
However, they know that in a tournament that features six of the nation's Top 25 teams according to USA Today, including Nos. 1, 2 and 3, sporadic performances won't get the job done.
Today they face No.3 St. Raymond's (9-0) of New York in a 7 p.m. semifinal. In last night's quarterfinal, No. 13 Simon Gratz met host Socastee and No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame from Alameda, Calif., took on Clay County from Kentucky.