Midway through the third quarter of last night's game against Dunbar, Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore leaped to his feet to complain about what he considered a missed three-second call.
"They don't need any help," Moore screamed. "They don't need any help."
It appears the only thing the top-ranked Poets need is a challenge, which failed to materialize during the 97-72 win over the Lakers at Morgan State's Hill Field House.
The victory clinched first place in the Maryland Scholastic Association Division I for Dunbar, which will play Walbrook, the second-place team in Division II, in a playoff game Feb. 25. The winner will move to the Metro Classic and the conference title game at the Baltimore Arena March 1.
The other playoff game will have Division II champ Southern meeting Division I runner-up Lake Clifton.
When the difference between the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the area is 25 points, it appears that the Poets may be able to coast on cruise control the rest of the season.
"I'm concerned," Poets coach Pete Pompey said of his team possibly getting complacent. "But then you have to realize they have beaten nine of the top 25 teams in the nation. Hopefully, we can continue winning until the season ends."
Losing appears to be the least of the worries for Dunbar (25-8, 8-0), which built a 32-point lead over Lake Clifton (13-4, 7-3). The game was far different from the one two weeks ago, when the Lakers played well against the Poets in a 91-76 loss.
It looked early as if Lake Clifton would duplicate that effort. The Lakers, playing more zone than they did in the first game, were down by just five at the end of the first quarter. Even going into the half, trailing 40-27, Moore felt his team was in good shape.
"We had a good game plan, and at the half we felt we were right in there with them," Moore said. "But we had a lot of lapses in the third quarter, and the game got away."
With Cyrus Jones (23 points, including six three-pointers) doing damage from the outside, and Donta Bright (23) and Keith Booth (22) dominating inside, the Poets took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter. Booth scored 11 in the final quarter, as the Poets won going away.
"To beat Lake Clifton like that, you have to play well," said Pompey, who had four players in double figures. "Our kids came out in the second half and really turned it up."
The loss didn't seem to leave Moore frustrated.
"I think we gave them a game," he said. "It was entertaining. I think our kids played them tough, and that's all I can ask them to do."
Moore is hoping that, with all but one of his regulars returning next season, his team will have its day -- and settle for more than just playing someone tough.
"We're going to grow up one day," Moore said. "We're going to grow up real soon."