Attitudes. Individual statistics. A team in turmoil.
That was Dunbar in December, when it was continuing its winning ways on the court, but struggling to adjust to new coach Paul Smith.
Two months later, the No. 3 Poets are still winning, with the latest being a 71-56 victory over visiting and No. 17 Walbrook (9-9) in a Baltimore City nonleague game yesterday. But harmony and confidence now are breeding success for Dunbar.
"They are still understanding some different things from what they did last year," said Smith. "We aren't scoring 90 or 100 points, but most of our players are playing and contributing."
Before the start of practice in November, Smith was chosen on an interim basis to replace Pete Pompey. Pompey, who coached the Poets to the 1991-92 mythical national championship, has been on administrative leave since August while the state's attorney's office investigates alleged misuse of Dunbar athletic funds.
"Being that we had a new coach, some people felt they weren't getting enough time," said senior point guard Sean Lipscomb. "Now, as time has gone on, we've had to deal and live with it."
And the Poets (17-3), ranked No. 17 this week by USA Today, have adjusted. Heading into the final week of the regular season, they appear to be the favorite for the state 2A championship and are riding a six-game winning streak.
Unlike when the individual talents of Keith Booth (Maryland), Donta Bright (Massachusetts) and Michael Lloyd (San Jacinto Junior College) carried the Poets to a 78-5 record from the 1989-90 season to 1991-92, the Poets aren't relying one or two players this season.
Senior center Norman Nolan and sophomore small forward Tommy Polley each scored 13 points to lead Dunbar yesterday. Billy Wells added 11 and Rodney Elliott scored 10. Travon Broadway led Walbrook with 19 points and Anton Jenifer added 16.
The Poets' three losses have come to Southern-Baltimore in the Function at the Junction Mixer in December, Simon Gratz of Philadelphia and Rice of New York in the Charm City Classic in January. All are currently ranked in the USA Today Super 25, and the losses have been by a total of six points.
In their last meeting in early December in the Function at the Junction Mixer, the Poets defeated the Warriors, 74-59. But it was hardly a satisfying triumph as Smith was disappoint
ed in Dunbar's performance and troubling signs were appearing.
Smith was pleased with yesterday's performance as the Poets' front line handled the Warriors.
Leading 39-37, the Poets went on a 11-2 run to take a 50-39 lead after three quarters. Wells scored eight points during the run, but the Poets' rebounding created second and third shot opportunities.
The Warriors closed the margin to 50-42 with 7:43 remaining in regulation. Two baskets by Eric McNeil extended Dunbar's lead to 54-42. After a jumper by Broadway, the Poets received a jumper by Wells and rebound and follow shot by Alexander Mobley to push the lead back to 58-44 with 5:17 remaining.
"We didn't allow them to get second shots," said Smith. "Once their big men got into foul trouble, it made it easier for us to get to the boards and get second and third shots."
With Polley, Nolan and Elliott combining to score 21 points, the Poets built a 33-28 halftime advantage, going on a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter.
"This team has a better understanding of things than we did back in November," said Elliott, a senior forward. "We have suffered some tough losses during the season, but I think we're ready to make a run at the state championship."