Paintsville made the long trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to take part in the prestigious Beach Ball Classic, which was the number one high school tournament in the country. For their first game in South Carolina the Tigers would play national power DeMatha High from Hyattsville, Maryland, who came into the tournament as the top ranked team in the country. DeMatha was coached by Morgan Wooten, who had won more than 800 games in his coaching career by the 1986-87 season. Not only did DeMatha have a legendary head coach, among the assistant coaches for DeMatha was Mike Brey (now the head coach at Notre Dame University) and Pete Strickland (who was the head coach at Coastal Carolina from 1998-2005). The Stags were led by two High School All-Americans, 5-11 guard John Gwinn (MVP of the 1985 Beach Ball Classic) and 6-10 center Jerrod Mustaf. Paintsville, the smallest school to ever compete in the tournament, was not considered to give DeMatha much of a game, and most “experts” believed that DeMatha would cruise to its third consecutive Beach Ball Classic title.
In the opening game of the tournament, the Tigers shocked everyone, except for the Tiger faithful, and beat the well-known DeMatha Stags by six, 75-69. Senior John Pelphrey led the Tigers by scoring 18 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and handing out 6 assists. The win advanced Paintsville to the next round where they would face Eau Claire, South Carolina, the top ranked team in Class 4A in that state. The Shamrocks were not going to let the Tigers surprise them, and Paintsville, perhaps suffering a little enthusiasm after beating DeMatha, were no match for Eau Claire. At one point the Shamrocks were up 26, but the Tigers, filled with pride, and motivated by a vigorous halftime talk from assistant coach Paul David Brown, cut the lead to four before Eau Claire pulled away and won 76-66. Pelphrey again led the way for Paintsville by scoring 29 points.