CLEARWATER — Necole Tunsil wasn’t enamored of Lakewood’s performance in victory Friday night, which gave the Spartans their third consecutive Pinellas County Athletic Conference title.
But she did see a few things she liked, namely a heads-up play by sophomore Deja Swinton that may have saved the night for the Spartans in the 46-39 win.
After Clearwater had pulled within 39-35 with five minutes left, with a chance to get even closer, the Tornadoes rolled the ball upcourt to save a few seconds, then didn’t react quickly enough when Swinton snatched the ball, driving in for a layup for the first of six straight points.
“She was smart enough to see that and make the play,” said Tunsil, who is still trying to measure what she has this season as injuries to Swinton and now Kasey Drayton have caused her to be without her regular lineup much of the past two months.
To get her players to rely on each other more, Tunsil took a silent seat on the bench for the third quarter. The Spartans went on a 10-2 run to seize control, including three straight Clearwater possessions that ended in costly turnovers that Lakewood (19-3) converted.
“To me that was the crucial moment in the game,” said Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt, whose team fell to 22-4 and lost for just the second time to a county opponent. “You can’t have those wasted trips down the court and beat good teams.”
Senior Tianah Alvarado led the Spartans with 20 points, including a pair of momentum-killing 3-pointers, while freshman Siyana Allen added 12.
Clearwater’s Maddie Rubino hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3s to rally the Tornadoes, but Alex Alford’s 11 points led the team.