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ST. PETERSBURG — Taye’lor Trotter scoops up a loose ball and finds Tianah Alvarado ahead of the field. A fastbreak opportunity is about to begin.
This is when the Lakewood sisters work on some telepathic level.
Trotter to Alvarado.
Alvarado back to Trotter.
Trotter back to Alvarado.
They are double trouble for a defender left alone.
The sisters share the load in scoring. One night Trotter is the team leader in points. The next night it is Alvarado.
“It’s been a good experience playing together,” said Trotter, a 5-foot-7 senior. “We like to team together whenever we can.”
Together, they have helped Lakewood advance to Friday’s Class 4A state semifinal against Leesburg at 10 a.m. at the Lakeland Center.
“Taye’lor and Tianah play a major role in the development of this team,” Spartans coach Necole Tunsil said. “They each have huge scoring responsibilities and bring a lot of defensive intensity as well.”
Sometimes, that intensity can bring out the best — or worst — in their sibling rivalry. Sometimes on the same play.
During Monday’s practice at Eckerd College, Trotter and Alvarado guarded each other. Trotter poked the ball loose from Alvarado.
That prompted Alvarado to push Trotter. Then Trotter chased after Alvarado, but she was too fast.
“They got into it a little bit, roughed each other up,” Tunsil said. “That happens from time to time. I try to match them up and make them play against one another in practice. They’re very competitive and don’t like to lose to one another. That definitely shows in practice.”
It also shows up on the playground courts whenever the two play one-on-one.
“My sister wins some games. I win some games,” said Alvarado, a 6-foot sophomore who leads the Spartans in scoring with 21.7 points per game. “It goes back and forth. It can go on like that for a long time.
“But we’re tough to beat when we’re together.”
Both have played on club teams. But because they are two years apart, they haven’t had too many opportunities to play together on middle school and high school teams. When Trotter arrived at Lakewood as a freshman, Alvarado was in seventh grade at Academy Prep.
Still, Alvarado made sure she tagged along with the Spartans for nearly every game.
“Tianah has unofficially been a part of our program for quite a few years,” Tunsil said. “She would always be at games or functions to be with her sister.
“We knew early on she would eventually become a Lady Spartan.”
Alvarado joined her sister on the team last season, when Lakewood lost in the region semifinals to Jefferson. The Spartans avenged that loss to the Dragons this season en route to getting to the state tournament.
“That was a big win for us because we know that Jefferson will not be in our same classification next year,” Alvarado said.
The sisters will not be on the same team either. This is the last go-round for Trotter, who will be graduating.
“We want to do well at states because this will be our time to do it together,” Trotter said. “I’m definitely going to miss playing with my sister when it’s all done.”