ST. PETERSBURG — Banners heralding Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil's outstanding career as a player that hang in the Spartans' gymnasium serve more than just to honor the former Parade All-American.
They act as a source of motivation for many of Tunsil's players, namely sophomore Tianah Alvarado.
"I want to be even greater than she was," Alvarado said after Lakewood's 67-33 defeat of Spoto in a Class 4A region quarterfinal. "She's taught me how to become a better defender and I know I have a lot to work on, but she's given me a lot of insight into how to become better in all areas."
Alvarado showcased her ability in the third quarter after the Spartans came out of the locker room at halftime with a slim 28-21 lead. The 6-foot guard scored 21 of her game-high 31 points in the quarter, including 13 points in a row during an 18-0 run that put the game away.
"She's a special player," Tunsil said. "She needs to work on her defense and she knows that, but she's learned (defensive stops) create easy opportunities on the offensive end."
The Spartans (23-4) outscored Spoto 27-6 in the quarter and held Spoto (17-9) to just 12 points in the second half.
"We know defense is going to be a big key for us throughout the playoffs and we talked at halftime about playing it the way we know how in the second half," said Alvarado, who had 15 rebounds, six blocked shots and six steals.
Kasey Drayton had nine points and 11 rebounds for Lakewood, and Shineice Beamon had eight points and 12 rebounds.