ST. PETERSBURG — On the surface, Necole Tunsil might not appear to be the best spokeswoman for offensive balance. She was, after all, the star who averaged 25 points for Lakewood when it won the 1989 state basketball title.
But, as Tunsil readily admits, she had plenty of help that season.
In fact, when asked if the Spartans would have won it all without some type of balance, she shot back, "Absolutely not."
Two decades later, with Tunsil at the helm, Lakewood might have its best squad since the '89 group. A major key again is offensive balance, but there's one significant difference.
This unit lacks an individual scoring machine.
To Tunsil, though, this is not a problem; it's why the Spartans have been so tough to defeat.
"I've had so many teams that had 20-point scorers, and the best we could do is reach regionals," Tunsil said.
At last check, the Spartans (9-1) had four players — Tianah Alvarado, Kayla Roberts, Taye'lor Trotter and Jenae Wilson — who average 10 or more points, though none averages more than 12.5. A fifth, three-year starting point guard Latesha Johnson, scores nine a game and averages a team-high six assists.
Entering play today at the Lady Tiger Invitational in Fort Myers, the Spartans are scoring 72 points per game, ranking them among the county leaders. Only two opponents, area powers Clearwater and Boca Ciega, have held Lakewood to under 50. The Tornadoes defeated Lakewood 54-49 on Nov. 20, but the Spartans beat Boca Ciega 49-45 two weeks ago.
In the latter, four Lakewood players hit double figures.
"It's fun to watch," Tunsil said of Lakewood's scoring balance.
And even more difficult to defend.
How do you scheme to stop an offense that can hurt you from any position?
"If one of us is down, we know we have to pick up the slack," Johnson said.
The truth is, any of the Spartans' top performers could be more prolific scorers if they wanted to be as each certainly has that ability.
But individual accolades don't seem to be a goal for any member of this group.
"Out mind-set is to just win," Johnson said.
Lakewood's scoring balance exists in large part because each of the team's leading scorers is versatile, each brings something unique to the table (the 6-foot-2 Wilson is an imposing inside force who will play for Jacksonville University), and as a unit they have tremendous chemistry.
"We've been together for years," Wilson said.
Added Roberts: "We know how each other plays."
Since that special squad's run 21 seasons ago, Lakewood has not advanced beyond the third round of the playoffs.
Tunsil isn't one to make predictions, but her instincts tells her that trend could break in a few months.
"I like this team," Tunsil said.