RIVERVIEW — Spoto won just five games last season. And even throughout the Spartans' impressive first half of this season, they were still in search of a victory that could validate them as a legitimate program.
Tuesday, Spoto was dealt a 15-point loss by district foe Jefferson. But the Spartans redeemed themselves Wednesday against one of the county's other heavyweights, beating Plant 53-48.
"In order for us to be recognized, we have to beat some of the top teams," Spoto first-year coach Mareka Davis said. "Plant is one of those top teams. "We're on our way. I think we'll get a little more recognition, and teams might be looking for us now."
Spoto (12-4) overcame a six-point halftime deficit and a sensational game by Plant senior Michelle Taylor to earn its biggest win of the season.
"I think it shows people that we can come back from a loss and we can defeat a team that's worth something," Spoto junior Brianna Thomas said. "We're trying to introduce ourselves to Hillsborough County and make a statement. We're going to gain respect, and we're going to fight for it."
Senior DeAndra Davis sparked the Spartans, scoring 15 of her team-high 19 points in the second half. That included going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to ice the game after the Spartans broke open a 39-39 tie with 4:45 remaining with an 8-1 run. Thomas was also a dominating presence inside, scoring most of her 15 points on offensive rebounds.
Taylor, who had 32 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, was 13-for-25 from the field, but Plant (9-6) shot just 22 percent from the field as a team. It was the Panthers' second tough defeat in as many days, including a three-point one to district rival Wharton on Tuesday.
"Offensively, we've just fallen off the wagon," Plant coach Carrie Mahon said. "We've hit a spot you don't want to be in in January. It's just disappointing we don't have more support for (Taylor) right now.
"We've got three weeks to figure it out."