WEST LIBERTY -While Player of the Week honors in the Mountain East Conference tend to boost one's confidence, it's the bigger picture that former Williamstown High School standout Liz Flowers tends to gaze upon.
Despite a slow start out of the gate, Flowers and her teammates at West Liberty University are setting their sights on a possible conference title. Entering this week's games at home with Notre Dame on Thursday and Charleston on Saturday, the Hilltoppers had won four of their past five games.
During that span, they knocked off the top two teams in the league - Glenville State College and Urbana.
Former Williamstown star Liz Flowers, front, is continuing her dynamic play at West Liberty. Flowers and her Hilltopper teammates have won four of their last five games.
"We think we are capable of winning a conference championship," Flowers said. "If we play like we did against Glenville State, I think we can do real well and get far in the conference tournament.
"It's kind of a mental game with us. We have the talent, but sometimes we get freaked out. We just need to focus on our last 10 games of the regular season and get a good seed for the conference tournament."
Last season as a true freshman, Flowers was thrown into the fire and started all 29 games at point guard. She averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, and ranked in the top 20 in the nation with 5.1 assists per game.
The league coaches took notice of her accomplishments and named Flowers to the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team.
"West Liberty had graduated their point guard and another point guard was ineligible, so I pretty much had to take over," Flowers said. "I was kind of skeptical playing point guard, but I am glad I got the opportunity because it prepared me for this season."
Perhaps the defining moment for Flowers occurred in last year's quarterfinals of the WVIAC Tournament. The game went into double overtime with several of West Liberty's starters fouled out. Flowers played a total of 49 minutes as the Hilltoppers defeated Shepherd.
"From what I remember, it was a long game," Flowers said. "It was a back and forth game and a lot of our major players had fouled out. So we were real young on the court. I remember a couple of our players crying on the bench, but I told them we were going to win.
"That game helped me a lot. We had a lot of confidence we were going to win."
This season, Flowers has alternated between the point and the shooting guard. She has started all but one of the Hilltoppers' 18 games and leads the team with an 18.2 scoring average.
She posted back-to-back 30-point scoring nights earlier this season, and last week she was named the MEC's Player of the Week. In a 68-67 win against Wheeling Jesuit, Flowers scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half as the Hilltoppers rallied from a 13-point deficit.
Two days later, she registered her second double-double of the season after finishing with 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds in a 73-58 win over Urbana.
"We had been struggling for a while, so this means a lot - it's a really nice honor," Flowers said. "Last year, my 3-point shot was not well at all, but something has changed this year and my shots are falling."
West Liberty edged out Glenville State College as the preseason conference favorite, so at 10-8 and 7-5 in the MEC the Hilltoppers are making a push for a strong finish.
There are no seniors on the roster. Two freshmen who receive their share of playing time are Wheeling Central standouts Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon. The same individuals who had their share of head-to-head battles when Flowers played at Williamstown. In fact, Bucon and Flowers try to forget the past and are now close friends.