Chelsea Williams wants two things.
"I'm trying to be Player of the Year and I just want to win the championship," said Williams, the starting shooting guard for LIU Post women's basketball team. "But if I don't win Player of the Year, then that's OK, as long as we win the championship."
Both are within reach for the junior.
Williams, who scored 1,266 points during her five-year varsity career at Copiague, is averaging 18.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 15 games this season. She is nearly doubling her scoring average from last year, when she averaged 9.4 points.
"She's always been very talented," coach Deirdre Moore said. "Even as a freshman she was able to start in games."
Williams scored 23 points and Shayna Gatling added 22 Wednesday as LIU Post beat host Molloy, 83-74, to move into first place in the conference. LIU Post (11-4, 8-1), with Williams leading the way, has won six straight.
The Pioneers have made three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and with 10 returnees from last year's team, they were selected in a coaches' poll as the preseason favorite to win the conference championship.
Yet LIU Post stumbled early, losing three of its first six games.
"Then we just realized we all want the same thing," said Gatling, a senior who starred at Baldwin. Gatling, who is averaging 11.3 points off the bench, is one of four players averaging in double figures. The Pioneers are averaging 75.7 points per game.
"Some of it is surprising to me," said Moore, who picked up her 100th coaching victory last Saturday. "Coming into the season, I wasn't really sure what to expect."
With 11 games left, Williams is anticipating the top.
"I feel like we're the best team in the league," she said. "If we go out and play hard every night then nobody is going to be able to stop us."
Suffolk CC rolling
At one point this season, Victor Correa, coach of Suffolk CC's men's basketball team, looked toward his assistants and said, "Wow, these guys bounced back and took it personal."
Correa was referring to his own team. He marveled at Suffolk because it responded to its first region loss at home with a blowout win a few days later. And that, Correa said, is when he realized his team could be in for a special season.
Yet the Sharks (11-3, 1-1) are facing adversity again. They'll visit Community College of Rhode Island at noon on Sunday, a week after falling to LaGuardia Community College, 72-70. The loss was especially deflating because it happened the day after Suffolk beat Sullivan County CC, which is ranked sixth nationally.
Chris Milender, a sophomore who played at Longwood, is a big reason why Correa believes his team can bounce back. He is averaging 19.4 points and 13.9 rebounds. Armand Correa, the coach's nephew, is averaging 13.8 points and 5.4 assists.
"Chris is our horse and he'll take us as far as we want to go," the coach said. "Our individuals understand their roles and that's played a big role in our success."