ADA – Few catchers in the region have ever been better than Shawnee grad Britt Lauck.
She blocked balls like a concrete wall and threw lasers to second base. And Lauck was always among the region’s top hitters, as well.
But when she chose to play at Ohio Northern, she packed all her catcher’s gear in a closet and pulled out the basketball.
Looking back, Lauck made a great decision to concentrate on basketball.
The 5-foot-7 senior has helped Ohio Northern to a 29-0 season and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament this week.
ONU, ranked No. 5 in the nation, will meet No. 20 SUNY Geneseo (28-1) in the Sweet 16 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at ONU’s Sports Center.
With a win, ONU would play in the Elite 8 on Saturday night at ONU against the Hope/Christopher Newport winner.
It marks ONU’s ninth trip to the NCAA and fourth under coach Michele Durand.
It’s only the second time the ONU women have reached the third round. The only other time was 1988.
“We have to win them,” Lauck said of this weekend. “We know what to expect after last weekend. We got over the hump (getting past the second round) and we know we’ll have good fans there.”
It’s been a dream season, to say the least, for the Polar Bears.
“I always wanted to be on a team that did that, but I never thought I would be,” Lauck said. “I knew we were talented, but it’s crazy that we are 29-0. It’s surreal.”
ONU won the first two games in the 64-team field Division III NCAA Tournament last weekend at home, with wins over Lakeland (68-36) and Trine (55-48).
This season Lauck leads the Polar Bears with a 14.3 scoring average, along with getting 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Lauck was named the player of the year in the Ohio Athletic Conference. She ranked sixth in the OAC in scoring, was second in 3-point percentage (41.7) and first in assists. She was also eighth in steals (1.2).
“She has an incredible work ethic,” ONU coach Durand said. “People don’t see what she does in the offseason. She’s by far the hardest worker on our team every day.”
Lauck also broke the ONU single-season record for assists this year with 106, breaking Cenzie Yoder’s mark of 99 set in 2014.
But at Shawnee, basketball was just something to fill the gap between soccer (first team all-Western Buckeye League) and softball (first team all-state, first team all-WBL).
However, she did make all-WBL in basketball her senior year. That’s when she began thinking how passionate she actually was about the game.
“I didn’t start (on basketball) until my junior and senior years (at Shawnee) and when it was over, I said, ‘I definitely want to do this more,’ Lauck said.
“And I went on a visit (to ONU) my senior year and that was the year they were really, really good (going to the second round of the NCAA) and I watched all their home games. You just couldn’t stop watching them. Watching that team and how much fun they had, how could you not want to be a part of that? … And I loved playing basketball.”
Lauck had some adjustment time her first two years at ONU. She played sparingly her first year and averaged 3.3 points.
Her sophomore year, she got 19 minutes a game and averaged 7.8 points.
Last year she started every game and averaged 10.1 points.
“I had to learn a new style and it was very defensive-oriented,” Lauck said.
Lauck came to ONU with the ability to drive. She then improved her 3-point shooting and the last two years has added a dribble-drive, mid-range, pull-up jumper game to her game.
“We watched her play (at Shawnee) against Liberty-Benton and they had a girl who went to Bowling Green and Britt outplayed her, by far,” Durand said. “She had that kind of potential. But she hadn’t had time to spend on it (basketball), but you knew she had that in her if she was able to spend some time on it. That’s what we saw.”
Lauck first thought this year could be special just after Christmas break.
“That’s when it started to hit me, and hit the rest of us, how good we could be,” Lauck said.
And part of that was because what Lauck and her teammates did during the break. Instead of filling up on a variety of Christmas cookies, she grabbed several teammates and arranged to practice with various high school teams in the area like Bath and Marion Local.
“You have to get into a gym,” Lauck said with a laugh.
Added Durand, “I just told them before they left, ‘I think we can be really special, but you can’t go home and sit around and eat.’ … But she was the one who made sure they did (work out).”
Lauck enters this weekend with 982 career points, which ranks 14th in ONU women’s history. She is also third in career assists (255) and fifth in 3-pointers made (121).
Lauck is sixth in career free-throw percentage (80.3) and ninth in 3-point percentage (36.8).
Defensive stopper and OAC tournament MVP Courtney Cramer (Arcadia) credits Lauck for her ability to keep the team together.
“When our practices are fluctuating or we aren’t talking as much (on defense), she’s the first one to say, ‘We have to get back on track,’ Cramer said. “She’s been really good about pointing out exactly when things are starting to take a wrong turn before they get there.”