Around the Region
Polar Bears stay hot
|Bullimore and the Polar Bears have their sights set on getting over the hump in the OAC tourney before making a deep NCAA run.
Ohio Northern Sports Information
Ohio Northern University's women's basketball team made program history with an undefeated regular season.
The Polar Bears hope they aren't done leaving their marks in their record books, though.
Ohio Northern wrapped up its first 25-0 regular season with an 82-43 win over Marietta and looked ahead to the OAC tournament.
"We're really happy with it," Ohio Northern senior Britt Lauck said. "We set that to be one of our goals at the beginning of the season, but we're trying to move forward and reach our other goals."
The Polar Bears' road to 25-0 was not an easy one. They had a few close calls in OAC play, including a 62-61 overtime win at Wilmington. Most recently, the team survived a 63-59 road scare at Otterbein.
"There certainly have been tests," Ohio Northern junior Amy Bullimore said. "To come out of those with wins shows we're mentally tough. We play for each other and with each other every game. It shows we can rely on each other when those games do get close.
"In the beginning of the season, we set goals for a conference championship and an OAC tournament championship. Going undefeated is something we didn't really expect, but it's not surprising. We definitely worked for it," Bullimore continued. "I think experiencing some adversity helped us. No matter how good we think we are, we want to get better. When we do face adversity, we just focus on doing the little things right."
Another goal lies ahead for the Polar Bears – an OAC tournament title. This marks the third year in a row they've claimed the OAC regular-season crown. However, they've fallen short in the OAC tournament semifinals the past two campaigns. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season as an at-large berth, but did not qualify two seasons ago.
"The last couple years, we've missed out on that tournament championship win. When we do that, we leave our fate in other people's hands," Lauck said. "We want to get that championship so we know we're in the NCAA Tournament. We just want to win each game as it comes along and decide our course on our own."
Last year, Ohio Northern beat Denison, 62-53, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but dropped a 68-65 decision to Carnegie Mellon in the second round.
"It was an amazing experience last year for us," Bullimore said. "It was heartbreaking that we lost such a close game."
The Polar Bears have tried to channel that defeat into positive motivation this year.
"Something our coach likes to say is that we were really bad at basketball in the beginning of the year. We've worked really hard and come a long way. We are a lot better now. We wanted to be better at game 25 than we were at game 24," Lauck said. "When (tournament) time comes, I know we'll be fully prepared. This team has a lot of fight. We want to go into every game knowing we're good, but we're humble. I am very confident in this team that, when we're at our best, we can compete with anybody.
"It's a lot of fun and this is a great group of girls. Everyone gets along well. It's nice knowing everyone has worked so hard. We're looking forward to keeping it going as long as possible."
Ohio Northern welcomed back 12 letterwinners from last year's 23-5 squad. Lauck, who is one of three seniors, leads the team in scoring at 15.0 points per game. Bullimore is next at 13.4. Both were key components of last year's team.
"With three seniors, everyone on the team has done such a good job just following and getting on board. The really big junior class helped us bring along the younger girls," Lauck said. "Everybody has really bought in. It's easy to lead when people are willing to follow you."
Added Bullimore: "Our senior leadership is astounding. They really picked it up. We have a lot of depth, too. We could go 15 deep on our bench, but we don't have to all the time. Anyone on our team can step in and start. Our togetherness and leadership really help us. This is a year I won't forget, for sure."
Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.
Previous columnists2015-16: Greg Chandler