LOUDONVILLE — Nikki Weber is back and more sticky-fingered than ever.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Weber had 11 points and 11 steals in Loudonville’s 81-27 win over Kidron Central Christian and added a team-high 17 points and three steals in a 62-43 loss at Berlin Hiland.
The senior recently broke Amy Zuercher’s career steals record, set in 1992. Weber has 362 career thefts and counting for the Redbirds (15-4, 8-0 Mid-Buckeye Conference).
“Nikki does so many things well for our team,” Loudonville coach Tyler Bates said, “as a performer on the court and a leader off of it.”
Remarkably, Weber has etched her name in Loudonville’s record book despite missing her entire junior year with a knee injury. The standout soccer player also had to sit out her senior soccer season before returning to the basketball court this winter.
“After missing last season, Nikki has re-established herself as one of the top girls basketball players in the area this season,” Bates said.
The 5-foot-4 guard is averaging 13 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.9 steals a game.
As gaudy as her statistics are, they pale in comparison to the numbers Weber put up as a sophomore. She averaged 26.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 6.1 steals a night and was an All-Ohio honorable mention selection.
“There are a lot of girls on out team right now who have sacrificed statistics for wins this year,” Bates said. “They’ve sacrificed minutes for wins and the hope is when you do things the right way that you can make a run at the end of the season.”
Loudonville earned the No. 3 seed at the rugged Division III Wooster sectional/district tournament. The Redbirds earned a first-round bye and will host either No. 6 Manchester or No. 11 Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas at 1 p.m. Feb. 23.
“There are a lot of good teams in Division III and we think we are one of them,” Bates said. “We’re trying to get better every day so that we put ourselves in a position to make some noise come March.”
In an effort to better prepare for the rigors of the Division III postseason — the Wooster sectional district includes state-ranked Chippewa and Orrville — the Redbirds upgraded the regular season schedule. Loudonville’s losses are to Margaretta, Kettering Fairmont, North Canton Hoover and Hiland. Hoover and Fairmont are Division I programs while Margaretta and Hiland are both ranked in the top 10 in Division III.
Webber is one of three Redbirds averaging more than 13 points a game. Celeste Ryman leads the way at 18.3 points a night, while Emily Seboe is good for 13.3 points a game.
“With our three guards, there’s not many teams we play who have a trio as good as them,” Bates said. “They’ve had great careers up to this point and we hope they’re not done.
“To have a three-headed monster like that at the guard position makes us feel like we have a chance in every game.”