Author’s Note: Book business to the side, the former sportswriter needs a moment… Thanks for reading, A.S.
I’ve watched a good bit of high school basketball in the past months, both my youthful alma mater, and other local teams as well. From what I’ve seen versus what I remember, a glaring fact emerged. There is an ART to closing out a win on the basketball court.
If you’re a high school player, the biggest lesson to take from this is (I’ll put it on top rather than make you work for it): Every Possession Matters!
If you lose a game by a basket, 3 points or less, afterwards, think back or watch film about all the wasted possessions. I’m not just talking about turnovers, because some T.O.s are inevitable. BUT, SOME ARE NOT! Some come from forcing a pass that wasn’t there, rather than making two quick passes to get the ball to the same place, or from dribbling too much RATHER than passing. Or from NOT PLAYING WITHIN YOURSELF, or in other words, trying to do more than you are capable of. Know your limitations.
How many times have you seen a great defensive steal followed by a mindless turnover, trying to force a fast break basket that isn’t there – trying to make that night’s highlight reel? You won the battle, back it out and relax, run your offense. When you gain an advantage, keep it.
Next, forcing a ridiculous, needless, ill-advised or just plain bad shot does not show up in the statistics as a turnover, BUT IT SHOULD!! There is not a shot clock in high school basketball. Take good shots! No defender can run as fast as you can pass it. If you are winning a game in the waning minutes and you force a (include above adjectives) 3-point shot – any shot – your opposition should shake your hand or kiss your cheek as they go the other way to win the game. YOU GAVE THEM THE GREATEST GIFT THEY COULD ASK FOR!
Conversely, NEVER reward the opposition’s offense by fouling a shooter putting up a desperation, low-percentage shot, or any 3-point shot. They are trying to turn the ball over to you – let them. Don’t give them a chance to correct their mistake at the charity stripe.
On both offensive and defensive fast breaks keep sprinting to the basket until there is a result. As I’ve told the biddy teams I’ve coached, if we have a fast break there’s a good chance we’ll miss the layup, just like the opposition. Keep going to the basket. When a second or third shot is made on a fast break by a second or third player, it’s because the defensive team got OUT-HUSTLED, hanging back and watching. You see it all the time after the first shot gets blocked. THIS MIGHT BE THE ONE POSSESSION THAT CAUSES YOU TO LOSE THE GAME!
Lastly, if you want to win basketball games, PRACTICE YOUR FOUL SHOOTING. If you can’t hit your foul shots down the stretch of a tight game, chances are you’re going to lose. This is partially your coach’s fault. If you’re not shooting 50 to 100 foul shots every day in practice – some of them while your winded – you’re being set up to lose. Shooting them in street clothes at lunch doesn’t count. YOU’VE GOT TO CARE ABOUT IT. Find your shot, work out your routine, do it exactly the same way every time, learn to concentrate, making them amid distraction. Until you AND your teammates do, you’re going to drop the close ones. If you’re one who hoists 3’s with reckless abandon, you shouldn’t be shooting less than 75 % from the line. AGAIN, CONCENTRATION IS THE KEY! The teams I played on shot just under 70 % from the line and won over 80 % of their games (combined).
When I played in the early 1980s our style was pretty boring I suppose. We passed it until we had an open shot. In fact, we passed up good shots for great shots. We could also nurture a win down the stretch. I watched two different teams recently lose late leads, and then, the contest. I asked myself is Coach Tex Williams’ “Victory” offense obsolete? If the man-to-man “D” gets too aggressive, you go to the line. If they overplay, you cut backdoor or back it out or take it to the other side. And, you can score out of it if need be.
If winning is everything, “Victory” is relevant.