Running up the score in HS hoops – here’s how to avoid it

We can’t seem to get through a high school basketball season without at least a few teams throwing sportsmanship to one side by running up the score on some hapless opponent who can’t defend itself.

It happens all across the country, and Arizona basketball is no exception.

How about a score of 100-12?  That would certainly appear to qualify for running up the score.

That was the outcome of a girls basketball game last week, with Fountain Hills High School taking advantage of Thunderbird Academy, which is averaging 13 points a game this season – and twice has had fewer than five on the board.

So this wasn’t the first lopsided game for Thunderbird.  Five teams out of the other six they have played have scored in the 50’s on the tiny charter school.  And that’s acceptable, since it often takes 40 to 50 points to win a game in girls basketball and it’s done on a regular basis.

But 100 points?  What does that prove?

Yes, there are coaches who try to justify the practice for any number of reasons… they need to practice their press, so they use it even after they have a big lead… they are proving a point against a team that has done some trash-talking against them… they don’t feel it’s right to ask their players not to try hard, even when the subs are in the game… and so on.

The bottom line, however, is that it’s the coach’s responsibility to find a way to avoid humiliating the other team.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association has gone one step further by taking it out of the coach’s hands.  The AIA instituted a new rule that went into effect last season, mandating a running clock any time a team gets up by 30 points in the fourth quarter.

That’s a good step in the right direction.  But coaches argue that it deprives the bench players of real game time they could be using to develop their skills.

And that’s a legitimate concern.

So, here are some suggestions for keeping a lopsided score from turning into an embarrassment.  Believe it or not, there are coaches who will argue that they weren’t able to figure out a way to keep the score down.

Please pass this along to a coach who is having that trouble.

I would like to credit the individual who came up with this set of rules, but they were posted on a website that had no attribution.  But they’re too good not to share.

1.  Never press when you’re up by 30 or more points.

2.  When you have a 30-point lead, have no more than two starters on the floor at the same time.

3.  Do not take the ball from the ball handler on defense.  The only steal that should be allowed is a pass interception.

4.  Establish a minimum number of passes before taking a shot.

5.  Shots can only be taken when running a set offense.

6.  If you have a 30+ lead going into the fourth quarter, there should be no starters on the floor.

7.  No trapping.

8.  Fast break only on steals above the free throw line.

Use these rules and your team can still play hard.  For example, they can play defense with their feet, which is how they’re taught anyhow.

The AIA promotes a program called “Pursuing Victory With Honor.”

These simple rules enable the stronger teams in a lopsided contest to do just that.