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No need to soften the game

By Staff | Jan 10, 2014

I’ve heard a few people say that Tuesday’s girls basketball game between Rugby and Bishop Ryan was embarrassing.

I was not in attendance because the outcome was a foregone conclusion, considering the No. 1-ranked Lions dwarf the Panthers in size. Instead, I took in a Rolette-Wolford game because we count many Comets fans in our readership.

Ryan won 91-34, mainly because they are that good and not because Rugby is bad. The Lions may have three first-team, all-state players, including a pair of 6-foot-2 juniors with serious college basketball potential. So embarrassing isn’t really fitting in this instance.

Frankly, the Panthers didn’t stand much of a chance. Unfortunately, a new emphasis on eliminating nearly all contact at the college and high school levels further diminishes a shorter team’s chances.

Officials have been instructed to call fouls when players hand-check. That means a foul is to be called any time a perimeter defender uses his or her hand to help keep an offensive player in front. Fouls also are to be called when a defender in the post uses his or her hands and arms to brace against an opponent backing closer to the hoop.

This is the rule and it’s a shame. I share RHS girls coach Jen Brossart’s frustration with the rule. While basketball isn’t a contact sport like football, it is a sport that’s always had contact and for good reasons.

“We taught people to get physical in the post,” Brossart said. “We taught them to don’t get pushed around, push back a little bit and hold your ground and it’s hard to do that.”

If a smaller forward can’t put her hands on a talented offensive player there’s almost no point in playing man-to-man defense. Brossart played in the post and understands it from the point of views of players and coaches.

I was an undersized forward in high school and relied on physical play in order to not simply get bullied and give up bucket after bucket. The rule will force guards to do a better job of sliding their feet, but what about the forwards?

The rule is already leading to more foul calls and that especially hurts the female side of the sport, which sees fewer blocked shots. Coaches have instructed their players for years to be physical without being dirty. Now, height and weight advantages make it far too easy for the offensive players. Teams with size are loving the new emphasis, but programs go through cycles and every school has years with shorter squads.

Basketball is a great American sport that’s being watered down. Hopefully, more coaches speak out and ensure that the defensive part of the game isn’t lost for good.

There’s a chance the National Federation of State High School Associations will take another look at the end of the season. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be changed any time soon. For now, we’ll have to enjoy a lesser brand of basketball.

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