June 25, 2018
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Consistency needed in officiating high school basketball

By Bob Cimbollek, Special to the BDN

Last week’s column ended when I touched on the subjects of basketball brawl, bully basketball and basketball in comparing the teams of yesteryear with the teams of today.

I’d like to take a further look at those subjects in relation to Maine high school basketball contact rules and how the rules are not consistently followed in all regions of the state.

Rules 10-6-1, 2, 3 are the contact rules in the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) rulebook, which are followed in Maine high school basketball and which describe what constitutes a personal foul:

— “A player shall not hold, push, charge, trip or impede the progress of an opponent by extending arm(s), shoulder(s), hip(s), or knee(s), or by bending his/her body into other than a normal position, nor use rough tactics.”

— “A player shall not contact an opponent with his/her hand unless such contact is only with the opponent’s hand while it is on the ball and is incidental to an attempt to play the ball.”

— “A player shall not use his or her hands on an opponent in any way that inhibits the freedom of movement of the opponent or acts as an aid to a player in starting or stopping.”

Some basketball coaches, players and fans have complained about how rough and physical high school basketball has become in some areas of the state.

Basketball brawl is very physical play such as found too often in the NBA and college basketball. Pushing, shoving, grabbing, holding and checking the player with the ball and without the ball is basketball brawl.

Bully basketball is also an intimidating style of play similar to brawl, but not to the same degree.

Basketball is played by the rules of 10-6-1, 2, 3 where the style of play is not intimidating and is played to advantage and disadvantage. When any contact puts an offensive or defensive player at an advantage or disadvantage, a foul is called.

Another reason the physical style of basketball brawl and bully basketball has crept into the high school level is because some high school coaches buy into the way the game is played at the college level. They teach and coach this rough, intimidating form of play and insist that their players follow this style.

Players are not the cause of this kind of basketball, they are just the instruments of physical play.

Take time to watch high school players playing pickup games in a gym or on outdoor courts, and you’ll notice that they do not play basketball brawl or bully basketball, but instead play basketball. If they did not, the games would often end in fights.

When I took my John Bapst teams to the Portland area to play in holiday tourneys, the games were played for the most part as basketball brawl. When we played in central Maine preseason tourneys, the games were mostly bully basketball and when we played in eastern Maine the games were called mostly as basketball.

When I took the six teams that played in state championship games, five were held in western or central Maine and one was played in eastern Maine. We were fortunate to win five of those games and lost the other by one point.

One of the biggest reasons we were successful in state games — only two officials were used in those games — is that I allowed my second group to play physical basketball against my first seven players the week before the state games. This prepared them for the physical play and we also ran our half-court offense depending on the way the game was being called.

Today, all prelim, tournament and state-final games are called by three officials. Given that and the clear interpretation of the contact rules, it’s troubling the game is called differently in three geographic regions of Maine.

It should be consistent for all three.

Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and former high school and college basketball official.

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