Many outstanding scorers at the high school and college levels are lighting up scoreboards in our state this season.
Some of those basketball players on the high school courts include Kolleen Bouchard of Houlton, Matt Cooper of Lawrence in Fairfield, Justin Thompson of Schenck in East Millinocket, Ian McIntyre of Hampden Academy, Mackenzie Holmes and Emily Esposito of Gorham, Terion Moss of Portland, Matt Fleming of Oxford Hills in South Paris, and Taylor Schildroth of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. College players such as Husson University’s Raheem Anderson and Kenzie Worcester and the University of Maine’s Sigi Koizar and Wes Myers have also put up some strong numbers.
So when teams oppose them, they really have two choices: Let the star scorer get their points and try to stop the other four players or stop the star player and make their four teammates beat you.
When I coached, I always favored not letting one player beat us. When forced with this situation, our teams always went to a combination defense, better known by our critics as “junk” defenses even though we were mostly known for our man-to-man defenses.
We would either employ a box-and-one or a diamond-and-one to stop a star player. Our best defender took the other team’s outstanding scorer and the other four players were in a box or a diamond zone.
The box was really a 2-1-2 zone without the middle defender and the diamond was really a 1-3-1 zone without the player in the middle.
The middle position of the zones was eliminated so we could guard the opponent’s best scorer man-to-man. Usually, they were face-guarded, denied and overplayed with the objective of not allowing them to get the ball from a teammate.
We wanted to force the opponent’s other four players to beat us and this was usually effective because they were unprepared for the defenses. Putting those four in a position they aren’t used to means more pressure on them and most usually don’t respond very well.
Conversely, many times the standout players being guarded man-to-man would become frustrated because they were not getting the ball as much and weren’t scoring.
If that star player brought the ball up the court, we would always double-team them in the frontcourt with the player guarding them man-to-man and the nearest player in the zone. This usually forced them to get rid of the ball and then we could go back to denying, overplaying and face-guarding.
Should the star player happen to break through and get the ball, then the nearest player in the zone would apply a double-team.
We usually used the diamond-and-one as it covered wings and the point better than the box.
I don’t think there are too many high school teams that are fully prepared physically or psychologically for these types of defenses, unless they work against them regularly in practice.
Teams that rely heavily on an outstanding high scorer should be ready for junk defenses, especially when the postseason arrives.