Do You Have a Three Point Defense?

By Ken Sartini
It might sound like we're nitpicking with some of these game strategies, but believe me, with the lack of height that we had at the varsity level, we had to be prepared for some of the LITTLE things that can help get the WIN.

     "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca

Have you ever been in a situation late in the game where you were up by three and the other team was going to get ONE shot? Are you prepared to defend that? To NOT give up a good look for the tying shot?

There are a couple of options. One is to ring the arc matching up with their players... switching every screen... allowing any shot inside, giving up the two and NO fouls. Or you can foul and give the other team 2 free throws. But you had better be able to rebound a miss and make sure the foul does NOT look intentional (going for the ball and stripping his arm).

I like the first option and IF you are not prepared for this... having a defense in place that your players had worked on even a little bit, the pressure of a game can cause them to chase someone inside the arc ( a mental error ) and open up a perimeter player for the 3. Like every other "situation"... it is something that needs to be addressed in practice so that everyone is on the same page.

Do you have any questions or comments? Let us know what you think by leaving your comment below...

Coaching Resources

How To Win at the End - Volume 1 - Over 35 situational end of game plays.

How To Win at the End - Volume 2 - Over 45 situational end of game plays for different situations than Volume 1.

Tempo Control & Delay Sets - Control the game and protect the lead with 12 different sets to choose from.


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BW says:
9/24/2013 at 3:41:27 PM

It's never that simple. First, you have to be in the bonus. Second, you have to make sure the foul isn't called an intentional foul. Third if you foul the ball handler, you have to hope he/she doesn't throw it toward the rim and get a shooting foul.

Fortunately, my league is a 6th grade girls league. The other team probably only has one girl that can shoot 25% from the 3 pt line and much lower if well defended. The decision for us is always to play perimeter defense.


Dan says:
10/10/2011 at 1:53:25 AM

I think this answer varies depending on your team and your opponent. IF and it''s a big if, you are a good rebounding team AND smart, then fouling is the way to go. As pointed out earlier the list of things that have to go wrong is long and improbable (make 1st FT, hit rim and rebound it, then make 2 or 3 for the tie or win). If you break it down statistically, say 80% making 1st FT, 50% on losing the rebound, 50% making a 2 to tie, that''s 20% of the time the opposition ties the game and those percentages are generous to the opposing team. Probably more like 75%, 40%, and 30% which makes it 9% chance to tie the game. How about the other team''s three point shooters? If they don''t have good shooters you take your chances playing defense. But I tend to fall on the foul to prevent the 3 side of the argument. I know the argument against it is that the worst that can happen playing defense is OT if they hit the 3, and by fouling, you bring losing into the equation (if they hit the first FT and the ball gets tipped back and they hit a 3). Time also plays a big factor. I wouldn''t foul with more than 5-6 seconds, because too much can happen, even if you get the rebound. Say they hit the 1st FT and you rebound it and get fouled immediately with 5 seconds left. You miss the front end of a 1 and 1 and they are running it at you, down 2, with 5 seconds left in a scramble situation? Not good.


AL V. says:
8/30/2011 at 12:20:21 PM

Execution is the key! Not a three point situation but on the topic of exectution; We were up two in a winner to state loser out game in district play. Can''''t remember how much time was left exactly but less than 8 seconds I believe. We told our players to pressure ball but no fouls on the shot. We did have a foul to give. We said if your girl got past you to foul quick. Our player got beat and she chased her opponent and fouled on the shot. We lucked out and the girl missed both free throws. We need to practice ''''fouling'''' correctly when we need to .


Joe Haefner says:
1/20/2010 at 10:40:27 AM

Wow. That's all I can say, Dave.

That's a heck of a story to tell from either coach's perspective.


Dave says:
1/20/2010 at 10:14:15 AM

Well, I just had one where we were up by 6 with 25 seconds to go in the game. TO was called, briefed my team to defend, hand up for the 3 but not to challenge the shot as I knew the ball was going into very capable 3 pt hand. My thoughts, even if they score the 3, we are still up by 3 and have a great break to allow clock to run out. Well they did try to shoot the three, my player challenged the shot - caused the foul, slapped his hands and said "damn" got a techical. SO, their best shooter went5-6 foul shots being down by 1 point with only one second on the clock, they got the ball back as well after the foul. With the one second left, they inbound, passed and shot and drained it.

OMG!! The game plan was clear leave the shooter out there give them a chance at 3 pt, more important to crash the boards for rebound or make sure we dont throw the ball away on our next inbounds. We would have still been up by either 3 or 4 with seconds left. Execution of it was another thing.


Mark Blair says:
9/7/2009 at 10:31:05 AM

This is a 64 dollar question that every coaching staff must answer. Do we foul and put them on the line or play defense and hope they do not make the 3. I have talked to several Div 1 coaches about this situation and I have received many different answers.


Andy says:
9/5/2009 at 12:49:08 PM

The past 2 seasons, our program is a perfect 7 for 7 when up by 3 and having to defend on the last possession of the game. Every single time we fouled and put the other team on the line. There are so many things that need to happen in order for the opposition to tie the game. First, they must make the first free throw. Secondly, if they make the first free throw they must then draw iron, rebound the ball and score a 2 just to tie the game. To me it's a no brainer; it's much easier to come down (even against switches) and get free for a clean look at a 3 than it is to miss a foul shot, rebound that miss and score. The Bulls/Celtics playoff series from this past season was a great example and reminder for using the foul when up 3. Both teams were put in situations where they should've fouled but didn't and both times the games went into an avoidable overtime period as a result.


Valery says:
8/27/2009 at 6:08:22 AM

Depend on many factors, I can`t choose one or two, but in general first one - not to give up a good look seems better. More complicated stuff like foul if = or give the way if = can work but it must be prepared carefully befor to use it, just time out looks like 60% 40% some one will do something wrong.


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