Zone Play - Ball Screen Versus 1-3-1 Zone Defense

This is an effective play that uses a ball screening action to get easy shots. You will often see this play used against a 2-3 zone or 3-2 zone, but rarely does anybody show you how to use it against 1-3-1 zone defense.

The key is to get the zone offense balance using a reversal, then using a ball screen to keep the defense from covering their responsibilities.

This is an excerpt from the ebook Beating the Zone - 75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense

1 might need to dribble towards 3 to draw the defender and make the entry pass.

2 will set the screen on the top defender.

1 will try to split the gap getting the ball into the lane.

When 1 turns the corner, it's important to make the correct read. In this diagram, 1 is open and should shoot. If X4 does not cover his corner responsibility, 1 should pass to 4. If X5 does not cover his low post responsibility, 1 should pass to 5. In most cases, the corner will be open. 1 hits 4 in the corner, then 4 can either shoot or pass to 5 sealing X5 high for a lay up.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Scott Milner says:
6/29/2015 at 9:15:55 AM

We use a very close variant of this play against 1-3-1's in particular. They key to the play is player #3. The diagram shows them going short corner, but instead we have them break hard to the basket, following in 5's wake (this is an old Dick Bennett set from Wisconsin). 3 ends up getting layups about half the time if we do things correctly.


Ariel Rabe says:
9/25/2012 at 12:58:01 AM

We all know that it's not wise for a coach not to be flexible when setting up a defense. To confuse the offense, 1-3-1 could be just an initial foray but when 2m trapping gets to work that's how the real defense begins from a 1-3-1 set. x2 and x3 can provide the link - that is, from a 1-3-1 half-court d. A 1-3-1 d that follows the ball is more effective with the on-ball d player hounding the ball--handler and a quick help d trap.


Joe Haefner says:
9/18/2012 at 3:50:13 PM

Thanks, Teon! I hope all is well.

And great points. I couldn't have said that better.


Francis says:
9/16/2012 at 4:43:16 AM

I Coach juniors basketball and i do think if this is going to work i think you should set up your offense between the gaps.. that way it will break the defense earlier before it sets up. But i also think that players knowing more about the help line would also really help in this defense especially when an offense beats his defense for a layup or jump shot.


teon says:
9/13/2012 at 3:29:40 PM

Good play Joe! I can see it working really well with a PG that can handle the ball pretty good. Thing is in a 1-3-1 a teams best defender is usually at the top. Eliminating them out of the play creates mismatches. So which ever side the slower foot wing defender's on is the side you attack. O2 & 03 are interchangeable. Now if x5 steps up to stop the ball well that's usually a post player. If you PG can't beat a post of the dribble then you have more problems to worry about. :) This is a great play for late have adjustments.

No disguising plays I have used all kinds of techniques ie: names numbers hand signals. The system that I have found the best success in is using indicators like a catcher in baseball. Usually it is second indicator, so if I'm calling 34 it is play 4, 20 we're running our base offense, and so on. Works great when you're playing against a clever/nosy coach :)


Ken says:
9/13/2012 at 12:54:26 PM

Richard -

I have seen coaches use different colored cards .... myself, I used hand signals

M2m was an open hand
Our match up was a fist

We used a 1-2-2 press... most of the time it was a safe control type but always looking for a half court trap. That was two hands with a 7 and umpire safe call

Isolation play was pointint to my eye
A play called Michigan was 3 fingers down
Wisconsin was 3 fingers up
We ran an Open Post offense / both hands 2 fingers up
Regular motion was me swinging 2 fingers in a circle
Lob play was 52 ... two hands - 1 with 5 fingers an 1 with 2
We had a play called Pin ball, that was easy.... 2 hands/fingers pushing the buttons - simulated

I think you get the idea.


Richard says:
9/13/2012 at 12:47:01 PM


You mention " If you hide your play calls well, you won't have to worry about it." I would like to see some discussion about how coaches go about calling their plays during games. I'd like to hear what everyone has tried and what they have found works best. Thanks for all you do. I enjoy your information.


Ken says:
9/13/2012 at 8:26:22 AM

I think the key to running a play successfuly is execution....... and having several options. The D might take away 1 or 2 but if you are running things correctly, you should be able to get a good look.


Joe Haefner says:
9/13/2012 at 8:22:19 AM

If the defense is notified 5 seconds prior to the play being run and has scouted the play, they will definitely defend it well.

But that goes for any play. If you hide your play calls well, you won't have to worry about it.

The quick action of the play will force the defense to make a split-second decision that will often leave somebody to be WIDE open.

And if you add a variation to it for a different movement, it will leave the defense confused all game long.


Jeff Haefner says:
9/13/2012 at 7:52:58 AM

The play was designed to work against 2-3 zone and it works extremely well against that type of zone. So if it's a play already in your playbook, we're just showing that you can also use it against a 1-3-1. Surprisingly the same play intended for 2-3 zone works fairly well against a 1-3-1 (if you make very minor adjustments). You usually get 1on1 post ups on the low block out of it (pass comes from corner). If your 5 man can score in the post, it works well!

Sometimes you can reuse plays and disguise existing plays to save yourself time. We like using variations of a "base play" because it shortens the learning time for your players, saves you time, and allows you to get more done.

Hopefully this play variation gives you some ideas that you can run with.


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