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ONE-AND-ONE DONE? District 9 Basketball Coaches Scratching Their Heads Over Potential Free Throw Rule Change

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — A big change may be coming to high school basketball in Pennsylvania next season.

The National Federation of High School Associations passed several rule changes starting in the 2023-24 season on Monday.

One jumped out.

Rule 4-8-1. It will eliminate the one-and-one free throw situation with the seventh foul of the half.

(Pictured above, Redbank Valley’s Mylee Harmon takes a free throw during the PIAA playoffs in March. A potential rule change next season will eliminate the one-and-one free throw situation/photo by Angie Rearick)

Instead, two shots will be awarded on the fifth team foul of each quarter. Team fouls will reset at the end of each quarter.

The PIAA won’t necessarily adopt the new rule, although the athletic governing body of the state usually goes with NFHSA recommendations. That decision will likely be made in July by the PIAA.

It’s a radical change that several District 9 coaches were still contemplating on Tuesday.

“I just don’t like it,” said Moniteau boys basketball coach Mike Jewart. “It’s going to change the style of the game. It’s kind of out of nowhere.”

The reasoning behind the change, according to the NFHSA, is two-fold.

The organization claims the change will improve the flow of the game and it also “will minimize risk of injury by eliminating the one-and-one and reducing opportunities for rough play during rebounding opportunities.”

Coaches, though, just don’t see either being an issue, especially in District 9.

“It’s an interesting time for this,” said Clarion boys basketball coach Scott Fox. “I don’t understand the reasoning for limiting rebounding injuries. I haven’t seen many injuries rebounding.”

Union girls basketball coach Josh Meeker, who is in his second stint as the Damsels’ coach after spending 10 years on the bench a decade ago, held the same opinion.

“To be honest with you, at least in the girls game, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an injury off of a rebound from the foul line.”

Karns City boys basketball coach Zach Kepple, though, is giving the NFHSA the benefit of the doubt on the safety concerns.

“If data shows it helps reduce the chance of injury,” he said, “then I’m all for it.”

Coaches, though, just aren’t sure what the exact impact of the rule change will be.

Currently, NCAA women’s basketball adopts the same rule and some insight can be gleaned from there.

But until teams get on the court and play under the new rule — should the PIAA adopt it — it’s anyone’s guess what will happen, coaches say.

“My initial thought is that it’s going to change end-of-game strategies and I’m sure other aspects of the game as well,” Kepple said. “I think foul shooting is a major part of high school basketball and this rule potentially makes it less of a factor in the outcome of a game.”

Fox said the rule change may further reward teams with a deep bench and an aggressive defensive style.

With fouls resetting, deep teams can take more gambles.

“There’s two parts of this,” Fox said. “One part depends on your style of play and your depth because if you’re playing pressure defense and have eight or nine guys, you’re benefitting from it because you get free fouls. You can get five fouls in the first quarter and it doesn’t matter because they reset in the second quarter.”

In the past, with the one-and-one triggering on the seventh team foul, teams may have elected to back off a bit if hit with a cluster of early fouls.

Not now.

“In that aspect, if you have a deep team and like to play pressure and aggressive, it’s a big benefit to you,” Fox said. “On the negative side, if you get in a close game and you’re trailing, you don’t have the one-and-ones and the chance of a player missing the front end. It’s guaranteed two shots. It’ll change the style at the end of the game. You’re pretty much gonna give up one.”

Coaches think that’s a big negative to the rule.

“We’re not really going to know how this is all going to work until we get partway through the season, I think,” Jewart said.

Another drawback Jewart sees is a potential big drop in the number of free throws in a game.

“It’s going to be difficult to get to the line unless you get fouled on a shot,” Jewart said.

Karns City girls coach Steve Andreassi said he thinks the rule may help offenses.

“I believe this rule change has many layers to it,” he said. “Defensively, it will force teams to play smarter as far as aggressiveness. Offensively, I feel like teams can be more aggressive in getting to the hoop. Foul shooting becomes more of a premium as you now get two shots every time you reach the bonus.”

One thing many coaches agree on is the rule change is a head-scratcher.

“I don’t like changing rules just for the sake of changing rules,” Jewart said. “Maybe it will make it better. But, I mean, if they were going to change anything, bring in a shot clock.”