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Johnson: Strategy on fouling from Seneca's boys basketball coach

SENECA – I’ve already written twice about last Saturday’s boys basketball game between Morris and Seneca, and normally I’d consider that more than enough for one regular-season tilt.

There was, however, one situation that occurred was so unique that I think it merits sharing in detail here.

With 3:04 remaining in the fourth quarter, Carter Gallick of Seneca was called for a personal foul. It was Seneca’s first foul of the second half, which in itself is unique, but likely something I’ve seen in the hundreds of basketball games I’ve covered.

What happened next, I’m certain, I’ve never seen before. Thirteen seconds of game time after it was called for its first foul of the half, Seneca was called for its sixth. Only one second passed between the first and the second and again between the second and the third.

About a minute and a half of action before the fouling actually began, Seneca coach Russell Witte realized that being so far from putting Morris in the bonus could be disadvantageous with his team behind. I asked Witte about the situation, and I’ll give you his entire enlightening response.

“When we cut it 37-35, I made a comment to one of our coaches that we need to get the lead, or the next possession, we will have to start fouling,” Witte said.

“What you don’t want to have happen is play it out. I’ve seen so many games where coaches just play it out, play it out, play it out, and then it gets down to 30 seconds and they can’t get that bucket, and now you’re trying to make up seven fouls in 30 seconds. You’re never gonna be successful in that situation.

“I wanna put us in a spot to where, two-minute mark, let’s get the fouls where we need to be, and then we can go play defense, and then at the minute mark, when you’re down a possession, at the minute or under, then we can start fouling if we have to, to try to play that foul game. If we could’ve gotten over the hump and gotten the lead at some point with zero fouls, we could’ve fouled the clock out. So it’s a positive and a negative.

“For us, we had to make those fouls up pretty quick so we didn’t get stuck in a position to where we’re chasing and they’re now saying, ‘Hey, they’ve gotta get seven fouls before we can shoot,’ and now they’re spreading the court out, and now we’re chasing 50 feet as opposed to chasing in a 10-foot box. I’ve done that a couple times.”

Three fouls in three seconds, though, coach, and six in 13? Have your teams ever done that before?

“Well that’s good execution on our part. That’s something that we obviously don’t practice,” Witte said. “You don’t wanna chase fouls too late in the game. Let’s get them early and then we can go back to playing normal. I think we ended up getting a couple stops off of it because of that.”

The fouls helped Seneca stay in the game when, with just over a minute left, Morris missed the front end of a one-and-one, keeping it at the time a three-point game. Morris hit both the next time it went to the line, though, and went 1 for 2 in two subsequent trips as it closed out a 46-42 victory.

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