Socorro’s Fernando Torrez measures up for a free throw.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

There’s a big change coming up for high school basketball next season, and even traditionalists like Magdalena coach Jory Mirabal favor eliminating the one-and-one free-throw scenario.

“We don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Mirabal said. “I feel funny saying that because usually, I’m a traditionalist. But there are a couple of things I like about it. There’s a lot of stuff that happens on free throws. There’s a lot of contact and just garbage right now. It’s put a lot of pressure on officials to try to make a call on those situations that I don’t think they feel like they need to call, but they should because it turns into just mixed martial arts out there.”

Does Mirabal think the pace of basketball will change?

“I think it will make it more interesting. There will be some changes in strategy. You will have to change some things because of foul situations. I think the change will clean some things up and speed up the game. We’ve had some games where we are only three minutes into the first quarter and already into the double bonus.”

Sara Sue Olney, who is in her second year as the head of Magdalena’s girls basketball program, agrees with Mirabal’s assessment of faster games.

“Honestly, I am indifferent because I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a difference. You’ll have to strategize differently when it comes to a tight game. Everybody thinks it’s going to slow down the game. I do not think it’s going to slow down the game. I think it’s going to be just fine. It’s actually to make people try and play better defense because you don’t want to get that fifth foul in the quarter,” Olney said.

Socorro athletic director Jarrod Story served as the Lady Warriors’ head coach during district last season, and he’s also a basketball official. Storey has elected to hand over the reins to a yet-to-be-hired coach and has a unique perspective.

“I like the change. It replicates the NCAA women’s rules, which typically replicate the NBA, so the rule is well-studied and thought out. Some people feel that it will extend the game with no more one-and-one bonuses. However, I don’t think that will change much because many games had seven plus fouls in the first/third quarters resulting in bonus free throws the rest of the half. In contrast, now it resets at the quarter, allowing teams to go back to being aggressive, or if they have adjusted to the officiating, they will foul less,” Storey said.

As an official, he also believes the change is better for the game.

“At the end of the game is where it will be most impacted without the strategy of hoping for the front end of the one-and-one to be missed in hopes of a swing in the score. It also is less pressure on the shooter, knowing they get a second shot on the bonus, regardless. It will take getting used to by coaches, players, scorers, and officials, but it won’t take long, and once they see how it works, I believe they will like it and enjoy the pace of play with it.” Storey said.

Alamo Navajo girls coach J.J. Apachito is happy about the proven reduction of injuries because he knows the impact of having your best player hobbled. Apachito’s daughter played over 20 games last season with a broken bone in her foot.

“I think it’s good for the game because it does drop the number of injuries that can happen, and when you have a limited number of players, just losing one player can make a huge difference on your season,” Apachito said.

Alamo’s Cougars will be fielding a very young team this season, and coach Lemuel Guerro admits he has yet to focus on the new change’s impact fully.

“Right now, I’m worried about developing our team because we lost so much experience to graduation. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to the change, but I like the idea of fewer injuries,” Guerro said.

Depending on the rules of the camps they attend, coaches and players may not get much experience with the free-throw changes until the regular season because officials tend to be more hands-off to encourage the flow of play.