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Bloom's Bria Gaines is defended by Hillcrest's Tanzania Sherrill. | Mary Beth Nolan/For Sun-Times Media
Watch those hands.
And you coaches? Stay in that box.
The officials are watching, and watching good.
The first week of girls basketball saw some big changes from past seasons, and coaches digging deep into their rosters whether they wanted to or not.
A new IHSA directive, placing an increased emphasis on rules enforcement regarding contact, has officials busy making calls.
So busy, in fact, that players are fouling out at a dizzying rate.
Coaches, meanwhile, are being kept in their 14-foot coaching squares. Stories of those who dared stray out of the box, only to be T’d up, were abound.
“It will be a game-by-game challenge,” Hillcrest coach John Maniatis said of having to stay in the 14-foot coaching box from start to finish with the exception of timeouts, intermissions between quarters and to go to the scorer’s table for a conference regarding a possible correctable error.
In an IHSA statement sent to officials and athletic directors, mention was specifically made of the Class 2A boys state title game between Seton Academy and Harrisburg, which saw a myriad of unsportsmanlike actions by players and coaches, the last of which was Seton leaving Carver Arena without its second-place trophy.
The emphasis on calling illegal contact was cited by the ISHA as being compliant with National Federation guidelines, which do not allow for a defender to as much as extend one hand and making contact with the waist, stomach or any other areas of the player with the ball.
Bumping a cutter will also not be tolerated, according to the IHSA directive.
In the season opener between Hillcrest and Homewood-Flossmoor, two Hawks had four fouls by the middle of the second period. At game’s end, 61 fouls had been called.
“It’s really hard because we’re just not used to it,” Hawks junior Tanzania Sherrill said. “Last season I used to play with my hands a lot. This (new rule) makes it easier for the offense. At practice we worked on a defensive slide and I’ve been trying to keep my hands up. It worked Saturday.”
Sherrill, who fouled out against H-F, had just two in a win over Bloom.
Bloom coach Ron Newquist had five players foul out in each of the two games the Blazing Trojans played Saturday at the Rich South Galaxy tournament.
When Marian Catholic and Lincoln-Way East met in a season opener, both teams were in the bonus before the end of the first period.
“The first night was very surprising,” East coach Jim Martin said. “We knew hand check, but some of the touch fouls, not really impeding position, they were calling them. I mean, you can clean it up a little bit, but to the extent of the touching. We want them to play. To the point where kids were making cuts and bumping one another in the lane. I think you can clean that up. But when someone is guarding somebody and they touch them, unless it’s a brutal foul, a slap or an arm, that’s all a part of (the game).”
Maniatis said he understands the logic of the new rule, but sees a period of adjustment that could be painful to watch.
“It will make the game very choppy with no flow with all the fouls that will be called, until players become acclimated,” he said. “(This will) extend games, prolong tournaments and cost districts extra money in overtime for workers and bus transportation.”
It’s the boys’ turn to learn this week.