Asking for help from a partner when the ball goes out of bounds over your boundary line and you don’t know who touched it last is a three part process. The first part of the process is for you to recognize that you don’t have the information you need to call the play correctly.
The second part of the process is for you to trust your partner and to ask for help.
The third part of the process is for your partner to be trustworthy and give you the information you need. Simple enough!
Typically, this “help” play involves the lead and the center and should unfold as follows. The ball goes out of bounds across the lead’s end line on the other side of the lane from where the lead is positioned. Maybe it went out of bounds as the result of a rebound or a deflection or maybe a bat on a steal attempt.
The lead official knows the ball is out of bounds and knows that he/she didn’t see who touched it last, so she sounds her whistle, raises her arm to kill the clock while walking across the lane and makes eye contact with the center official and says, “help please.”
The lead official has trusted her partner.
Once the center official hears the request for help from the lead, the play becomes the property of the center. The center then loudly announces the color of the team who will get the ball and point the direction.
The center has been trustworthy.
If the center says he doesn’t know, he has left the crew in a precarious spot. The lead has already told the world she doesn’t know, so the crew will most likely have to go to the AP arrow.
If the center does not know for sure whose ball it should be, the right default may be to give the ball back to the offense. The center has a fifty percent chance of being correct and that is the same percentage the AP arrow has as well. There is one last chance for redemption before going to the arrow and that is to ask the trail for help.
The short clip below demonstrates pretty clearly how this play is handled.