The last shot of the quarter must be out of the shooters had before the buzzer sounds. Sounds like a pretty simple judgment for the official. Often this judgment is pretty simple because the shot is out of the hand of the shooter one or two seconds before the buzzer. This is a easy decision for the covering official. Equally easy is when the ball is in the hands of the shooter well after the buzzer sounds. However, every once in a while the decision is quite difficult because it involves a matter of tenths of seconds, or a loud crowd that may drown out the buzzer or the lack of a good look at the shot by the official charged with making the ruling.
The typical official doesn’t get a lot of reps during a season in making a last second shot decision. Since there are four quarters and three officials involved each official should get a little over one last shot decision a game. In some games there not four last shots and in some games a particular official may get two decisions or no decisions. While each last shot of the quarter is important it is the last shot at the end of the fourth quarter that gets the most attention from players, coaches and fans alike. It is the one that every once in a while can decide a game.
Here are some thoughts about this last shot of the game.
• Don’t get surprised! The crew should signal to each other that the quarter is nearing an end. Usually the 30 second mark is a good point to remind each other that the end is near. Discuss this situation in the pre-game conference and re-visit it during one of the inevitable time outs near the end of the game.
• Get a good look! The official charged with making the last shot decision (usually the official opposite the table) needs to move wherever he/she needs to, to get a good look at the last shot. Go where you need to go to see what you need to see.
• Be ready to help. Non ruling officials need to be ready to help the calling official if help is needed. Help may be needed if the ruling official also has a foul or violation situation involved with the last shot. He/she may know that there was a foul, but then may need help with the legality of the shot.
• Make the decision while the ball is in the air. If the official decides that the shot is not going to count if it goes in, he/she should wipe it off when it is in the air. Don’t wait until it goes in to wipe it off.
• Here is some philosophy for when you are not sure. If the covering official absolutely knows then he /she should make the correct decision. If the official is not sure, however, go to philosophy. The philosophy is driven by the score. If the score is tied and you are not sure rule, disallow the shot. Go to overtime. If the shooting team is behind by two and the shot is a 2 point shot, and the official does not know, count the basket and go to overtime. The same is true if the shooting team is behind by 3 and is shooting a three. If there is a one point differential with a two point shot or a two point differential with a three point shot, then the official is on the hook and must make the best decision he/she can possible make. Remember this philosophy is used only when the play is too close to make a definitive decision.
Collegiate officials have several advantages when ruling on last shots over high school officials. Most collegiate backboards have led lights to help covering officials with their decisions. These lights are especially helpful when the last shot of the quarter is a tap or a lay in. All collegiate clocks have tenths of seconds as well, which can also be an aide for officials at the end of the quarter or half. Additionally collegiate venues usually have much louder horns to sound at the end of the half than the high school “buzzer.” Finally, many collegiate officials have the luxury of going to the all knowing “monitor” to sort out difficult last second decisions, an amenity that high school officials seldom have.
The video below shows a difficult last shot of a game which is tied 49 to 49. The trail official positions himself where he has a great look at the play with the clock in the background. While the official probably got the play right, it was so close he probably wasn’t sure and may have been better served to have sided with philosophy and gone to over time.