Smothering 1-2-2 Half-Court Zone Traps Low Corners Rattles Ball Handlers

OUR TEAM HAS developed a tough 1-2-2 half-court zone trap that can give even good zone offensive teams a hard time. Dubbed the “32” trap this 1-2-2 zone defense takes advantage of virtually any offense as long as your team matches up with an opponent height-wise.

What makes the “32” tougher than the average 1-2-2 zone defense is the trapping of any player who receives the ball in the bottom corner of the floor. This often catches opponents off guard because most teams are not expecting to see trapping out of a standard half-court set.

It also takes advantage of what the former College of Charleston coach John Kresse calls the “coffin corner.” By committing two defenders to trap the offensive player with the ball in the corner you can stress to your players that they have a 4-1 advantage because of the baseline and sidelines.

Point Player’s (X1) Responsibilities

The defensive point guard position (X1) in this defense is key. There are several major points of emphasis that X1 must always be aware of.

X1 must match up with the opposing point player at the top of the key and force the ball out of his or her hands and into either the wing player’s hands or to the player in the corner.


DIAGRAMåäÌÝ̦1: X1 must force the point guard to give up the ball to either the wing or deep corner positions.

X1 must not defend a dribbler going to the wing or corner.

After the ball has moved to either side of the floor X1 must slide to protect the high post. X1 will be called upon to completely front and deny the ball’s access to the high post.


DIAGRAMåäÌÝ̦2: After the pass is made to the wing X1 slides down to the ball-side elbow to deny or front the high-post area.

Wing (X2 and X3) Responsibilities

There are several key rules that the defensive wing players (X2 and X3) must remember.

  • X2 and X3 are responsible for the first perimeter offensive players to the left or right of X1.
  • When the ball is at the top of the key both players must have their arms up and moving with at least one foot in the paint.
  • Wing defenders should encourage the ball to be brought to the wing and then “influence” the ball to be brought to the corner while completely denying the pass to the high and low post where the highest-percentage shots come from.
  • If the offensive wing passes to the corner X2 must react while the ball is in the air and sprint directly to the corner with X5 and trap the ball handler.


DIAGRAM 3: X2 should “encourage” a pass into the corner. When the ball is passed into the corner X2 must slide down and trap not allowing the ball to get passed into the high or low post. On the backside X3 must sink to defend the paint around the mid-post area bumping any cutter or flasher and communicate with the other defenders as to the location of the other offensive players.

If an offensive wing player dribbles into the corner X2 must guard him or her in a manner that doesn’t allow the ball handler to penetrate or to come back up the floor. The defender must be prepared to trap the ball handler with the ball-side post defender in that corner.


DIAGRAM 4: X2 slides down along with the ball handler on any dribble into the corner. He or she will get defensive help from X5 sliding over to enforce the trap.


DIAGRAMåäÌÝ̦5: In this 1-2-2 trap when the ball is located on the wing you can see that the high-post area mid-post area and backside ó all normally valued positions of attack by an offense ó are now all accounted for by defenders X2 X1 and X3.

Post (X4 and X5) Responsibilities

The bottom two post defenders in the 1-2-2 trap (X4 and X5) are critical to the success of this defense. X4 and X5’s rules are as follows.

  • When the ball is at the top of the key both post players (X4 and X5) should have at least one foot in the paint and must be fronting any low-post players.
  • If a low-post offensive player flashes to the high-post area X4 and X5 must NOT go with him or her past the middle of the lane. They must communicate to the defensive guards that there is a post player flashing up through the paint thereby making it the guards’ responsibility to defend them now.
  • When the ball is passed to the corner X5 must sprint to execute the trap with X2.


DIAGRAM 6: In this diagram the ball is in the corner. X2 has dropped down from the top and X5 slides over to complete the trap. Note that X3 defends the middle of the lane at the mid-post level and X1 has dropped down to defend the high post at the ball-side elbow.

X4 must rush to front the ball-side low post.


DIAGRAM 7: How X4 gets into position to front the ball-side post is critical to the success of this defense. He or she must come from under the post player to obtain a fronting defensive position. This technique of coming from “underneath” is where a majority of your steals will result from when the trapped corner player tries to dump an entry pass into the ball-side low post.

Conversely you will forfeit a a lot of easy layups if X4 tries to come over the top of the post player.


DIAGRAM 8: Once X4 comes underneath and fronts the ball-side post you’ll see that the offensive player in the corner doesn’t have a lot of good options. 5 is trapped by X2 and X5 X4 is defending a pass into the low post X1 is guarding the high-post on the ball side and X3 has the middle defended.

Trapping Musts

Part of the success of this defense relies on the fact that your defenders must be adept and well-versed in their trapping fundamentals. We instruct all our defenders to execute the following 3 principles on all traps.

  1. When the trap is made the two defenders must “lock” their ankles to prevent the ball handler from stepping through and splitting the trap.
  2. Always follow the ball tracing the ball with both arms and hands ó never slap at the ball.
  3. Instruct all trapping defenders to continuously shout “Ball!” or “Dead!” at the ball handler reminding the ball handler that he or she is in a pressure situation. This shouting trapping and display of intensity will rattle a trapped ball handler.

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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