First, a little background: As high school sports writers, our game-coverage duties are a bit different. Part of the job involves keeping our own stats (unlike college or pro games, during which freshly printed stat sheets are handed to reporters at every timeout). For basketball, that means recording more than just your average scorebook. Most reporters chart some sort of play-by-play. Everybody has his or her own system.
I keep more detailed stats than most. For basketball, I keep a shot chart for every quarter of every game I cover. (The current system I use was stolen from resident stats guru Jim Seip.) Oftentimes, because of deadline, I don’t even use most of the numbers at my disposal. But every once in awhile, the data yields some interesting insight.
So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at William Penn’s 104-85 loss to J.P. McCaskey in a matchup of potential District 3-AAAA contenders on Wednesday. The score itself is dizzying. But how did we get there?
First, the field goal percentages. The Red Tornado clearly get the edge in this department:
JPM: 43-78 (.551)
WP: 29-63 (.46)
So McCaskey shot a much better percentage. It also attempted 15 more shots, a product of the Bearcats’ turnovers and the Tornado’s 19 offensive rebounds.
But why did McCaskey make a higher ratio of field goal attempts? Did it simply have a good shooting night?
Because I keep a shot chart, I can go over not only who made baskets, but where they made them from. Which that in mind, I divided each shot attempt Wednesday into one of three categories: Close-range (within approximately eight feet), mid-range and 3-pointers.
Close-range (within eight feet)
JPM: 34-56 (.607)
WP: 18-39 (.462)
JPM: 3-9 (.333)
WP: 3-4 (.75)
JPM: 6-13 (.462)
WP: 8-20 (.400)
Here a few patterns start to emerge. McCaskey attempted a significantly greater percentage of its shots within eight feet of the basket. This was probably due to A.) put-back buckets off offensive rebounds and B.) lay-ups off of fast breaks. Obviously, if 70-plus percent of your shots are being taken in the paint, you’re probably going to shoot a very good field goal percentage.
Also interesting is the difference in close-range shooting percentage between the two teams. McCaskey’s efficiency is not surprising, considering the amount of easy looks and runouts it got Wednesday. But we also see that William Penn was probably a bit inefficient close to the basket. Certainly, you have to factor in the size difference between the two teams — McCaskey is taller (its starting frontcourt was listed at 6-4, 6-5 and 6-6), and thus you’d expect the Bearcats to shoot a slightly worse percentage than the Tornado around the basket. But an 18 percent gap is pretty wide. Certainly, there were looks in close that William Penn did not convert on. Maybe on another night a few of those go in and the outcome is different.
Then again, maybe on another night McCaskey doesn’t shoot 12-of-27 from the foul line, as they did Wednesday.
(Also, it goes without saying that we have to allow some margin of error in my stat-keeping. The game moves fast, and there are certainly cases when I might miss a shot attempt or chart something wrong. I obviously can’t pull out a yard stick and measure exactly how many feet away from the bucket a shot is taken, and I don’t have instant replay to fall back on. But for the most part, I believe my stats are fairly accurate.)
Anyway, take from the numbers what you will. It’s food for thought, and it paints a clearer picture of just how Wednesday’s game proceeded. McCaskey worked one easy look after another in the paint, thanks to a size advantage and an offense that was clean in transition and exploited the Bearcats’ attempts to trap. William Penn, with a smaller lineup and playing from behind, attempted a greater percentage of 3-pointers. On this night, those shots did not fall nearly enough.