Hermon’s Jacob Godfrey dunks the ball during a Class B North semifinal game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Dunk the ball. Get a technical foul.

It’s a trend that has coaches, players and fans exasperated during this year’s Maine high school basketball tournament.

Dunking a basketball is legal in high school basketball. But at question is a seldom-enforced national rule – until now, it seems – that prohibits players from grasping the rim of the basket.

“The grasping the rim rule is archaic and it needs to go,” said Hampden Academy boys’ coach Russ Bartlett, whose team is one of 10 playing for state championships this week.

At least four players have been called for technicals on dunk attempts during the playoffs, creating an uproar on social media.

None of the players hung on to the rim for more than a split-second or behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner. Adding to the confusion, similar dunks in the tournament and during the regular season have not drawn technical fouls.

“I think it has been called differently in the playoffs than in the regular season,” Scarborough Coach Phil Conley said. “I just think we need to come up with a better rule because a dunk in basketball is exciting.”

Scarborough’s Nicholas Fiorillo dunks in the fourth quarter of the Red Storm’s tournament game Friday. He was called for a technical foul. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Conley had two players called for technical fouls on dunks during the Red Storm’s victory in the Class AA South final against South Portland on Friday night. One was on team captain Nick Fiorillo.

“It’s modern basketball,” Fiorillo said of dunking. “And just to be athletic enough to go up there and dunk it and get the crowd excited, you want that to be part of the game. It’s fun.”


Even college basketball coaches have taken to Twitter to express their surprise that technicals being assessed on dunks during the high school tournament.

“This is really a shame that this technical call is even considered by officials in the state,” tweeted Matt Richard, the men’s coach at Southern Maine Community College.

“I’ve been coaching in Maine for four years and was unaware of this issue until now,” tweeted University of Maine men’s basketball coach Bob Walsh. “This is called a technical foul in the state of Maine. We TEACH our kids to dunk the ball when they get to the rim. Guess I shouldn’t recruit Maine kids. Absurd. Change it.”

Rule 10, Section 4, Article 3 on player technical fouls, states: “a player shall not: grasp either basket ring at any time during the game except to prevent injury.”

“The problem with that is we’re the only state calling it this way,” said Mike Rutherford, a Portland resident who serves as a basketball game official at both the high school and college level.

Rutherford believes the rule is being enforced more in the playoffs at the behest of the head of the Maine Basketball Commission, which oversees officiating at high school games.

“Right now I believe officials are calling that (rule), knowing their supervisor, Peter Webb, wants it called,” Rutherford said. “It’s well known that he wants the technical foul called for grasping the rim. This never happens in the regular season, but you have to understand, the officials want to move on to the bigger games, too.”

All tournament officials’ assignments are made by Webb or one of his tournament site supervisors. Webb is not in charge of regular-season assignments.

“Maine just goes by the rule and I don’t know if other states do or don’t,” Webb said. “It’s not for me to get involved with or to judge the rule. It’s not about me anyway. It’s about the rules that govern the game.

“We see a lot of dunks going on in the tournament that have been legal. Dunking in and of itself is legal. No rule or official is anti-dunking.”

Greely center Jack Kane makes one of several dunks during a quarterfinal game Feb. 16 at the Portland Expo. Later in the game, Kane was called for a technical foul on another dunk for grasping the rim. Staff photo by Ben McCanna


Greely center Jack Kane was called for a technical foul after his third dunk in the Rangers’ Class A South quarterfinal win over Fryeburg Academy at the Portland Expo on Feb. 16.

The 6-foot-8 Kane grabbed an alley-oop pass with both hands and put down a forceful but quick dunk. No hanging. No taunting.

“So the rule is written that if you grasp the rim at all, it’s a technical foul,” Kane said. “You’re supposed to just throw it, I guess. I was warned. I knew it was coming.”

The next day, Seacoast Christian senior Jetstar Archer was cited for a technical foul after attempting a one-handed dunk during a Class D South quarterfinal win over Forest Hills at the Augusta Civic Center. Video of the play made it appear like another overzealous application of the grasping-the-rim rule and sparked the social media furor. In reality, the officials applied the rules correctly.

Archer lost control of the ball on the way up and grabbed the rim briefly before it fell through the hoop. He was given a technical for grasping the rim and, because it was offensive goaltending, the basket was disallowed.

“The call was made the right way. But I don’t agree with the rule,” said Seacoast Christian coach Sky Archer, Jetstar’s older brother. “The rule to me is unnecessary. It’s taking away from the beauty of the game. And as soon as you call the first one, then you have to keep calling them.”

Scarborough senior Reece Lagerquist was called for a technical after his dunk late in the third quarter during the win over South Portland.

As Lagerquist started to run back up the court, he stopped in his tracks after hearing the official’s whistle, then looked to his bench for support. Scarborough coaches threw up their hands in equal parts anger and bewilderment.

“A dunk is normally a big energy play and adds positive energy, but the technical sort of added anger to it, too. Looking around at the crowd, that was the vibe I got with it,” Lagerquist said. “It’s not just me. If someone makes an athletic play it should just have positive energy.

“What is Maine thinking there? It is weird and a little bit embarrassing.”

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig