1-3-1 zone in basketball
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How To Beat A 1-3-1 Zone In Basketball: Defense Analysis

Have you ever played against a 1-3-1 zone defense in basketball? It can be frustrating to play against, but it is also possible to beat. The key is understanding how the 1-3-1 zone works and knowing what your team’s strategy should be when defending it. Check out this blog post for more information about beating a 1-3-1 zone defense!

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What is a 1-3-1 Zone Defense in Basketball?

The 1-3-1 zone defense is one of the most common zone defenses in basketball. It is also known as a halfcourt trap defense. Because it usually only occurs when the opposing team has gained possession of the ball and is trying to get into their offense.

The 1-person will set up on top near midcourt with three defenders protecting the paint by setting up on each elbow. These players are considered “low” or “strong”. The final defender sets up at the free-throw line extended (or high post). This pose can be confusing for an attacker who thinks they have more room than they do!

A 1-in, three players lined up on the wing and one player in the middle of the key. It is called a “one” because only one man is guarding his corresponding area. The three men along the wings spread out to take away driving lanes. As well as any open shots from behind or around the halfcourt for an easy basket.

Meanwhile, there is usually a big guy taking away passing options underneath by standing at that key spot right below the hoop. Hence why this defense is also known as a half-court trap. If your team’s opponent has made it past all five defenders, then you’re probably already too late to stop them!

1-3-1 zone in basketball

How To Counter the 1-3-1 Zone Defense?

To beat the 1-person, you must pass around them. This will allow your teammates to set up their offense safely. And stop the defender from trapping anyone on your team. If you attempt to drive through the defense by yourself, they are likely to steal or block any shots that come near them!

It’s also important for attackers not to dribble into traps. If you see two defenders rushing towards one of your players with outstretched arms (or even better…hearing “GET IT BACK!” shouted!), don’t be afraid to kick it back above board where there is more room.

You can use this same situation as an opportunity for a quick fast-break. Make sure everyone starts running when possession changes hands!

A common mistake made by attackers is to run straight toward the 1-person. If you find yourself in this situation, quickly change direction and drive towards the side of the court. Where there are fewer defenders (AKA “weak” or “low”).

This strategy can be very effective if everyone on your team knows how it works! Remember – passing around a zone defense will get them out of position. So that you have more room than when trying to attack through one defender.

The key is not making any mistakes while breaking down their formation; make sure every pass leads to an open shot by avoiding traps and getting players into proper positions.

How to Practise Going Against the 1-3-1 Zone?

Practising to beat a 1-3-1 zone defense in basketball is a lot of fun! You can even create your 1-person and have players rotate from being “trappers” to defenders.

The drill starts with all the offensive players getting together in one corner of the court. While everyone else gets into their positions on defense (one person per area). Once they give you the signal, dribble out to midcourt before passing it back down low where another player will begin their attack.

This pattern continues until everybody has had at least two turns going against the zone. Then switch sides or start over depending on what kind of drills you’re doing that day!

This drill works because nobody knows who’s going after the next. Which helps make sure no passes are wasted when trying to find an open teammate. It’s also a lot of fun to try and fake out the 1-person as they attempt to block any shots that come their way!

Communication is Key!

The key is knowing how your teammates will react before you receive the ball. So that everyone can properly position themselves to get off a good shot without getting trapped by two defenders at once.

This requires excellent communication between players. Which makes this drill extremely useful for all kinds of games or competitions where teamwork is essential!

If done correctly, we know that having more than one player attack won’t always lead to success. But it gives attackers options instead of forcing them into uncomfortable positions.

Where they are easily stopped with no escape plan. If attacking from anywhere on the court becomes too predictable. The zone defense will start to work in your opponents’ favor!

Besides being fun when you know how it works. This drill is also an excellent way for teams to practice breaking down different types of zones. Once they have mastered passing around one defender.

They can jump right into more complex formations with multiple 1-players that are next to each other or spread out across the court. Instead of staying all together at midcourt. Say goodbye to getting trapped under their basket and enjoy some open shots on goal.

Until somebody else switches over onto defense!

Go for The Long-Range Shot

If there’s no room left in the paint but nobody seems open either…it’s time for a shot from behind half-board (AKA “long-range”). This forces everyone back on defense to create more space for your team or forces the zone defense to move towards one side of the court.

This is also an excellent way to draw their attention away from attackers who are receiving a pass on the other side – quickly switch sides before they can react!

1-3-1 zone in basketball

Weaknesses of The 1-3-1 Zone Defense

It’s important to know which weaknesses to exploit in a 1-3-1 zone defense, here are some:

  • Defenders can get “switched” if they are not close enough to their assigned area.
  • The 1 defender has a hard time stopping attacks from the outside, especially when attackers have more than one option or switch sides of the court quickly.
  • If all defenders move towards an attacker who is coming from behind half board it will create room for another player to attack the goal! This means that you don’t necessarily need a direct shot against this formation – as long as no defender blocks your path and you’re quick about getting into position before they react!
  • A zone defense is only as strong as its weakest link. If all defenders work together and communicate, they can cover each other’s backs and switch sides of the court to prevent any attackers from getting through – even if it means leaving their assigned area unguarded for a while!

So What is The Best Offense Formation Against The 1-3-1 Zone Defense?

The most ideal offense against a 1-3-1 zone defense is the 2-1-2 offense, as it gives attackers more options instead of forcing them into a single line that can easily be stopped.

This formation is also the most popular with high school and college teams because there are always at least two people who have time to call out what’s going on before deciding how to attack!

The 1-player in this offense should work together with any other players around their area, which makes communication between every player necessary – so make sure everyone knows what they’re doing beforehand!

The goal behind all offenses is still to get a shot off quickly, but against a top-notch zone defense like the 1-in/out, you may need multiple shots or even passes if defenders manage to stick right next to your shooter!

This means that attackers should always be on the lookout for a long-range shot if they don’t have any other options – and hopefully, you’ll get your team thinking outside of the box so that next time, there’s one more option to pull through.


  • High passing accuracy due to shorter distance between players
  • More space near goal area because defenders are spread out across their zones


  • 1 defender can easily stop attacks from inside or behind half board without leaving their zone unguarded (attacking from anywhere else is difficult)
1-3-1 zone in basketball


In conclusion, a 1-in/out 1-three one-zone defense is a difficult formation to beat. However, there are many ways to counter it as long as you have the right strategy and plan ahead of time!

The key thing about beating this formation is having good communication between teammates and knowing when the right time to attack will be! By understanding how everything works both offensively and defensively you can help your team win more often against any type of tough opponent!

What do you think? Are there any other ways to beat a 1-3-1 zone in basketball? Let us know in the comments below.

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