The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 28, 2014

Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball

A few weeks back, the state’s basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in their attempt to win a Class AAAA semifinal game against Shakopee.

There were cries of disgust that one of the perennial big-school powers wouldn’t attack the Shakopee zone, even bringing the Shakopee coach to make a snarky remark on Twitter.

But why not any outrage against Shakopee, who refused to play Hopkins man-to-man? Why was Shakopee not skewered for giving no effort toward winning the game?

Most likely, the anger at Hopkins came from jealousy over that program’s success, generally provided by players who didn’t grow up in that school district.

The game prompted a call for a shot clock in high school games, though that would be such a huge overreaction to a problem that doesn’t exist. A shot clock might be the answer for a few elite big-school teams, but the talent gap in some of the smaller schools is so much greater that it would take away any possibility of pulling the upset.

Case in point: The Waterville-Elysian-Morristown girls tried the slowdown approach in the section semifinals against top-rated New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. The Bucs had tried to play a “normal” game against the athletic Panthers twice during the regular season, losing by 36 points in one game and 35 in another.

So when WEM won the tip, the point guard crossed halfcourt and stood there, waiting for NRHEG to come out of its trapping zone, which it used almost exclusively. There was a pass to the wing, back to the point, off to the other wing, down to the corner, back to the wing.

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