As I embark on another chapter of my professional life, I introduce to you “Extra Points,” a new blog that will appear weekly on GoAlmaScots.com. I hope to discuss topics that you, the audience find interesting, thought-provoking and maybe even blood boiling.
Only time will tell and you will be the judge. So on to our first topic.
At this time of year, high school basketball tournaments are being played out across this great country, as boys and girls chase a dream of championships and first-place medals. For the most part, the games are decided on a level playing field and with rules that make sense for all parties.
With one big exception – shot clock rules.
Only seven states in the USA employ a shot clock rule – California, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington. Every year it seems, more so in the past few, the debate becomes very vocal in the states that do not have one.
Each season there are instances where the debate becomes a scream, as both sides argue the merits of the rule and cite examples that have occurred in their domains.
In Minnesota two weekends ago, a situation arose in a boys’ state semi-final contest pitting two schools in the large school bracket of the tournament. Hopkins High School, a perennial state power with several Division 1 candidates this year and in the recent past, was taking on Shakopee High School, a relative newcomer to boys’ basketball prowess and considered overwhelmed in this matchup.
The teams fought valiantly for two 18-minute halves and found themselves tied 41-41 at the end of regulation. On to a five-minute overtime they went. Hopkins won the tip and took possession of the ball. What ensued was basically a game of chicken as Shakopee lined up defensively in a tight 2-3 zone and Hopkins set up their offense. The Hopkins player tucked the ball under his arm, literally refusing to try to score. Shakopee just waited and watched, refusing to defend the ball and press the action.
This went on and on, from one overtime to another, until a spectacular halfcourt shot finally gave Hopkins a 49-46 four-overtime victory. But even an ESPN Top 10 highlight was overshadowed by the strong feelings about the strategies that played out in the game’s final minutes.
To me, this was a very disappointing way to have a game of that magnitude decided, and the Hopkins coach should be ashamed of himself. That opinion begs the question as to why I don’t feel that way about the Shakopee coach.
Simple. The 2-3 zone is a common strategic defense and Shakopee believed it gave them the best opportunity to compete against a superior opponent. Hopkins on the other hand, employed a strategy that was non-offensive (or offensive, if you get my drift) and they had the talent to play basketball the way it was meant to be played.
If there was a shot clock, this would be a non-story and my first blog would be entirely different.
High school basketball is the only competitive organized form of the sport that does not force teams to keep the action moving. This Minnesota example is only one of many that have jumped out in recent years – other instances that have spurred debate have happened in Nebraska, Ohio and Maryland, to name a few. It seems to become more prevalent with every new season.
Of course, Michigan is one of the states without a shot clock and you do see it become a factor from time to time. Kudos to the Crystal Falls-Forest Park Class D girls’ coach, whose team led Sacred Heart by as many as seven points late in the April 15 State Championship contest. He implored his squad to play on and win the game by forcing the action. In this case, it did not work, as Sacred Heart pulled off the improbable comeback and won the game and the title.
Many would criticize this coach for not stalling or holding the ball with that sort of lead. Not me. He taught his girls a valuable lesson – we will win or lose by playing our game and not by some sort of last-minute gimmick. Good for him.
Now, many will disagree with my opinion and would point to the fact that Hopkins won and Crystal Falls-Forest Park lost. I say, so what? Winning is important, but so is winning in an honorable way. The Crystal Falls-Forest Park coach lost with honor and has nothing to be sorry for with his team’s second-place finish.
High school basketball is a great spectacle when played (and coached) correctly and a shot clock would only enhance the integrity of the game.
It is time that all 50 states move to improve this wonderful game and add a shot clock to the rules. It does not have to be cost prohibitive and every school district in every state could make it happen.
It will only make things better for all involved.
EXTRA POINTS THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“Has listening become a lost art? Listening is assuming the responsibility, generosity to do something with whatever you hear. After all it is someone’s gift to you.”