4-2 Game Rekindles Shot Clock Debate in High School Basketball
Something strange happened during a recent high school basketball game in Oklahoma.
The home team, the Weatherford High School Eagles, controlled the tip-off and immediately missed a three-pointer. Then the visiting Anadarko High School Warriors grabbed the rebound and slowed the game down — way, way down.
For nearly the entire game, Anadarko played “stall ball” — passing the ball back and forth in the backcourt as the seconds dripped by like molasses, fans shouted scattered boos and the cheerleaders gamely stuck to their routines on the sidelines.
The final score, after four eight-minute quarters, looked nothing like the high-scoring games that have defined the N.B.A. this season: Weatherford beat Anadarko, 4-2.
The absurdly low score has renewed debate about whether high school basketball needs a shot clock to keep the game moving.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia use shot clocks in some or all high school games, and two more plan to use them starting next season. Oklahoma rejected them last month, citing the cost of the clocks, among other factors.
After the Anadarko-Weatherford game last Tuesday, some are questioning whether that was the right move.
“What are we doing here in Oklahoma?” Bryan Keating, the sports director at KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, wrote on Twitter. “We have to play with a shot clock. The players deserve a whole lot better than this.”
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The game tested the patience not only of the fans who packed into Weatherford’s gymnasium but also the local television announcer, Chuck Ramsey, who repeated the names of the Anadarko players as they tossed the ball around in what he called a game of “keep away.”
“Not the best friend of a play-by-play announcer on this type of offense,” Mr. Ramsey said.
The game underscored one of the reasons the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body for most high school sports, voted last year to allow states to use a 35-second shot clock.
Proponents say the clock, by forcing the offense to try to score within a certain period of time, prevents teams from sitting on the ball to kill time, especially if they have a lead with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“It changes end-of-the-game situations,” said Joe Ortiz, who has won four state championships as head coach of the boys’ basketball team at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo. “People holding ball like that — that’s not the current game of basketball. It doesn’t make sense.”
It once did.
Before the N.B.A. adopted a 24-second shot clock in 1954, the league was plagued by slow, low-scoring games. In 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest-scoring league game on record. Fans were not impressed.
After several years of experimentation, the N.C.A.A. adopted a 45-second clock in 1985, pushed in part by a 1978 Sun Belt Conference championship game that ended with a score of 22-20. The N.C.A.A. cut the shot clock to 30 seconds in 2015.
“The shot clock was about making the game more exciting for spectators,” said Pamela Grundy, an independent historian and co-author of “Shattering The Glass: The Remarkable History of Women’s Basketball.”
But thrilling fans is not always a priority in high school sports.
Grant Gower, assistant director of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, said the board voted 8-7 last month against the use of shot clocks in basketball.
He said that board members cited the cost of the clocks, the expense of paying someone to operate them and the training for referees to enforce the time limit. Prices vary, but a set of two clocks can cost between $2,000 and $11,000, he said.
“I know it will be addressed again and not in response to the 4-to-2 game but in terms of what the schools want to do,” Mr. Gower said, adding that the low score “sure brings an awareness of situations like this that are completely within the rules of the game.”
Some have speculated that Anadarko’s coach, Doug Schumpert, a member of the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was merely deploying an old-school “freeze the ball” strategy to keep his ninth-ranked team close to third-ranked Weatherford. Indeed, Anadarko almost won with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Mr. Schumpert did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Derrick Bull, Weatherford’s coach, faced questions about why the Eagles had not tried to trap the ball and force turnovers. He did not respond to an email, but he pointed out in an interview with WWLS, a local radio station, that his team never trailed after going up 2-0 in the second quarter.
“Once we got the lead, we were pretty content to let them do what they were going to do because we were confident that if they were ever able to tie it, we could go down and execute and score,” Mr. Bull said. “Even though we didn’t have the ball, we felt like we were in control of the game, as long as we had the lead.”
Mr. Bull told WWLS that he was “never too much for, or too much against” the shot clock.
Playing without one can give lesser teams a “fighting chance,” he said, but having one “improves quality of play” and makes it “more entertaining” for players and fans, he said.
“I was definitely for the shot clock last night, I will put it that way,” he said.