It’s one thing to enter the Utah 5A basketball state semi-final game facing the best team in the state. But what if that team is the best team in the COUNTRY?
That was the overwhelming challenge facing Brighton High School last Friday night when they took the floor against Lone Peak High School, now the MaxPreps National Champions.
Some coaches might have tried to channel the inspirational words spoken by Gene Hackman at the end of Hoosiers. Others might spend late nights digesting tape on Lone Peak’s Big Three.
And maybe Brighton head coach Jeff Gardner did both of those things… but it was what he did in the second quarter that, frankly, was shameful.
For seven minutes, essentially nothing happened. Nothing. One shot—a miss. Brighton backed up to the time line, held the ball and waited. And waited. And waited.
Doing so put Brighton within 5 points early in the third quarter, but it also had fans on the verge of riot with the “boos” that rained down on the court.
In the end, Lone Peak still blew them out, but Brighton’s tactic had me all sorts of riled up Friday night.
Strategy or Disrespecting the Game?
Personally, I think this “strategy” disrespects the game of basketball.
It says to the players, “Well, guys, we don’t stand a chance against them for a whole game. Since there’s no way we can win, let’s just hold the ball as long as we can. At least we can say we didn’t let them score 60!”
If that’s your thinking, why not just play the first quarter, and if you’re losing, give up?
I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of those players, imagining their through process when Gardner told them to stall. Maybe at first I’d think it was a decent idea… but for 7 minutes? With fans booing me like I’ve never been booed before?
Gardner took all the blame for stalling, saying his job is to do what he can to give his kids a chance to win.
Yeah, great way to boost their confidence, Coach. “Go play keep away so they can’t crush us.”
History Repeats Itself
Others will say Gardner was just within the system he’s been given. There’s no shot clock in Utah high school basketball. No violation, no harm.
The whole reason the shot clock was invented was to keep this kind of thing from happening.
On November 22, 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest scoring game in professional history. Four points total were scored in the fourth quarter, possessions lasted minutes at a time and the Pistons only attempted 13 shots the entire game.
After the game, the St. Paul Dispatch wrote, “(The Pistons) gave pro basketball a great black eye.”
Four years later, the shot clock went into wide spread use.
And speaking of Hoosiers, remember the miraculous shot at the end of the movie that gave the little Milan High School a state championship? That shot came only after character Jimmy Cheatwood stood and held the ball. Forever.
That really happened. In the real life story, Milan player Bobby Plump made the game winner after holding the ball for 4 minutes and 17 seconds.
35 Seconds or Bust
Lone Peak head coach Quincy Lewis used the bizarre events of Friday night to call for the implementation of the shot clock in Utah high schools. (My suggestion: how about applying some pressure to get a 5-second count? Seems more logical to me.)
But it’s an idea that has gained increased popularity over the last few years, but doing so is harder than many might expect.
Jim Halley of USA Today outlined the difficulties in his article last year, “Focus on High School Shot Clock Heats Up as States Make Move”.
In 2011, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) again voted down a measure to require shot clocks nationwide, and only eight states in the country currently require it: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.
The whole issue comes down to the cost and creating equality across the game.
First, it’s expensive. Halley cites a cost of $2,200 to install the clock in gymnasiums, as well as the additional expense to hire a shot clock operator. Not every school can afford that.
Then there’s the issue of equality. Where is the cutoff for which teams are required to have a shot clock and which aren’t? 5A? 4A? Varsity level in all divisions? Certainly you can’t require a shot clock for JV and sophomore games (which are regularly played in auxiliary gyms).
I’m not against the shot clock. I’m a high school referee, and as far as my duties, it wouldn’t be difficult.
But in the meantime, I hold to the belief that stalling should be limited; for instance, the last two minutes of the game. Not in the middle of the second quarter.
Play the game the way it was intended, and don’t try to justify away poor sportsmanship.