SPORTS: So long stall ball — shot clock added to high school basketball

The prayers of free-flowing basketball fans have been answered.

I couldn’t help but do a little jig when I heard the news, reported by TheSeattle Times and other Puget Sound news outlets Friday:

The Representative Assembly of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) voted in the addition of a 35-second shot clock to high school boys basketball on Friday by a shockingly wide margin of 42-11.

Yes, in the state of Washington, it’s time to pick up the pace, and I’m not talking about the picante sauce.

No longer must we watch a team milk a two-point lead with more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

No longer must we see a good defensive team hold down the fort on its own end for two straight minutes only to get punished for a back door lay-in.

And no longer must we endure the sight of a point guard standing at center court, one hand on hip, the other holding the ball, as he watches the seconds tick off the shot clock. (I’m looking at you, North Mason.)

Please excuse my giddiness.

I’ve just always felt that basketball is best when it’s the sporting equivalent of jazz . . . frantic and filled with improvisation.

And the introduction of the shot clock to the boys game (it has been in the girls game for years) is sure to bring more of that.

There might be a few other not-so-pleasant repercussions as well, but now isn’t the time to be a kill joy.

Some not happy

Unless, of course, you happen to like the status quo, that is.

Count Sequim boys basketball fixture Larry Hill in that mix.

The longtime coach, involved with Wolves basketball since 1977, spent all day pondering the effect of the shot clock on the game as he worked on other jobs, even drawing up isolation plays for his quick posts in his head.

“It changes the way philosophically that you look at the game,” Hill said. “I don’t really know how much affect it’s going to have. I do think it diminishes the ability of teams that are not as gifted athletically to compete.

“In high school basketball not everybody is going to have players that are highly skilled.”

The shot clock, says Hill, punishes those teams.

“I think that’s going backwards,” he said. “You want the high school game to be different from the college game and the NBA. I don’t know if it’s going to make a huge difference on the Peninsula, but it is definitely going to change the tempo of games.”

There is no doubt about that.

Expect more full court presses, more isolation basketball, more high pick and rolls and, unfortunately, more zone defense (the ying to the shot clock’s yang, if you will).

As Hill pointed out, all of this means that players with the ability to shoot from the outside, as well as create their own shot off the dribble, will become more important than ever. Basically, the teams with the best skill players are the ones you can expect to win . . . always.

As Port Townsend assistant Tim Black said in March, “King Kong is going to win a lot more.”

Said Hill, “Where it becomes different is late in the clock. If you have a player that can put the ball on the deck and make something happen, that kind of a player is going to be at a premium now.”

Teams like Port Townsend of the past two years, which depended upon patience and ball movement on offense to win two state trophies, will likely be hurt by such a development.

Although, considering they way the Redskins played defense on the other end, maybe not.

Opposing teams ran a two-minute offense against the Redskins all the time last year, mostly because that’s how long it took to get a look at a halfway decent shot at the rim. Those that were patient enough got a layup out of the deal.

Against a team as dominant defensively as Port Townsend, it almost seemed like a sham.

It’s easy to forget, but the shot clock also benefits teams that play good defense.

“I think it’s going to be better for the game in the long run,” Port Townsend coach John Stroeder said. “It will be more exciting. But it’s going to take a while for people to adjust a little bit. It’s going to be a different strategy.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see what that looks like.


Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column normally appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]

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