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Scoggins blog: Hopkins' stall tactics should usher in shot clock era

  • Blog Post by: Chip Scoggins
  • March 13, 2014 - 10:39 PM

Kevin Merkle, tournament director of the boys state basketball tournament, is scheduled to oversee the annual coaches meeting Friday morning.

Here’s hoping the first item of business begins with this: PUT A STINKIN’ SHOT CLOCK IN THE GAME!!

“I’m sure it will come up,” Merkle said.

Well, it should after mighty Hopkins – and to a certain extent Shakopee, too – made a mockery of the state tournament on Friday night. The two teams engaged in a staredown that sucked the life out of their Class 4A semifinal and embarrassed the State High School League in one of its marquee events.

First things first, credit to Hopkins’ Amir Coffey, who made a miracle shot from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer in the fourth overtime. Cool moment for him, something that he’ll always remember.

But fans won’t forget what led up to that shot, either. Hopkins held the ball in a stall tactic at the end of regulation and throughout the overtime periods. Shakopee refused to come out of its zone that worked so effectively all game.

So everyone just kind of stood around and waited for time to run off. You wouldn’t think a powerhouse program like Hopkins, with its abundance of talent, would need to resort to such a cheap tactic, but apparently Ken Novak and his players felt that was their only way to win. And it takes two to tango. Shakopee played right along.

Both teams operated within the rules of the game, but it was a ridiculous display – or non-display – of basketball that would be entirely avoidable if the state high school league would institute a shot clock.

Merkle said the shot clock debate comes up every year but it hasn’t gained much traction because it’s cost prohibitive for many schools. The high school league allows schools to experiment with a shot clock during non-conference season but Merkle said “I don’t think we’re that close” to having them in use full time at every school.

Merkle said seven states nationally use a shot clock in high school.

“Our coaches have voted in favor of it,” he said. “Not overwhelmingly, but the majority. The reason it hasn’t come forward anymore is there’s a cost to put it in and then there’s a cost to have somebody to run it every game for boys and girls all year long.”

What happened Thursday night put the high school league in a tough spot. They can’t force teams to play a certain way, but they also had a lot of unhappy fans at Target Center and beyond.

“Is that what you want to happen in a game? Probably not,” Merkle said, before adding, “They’re both playing within the rules and it was a strategy that they both felt they had to use to win the game, so I can’t disagree with that.”

Merkle said he doesn’t see or hear about that kind of thing happening too often. He recalled a team using a similar stall tactic in the tournament a few years ago.

I’m not discounting the cost factor in requiring schools to buy shot clocks for their gyms. That would be a significant expense for many schools that have a hard time making budget as it is.

But a shot clock would be good for the game in general as high school basketball evolves. It probably would have little effect on most teams anyway, given the fast-paced nature of high school basketball these days.

And it would prevent that nonsense that we watched in the semifinals of the large-school tournament.

  “There will be more discussion but who knows?” Merkle said. “Hard to say.”

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