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We don’t need no stinkin’ clocks

Steve Yingling

High school basketball has survived the better part of a half century without too many rule changes.

Yet, California’s recent adoption of a 35-second shot clock proves that nothing remains sacred in sports.

Through the National Basketball Association and to a lesser degree the college game, we have all seen what the clock produces: poor shot selection and less team structure.



“I don’t think everybody wants to be like the pros, and pro is the worst basketball game out there,” said South Tahoe High coach Tom Orlich, who opposes adopting a shot clock for Nevada. “A lot of things that make basketball pure are being taken out of the game. It’s a disadvantage to the teams that aren’t as talented, it encourages ballhandling and discourages passing.”

Of course, some basketball spectators don’t want to feel like they are watching a baseball game either. Some prep teams have been known to stall four quarters, producing boring 8-6 final scores.



In fact, during a 25-22 victory over Sacramento High in the 1995 Gridley Tournament, South Tahoe held the ball for an entire quarter. In its defense, Tahoe used the delay to draw Sacramento out of a man defense, but the Dragons were content to sit back in their zone.

Eventually, a Sacramento mascot came onto the floor and offered Viking Shawnte Johnson a chair at midcourt, inducing a technical foul.

“We wanted to slow it down and they wanted to run up and down. They played right into our hands and paid dearly for it in the end,” Orlich told the Tribune.

But such a game is an anomaly. The tactic enabled a team with inferior athletic ability to beat one with superior athleticism.

“The shot clock is a real advantage for teams that are better (athletically) than other teams. There’s not going to be as many upsets,” Orlich said.

But as we saw in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament last weekend, inferior teams can control the tempo of a game with a shot clock in place. North Carolina State, the eighth seed in the nine-team tournament, frustrated the quick-tempo clubs by continually exhausting most of the 35-second clock before launching a shot.

“It might increase the number of shots that aren’t in the flow of the offense. We try to move the ball quite a bit before we put up a shot, but I don’t think we use 35 seconds either,” said Whittell second-year coach Steve Maltase. “The only time I could see it changing the game is for the teams that press. They could take a good 10 to 15 seconds off the clock before you get into the offense.”

South Tahoe girls coach Dave Barich has no problem with the clock, having experienced it firsthand the past two seasons.

“It rarely came into play. They did a study and the average time of possession in a high school game is 8.5 seconds,” Barich said.

Starting pitchers might not be alone visiting the ice machine if a clock comes into play. Some gunners may have to ice their wrists as well.

“It will give the best players a lot more possessions, and there are only so many times you can stop them,” Orlich said.

If Nevada does follow California and adopt a shot clock, Orlich wants 45 seconds instead of 35.

“There’s not much you can do offensively if a team puts on pressure out there. If you don’t have the skills and finally get it over the line and into your half-court set, you may have to burp up a shot. The defense can really dictate the shots you take,” Orlich said.

Forty-five seconds does seem like ample time to hoist a shot, but then again, prep basketball doesn’t need to conform to the college and pro games. It’s special all by itself.


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