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McCUTCHEON: A cost-friendly alternative

The shot clock is coming to South Dakota Class A high school basketball in 2014-15, assuming a constitutional amendment doesn’t thwart the change.

My first thought was how the pace of the game will be changed. The biggest difference the shot clock makes to the game is forcing the offense to get a shot off, not allowing it to wait until the perfect opportunity arises.

While I think the shot clock is a good thing at the highest levels (professional, college and high school) and if it’s financially feasible it should be used, the handful of Class A and B games I saw at the state tournament this year each had three quarters of fast-paced basketball.

The biggest problem I saw came in the fourth quarter, where trailing teams would foul midway through the final 8 minutes to prolong the game. This resulted in a half-hour parade to the free-throw line on a handful of occasions.

When Class A adds the shot clock next year, it will result in additional expenses for the schools and change of philosophy for the teams. Canton High School, a Class A member, is fighting the change and is pushing for a constitutional bylaw to prevent schools from being forced into added equipment, which the school’s athletic director Eric Smart said could cost $5,000 or more for each of the school’s two facilities.

The addition of the shot clock is inevitable and one day Class B will take on the expense as well. Every time a change is made at the professional and college levels, it eventually filters down to the high schools and beyond.

Is there another option?

A thought that crossed my mind was the possibility of adopting a rule for South Dakota basketball that has changed a completely different sport for the better.

As a former college lacrosse player, a sport, I know, is as prevalent in South Dakota as much as snowboarding is in Egypt, I understand how stalling can hamper the pace of a game.

I am not going to get into the specific rules of lacrosse, but prior to a recent rule change, teams with a lead would simply try to play keep away and run out the clock. For talented teams, this was a sound strategy as they would be able to pass the ball around the offensive zone until the game clock read zero.

The NCAA recently implemented a rule for college lacrosse where, at the referee’s discretion, an invisible timer would be put in place. First, a 20-second silent countdown starts and if a shot has not yet reached the net, a 10-second hand-count begins, essentially giving the offensive team 30 seconds to get a shot on target. If the offensive team fails to do so, the ball is turned over the other team.

The timer is put on when the referee determines that the offensive team is not making an effort to attack the cage.

Why couldn’t this work for basketball?

If a referee at a Class A or B game saw that a team was deliberately stalling or making no attempt to get the ball to the basket, a similar invisible timer could be called for, giving the offense a predetermined amount of time to get a shot off. This is a possible solution to the slow pace at the end of some high school basketball games in South Dakota.

The change to lacrosse was not loved by all in the sport, as the argument was it was put in place to increase scoring. But it does keep the games exciting and fast-paced.

This alternative solution will likely never happen. The shot clock is coming. Class A will have it next season and Class B is likely on deck.

Expenses aside, I am all for the shot clock. I look forward to the day it is implemented and embraced by all levels of basketball. It is a shame when a basketball game that is exciting for 28 minutes devolves into little more than a free-throw contest.

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