Does South Dakota high school basketball need a mercy rule?
That question still looms as the mercy rule enters its second season.
First enacted by the South Dakota High School Activities Association in Class A and B boys and girls basketball for the 2015-16 season, the mercy rule was tweaked for the start of the 2016-17 season.
This season, the rule is defined by the SDHSAA as: "when the point differential reaches 30 or more points in the second half, the clock will continue to run. The clock will only be stopped for free throws and timeouts (team or official). Regular timing rules will be used if the score differential drops back to less than 20 points."
The mercy rule has already witnessed plenty of use this season. Early in the 2016-17 campaign, 56 Class A and Class B girls basketball games have been decided by 30 points or more in the first 18 days of the season. In the first 15 days of the boys season, 41 boys games ended with a point differential of 30 or more.
It roughly averages out to three games a day in each of the boys and girls divisions but also doesn't fully account for games that use a running clock and end with a final margin of 20 points or more.
Canistota boys basketball head coach Pat Jolley witnessed the mercy rule's effect in his team's first two games this season as the Hawks defeated Centerville 58-13 on Dec. 9 and topped Freeman 79-39 on Dec. 15.
"I think in football we all agreed it (a mercy rule) was a good thing, but in basketball, I don't think it gets you home that much earlier," Jolley said.
Last year, the running-clock rule started at 40 or more points and the clock didn't stop for free throws.
"Last year, I was strongly against it. I didn't like the way it went because it ran on free throws," Jolley said. "This year, they lowered it to 30 (points). I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I think it gives me less of an opportunity to get other kids into the game. Depending on what side of the score you are on is how you look at it."
Jolley said the running clock sometimes forces teams to play at a faster rate just to get more possessions for the kids. Including two wins last season using a running clock, the Hawks have yet to be on the losing side of the new rule.
"I think there is some merit to the running clock, but to keep it going during free throws, you could burn up a couple minutes just shooting free throws," Jolley said. "The game was getting over way too quickly."
Mount Vernon/Plankinton girls basketball head coach Bill Marquardt said he has been against both iterations of the rule. Marquardt, who has coached prep hoops for 33 years, said a few coaches are to blame for the creation of the rule.
"It takes away minutes from players, who don't see that many varsity minutes," Marquardt said. "You get some coaches that don't know how to self-regulate. It should be on the coaches to regulate this. In the extreme cases, maybe the SDHSAA should step in and contact that school's athletic director."
While he hasn't seen the rule in action this season, it did come into effect last year for the Titans in a few games.
"Even if I'm losing, I'm not going to like it," Marquardt said. "Last year, we got outscored in a lot of fourth quarters when the other team would be playing their varsity against our second string. I didn't see anything wrong with that."