Unlike college basketball and the NBA, there is no shot clock in NHIAA basketball. Some people would like to see one instituted while others argue that the game is fine in its current form. And every so often something happens to stir the debate.
Such was the case Jan. 3, when the Manchester West boys basketball team built a three-point halftime lead against Souhegan and then literally brought the game to a standstill.
Trailing 26-23 at the start of the third quarter, Souhegan began the second half in a zone. West responded by holding the ball near midcourt in an attempt to force the Sabers out of that zone. Neither team blinked, and West’s Carson Filardo took the only shot in the quarter — a made 3-pointer with eight seconds on the clock.
“I was just trying to stay in the game to give our team a chance to win,” Souhegan coach Peter Pierce said. “We were not in a position to get up and down the floor with those guys. Justin (West coach Justin Gorham) knew if he got out in front I couldn’t catch him.”
Souhegan’s refusal to come out of its zone in the third quarter kept things close entering the final eight minutes, but eventually the Sabers were forced to play West’s game and the Blue Knights prevailed, 46-37.
“Once he got to six (a six-point lead) I had to entertain him,” Pierce said. “There were no hard feelings. We were both doing what we thought was best for our team.”
Typically it’s the underdog that slows the pace, but in this case the reverse was true. Still, the question remains: Should New Hampshire adopt a shot clock for boys’ and girls’ high school basketball? It’s certainly not hard to find NHIAA coaches who will tell you it should.
“Yeah, I think we should have a shot clock,” Trinity coach Keith Bike said. “Especially the kids who are trying to move on to the next level where there’s a shot clock — it prepares them for that. It’s an expense to have a shot clock. I know that, but I think the play in New Hampshire … I think it will get better. You never know, maybe you won’t lose so many kids to prep schools.
”All of a sudden college coaches are coming to watch games. I was a college coach for a while and it was hard to come and watch a New Hampshire game to recruit. You come to watch a kid and some teams are holding the ball for two or three minutes. I think it would help.”
Many agree with Bike, but the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) does not. NFHS rules do not allow shot clocks, although eight states do use them: Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, North and South Dakota, Washington and California. All eight use a 30- or 35-second clock. As a consequence those state associations are not allowed to serve on the NFHS rules committee.
As Bike mentioned, there’s also a cost factor. In addition to the expense of installing a shot clock, schools will presumably have to pay for someone to operate the shot clock for boys and girls games at the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels. This could be a challenge for schools operating on a tight budget.
There’s also this to consider: How often would a 30- or 35-second shot clock come into play during a “typical” NHIAA basketball game? Would things change that much?
There are also times — like that night at Souhegan — when slowing the pace may be an essential strategy for a team if it’s going to have any chance of leaving the gym with a victory.
Although Pierce ordered his team to play some not-so-fan-friendly basketball — one fan got up and left the gym during the third quarter of the West-Souhegan game — he said he would prefer to be coaching in games with a shot clock in use.
“I know there’s a cost, but I think the time has come,” he said. “Running water, electricity and a shot clock are all good things. To me, we’re just dragging our feet and delaying the inevitable.”
Delaying for sure …