The WIAA hoisted up an ill-advised shot, as if a clock was ticking down and a quick decision needed to be made before the buzzer sounded.
Only there was no clock. And when the Board of Control took a little more time and made a few more passes on its next possession, the result was a wide-open look.
When the BOC voted 7-3 Friday to reverse its initial June decision to implement 35-second shot clocks for varsity games beginning with the 2019-20 season, it made the right call, even if it took a roundabout way to do it.
The board initially voted 6-4 to implement the shot clock. That vote was in large part due to support from the WIAA’s Basketball Coaches Advisory Committee and results of a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association survey. The results of that survey indicated 81 percent of coaches around the state were in favor of a shot clock.
The WIAA Sports Advisory Committee and Advisory Council did not support the idea, and the WIAA executive staff was split, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time.
And even some of those coaches within the 81 percent who voted in favor of a shot clock expressed surprise when it helped lead to such a quick vote at the WIAA level.
Basketball coaches often talk about making an extra pass, or passing up a good shot so a teammate can take a great one. That advice probably could have come in handy back in June.
Instead, the 6-4 vote, while applauded loudly by some players and coaches as being progressive and improving game flow, was met with a slew of questions from others, including many athletic directors and administrators.
Who was going to run these shot clocks? How were schools, particularly in smaller divisions, going to afford installing them at $2,000 a clip? What kind of recourse would there be when an error—either mechanical or human—led to a major snafu in a critical situation?
And then, to me, there was the biggest question: Why go through answering all those sorts of questions to solve what seems to be a very small problem?
Yes, there are times when teams use stall tactics. And yes, they often seem to show up on the big stage during tournament time.
The one that sticks out most in my recent memory was Mukwonago’s girls team stalling for a few minutes in the first half of the Division 1 championship game in 2016. It seemed pretty silly, got folks all riled up about shot clocks and stalling on social media and ultimately backfired as Verona hoisted the gold ball.
But are there enough of these situations to warrant such a costly change to the game?
In the five high school games I’ve watched so far this season, I can remember two instances where a 35-second shot clock would have expired.
One was Thursday night when Madison La Follette’s boys team simply clamped down on Janesville Craig late in the first half. Good defense would have created a turnover. I believe the Lancers eventually got one anyway.
The other one came Friday, ironically about an hour after I tweeted that I liked the WIAA’s decision. Madison East’s girls team stalled for about a minute with 4:30 left and an eight-point lead. The stall eventually led to a turnover, though the Vikings gave the ball right back. The Purgolders never slowed down again and used a 17-8 run down the stretch to win by 17.
I have no doubt that there are much more glaring recent examples from elsewhere around the state. But this is my fifth full season of covering high school basketball here, and I just don’t remember seeing many—or maybe even any—that made me think an immediate drastic change was needed.
Is it fun when a team stalls? No. But it seems to me it backfires just as often as it is successful, and I think that’s why many coaches have gone away from even attempting it.
The solution didn’t fit the problem.
And fittingly, in the great shot-clock situation of 2017, the WIAA Board of Control just needed a little more time to realize that.
Eric Schmoldt is the sports editor of The Gazette. Contact him at email@example.com