By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
I have often wondered what it'd be like to go back in the past, to see what times were like and especially how sports were played in the years before I was born.
After Tuesday night's game between Meridian and Lanier, that dream has quickly dissipated. The contest featured an imbalanced pairing of the state-contending Wildcats and a Lanier team that didn't appear to belong on the same court. However, it wasn't just the 32-4 lead Meridian jumped out to that spoiled the game.
Tuesday, I got a glimpse of what watching basketball before the 1954 shot-clock era must have been like.
With a 34-16 lead in the third quarter, Wildcat guard Je'Vaughnte Harris stood in the middle of the court, uncontested, and dribbled. One minute went by, then two, then three. When the buzzer finally sounded for the end of the quarter, a disgruntled crowd murmured and groaned uneasily in their seats.
When Harris took the ball a second time in the fourth quarter, this time not even dribbling it, the crowd became even more restless. Some left, some booed, but Harris and the Wildcats just waited.
With no shot clock in high school basketball, who could blame them? The only rule preventing teams from running out the clock is a five-second closely guarded penalty, which is enforced after a defender comes within six feet of a player with the ball for more than five seconds without a pass.
Since Lanier head coach Thomas Billups instructed his players to fall back and leave Harris to run out the clock, no such penalty could be called.
Therefore, for most of the second half fans were treated to an excitement comparable of watching paint dry, that is the poor fans who actually stayed for the whole game.
The sad thing is, Tuesday night's 39-23 Wildcat win is not the only time stalling has occurred in high school basketball– It happens all the time.
Stalling used to be an issue in both the college and pro games, before both leagues realized the boring practice was dragging down the sport. Prior to the institution of the shot clock, University of North Carolina head coach Dean Smith made the four-corners offense famous, by putting his point guard at the center of the court and placing four players on each corner of the half court to shuffle the ball around and wind down the clock. The late Fort Wayne Pistons were infamous for a 19-18 win over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1950, which featured only four total points in the fourth quarter.
In both leagues, the rule was changed for the same reason it should be at the high school level – stalling ruins the sport.
Watching a kid mindlessly dribble a ball is nothing but a waste of time to both the fans and the young athletes themselves. These kids undoubtedly signed up for varsity basketball either for the love of the game, or to further their skills into the college level. Holding a ball and watching a clock go does nothing to help either goal.
How are these kids supposed to know how to play with a big lead in college if they are just used to holding on to a ball? On the flip side, it eliminates the possibility of a thrilling comeback and teaches kids its alright to just give up and throw in the towel once you go down early in a game.
Eight states, ( California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington), have now implemented the use of either a 30 or 35-second shot clock. The time is now for more states to adapt the shot clock and bring high-school basketball back from the past – Mississippi, you're on the clock.