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Hopkins' Win Over Shakopee Provokes Shot Clock Debate

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- High school tournament time is almost a guarantee for something exciting.

In the boys' basketball, Thursday night's game between Hopkins and Shakopee was a thriller, going in to a fourth overtime.

Many argue you win basketball games by playing the game. Thursday night Hopkins won by not playing.

Without a shot clock, the Royals put the game into a stand-still as they waited to shoot the ball. As the clock ran out, the Royals' Amir Coffey launched a half-court shot and sank it to win the game.

"From a strategic standpoint, it was pretty neat," said Kevin Merkle, Associate director, Minnesota State High School League. "But from watching at home on TV, I'm sure it was frustrating. It's the way the game had gone and the strategies the two coaches were using was playing out."

Not all fans agree.

"I don't think it's very exciting to see a team hold the ball and a team not play defense. I'd rather see something competitive and a shot clock put in," said fan Kevin Kuefler.

After playing basketball in the collegiate level, Kuefler says adding a shot clock changes the way the game is played; it's faster and the ball is shot more frequently.

Had there been a shot clock in high school hoops, stronger teams would be forced to shoot the ball every 30-35 seconds, which would drive up the score.

Currently, teams are typically advised to "go easy" on less-matched opponents so scores aren't lopsided. A lot of fans and coaches at the state basketball tournament are torn over it.

"I thought last night's game was crazy," said Tim Herman, who coaches at Heritage Christian Academy in Maple Grove. "If I'm the opposing coach, I'd say, 'OK, I can react to it, or I can let them hold the ball.' Shakopee decided to let them do that."

Herman says a lot of A and AA schools struggle to fill their rosters, and the talent can vary from big-city schools to rural or private ones.

"In A or AA, I think it's a little bit problematic. In AAA and AAAA – OK," Herman said. "Those kids are playing all over the country, all the time, all-year round. That's a different story and that's why I'm not so offended by the thought of it happening AAA and AAAA."

There's also the cost factor. Newer baskets with shot clocks can cost upwards of $5,000, and that's a lot for smaller boosters.

"There's a cost of putting it in, there's a cost of having an operator and there's a lot of little rules that go along with that," Merkle said. "The operator has to know what they're doing. It brings in a whole other level of officials."

Merkle believes schools will eventually add shot clocks, but not anytime soon. Herman agreed, saying high schools want to be like colleges and colleges aspire to be like the professional leagues that use them too.

The Minnesota State High School League says there's not enough support from coaches to put shot clocks into effect.

Eight states use countdown clocks at the high school level. The Minnesota High School League said some bigger schools have installed them as they update their gyms.

They're allowed to use them in "experimental purposes," like non-conference games and holiday tournaments.

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