Ridiculously low-scoring game in Oklahoma shows the need for shot clocks in high school basketball across the country

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - JANUARY 07: General view of the game ball during the college basketball game between Duke Blue Devils and Boston College Eagles on January 7, 2023, at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, MA. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
High school state athletic associations across the country should implement shot clocks in basketball as soon as possible. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s long overdue for shot clocks to be mandatory in all high school basketball games.

The latest example of why shot clocks are necessary came Tuesday night in Oklahoma as Weatherford High School beat Anadarko by the riveting score of 4-2. Yes, there were six combined points throughout all four quarters of the boys' basketball game and Weatherford led 2-0 at halftime.

According to reports on social media, Anadarko held the ball for much of the game because there is no shot clock in Oklahoma high school basketball. The alleged strategy was to ostensibly steal a win against the No. 3 team in Oklahoma’s Class 4A rankings. Anadarko is No. 9.

While it might have been successful in keeping the score extremely low, it wasn’t successful in actually winning the game. And even if Weatherford can claim victory on Tuesday night, there are no winners when high school basketball games feature the equivalent of three made baskets.

Here's what the first quarter looked like. Even at the sped up frame rate you can see how slow the game was.

State high school associations make the rules

The decision to implement shot clocks in high school basketball lies with state high school athletic associations across the country. The National Federation of State High School Associations has long been against shot clocks, but that stance has begun to change significantly in recent years.

The arguments against shot clocks mainly boil down to finances and competitive equity. Installing adequate shot clock systems can cost thousands of dollars. Anything above a few hundred can be a considerable expense for a smaller high school or school district. And the absence of a shot clock can be somewhat of an equalizer between two teams with a significant talent disparity. A disciplined team can keep a game close against a team with much better players by slowing it down. Fewer possessions mean fewer opportunities for the better team to show why it’s so much better.

But who wants to watch and play in a game with just a few baskets? While Dean Smith’s four corners may be the most famous offense in basketball, the game has evolved over the past 60 years. Just look at the implementation of the 3-point line and how it’s changed the game at all levels.

Simply put, games with teams stalling for much of it aren’t fun. Aren’t high school sports ultimately designed for players to get better and have fun? It’s indisputable that games with alternating possessions on a regular basis are much more fun to watch than a stall-fest and more possessions mean more opportunities for players to get better and enjoy the game. With shot clocks universal across college basketball, a player looking to play at the next level needs to know how to play with a shot clock.

Oklahoma narrowly voted against shot clock implementation

As of now, just eight states have shot clocks on a full-time basis, with states like Illinois experimenting with shot clocks in tournaments and other special events. Oklahoma, as you can obviously tell by now, is one of the over 40 states without a full-time shot clock.

The state came close to approving a shot clock beginning in 2024-25, however. The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association held a vote in January regarding the implementation of a 35-second clock for the state’s four largest classes. The OSSSA board’s vote tied at 7-7. The president’s tiebreaker vote was against a shot clock.

Anadarko coach Doug Schumpert was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019. He told Scorebook Live in January that a shot clock wasn’t necessary in the state because there weren’t that many teams who held the ball and slowed the game down.

“It would be interesting to see if you could sit down and watch some games with a clock right there, to see how many times would the clock go off in games right now,” Schumpert said. “The OSSAA has said they’ve done that at the state tournament and there’s not very many games where the shot clock would go off.

“But where it would affect things more than anything would be at the end of a quarter, end of a half, end of a game, where there’s two minutes left, with teams pulling the ball out and holding the ball. I don’t know if it would speed up our game that much. People are shooting the ball more than we used to; I think the game is pretty quick.”

If Anadarko slowed the game down on purpose, it's easy to vilify Schumpert for allegedly employing stall tactics just weeks after saying a shot clock wasn’t necessary because teams don’t stall like they used to. But that's also missing the larger point. A stall offense can only work if there's nothing in place to prevent it and a trait of good coaching is the ability to maximize the rules to your advantage.

The simplest way to prevent high school basketball games from ending with a score more suited to baseball is to force teams to shoot the ball more often. The sooner that more states across the country feasibly move to eliminate the possibility of a stall offense, the better it will be for everyone involved in high school basketball.