It is ironic that I should be writing about why low scoring high school basketball games have become more prevalent in recent years. When I coached, I was accused of keeping the scores of my games intentionally low
The reasons the scores are so low today are because of the following, in the order of importance.
— Very poor shot selection, which is like a turnover in many cases.
— The 3-point line has all but eliminated the inside low post game.
— Poor individual fundamental shooting techniques by the players.
— Poor basketball decision-making and poor fundamental skills — both lead to turnovers, which reduce field goal attempts, which reduce scoring.
— Physical defensive play when players are taught and allowed to push, block, hold, shove and grab players without the ball as they make their offensive cuts while defenders are taught and allowed to hand check, belly up and make contact on the dribbler. It is very easy to play defense when you can use your hands illegally.
The main reason for poor shot selection is because most coaches allow it. The players have not been instructed in what is good shot selection — taking shots players should expect to make — and what is poor shot selection — taking shots players hope will go in.
The teams I coached were very patient in looking for good shot selection. Yes, we wanted to have the ball about 21 minutes (65 percent) of the game’s 32 minutes.
Only when we had the best talent available in our division did we play straight-up basketball and this was when I had teams that were preseason favorites for seven seasons and went on to win three state titles and were Eastern Maine runners-up twice.
All the other seasons we played ball-control and tempo-control basketball because we were not the most talented team in our class. However, by playing very patiently and having excellent shot selection, we were able to defeat superior teams, winning state championships when seeded fourth and fifth, an EM title seeded sixth and EM runners-up when seeded third and sixth (twice).
My teams made 26 tournament appearances in 29 years, and in 19 of those seasons we were not the favorite in our class.
When we were playing against a zone defense and we had an eight-point lead and the ball at anytime in the game, we would hold the ball and make teams come out and play us man to man.
When we were the best team we would never let a team hold the ball against us, we always went after them with pressure. It takes two to tango and if one team does not want to dance, then the scores will be in the 30s much like they are many times today when both teams are trying to score.
Teams today are trying to score and many times the games are in the 30s, and this is not because they are holding the ball, as both teams are trying to score.
In the 1961-62 season, the rule was changed that had the clock stop on every whistle blown by the officials. Prior to that the whistle only stopped the clock on fouls, timeouts and jump balls. This means that today’s high school players play a total of an actual 32 minutes when prior to that they played approximately 24 minutes of actual time and those scores were mostly higher than the scores of today.
It mostly comes down to better shot selection, which leads to higher-scoring games.
The next time you are watching a basketball game at any level, be it middle school, freshman, JV, high school, AAU or college, you can tell in a few minutes if the players or the coaches are running the shot selection.
Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and is a basketball official.