The 3-point shot added another dimension to high school basketball, giving a stage for a hot shooter to take over a game and forcing teams to change strategies on both ends of the floor.

Would a shot clock have the same impact here?

Already used at the high school level in eight states, those in favor of a shot clock say it would offer a faster-paced game, increased scoring and bigger crowds. Maine’s high school basketball tournaments already have a long tradition of competitive games that prompt fans to flock to Augusta, Bangor and Portland from the middle of February to early March. It’s hard to tinker with success, but tinkering is something we all do.

Just because something is good, doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Now with another basketball season in the books, the question of instituting a shot clock has been raised.


With a shot clock, players have a specified time to shoot the ball. In the NBA, which has had a shot clock since 1954, it’s 24 seconds. NCAA women have used a 30-second shot clock since 1970. The NCAA initiated a shot clock of 45 seconds for men starting with the 1985-86 season, then lowered it to 35 seconds beginning with the 1993-94 season.

When Danny Biasone, the owner of the former Syracuse Nationals, invented the shot clock, it was to speed up the game and prevent teams from stalling, which was a problem in the NBA’s early years.

Former Boston Celtics Hall of Fame guard Bob Cousy, who was great at stalling, said the shot clock saved the NBA at the time.

While Maine high school basketball doesn’t need saving, it could use an infusion of offense. In recent seasons there have been an inordinate number of low scores, and while defense is great, the majority of fans want to see more points scored.

“I’ve been for a shot clock since the 1980s,” said Tom Maines, the Scarborough High girls’ coach. A longtime boys’ coach, Maines coached Morse High of Bath to three straight Class A state titles from 1987 to 1989. “The game is a quicker game with a shot clock. It forces kids to make plays. Now every possession is being coached. Players don’t have to read and react.

“I think we’re having problems getting fans to games. The increased speed of the game would get more fans in the seats.”


Eight states currently have a shot clock for high school basketball, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Massachusetts has a 30-second shot clock for boys and girls. Rhode Island’s is 35 seconds for boys and 30 seconds for girls.

Jay Johnson, the boys’ coach at Natick (Mass.) High and a former assistant coach at Lawrence High in Fairfield, said there’s more emphasis on offense with a shot clock.

“When I coached at Lawrence, we would spend more time working on defense,” said Johnson. “Here we spend far more time on offense. I absolutely love the shot clock. It brings a lot more strategy to the game. With a shot clock, you want to get into your set play right away.”

Natick finished 13-7 and won its league title before losing in its first game in the state tournament. The team averaged 61.5 points a game and its lowest total of the season was 45 points. As for attendance at home games, Johnson said: “We had huge crowds on Friday nights.”

“The traditionalists are probably against a shot clock, but for the rest of us, I don’t know how anyone could make a case for not having one,” said Johnson.

George Bent, the girls’ coach at Barnstable High on Cape Cod, said a stall is boring to watch.

“With a shot clock, it’s more of a fastbreaking game,” he said.


Ken Lindlof, the former Waterville boys’ coach and now a color commentator for Maine Public Broadcasting Network tournament games, cites several reasons for having a shot clock.

“It would create more possessions and keep delaying tactics at a minimum,” said Lindlof. “A shot clock would provide greater comeback opportunities and cut down on end-of-game fouling tactics. It would create a more fan-friendly game knowing that the offense has a certain time to score on each possession. It wouldn’t change the basic fabric of the game.”

Lindlof, however, isn’t hopeful a shot clock will happen anytime soon.

“The powers in Maine high school basketball are ultra conservative so this could be a long-term deal,” he said.


A year ago, the National Federation of State High School Associations voted down a proposal for a national shot clock. The majority of state associations, including the Maine Principals’ Association, follow national federation rules. A few states, like Massachusetts, reserve the right to make changes in various sports.

“We play sports under a variety of rules,” said Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. “We reserve the right to make exceptions. The shot clock is one of them. We’ve had a shot clock for as long as I can remember. It’s always been there.”

When state associations make rule changes on their own, they lose their representation on the national rules committee for that particular sport. Asked if that’s a concern for the MIAA, Wetzel said: “No, it’s not a big deal. It’s just the way it is.”

With the NFHS having voted down the latest attempt at a shot clock, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the topic will reappear.

“Each year that it comes up, the vote is closer,” said Jim Tenopir, chief operating officer for the NFAS. “The national federation hasn’t been committed to it. The approval isn’t there yet. The way school funding has been, there’s a reluctance to put in another expense.”


While there are those in Maine who feel the shot clock would improve the game, others are doubtful it would foster more scoring, create a faster pace and lure more fans.

“There doesn’t appear to be any unified push or interest in a shot clock in Maine,” said Dick Durost, executive director of the MPA. “It usually comes up once or twice a year during the tournament when a team may sit on the ball for a while and the defense doesn’t choose to come out and do their part and force the issue.

“One of the reasons certainly for not doing it would be the added expense of putting shot clocks in every gym (prices start at $2,000 each), training the people to operate them and then that’s one more person you would probably have to pay at the scorer’s table.”


Maine doesn’t have a shot clock, but it did for one game in 1956. It was used for the consolation final between Houlton and Rockland in the Eastern Maine Class LL tournament played in the new Bangor Auditorium. Peter Webb, the Maine Basketball Commissioner, played for Houlton.

“They brought in shot clocks from the Boston Garden and put them on the floor at each end,” said Webb.

“It was a 24-second clock and it never went off.”

Webb can’t recall why they were used for the game.

“I’ve often wondered about it,” he said.

So there is precedence for a shot clock in Maine after all.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

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Twitter: TomChardPPH