By Kurt Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great appreciation for athletes who do things well. The performance by the American Fork boys basketball team at the free throw line Friday night in its win over Lone Peak was amazing to behold.
The Cavemen shot 27 free throws and made 25 of them. That’s impressive shooting in any situation, let alone in a hard-fought rivalry game. Interestingly, Lone Peak also connected 25 times from the charity stripe in the game, but the Knights shot 10 more free throws than American Fork.
In the end, their high percentage of makes was crucial in helping the Cavemen overcome the 19 offensive rebounds collected by Lone Peak that night, which allowed the Knights to also attempt 13 more shots from the floor than American Fork.
Fouls played a role in the game in another huge way as well. After American Fork big man Dallin Harley fouled out late in the first overtime period (with 19 points), the Knights lost an even bigger piece. Frank Jackson (34 points) tried to jump a pass right in front of the Caveman bench with 3:04 left in the second extra
session, making contact with Brayden Harris so that he was whistled for his fifth foul, leaving Lone Peak to play the balance of the game without its leader.
All of this, however, brings me back to an entirely different, and perhaps unexpected subject – the shot clock, or should I say the lack of a shot clock.
I have seen a number of overtime games over the past couple of weeks, and it seems all of them come with a familiar pattern – a dearth of shot attempts in the extra periods. Because there is no shot clock to push the tempo at all, overtime becomes a battle to see who can take the air out of the ball for two or three minutes before even looking at the basket.
Two overtimes between Lone Peak and American Fork delivered a total of three field goals, and not many more attempts than that. The result – one miss and a two-point deficit leaves a team with little alternative but to foul.
People mock soccer for the way it ends its games after long overtimes, but when this happens at the end of a basketball game, I wonder if we shouldn’t just line up the five guys on the court, have each one attempt and one-and-one and proclaim the team with the most makes the winner.
Credit to coaches for doing what they can in working with the rules that provide no shot clock. I believe evidence suggests it is not easy to possess the ball for 60, 90, 120 seconds without turning it over.
As a fan, I would rather see teams challenged to see what they can do to get a good shot in 30 seconds or even 35 seconds. Maybe fewer stars would foul out and fewer games would end in free throw shooting contests.
The three-man weave and four corners are nice, but imagine the exciting play we would see as teams go back and forth at each other all the way to the end.