Jason’s Blog: Blame Shakopee
Posted By: Jason Iacovino
Let's make one thing perfectly clear about the craziness that happened at Target Center on Thursday night involving Hopkins and Shakopee--this time, you can't blame Ken Novak, Jr.
The head coach of the New York Yankees of Minnesota basketball has often been the target of ire among rank-and-file basketball people throughout the state for various tactics and, frankly, for convincing the best talent to make the Hopkins school district their home.
I went to bed thinking that Novak pulled another one over us, this time using the Minnesota State High School League as his prey, when he curiously ordered a stall for the last 3 min of regulation and throughout most of 4 overtimes against Shakopee's 2-3 zone in the State AAAA semifinals. 'This is poor gamesmanship', I thought. He's taking advantage of a bad rule.
Wrong. Novak was doing what any smart coach should do in this situation. If you're looking for an antagonist in this situation, look at the other side, or point to the MSHSL league itself for failing to implement a shot clock.
Look, we can debate the shot clock rule until we're blue in the face (I think there really is no debate since the great majority of basketball people clearly favor the shot clock, it's used at every other level, and the only reason we don't have it in high school is due to expense). But the fact is Shakopee coach Bruce Kugath knew no one was going to get frustrated enough to turn those Target Center shot clocks on during the awkwardness of those long stretches where Hopkins point guard Kamali Chambers held the ball as we all watched the clock tick.
He knew what the rule was, but he chose to sit back in a zone instead. So I ask--what would you do? The other team is willing to allow you and you alone to have a shot at the end--either make it or we go to another overtime. That's the very, very likely outcome from this stall and eventually Hopkins is going to make a shot at the end and the chances that there will be enough time for the Sabres to respond are miniscule.
Of course, what ended up happening was truly bizarre. The Royals turned the ball over with 9 seconds to go--a risk they take by holding for one shot, but a low risk. Then they get it back with 2 seconds left when Shakopee turns it over on the other end....timeout Hopkins. Then, Amir Coffey nails a 50-foot shot at the buzzer to put him on Sportscenter.
Crazy? Yes. A reason to hate Hopkins? No.
Let's pretend Coffey doesn't make that shot--what happens? Hopkins wins the tap of the 5th overtime, takes 3 minutes and 50 seconds off the clock again, takes the final (realistic) shot, either makes it, or we go to OT number 6.
This seems like a pretty good deal for the Royals, does it not? And guess what--they are getting this good deal because Shakopee is giving it to them! If Shakopee comes out of their zone, Hopkins would not play keep away and risk a turnover...they would play the game out straight up, and the chances are good they win in this scenario, too, because they are the better man-to-man team.
But at least there would be a fight involved. By holding back in zone, Shakopee basically sealed their own fate. Heck, I'm shocked it took Hopkins 4 overtimes to make a game winner.
So what's the end game here? For all the silly changes the MSHSL makes year in, year out, they will now finally make one that is a no-brainer. The shot clock is coming. Yes, there will be expense--the initial expense of buying the equipment and the nightly expense of finding a person to run the shot clock on game night. It will happen though. And it should.
American basketball is played with a shot clock in 2014. The MSHSL wouldn't dream of not having a 3-point line. There's no reason not to adapt to the fundamental reality of a game with a shot clock, either. A good chuck of those Royals are using Hopkins to prepare for the next level--and there's no stalling in college. Why would they want a stall to be possible in high school? Why would anyone?
Ken Novak, Jr., did absolutely what he should have on Thursday. In fact, in a lot of ways, it was genius.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.