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Good for the game, bad for the wallet: high school shot clock addition struggles

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 26, 2022

HELENA — At the Montana High School Association annual meeting, high school athletic directors agreed to implement shot clocks in boys and girls basketball. But for some smaller Montana high schools, funding shot clocks may not be an easy task.

Though the proposal was popular, John O'Dell, the activities and athletics director at Townsend, voted against it.

“We’ve had a hard time in these COVID years, finding workers and we’re concerned about finding one more worker per game. We have two gyms so that’s a minimum of $20,000 to install the shot clock in both gyms,” he said.

Similar to Townsend, Jefferson High School will have a hefty bill to pay as their shot clock installations can cost them up to $50,000. Since their scoreboards are older, their systems will need to be replaced completely.

Helena Public Schools activities director Tim McMahon has four gyms he needs to worry about: the Helena Capital and Helena High gyms, as well as Central and Jim Darcy Elementary, where freshman games are frequently held.

The question that remains for these schools is how they plan to get the money to fund these shot clocks. Currently, none of the schools seem to have a clear answer. Ideas have been mentioned like getting sponsors, or having a fundraiser. Dan Sturdevant, Jefferson High School facilities and athletics director, says some schools want an extension on getting the shot clocks installed.

“A few schools have asked to put it off for another year. I know the high school association is going to look at that. They may give a school a waiver if they can’t get it done. But right now it stands that it’ll go into effect next season,” he said.

But not all the schools are concerned. Over at East Helena High School, athletic director Shaun Murgel says the cost of the shot clock will simply come out of their general funds.

Though many of the area’s athletic directors are concerned about the funding, most think the shot clock will be a positive addition to the game of high school basketball, saying that it will be a new and welcomed challenge for their coaches and players.

Townsend boys basketball coach Clint Watson says it will help evenly matched teams out-coach each other to win. He also says fans can expect more possessions per game, adding that the addition of the shot clock is “mostly an advantage to the fans.”

Helena‘s Tim McMahon has looked into some of the research done on the addition of shot clocks in high school basketball, and says we shouldn’t expect much of a difference.

“Studies that have been done state that the final scoring didn’t change much. In most cases it was a point or two. What changes is the strategy. Teams with good defenses, the shot clock helps them a bit, because somebody has to put a shot up. I don’t foresee a change in the scoring, but maybe in the strategy of the game, more for the Xs and Os.”

Montana high school basketball fans can see for themselves what a difference the shot clock makes come the 2022-23 season.