High School Sports


'It's improved the game': Players, coaches say shot clock implementation has had positive effect in first year

Posted at 11:26 PM, Feb 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 01:26:01-05

(Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series about the impact of the shot clock on Montana high school basketball.)

KALISPELL — Last year the Montana High School Association voted to implement shot clocks for high school basketball at all levels. Players, coaches, and athletic directors from the Flathead Valley shared their thoughts with MTN Sports on how it’s affected the game so far this season.

"It’s been awesome, I love having the shot clock," said Kalispell Glacier senior Ty Olson. "We’re re not playing defense for a minute. We get one stop, 35 seconds, then we’re ready to go down on offense."

It isn’t just current players that have felt the impact, as former players have taken notice as well.

"I’ve had several of my friends that graduated last year come watch our games and they say it’s so much better with the shot clock," said Olson. "The game just seems so much faster and I agree, I think it’s a lot better."

Olson’s coach, Mark Harkins, who has been at Glacier since it opened and has coached basketball in Montana for 22 years, also expressed gratitude for the impact the shot clock has had.

"I love how it’s changed the end of games — you don’t have to foul, you’re down two, there’s a minute to go at least and you can play it out," said Harkins. "And I just really like that strategy, I think it’s improved the game."

Even though he’s grateful for the change he acknowledges it didn’t come without a learning curve.

"Actually we had to when we first started going, slow them down a little bit because they said, ‘oh no there’s a shot clock,’ and so you know we were shooting really early," said Harkins. "And so learning that 35 seconds is a really long time and that you don’t have to shoot really early in the clock."

Kalispell Flathead athletic director Bryce Wilson also acknowledged the adjustments that he’s seeing his coaches and players make.

"I think right now we’re (still) learning," said Wilson. "I think that you’ll see the quality of the game continually get better as we get used to it year after year."

One primary cause for opposition to the shot clocks implementation was the cost, but Wilson has seen that resolved well all across the state.

"I’ve heard that story time and time again throughout the state of Montana, local businesses have stepped up and purchased clocks for the schools," said Wilson.

Cary Finberg, who’s been a head coach at Columbia Falls for over 30 years, has also been pleased with the change.

"Teams aren’t going to be able to hold it for four, five, six minutes, or even two, three minutes for that matter," said Finberg. "And it picks up the tempo and (is) probably a little better watch for the fans."

And when it comes to how he sees it affecting play for the foreseeable future, Finberg isn’t too concerned.

"When I played in high school there was no 3-point-line. That came in a few years later, so kids needed to adjust to that, and now it’s just kind of second nature." said Finberg. "And I think in a few years the shot clock will be the same."

One of Finberg’s players, Hope McAtte, has been most grateful for the way it has changed playing defense.

"Our coaches talk to us a lot about like, ‘Just play 35 seconds of good defense and then it’s our ball,’ said McAtte. "Whereas last year it was like you could play good defense for an entire game, I mean really there was nothing stopping it."

While the defensive changes have made it easier on players in McAtte’s eyes, she does admit the offensive adaptations have been a bit challenging.

"At the same time it does get sloppy when you’re rushing, but again 35 seconds is like a lot longer than you think it would be," said McAtte. "So when you’re swinging it around, you end up having as much time as you need."

Whitefish athletic director Aric Harris has also recognized the positive impact.

"It’s made the games a lot more fun, we’ve definitely noticed that," said Harris. "More fast paced, you don’t see the stalling that occurs late in the halves where teams just try to play keep away."

Although he was opposed to the implementation due to the cost at first, Harris has had his mind changed after seeing the effects.

"That’s why initially I think I was against it," said Harris. "But having seen its implementation and the change in the game, especially at the end of the half, I think it’s been a great addition for Montana high schools."

While adjustments are still being made, the first year of the shot clock in Montana high school is looking like a success in the eyes of those directly involved, and only time will tell if it continues to be that way.