This, dear basketball lovers, is why the NBA has had a shot clock for 59 years. During a Michigan Class C tournament game last night, Muskegon Heights pooped all over the spirit of the game by holding the ball for almost an entire quarter. The crowd booed, the other team was confused, and it didn't particularly work.
Muskegon Heights did win their game, 58-44 over Galesburg-Augusta, but not because of that abortion of a second quarter. They won because they're a better basketball team, which makes their stalling tactics all the more inexplicable.
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, but Galesburg-Augusta cut the score to 21-18 with a layup on their first and last possession of the second quarter. With the clock reading about 7:30 (quarters are eight minutes long), Muskegon Heights held the ball. And held it some more. Two Tigers guards stood at half-court, occasionally passing the ball to each other, for more than seven minutes. Finally, with 20 seconds left on the clock, they ran a play: a three-pointer that clanged off the rim.
Thing went back to normal in the second half, and Muskegon Heights—normally an up-tempo team—ran away with the game. So why bother shortening the game? Tigers coach Dell Stewart tried to explain, but didn't do a very good job:
G-A's vocal student section didn't take kindly to the stall tactic, screaming and chanting to get the game moving again. The rest of the crowd seemed just as perplexed, but Stewart said the idea came from something the Rams did in the first quarter.
"They showed they were willing to pull the ball out (and stall) if they got any kind of lead," Stewart said. G-A killed about 45 seconds while up by three midway through the first.
"We saw their talent offensively, and we decided to hold the ball if they stayed in their zone defense, which was hurting us. We might have attacked if they came out at us (in a man-to-man)."
"I felt that we were close enough that we didn't need to come out and force them to move the ball," said G-A coach Tim Born, who admitted to being puzzled that high-scoring Muskegon Heights would try to shorten the game.
Muskegon Heights still has four potential tournament games to go, so this better have been a tactic to keep them rested. Otherwise it belongs before a war crimes tribunal.
Photo courtesy of MLive's Matt Gajtka