Four-corners offense helps coffee sales, but ruins high school basketball games

Have you ever watched paint dry? Or how about a pot of water nearing a boil?

It’s scintillating stuff really, at least when compared to the torture that is watching a high school basketball team hold the ball.

I know it’s been a topic of conversation for a while in New Hampshire. But now it feels like it’s becoming a lot more common place for one team to just stop playing, whether its winning or losing, and just hold onto the ball – also known as a four-corners offense – if the opponent is playing a zone defense.

I’ve never considering running out on a court to take the ball away from a player during a game, but when the four-corners offense happens, I kind of want to. Considering the groans and heckles that usually come from the stands, I’m not the only one.

It happened again Tuesday night in Sunapee’s 43-28 win over Newmarket. Yes, that was the final score of a high school boys basketball game. And it feels like, with the exception of a few teams, that’s a preferred final score.

Sunapee is a team that averages 75 points per game. Four times, the Lakers have scored in the 90s and two more times in the 80s.

But with Sunapee leading 38-23 late in the third quarter last night, the Lakers decided to stop playing and force Newmarket to come out of its zone. They did this for better than four minutes.

“During one of the time outs, coach (Ed Tenney) asked us what we wanted to do,” Sunapee sophomore Isaiah Chappell said to “As a team, we decided to hold the ball if they didn’t come out of the zone.”

I’m not questioning Tenney’s coaching decision. He was trying to get his team a win and the best way to do that was either kill time or force Newmarket to play man-to-man.

What I don’t understand is why it took Newmarket so long to come out of its zone. Shortening the game was to the Mules’ favor, but were they really going to erase a 15-point deficit by letting almost a half a quarter tick off the clock?

What I understand even less is when a team that is losing decides to hold the ball. The whole point of athletic competitions – whether you’re scoring runs, points, goals, whatever – is to finish with a better score than the other team. Holding the basketball and wasting time doesn’t do that.

And what does it teach the players? If you’re stalling when you’re down, why not just walk off the court and not finish the game?

And what does it do for the fans? I realize it’s high school sports, but when the people in the stands paid to see the game, it becomes a form of entertainment. There is nothing entertaining about watching 10 kids stand around doing nothing for a few minutes.

What’s maddening about all of this is that there is a simple fix – a shot clock. There are eight states that use a 30- or 35-second shot clock, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.

The biggest hurdle in doing so is money – how much will it cost to install the clock in every gym in the state, and how much will it cost to have an extra person operating it.

The second concern doesn’t seem to be avoidable. It would be too much to ask of someone to operate the shot clock and do something else, but why does the shot clock have to be on display? There is no play clock displayed at high school football games, but teams know they’ve only got a certain amount of time to run a play.

It’s time to put an end to the four-corners offense, preferably before the paint dries and the water boils.

Joe Marchilena can be reached at 594-6478 or Also, follow Marchilena on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeM).