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IHSAA institutes mercy rule for upcoming basketball season

Indiana High School basketball will have a mercy rule in place when the girls basketball season starts in November.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Executive Committee recently approved the new mercy rule that will keep the clock running, with certain exceptions, when the winning team takes a 35-point lead in the second half of games.

The rule will be in effect for all levels of play and in the IHSAA State Tournament except for state championship games.

Once the running clock starts, it will run continuously except for the following situations: An official’s timeout for an injured player; a charged (team) timeout occurs; intermission between the third and fourth quarters; any time a foul is called that results in free throws; and any time officials determine it is necessary for safety reasons.

“I think it will affect girls basketball games more than boys basketball games,” said Triton Central athletic director and girls basketball coach Bryan Graham.

Graham believes there is a greater difference between top girls basketball programs and those that struggle than top boys team and weaker opponents.

“Overall, I don’t think that coaches will change how they play,” said Graham, 262-55 in 13 seasons with Triton Central.

Graham’s Tigers have been consistently ranked in the top 10 of Class 2A for several seasons. They played six games last season where the final margin of victory was more than 35 points.

“There are definitely pros and cons to it,” said Shelbyville boys basketball coach John Hartnett Jr. “For me, we don’t really play teams on our schedule that let it get out of hand like that. Last year, we were down 30 (points) to Mt. Vernon.”

Despite the large deficit, Shelbyville continued to battle against a strong conference opponent.

“It allowed us in the second half to chip away when they put guys in from the bench,” he said, “or that allows you to get your bench guys in or your program guys in.”

Hartnett Jr. is 10-22 at Shelbyville with his third season beginning in less than a month.

“I know there are some coaches that like to run that score up so this will help them not do that,” he said.

Southwestern athletic director and boys basketball coach Brady Days sees the mercy rule ending the discussion of the need for a shot clock in Indiana games.

Days also agrees with Graham and Hartnett Jr. that obtaining a 35-point lead in a game is difficult to accomplish.

“I’ve coached many years and I don’t come across that very often,” said Days, who is 144-190 in 15 seasons at Southwestern. “I feel it doesn’t have much effect on our program. And if it does affect us, I hope we are on the good side.”