SPORTSMANSHIP: Here’s How to Stop Lopsided Scores in HS

Let me talk  — once again —  about lopsided scores in HS games. Like hazing, we just can’t seem to stop this trend. And I’m not sure why.

The most recent disgraceful  blowout was a HS girls semifinal playoff game in Cleveland where Gilmour Academy defeated Northeast Ohio Prep 108 to 1.

That’s right 108-1.

Every basketball season we hear and read about lopsided scores. They just never seem to go away. But why is that?

The truth is, the head coaches of both teams absolutely hate these kinds of games. The losing coach hates them for a variety of reasons, including the public humiliation of his or her squad. What does a coach say to a team that just lost by 50 or 70 points or more?

For the winning coach, he or she knows that such a lopsided affair is going to result in a lot of questions as to how they allowed the score to get out of hand, that the coach is seen as a discompassionate jerk who allowed his or her team to run up the score. Plus the coach runs the risk of so angering the losing team that a brawl or fisticuffs might ensue. And there’s always the worry of a player getting injured in what has become a meaningless romp.

It seems to me that EVERY coach should know, in advance, how to handle these kinds of games. That is, if it becomes clear early on that the game is going to be a rout, it’s essential to substitute liberally. Everybody knows that. But more than that, if by halftime the score is out of control, then the two coaches and the refs should meet and discuss either stopping the game there, or making sure that the clock runs all the time in the second half.

In some states, but not all, mercy rules allow the clock to run in the second half. In this game in Ohio, there was no such rule in place.


In this particular game, the score was 72-1 at the half, so it wasn’t as though the final outcome was at risk. They should have ended the game at that point.

Another approach would be for the refs to take control and tell the two coaches at the half that the game is over. Trust me, nobody is going to protest that kind of decision. Why take the risk of someone getting hurt? Besides, the kids who are playing don’t want this nonsensical game to continue either.


Yes, I suppose some could make a case that playing in such a lopsided affair builds character for the losing team, but I just don’t buy that. The kids realize early on that they’re getting routed, and they just move on. They’re not interested in playing.

What’s the bottom line?

Coaches and refs….if you ever find yourself in a HS game where the margin of winning is 30-40 points at the half AND  in your judgment, the margin is only going to get worse, step up and be an adult and get together with the coaches, the AD’s, and make a decision at half-time to either end the game, or at least run the clock in the second half.

To me, that’s just the right thing to do.


  • chris

    I’ve seen this type of thing in high school in my daughters sport. this is how coaches get his or her “inner circle” players all the points they need to break or set personal, school or state “milestone” records. it’s not going to stop. I’d bet there are coaches that when hearing of stories like this will turn up the heat even more in the next blowout.

    • Rick Wolff

      I’m quite sure that a few misguided coaches do exactly that, in order to allow kids to pump up their stats. It’s not only unsportsmanslike, but it’s just flat out wrong. Coach Wolff

  • ges1955

    High school games have 8 minute quarters, 32 minutes total. A good coach can see the imbalance in talent early enough to react to it. If you are the team with superior talent, you can immediately sub and use up the possession clock before shooting. If you rebound, use up some more clock instead up putting it back up for the basket. Basically, you limit your team’s possessions to the minimum. To get a score like that lopsided game, they had to be running and gunning. There are leagues that penalize teams for lopsided wins. If you get a couple of them, you may come in first place but you are out of the playoffs.

    • Rick Wolff

      I absolutely agree! And yes, I also agree that coaches that allow runaway scores should be in line for punishments, such as being disqualified for the playoffs. That may seem harsh and unfair to the kids, but it’s a good way of getting the point across. Coach Wolff