SPORTSMANSHIP: Are HS Basketball Routs Inevitable?

It’s that time of the year when HS basketball games sometimes turn into lopsided affairs, and each year I wonder why coaches and refs allow this to happen.

I mean, if you’ve been around the sport of basketball, it doesn’t take a great deal of expertise to see when the score of a HS game is quickly becoming out of control.

The first notable one this season occurred in Montana, where a girls’ varsity team defeated another school by the score of 102-to-zero.

That’s right. It was a total shutout.

Final score: Froid Medicine Lake HS 102….Brockton HS 0.

The backstory is that the losing team had a number of its starters who were ill and couldn’t play in the game. In fact, as the game began, Brockton was down to only 5 healthy kids – an eighth-grader, three freshman and a soph – and the tallest of them was 5-7. And then, early in the second half, one of their girls suffered a knee injury and couldn’t continue and so they played the rest of the game with only four girls.

In contrast, the winning team was at full strength, and had three starters who were at least 6 feet tall.

At the half, it was 59-0.

Yes, they had a running clock in the second half, but remember, it was five against four. Four girls who were inexperienced, shorter, and outmatched. I don’t know if the winning team tried to slow the game down, although I tend to doubt it if they scored 102 points. You gotta hustle to score that many points in a HS tilt.


You would have thought that perhaps the two opposing coaches and refs would have met at half-time and discussed what to do in the second half to prevent this kind of lopsided event. Here are some things they might have considered:

0 Maybe just declare the game a win for the winning team, and play the second half as a kind of scrimmage.

0 Imagine how the victorious coach would have felt if one of his top players had been injured in this game. That is, suppose a girl had injured her ACL and was lost for the rest of the season — and got hurt where her team was up by 70 or 80 points?

0 Or, since the losing team played with only four girls for most of the second half, how about if the winning team decided to play with only four as well?

0 Finally — and this seems like the reasonable and obvious solution — if so many of the kids on the losing team were sick, why not just reschedule the game for a later date? Who wants to play in a game that’s truly non-competitive?

Look, these kinds of things do happen. I don’t see any reason why coaches and refs can’t get together and – like true adults and educators – figure out a way to handle these kinds of potentially embarrassing situations.

Unfortunately, we’re still in the beginning of the HS basketball season, and invariably another one of these lopsided routs will happen again.

Coach, refs, and AD’s: I ask you – there has to be a better way to proactively prevent these kinds of games from taking place.