The Chapel Hill High School girls basketball team hasn’t lost to an opponent from their classification since 2013, but they finally have run into something they find impossible to defeat.
Specifically, the running the clock mandated by the N.C. High School Athletics Association’s “Mercy Rule.”
The rule mandates that any high school basketball game in which one team takes a lead of 40 points or more after halftime will then continue with a “running clock.” The clock keeps going constantly except for injuries or called time-outs.
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The similar rule in football kicks in for a 42-point margin after halftime. Likewise, baseball has long had a Mercy Rule, sometimes less elegantly called a “Slaughter Rule,” which ends games anytime after four-and-a-half innings when a team goes ahead by 10 runs.
Chapel Hill’s 63-12 win Wednesday night against the girls from Northern Vance went into hyper drive at the 6:20 mark of the third quarter, as soon as Tamia Eatmon sank two free throws to put Chapel Hill ahead 48-7.
Eatmon and Autumn West each finished with 10 points, while Raziyah Farrington, hitting 8-of-10 shots from the field, led the game stats with 20 points and seven rebounds.
The outcome was never in doubt. Chapel Hill led 40-7 at halftime and held Northern Vance without a point in the second half until the final 1:11 of play.
It could have been worse.
In 2013, Chapel Hill scored a team-record 101 points while downing Northern Vance. In 2014, Eatmon recorded the team’s first triple double when she hit 8-of-8 shots from the field and scored 16 points to go with 13 steals and 10 assists in Chapel Hill’s 100-17 victory at Northern Vance — the CHHS program’s record for margin of victory.
The NCHSAA’s rule succeeded Wednesday in narrowing Chapel Hill’s margin of victory and shortened the amount of time the Vikings had to endure on the court.
Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris is not sure that’s necessarily a good thing.
“I hate to see us get that 40-point lead,” Norris said, “because that running clock reduces the girls’ playing time on the court.”
Wednesday’s win marked the fourth time in seven conference games that Chapel Hill finished with the clocking running.
Norris substituted freely Wednesday, but by the third period the substitutions came at a frantic pace as Chapel Hill worked hard to maximize court time for the reserves. At one point, the Tigers called time-out just so they could bring in five new players for more precious experience.
The mercy rule is a good thing, preventing such debacles as the 161-2 whipping a California high school coach applied this season to a hapless opponent.
But it comes at a price. Players from now on will be getting less game experience, regardless of upon which side they play.