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High School Basketball Game Length: What You Should Know

From a parent’s point of view, it’s one of the happiest experiences you will have when you see your children playing high school sports.

Of course, one of the most popular sports to choose in high school is basketball, so it’s likely that this could be your child’s sport.

High School Basketball Game Length: What You Should Know

If your child does choose basketball, then it means you have a couple of years where you can get involved in all of the fun, watching their games and cheering them on to victory! 

But if you were never into basketball, you might not know how long a high school basketball game would last. You might be worried about how much time you need to dedicate to their extracurricular athletic activities! 

Well, in general it lasts between 75 to 90 minutes , but there’s a lot of factors to account for here. So we’ve written this handy guide that explains everything you need to know about high school basketball and how long it will last.

Ready to find out more? Then read on and have everything you need answered.

High School Basketball

Typically speaking, a high school basketball game for girls or boys will last between 75 minutes and 90 minutes – but if you’re wondering about how much time you might need to allocate for the game, this isn’t quite right.

There is also a 30 minute warm up for the pregame and then there’s often talks or cheer events, so really you need to allocate about 2 hours for every single game. 

Time Breakdown

High school basketball games are broken down into 4 quarters. Every quarter lasts for 8 minutes, and between this there is a 10 minute half time break.

Sometimes, there are also 1 or 2 short breaks between the quarters, so it’s about a 20 minute half.

But it’s not just regular playtime that you need to think about. You also have to factor in overtime, and that period lasts 4 minutes.

Additionally, there’s the timeout periods, where each team can ask for up to 5 mini stoppages in play. 

2 of these are 30 seconds long and the other 3 are 60 seconds long. On top of that, you need to also factor in free throws and fouls which both add to the overall time.

If you are watching a very close and intense game, you could see the game going on much longer.

Mercy Rule 

Another factor we must speak about is the mercy rule, which can also play a role in the length of time the game can go on for.

If a team is beating the opposition by more than 30 points, this rule can be requested and it makes the clock continue to run.

When this happens, it is only injuries and timeouts that make the clock stop.

This rule exists to get the game over quicker than usual, more often than not this is to avoid a huge embarrassment or waste of time to a clear and obvious incoming defeat.

That being said, if the lead is reduced to 20 points, then the mercy rule can be waived and the usual play is put back into place. 

High School V NBA 

You may have spotted (if you are a fan of the NBA) that the times we have given for each period is shorter than it should be.

The reason for this is because high school basketball players are young and might not be able to withstand the physical demands.

On top of this, it’s quite common for high school basketball teams to be struggling for players and can only field the bare minimum. Therefore, if there are not enough substitutes, there is a risk of exhaustion and injury. 

It’s worth noting that the regulator for these times is The National Federation Of High School Associations (NFHS), and they generally review the game every year to ensure that safety is paramount and the game remains fun and competitive for all.

What Is The Pre-Game Warm Up? 

We mentioned earlier that there is a 30 minute pre-game warm up period before the game. If you are not sure what that is, it’s worth us explaining it more closely. 

Essentially, it’s a way to get the players ready for the game ahead. The players will undergo drills such as shooting, dribbling and defense, along with stretching and discussing the coach’s tactics for the game.

When the players are doing this, the warm up period is a chance for the coaches to meet one another and speak with the game officials.

Everybody has to be on the same page, and the officials will check if every player is wearing the correct kit, check for hazards etc.

There are quite a few hazards that the officials need to be aware of. Notably, they will be looking for braces, jewelry, injuries (such as casts), safety equipment and how well the court is. 

The rulebook, written by the NFHS, tells players how they should have their hair, explains what to do with eyewear and what shoes they should wear for the game.

Officials will know the rules and can request a player change their uniform if necessary.

High School Basketball Game Length: What You Should Know

What Are The Differences Between High School Basketball And The NBA?

We briefly mentioned some differences earlier, but it’s worth us diving into this more closely. It’s not just the length of the games that is different, but also some other rules. 

Illegal Contact

High School does not want to see rough play in their sports, but sometimes it is difficult to avoid.

Nonetheless, the NFHS tell the officials to keep an eye out for players putting their hands on each other for long periods of time.

They also must watch out for pushing, attacking, kneeing, tripping or using an extended arm bar.

The officials must stamp this out by addressing it right away – otherwise teams will continue to employ dirty tactics and it will continue to happen.

Jump Ball

When the game begins, the official will throw the ball in the air and it is up to one player for each team to try to tip it to their half.

It’s common for this to be repeated if there is an early movement or a different interruption.

While this is the same for the NBA, high school basketball demands that a re-throw has to be with the same 2 players, whereas the NBA can choose a brand new player if they wish to.

Technical Fouls 

After 2 technical fouls, players are removed from the court – and this is the case in both the NBA and high school basketball, as the officials deem it to be deliberate and intentional.

However, NBA players are fined financially for any technical fouls committed. 

What Is The Etiquette At A High School Basketball Game?

Ideally a high school basketball game is a place where you can cheer on your kids and come together as a small community. Unfortunately, it’s common for some “fans” to be rowdy and ruin it for everybody.

In fact, a report by the NFHS said that it’s common for poor behavior to come from parents, and some officials have even been hit with bottles and other items from the crowd. 

Needless to say, this is not the etiquette that is expected of parents or other fans in the crowd. First and foremost, you need to be respectful of the players on both teams.

Additionally, you will want to be aware of your volume when you are cheering.

It’s always advised to arrive on time and try not to bring outside food and drink with you.

We should also point out that if any parents are found to be being disruptive or aggressive, or throwing things onto the court, they will be escorted out of the high school.

While every parent wants to be on their child’s side when it comes to competitive sports, you should never boo the opposition or shout things out to the officials.

Be respectful of everybody involved in the game and you’ll be fine. 

As it happens, the rule book has tried to keep up with schools, and they try to get the high schools to educate both players and parents in how they should behave at every home and away game. 

Remember, you are technically representing your child, and they are representing the high school, so anything that is untoward will reflect on the high school overall! 

Different High Schools, Different Rules 

While the rules of the game and the etiquette will remain the same for every high school, different schools might have their own rules on things like food and drink, parking your car etc. 

We advise you to contact the school or the coach before you attend an away game to confirm any questions you have. 

The Bottom Line 

And that was everything you needed to know about high school basketball and its length of play! We hope you have enjoyed our guide and you’re ready to spend a couple of hours watching your kids at basketball!

Now, take a look at some great ideas for field day here.

Simon Lewis

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