Let me say from the outset that I don't agree the two teams shouldn't have played. Sports teaches important life lessons. One of those life lessons is that your opponent will often be bigger, stronger, and more talented. Sports teaches you to accept those challenges and learn from them, even in lopsided defeats.
I also despise so-called "mercy rules" in sports. Life doesn't have mercy rules. Teaching kids to compete all the way through the end, even when the cause is hopeless, is part of life. Further, being "mercy ruled" is a bigger insult than losing by a large margin. You don't save face by having the game artificially called because your team is too far behind.
This column though focuses on sportsmanship. Simply laying down and trying not to score is considered a grievous insult to the losing side. You are not supposed to do that. But there are certain unwritten rules of sportsmanship athletes are expected to follow when they are in a fortunate position of blowing out an opponent. These sportsmanship rules, which limit blowouts, are well known to most athletes...or at least I thought they were.
FOOTBALL: The team that is ahead takes out its starters. They are to not to attempt passing plays, especially those down the field. They utilize running plays and try to run down as much of the play clock as they can when they have it. They don't pass up field goals and touchdowns, and they continue to try to get first downs, but they only do so in the context of a simple straight-forward defense. On defense, the superior team is certainly not to blitz.
BASEBALL: The winning team doesn't try to stop getting runs or stop trying to get the other team out, which would be considered an insult to the inferior team. The superior team's players, however do not take the extra base and they do not steal. As with all sports, the superior team is supposed to put their weakest players in the game.
BASKETBALL: The superior team is supposed to stop running and play half court offense, with the shot clock winding down before taking a shot. On defense, they are not to press but instead fall back into a relaxed defense such as loose zone that at the very least would let the inferior team have reasonably open outside shots.You can often look at box scores of games and see whether these unwritten sportsmanship rules were followed in lopsided games. Unfortunately my attempt to find statistics from the Bloomington South-Arlington game proved unsuccessful. The only thing I learned of signficance was that Arlington's two points came on free throws, one in the second quarter and one in the third. I don't know how many field goals were attempted versus how many made, I don't know how many free throws were shot, I don't know how many steals there were or how many turnovers.
So unfortunately I don't know if Bloomington South was still running fast breaks against an outmatched opponent. I don't know if the team was taking quick shots and not running down the clock. I don't know if Bloomington South was pressing Arlington, which would show up as an unusually high number of turnovers and/or steals.
My guess, considering the 107-2 score, is that Bloomington South had to be violating the unwritten sportsmanship rules. A girl's high school basketball game is only 32 minutes or 1,920 seconds long. With a 35 second shot clock, that is a minimum of 55 shots. At two points a basket (assuming no three pointers), that is 110 points. That very generous analysis assumes Bloomington South had the ball 100% of the time and hit every one of the shots it took, which obviously didn't happen.
Bloomington South simply couldn't have gotten to 107 points without running against an overmatched team and pressuring Arlington's offense into turnovers, long after it was clear Bloomington South would easily triumph. I don't see any other conclusion but that Bloomington South's coach displayed bad sportsmanship in having her players deliberately run up the score.
When I was ten years old, I personally witnessed another blow out. Madison High School, the school I would eventually attend, was playing Switzerland County in boy's basketball. Madison, the bigger school, usually dominated the smaller Switzerland County. Thiatyear was no exception. When the final buzzer sounded, Madison won 142-44.* How did we get to 142 points? Madison ran, threw full court passes, and constantly employed a full court press against an opponent that struggled to brig the ball up the court. For a young kid, it was a lot of fun looking for Madison blowing out its opponent by what I hoped would be 100 points. But now as an adult looking back, Madison displayed really poor sportsmanship that night and the lopsided victory was not something of which to be proud.
*The website Hickory Husker lists the 142 point game as tied for the third highest total in an Indiana high school basketball game. It fails, however, to list the 98 point margin of victory as one of the highest. I believe my memory on the margin in that Madison Switzerland County game is correct as I believe I saw the score reprinted in later years.
Note: If anyone can find the box score of the game, I'd love to see it.