How Long Is a High School Basketball Game?

Written by: Chris Hungerford



Time to read 3 min

One of the most entertaining sporting events at the high school level is a basketball game. From the proximity of the spectators in the bleachers to the court, the pace of the entire event from warm-ups and gameplay, to the enthusiasm of the crowd makes a high school game a must. This is particularly the case if you have a family member participating in the game.

How long is a high school basketball game? The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) states that all high school games will be at least 32 minutes, divided into four, eight-minute quarters. There is a 10-minute halftime intermission, a couple minutes between the first and second quarters and third and fourth quarters. The length of actual time in the gym for the game is extended further if there is overtime (4 minutes), or time-outs (each team has three 60-second and two 30-second time-outs).

A high school game can go by more quickly if either team is ahead by 30 points at any time during play, due to what is commonly known as the “mercy rule”. In this case, the clock continues to run and only stops for a timeout or injured player. Should the trailing team cut the deficit to under 20, the clock will operate under normal rules.

Generally speaking, a high school game will run in the neighborhood for an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes. For those that want to enjoy the entire high school basketball experience, arrive around thirty minutes prior to schedule tip-off for pregame warmups. Also, many times the junior varsity game will be played prior to the varsity taking the floor, so arrive even early to catch some of that action.

How Long are Pro Basketball Games?

In comparison, the games at the high school level are significantly less time than NCAA, WNBA, NBA, and FIBA. The FIBA is generally considered the worldwide governing body in basketball. The top league in the world is acknowledged to be the NBA, which is played in four, 12-minute quarters for a total game time of 48 minutes. While some international competition also has 48-minute games, many use 10-minute quarters for a 40-minute contest. Breaks between quarters vary between two and three minutes between the first and second quarters and between the third and fourth quarters. Halftime intermission is generally 15 minutes.

How Long is a Collge Basketball Game?

At the collegiate level, governed by the NCAA, the games are 40 minutes long, similar to many international games. The difference is there is only one break, at the end of the 20-minute half. The break time is similar to that of the professional game, around 15 minutes. Women’s professional leagues also play 40-minute games, as do the collegiate games with the same time intermission between halves.

What Adds to the Length of Any Basketball Game?

If you factor in the total time that the clock is stopped, and intermissions, a game will end up taking at least two hours. Many times the clock appears to be at a standstill late in games with multiple clock stoppages due to fouls, free throws, and timeouts. Therefore, 2 hours and 30 minutes is more likely the total time for a game. Add in significant extra time if a 5-minute playoff or more is needed.

The types of warmups you are likely to see include partner passes, free throws, layup lines, free for all shootarounds, mid-range jumpers, and the zig-zag warmup.

With partner passes, players will practice overhead, bounce, chest, and wrap-around passes generally from about ten feet away from a teammate. Take note of the players shooting free throws, generally two each with a couple teammates practicing boxing out and rebounding.

The zig-zag warmup drill is excellent for practicing defensive maneuverability, as well as ball handling. It’s also fun to watch the players execute this quick, athletic-paced drill with one player handling the dribbling and one player maintaining defensive positioning.

Likely the oldest of the pregame drills and the first when stepping onto the court out of the locker room is the layup line. The team will separate into two lines, one around half-court and the other on the baseline. The player at half-court will drive and shoot the layup while a man underneath grabs the ball after the shot and passes to the next guy at half-court.

Players will also take part in the mid-range jumper and a general shoot-around from anywhere on the court as the final warmup prior to starting the game.

All told, the entire high school varsity basketball experience from warmups until the final horn sounds is around two hours. It’s worth every minute for the avid basketball fan.

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basketball game

basketball game

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