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Morgan Sharps, who specializes in nailing three-point shots for the 25-1 Newark girls basketball team and devotes a great amount of the offseason perfecting her art, was rendered speechless upon learning that in the not too distant past there was no 19 foot, 9 inch arc.
"I can't even imagine that," said the 5-foot-9 junior guard, who has made 95 three-pointers at a near 50-percent clip this season and has committed to play at Miami University.
Sharps is not alone. Some area coaches weren't even born when the National Federation of State High School Associations 30 years ago instituted the three-point goal to align with the college game, which made the transition a year earlier.
"The three-point shot really revolutionized and transformed the game throughout the world," former Worthington Christian boys coach Ray Slagle said. "Can you imagine how horribly boring basketball would be without it? I'm sure the younger generation can't even conceive the idea of a game without the arc."
Slagle coached at American Heritage College in Orange, California, when the rule initially went into effect, and he discovered the immense impact it had. When he came to Worthington Christian in 1990, he went all-in on developing a system based on spreading out defenses with a fast-break style featuring a barrage of three-point shots.
His teams won five Division IV district titles and made the state tournament three times, winning the championship in 1999, during his 10 years there. His successor and former point guard, Kevin Weakley, also had success with the three-ball.
"Coaches have to look at the big picture and figure out how you win games with the people you have," Slagle said. "Very few small-school teams have one player who can dominate the game under the basket. Shooting is a skill kids can work on and develop in their free time. It took us three years or so to get our system put in, and by that time the parents had figured out how to build contraptions in their backyards and driveways to get the most shots for their kids."
According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association record book, Worthington Christian owns five of the top 14 team marks for threes made in a season. The Warriors made 292 in 1996-97 and 287 in 1999-2000. They hit 19 in a game four times. St. Henry holds the record with 25 in 1999-2000.
"We scored a lot of points during my time there and it was the most fun I had in 43 years of coaching," said Slagle, who is retired and officiating part-time in the Orlando, Florida, area.
Dave Butcher, who has spent 35 seasons as girls coach at the original Pickerington High School and now Pickerington North, said the introduction of the three-point shot shook the game to its core.
"Not only has it sped the game up, but it has made the game so much more analytical in the way you attack people and try to defend the perimeter," said Butcher, who at 748-145 is the second-winningest girls coach in Ohio history.
"We used to rely heavily on post play and post moves, but the three-pointer has brought a lot of dribble-drive and dish, and pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop to the fore. Now, a lot of your (power forwards) are stepping out further on the floor and they're shooting threes as well. In theory, it frees up the inside game if your team is disciplined enough to take advantage of it."
Some coaches tend to be authoritarian by nature and are not thrilled with the idea of giving players the green light to shoot threes. That remains one of the obstacles of a shot clock being added to the high school game.
"I'm a bit of purist, and although we've had a decent amount of success shooting threes, we really don't coach kids to specialize in that," said Tim Casey, who has spent the past 17 of his 33 years coaching Upper Arlington's boys.
"No doubt, the three has changed defensive philosophies in a big way. You have to extend your pressure and account for certain kids. The three has carved out a spot for a specialist, a kid who maybe isn't quite as athletic but works to do one thing very well. It has maybe given a less-talented team a fighting chance to get hot and catch up from a 10- or 15-point deficit in a hurry."
Joe Lang, Ready girls coach for the past 37 years, has seen an evolution of sorts with the three-pointer.
"When it first came in, especially with the girls, the three wasn't a big factor because the kids just weren't very good at it and they didn't understand when you should pull the trigger," Lang said. "In time, they realized that the way you get off quality shots is to penetrate to the basket and dish back to the perimeter. Girls are much better shooters when they get their feet set.
"Also, I think the three has put a lot more pressure on defenses, and maybe even more importantly, sent the message to kids that you had better get down in your stance because almost everybody has got two or three girls who can drive past you or spot it up and shoot it at the blink of an eye."
Now in his 43rd year of coaching (eight with girls), New Albany boys coach Sam Davis conceded that the three-point shot has altered his mindset considerably.
"I didn't care for it much at first, but I've come to realize that the three-point shot has enabled a team like ours, with limited ability, to at least compete with and possibly beat a more-talented team," Davis said. "It's a high-percentage option and a real weapon when you're doing it in an organized situation and can make 35 or 40 percent.
"The big man is being de-emphasized, even at the NBA level. People are running their offense around the three-point line. Now, you look for a bigger kid who can step out on the perimeter and cause matchup problems. Kids who are 6-4 and 6-5 don't camp out with their backs to the basket anymore, and I'm sure they realize they aren't going to play the post in college at that height."
Players such as Highland's JT Hoying, who made 122 three-pointers in 1998 (including a state-record 16 in a game), Bryan Gandee of Westland (1987-91) and Tyler Joseph of Worthington Christian (2004-08) made names for themselves behind the arc. Joseph is now the front man in the nationally reknowned pop-rock band Twenty One Pilots.
Guard Jay Burson, who scored 2,958 points at New Concord John Glenn High School from 1981-85 (third on the Ohio career list), wonders how his game might have changed -- and how many more points he might have scored -- had a three-point line been in place. He hit 66 of 162 (40.7 percent) of his three-point shots during his Ohio State career.
"My dad always taught me growing up that the way to score was to try to attack the basket," said Burson, who now works for a company that manufactures permanent and portable basketball flooring.
"The game certainly has changed enormously since then. It's amazing how well players can sling it up from the outside now. Back in my day, the slam dunk was the big thing. Now it's the three-pointer."
The two players ahead of Burson on Ohio's all-time scoring list are Jon Diebler of Fostoria and Upper Sandusky (2003-07) and Luke Kennard of Franklin (2011-15), both of the three-point era.
Although Diebler was late in developing into a three-point specialist, he holds Ohio State records in threes made (374) and attempted (900), and is second in percentage (41.6). Kennard, a former Duke standout who now is a rookie with the Detroit Pistons, made 263 threes in high school.
"If you look at the top of that list, I probably took more shots in the lane than those guys," joked Burson, who was 6 feet and 155 pounds. "If the three-pointer had been around when I was a kid, it's hard to say how my career might have gone."
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(1) Morgan Sharps of Newark fires a shot over Bre Hampton-Bey of Toledo Notre Dame Academy during last year's state tournament. Sharps, a three-point sharpshooter, says she can't imagine basketball without the arc. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]
(2) Dapreis Owens of Dublin Scioto shoots from beyond the arc as Jack Pugh of Hilliard Bradley defends. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch photos]
(3) Isaiah Speelman of Hilliard Bradley takes an open three-pointer against Dublin Scioto earlier this season. Coaches say the shot has made them rethink not only offense, but also defensive strategy.