This weekend’s HSNCT will go down as one of the most dramatic quizbowl tournaments in history. In an excellent venue (Dallas’ Hilton Anatole), humid Texas weather set the stage for a sweat-inducing final two matches. In the semifinal, Detroit Catholic Central (MI), down 350-70 at halftime, rallied to tie the game going into the final question at 385 apiece, only to lose when a neg by Thomas Jefferson (VA) resulting from the moderator calling time was overturned after the game officials consulted. This was then followed up by a back-and-forth final in which an enthusiastic Hunter College High School (NY) triumphed in overtime to win. Watching these happen live was a roller coaster of emotion. Those of us that were there knew we were in the midst of history.
For the purposes of this PA-centered blog though, HSNCT was an even better experience as the event functioned as something of a coming-out party for Pennsylvania quizbowl on the national scale. Just about every one of our teams met or exceeded expectations. 6 of the 14 squads made the playoffs, and the others all fought hard and won at least three games apiece. Rather than going through team-by-team, we’ll do this by headline:
Manheim Township finishes their dominant season near the top: The boys from Lancaster put together quite the run, going 7-3 in the prelims, and following that through to finish tied for 13th place. In the 4th round of the playoffs, they had their crowning achievement match in a 340-225 victory over La Jolla, one of California’s best teams, securing their place in the top 20. This is the best Pennsylvania team has done at the HSNCT in five years and helped cement Manheim Township’s place as not only a local but a national power.
Henderson shocks the world with two playoff wins: In our preview, we didn’t think Henderson would quite make the playoffs. Not only did they do so, they came 10 points from beating Bergen Academies (NJ) to go 7-3, and then made the best of the loser’s bracket with two wins and a fairly close loss to Hickman (MO) to finish tied 34th. Clutch game-play, especially from Ashish Kumbhardare, let Henderson wow everyone. This senior heavy squad thrived under stress en route to a statement performance.
DuBois upsets State College: In a match read by Penn State’s own Victor Prieto, DuBois had the biggest win in program history by taking out their Central PA rival, State College A. Eli Kirk turned in a herculean round with 10 correct answers, upsetting a team that had had their number in the past. State College rallied to make the playoffs while DuBois came up just short at 5-5, but this had to have been a proud moment in a great tournament for them.
Cedar Crest, Winchester Thurston, and Great Valley get past the post: These three squads all made the playoffs with 6-4 records. Though they were all knocked out right away, this is still a major accomplishment worth applauding. Cedar Crest‘s conservative style didn’t hurt them as much as we thought, and their steady work netted them the program’s first HSNCT playoff bid. Winchester Thurston, at full strength for the first time just about all season, showed what they could do and firmed up their claim as the pride of Pittsburgh this year. This was Great Valley‘s first national, and they did quite well but had a tough first-round match with defending champions Arcadia A in the playoffs.
New Teams do PA proud: Friends Select had never played a tournament before December. Their A team went 5-5 (and along with Great Valley had the most powers in the prelims of all PA teams at 31), and their B team, the two-man core of next year’s squad, ended up 4-6. Huntingdon had only played one regular difficulty event before last weekend, and they went 3-7. Though these squads had a little trouble on bonuses as is expected for groups without the years of experience seeing what comes up repeatedly, this is phenomenal for relative newbies. I hope that the seniors on these teams go on to quizbowl glory in college, and the underclassmen keep building up two of Pennsylvania’s newest lights.
Indiana is rejuvenated– Indiana failed to qualify for HSNCT until late. You’d never know based on their 5-5 performance. Despite loosing three of their best players from last year, this actually is a one game improvement over the 2015 HSNCT. They are senior heavy again, but if they can keep up the studying, Indiana will continue to thrive.
Rajan Alagar is Tournament’s top sophomore: Rajan, on a steady 5-5 Alagar Homeschool team, finished with 53.24 points per 20 tossups heard. This was tops for players in 10th grade or their equivalent at HSNCT. Rock on Rajan!
We also inaugurated what I hope will be a new tradition at HSNCT, which was the Pennsylvania meet-up in Cortez Ballroom A Saturday night. It was quite well attended, with a number of teams stopping by for an informal hangout for Pennsylvania players and moderators. Great Valley’s Sam Scarfone was presented with his JV player of the year plaque at the event (unfortunately the other winners were not at HSNCT but will receive the plaques elsewhere). I had a lot of fun chatting with the players, and hope they all enjoyed mingling too.
To have so many of our teams do well on a national stage was a treat. HSNCT is the largest quizbowl tournament in the world, filled with many side events, cool exhibitions, and great conversations. It was amazing to work with such a diverse group of students and moderators to make something really special!
Next stop: PACE NSC, where three PA teams will do battle in an elite field.
— Ben Herman
Here are the final records and place of the Pennsylvania teams:
Manheim Township A: 10-5, T13
Henderson: 8-5, T34
State College A: 7-5, T53
Cedar Crest A, Great Valley, and Winchester Thurston: 6-5, T77
Alagar Homeschool, DuBois, Friends Select A, Indiana, and State College B: 5-5
Cedar Crest B, Friends Select B, and Manheim Township B: 4-6
Here is a summary of the Pennsylvania-on-Pennsylvania action this weekend:
Round 6: Henderson 285, Friends Select A 165
Round 6: DuBois 310, State College A 250
Round 8: Alagar Homeschool 425, Indiana 20
Round 8: Great Valley 340, Manheim Township B 110
Round 12: State College A 350, Cedar Crest A 160
Round 14: Friends Select A 240, DuBois 235