In what’s become one of the Eastern PA circuit’s marquee events, Lehigh Valley Academy finished a climb to the top, going from 3rd place in 2014 to runners up last year to tournament champions this past Saturday at Henderson High school in West Chester. A total of 30 teams were on hand for some of the fiercest fought matches in recent memory.
LVA was dominant all day, led by an absolutely unstoppable Alex Schmidt. GPQB’s player of the year has somehow gotten even better, putting up an astronomical 177 points per game (I don’t know if that’s a record for a PA player, but it’s the highest I recall since the GPQB blog started), and, in round 9, he broke a national record for points in a single match on IS Sets, with 255 points (15/3/0). This occurred against a strong Concord team that finished 4th at the tournament! From what I saw on the buzzer in the final, Alex is at the point where he can get powers even in categories he was once weak at. If he’s not the best player in America today, he’s certainly on the shortlist. Lehigh Valley Academy’s ceiling is astronomical right now. It’s also worth noting that Alex and his teammates put up a tournament high 23.5 points per bonus, which was usually a stat where they lagged behind others in the past.
Manheim Township A finished in 2nd place (thus, the final was an inversion of last year). They played well all day, going into the final undefeated. Their points per bonus was a solid 22, and though their margin of defeating opponents was much smaller than LVA at Henderson, they showed resilience and the ability to put games way with powers. Manheim is still very much in the hunt for the state title.
Great Valley A finished 3rd, in what unfortunately was a much sloppier performance than we’ve seen so far from them elsewhere this year, negging 3.8 times a match. This may in part be chalked up to an unlucky day. The raw knowledge is there to compete with any other PA team, but GV’s neg rate will have to come down quite a bit to rise in the rankings. The negs reared their ugly head in a loss in the morning to 4th place Concord A, from Delaware. Concord was one of the nicest surprises of the event, as longtime power player Dhruv Mohnot got strong backing performances from Alex Russo and Connor Wagaman to pick up a number of wins, particularly the upset of Great Valley. Concord’s enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we see more of them in Pennsylvania this season.
Other stories in the playoffs included a solid 5th place finish for 8-2 Camp Hill A, led by Colton Sanden’s 90 points per game, which was second only to Alex Schmidt for the tournament. I was very impressed with his consistent ability to snap up points late in questions and make sure nothing went dead, and Sydney Preston had several great lit buzzes in the games I had Camp Hill in my room. Elsewhere, Downingtown East A continued their return-to-contention season with a fine 6th place finish. Jackie Wu led them with 78.5 points per game, making her the tournament’s 3rd scorer. Both these teams are a step behind the top tier but are absolutely getting better and could make some nationals noise by May.
Friends Select A, at full strength for the first time this year, put up some nice numbers elsewhere in the playoffs. Rudyard Lynch seems to have been a great addition for them this year, as he led them in scoring. Henderson Invitational also gave us our first look at rebuilding Cedar Crest A, and the results look promising. The new look CC Falcons seem to have shed the cautious ways of their predecessors, negging more, but also putting up more powers. PALCS also made their season debut, and while they definitely are missing the presence of 1st Team All-Stater Gianni Manginelli, they made it to the playoffs, which should encourage them to keep going. Lancaster Mennonite also made the playoffs, with lockdown religion and mythology knowledge serving them well. Lastly, Manheim Township and Great Valley’s B squads made the playoff brackets as well. Notably, Manheim B gave their A team a scare, with the match coming down to the final two questions.
Elsewhere, we saw the season debut for Chester County’s own Renaissance Academy and the pyramidal quizbowl debut for Avon Grove Charter school. AGC in particular ought to be commended for going 4-6 at their first ever pyramidal event, especially considering this strong field. I got to read for their B team, and while less experienced, they were not letting bonuses get zeroed and had some clutch tossup answers. Renaissance Academy looks to be getting better slowly as well, and I hope to see more of these two for a long time.
Lastly, there was plenty of action for B, C, and D teams from the above schools, plus Huntingdon and Carver HSES. Huntingdon is taking pyramidal seriously and looking to improve on their 3-7 HSNCT run last year. Though not yet a contender, they are poised to contribute to the community for a long time. Carver managed to finish within 50 points of Downingtown East when they faced off, so they could well break through soon. Keep up the good work!
Overall, this was a solid tournament that suffered a few logistical issues in the control room, but only ran about 15 minutes over, well within the bounds of a successful event. Thanks go out to Henderson for letting us use their great building for a quizbowl tournament, and to all the alumni of the team who came back and helped make the day successful. Next stop: the University of Pennsylvania in two weeks.