Month: January 2017

Manheim Township Academic Challenge Wrap Up (1/28/17)

38 teams were on hand in Lancaster for the rescheduled annual Manheim Township winter event, delayed from December on account of snow. This did not faze teams, who had an interesting day playing in an unusual card system environment on an NAQT A-Set.

Stats are here.

Card system tournaments work by assigning every team a card to begin the day with a number, and after their first match, the winner takes the card with the lower number, and the loser the higher number. Teams are then sent to play games against teams with similar records due to the way the cards are set up, as opposed to traditional seeded bracket play.

This leads to some advantages and disadvantages. Because the cards match teams with similar records (for the most part; there ended up being a few uneven matchups due to the small number of teams) all day, most teams, even ones on the extremes in skill level, get more matches against teams their own level. This means fewer blowouts and the potential for more exciting games. However, when there are a small number of teams, it means the potential for many rematches, which traditional bracket play prevents. It also can mean fewer rounds, which means kids go home sooner, but get to hear fewer questions. Though 16 and 22 (which were the numbers in Manheim Township’s Varsity/JV) are usually considered too small for card system play, the number of rematches was not too egregious. It will be interesting to see if this experiment is replicated at future tournaments.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

Lehigh Valley Academy, after another 160+ ppg Alex Schmidt run, went 9-0 and won their second tournament this month. I really have nothing new that I can say about LVA. They are dominant, and they look unstoppable right now.

Because of the card system leveling matches and a relatively even field, no other team went better than 6-3 in the varsity division. Camp Hill A finished 2nd, their best place at a local tournament in a long time. They finished with the exact same points per game as Henderson A in the playoff bracket, requiring a half packet tiebreaker to get to the final. Colton Sanden’s 31 powers and 78 points per game served Camp Hill well, especially coming out when it counted during the tiebreaker. A fine wingman performance from Sydney Preston and backing performances by Ben Hass, Alex Drda, and Joseph Zullo, all of whom look to be improving, sealed the deal. They are poised for a big run at this year’s SSNCT.

Henderson, despite eventually losing the 3rd place match to finish 4th, continues to rebuild faster than most local moderators predicted. In freshman Vijay Anne, they have a clear JV player of the year candidate and a piece to build around for several seasons more. Downingtown East A took 3rd, weathering a strong schedule. Their one-two punch of Jackie and Kaushik combined for some strong performances, as they never put up less than 240 points and came within 80 of LVA in round five.

Elsewhere in the Varsity tournament, a reduced strength Great Valley A struggled more than usual without Dan and Everett, Wallenpaupack continued a solid season, and Cedar Crest, Carver HSES, Berwick, and Emmaus all got in solid tournament play as they build up and learn more. We also saw season debuts for Hempfield, Bermudian SpringsCumberland Valley, and Schuylkill Haven, all of whom did well, winning multiple games and representing their regions of the state admirably. Hempfield in particular should be commended for qualifying for nationals at the tournament by finishing 5th.

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Berwick High School after a hard fought tournament. Photo courtesy Berwick Quizbowl Team.

In the JV division, first time pyramidal entrant Lancaster Catholic rode a bit of beginners luck and a good deal of skill to a 7-2 record and the first-place trophy. With four players in at over 14 points a game, everyone contributed to a good run and a 30 point finals win over Great Valley B. I hope to see more of Lancaster Catholic at area events. The rest of the JV bracket was filled by teams from Philadelphia’s Central and Bodine, as well as squads from Huntingdon and many C and D teams from other schools. Potential rising stars include Huntingdon A’s Andrew Buonaccorsi and Great Valley C’s Alan Xu, who tied for the JV scoring title with 60 points per game each.

Overall, Manheim Township provided another sterling event, and recruited some new faces while satisfying some old ones. The storylines here may not have been the biggest ones, but there was plenty of close play to go around. Next stop: Westmoreland County, for the inaugural tournament at Norwin.

-Ben Herman

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Downingtown East Invitational Wrap-Up

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Ramon, Lucas, and Alex from LVA with their first place trophy.

30 teams gathered in Exton, PA for the first-ever Downingtown East HS tournament. The final results were:

1. Lehigh Valley Academy
2. Manheim Township A
3. Centennial (MD) A
4. Centennial (MD) B

Full stats are available here.

What did we learn today?

  • Downingtown is full of excellent quizbowl teams. While D-East was occupied with hosting, Downingtown STEM, led by the tournament’s breakout star in Vishwa, made the most of their opportunities in their first-ever pyramidal tournament to make the top 8. They had an outstanding mix of deep knowledge and quickly caught on to the pyramidal questions and format as the tournament went on. Downingtown West made the step up in difficulty to the regular HS level and, though they struggled in a tough playoff bracket, had a solid 18+ PPB average and a good all-around performance by their lead scorer Ben. Both of these schools would be welcome additions to more tournaments and we hope to see them (and their B teams) around the circuit in the future.
  • The GPQB Poll’s #1 and #2 teams keep battling for state supremacy. So far, Lehigh Valley Academy is 2-1 against Manheim Township A this year. LVA’s only loss of the day was by 5 points to Baltimore-area powerhouse Centennial A and Alex Schmidt’s uncanny ability to go on a run of powers just when he needs it worked wonders in the final versus MT A. It’s notable that MT A’s win over LVA came on a housewrite while LVA has won both NAQT matchups with MT A.
  • It’s good to mix circuits. Centennial’s 3 teams made a strong impact on the tournament and Fayetteville-Manilus‘ top player came down from NY to play. More teams venturing out into other circuits is always a good thing to see and it helps add variety and challenge to the tournament fields.
  • Great Valley A can beat anyone. Centennial A is a bonafide national powerhouse (check out that 24+ PPB) and Great Valley A notched what NCAA bracketologists call a “good win” over them. When GV A is clicking, they can beat any team in the region. But whether or not they can perform consistently enough to string together several wins over the top teams remains unclear.
  • Teams are still figuring out their best A-team lineups. We don’t have that much info with the best teams at full strength due to both player absences and shifting lineups. Finding a good fit, especially for 3rd and 4th chairs on teams, can be tough in terms of both subject matter coverage and team chemistry. I’d advise teams to read this good post on the forums about being a 4th player and thinking through who would be good at that job.
  • There’s more to the Lehigh Valley than LVA. Allentown Central Catholic came down out of the valley and put in a solid performance to follow-up on their earlier Lehigh Valley Invitational results. Emmaus also made a welcome return to the circuit and rode the strength of lead scorer Mike to a solid middle-bracket finish. Would love to see more of these teams venturing outside of the valley and potentially hosting more tournaments within it in the future.
  • D-East did a good job as a first time tournament host. Despite a few hiccups with Neg5 and rebracketing (see below), this was an exceptional job as an almost entirely student-led enterprise. Everything was done by 4:30 PM even with issues like a team showing up late and leaving early. Hopefully the secrets of competent TDing will be passed down to future generations of D-Easters!
  • I don’t think Neg5 is ready for primetime. Yes, it is an improvement in some ways on the old SQBS stats software that requires centralized manual entry, but it’s not very user-friendly and when things go wrong, it can gum up the tournament to a greater extent than one with paper scoresheets. Training can help, but with the updates reconfiguring it pretty often it’s just more trouble than it’s worth for me at this point.

Next up on the quizbowl tournament slate here in Pennsylvania: Manheim Township (1/28), Norwin (2/4), and Great Valley and CMU’s Tartan (2/11)! Let’s do everything we can as a community to get these tournaments to run well and teams to attend.

Chris C. with Ben H.

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Great Valley D (left) vs. Downingtown STEM A.