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.
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.
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 Springs, Cumberland 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.
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.