Month: May 2017

HSNCT 2017 Wrap Up – Cinderellas and Camaraderie

Last year at HSNCT, Pennsylvania set a lot of records for its performance and the teams generally exceeded expectations. This year, our students raised the bar even higher. Records were shattered, as 18 teams from 16 schools represented Pennsylvania at the event. With seven teams making the playoffs, three making the winner’s bracket, and two making the top-20 in the nation, Pennsylvania’s quantity was matched with some of its highest quality.

Full statistics for the event are here. Hunter College High A (NY) defended their national title, beating Detroit Catholic Central A (MI) in the finals.

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Winchester Thurston, PA’s biggest Cinderella run team in years, poses with their T-9th place trophy. Photo courtesy WT quizbowl’s twitter.

Winchester Thurston made waves across the tournament, becoming the first non-State College team from Pennsylvania to make the national top 10 with a T-9th place finish that almost got them to Sunday afternoon. Fresh from SSNCT’s 4th place, most pegged Thurston to do well, but not go beyond two or three Sunday rounds. WT had other ideas. Their true four-man effort from EJ, Jacob, Nathaniel, and Aiden (all of whom once again worked together and all exceeded 19 points per game) ended up resulting in a fantastic cinderella run, which included a brilliantly fought 390-335 win over Darien A (CT) to make it to T-9th. In the next round, Thurston was one question away from beating James Taylor (Katy, TX) to get into T-5th, but came up just short. To these fine young gentleman as well as (sadly retiring) Coach David Hallas, a hearty well done is in order. Winchester Thurston showed steady improvement across the course of the 2016-2017 season and I know our community will remember their efforts at HSNCT for a long, long time.

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Great Valley and Alagar Homeschool face off in round 10 of the tournament. Photo Courtesy GV Quizbowl’s twitter.

Here are some of the other storylines from PA teams at HSNCT:

  • Lehigh Valley Academy finished at T-15. They had to play Thurston in the first round of the playoffs and were upset by them, but rallied for three more wins while facing elimination each round. Alex Schmidt continues to impress, and his 130 ppg placed him 2nd among all players in America at HSNCT. With one more season left, it will be fascinating to see what he can do next to add to his growing legend. This year is the first year, ever, that PA placed two teams into the top 20 at nats. Will another team join LV up there next year?
  • Manheim Township finished at T-41. Though they lacked a signature win, they proved their continued consistency as a nationally relevant team. This senior class capped off their careers in style, as they can now claim an impressive three top-50 performances at nationals between NSC and HSNCT in separate years. All should be proud with what Manheim Township has built over the years and we hope to see their tradition continue in the future.
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Manheim Township, preparing for a Saturday morning match.

  • Four other Pennsylvania squads made the playoffs: Alagar Homeschool, State College A, Great Valley, and Delaware Valley. Due to the extraordinary number of teams, HSNCT split so that 6-4 teams with better stats got a bye and others did not. All four of these teams unfortunately lost their first playoff game and got knocked out, but Alagar Homeschool and State College did well enough to earn said bye and thus finished T-65 to GV and DV’s T-97. This was a first HSNCT playoff berth for the Alagars and Delaware Valley. Great Valley and the Alagars went head to head in round 10, and the Homeschoolers came out on top, with GV felled by too many negs, an issue that has stuck with them throughout this year and came back to haunt them at the wrong times this year.
  • Pennsylvania also put up a number of near playoff performances in 5-5 teams. Downingtown East was one of the statistically best teams to fall just short, putting up good numbers and a relatively high bonus conversion along the way but succumbing to a badly-timed lapse in the second half of their final round game. Spring Grove finished .500 in their first-ever true pyramidal tournament and hopefully they’ll stick around next year as well. Senior Adam Prusakowski made the most of his brief pyramidal high school career with 68 ppg, good for 20th in the individual standings at HSNCT out of 1472 players. We must continue to reach out to more schools in the future to find players like him at schools across PA. A young Henderson team led by freshman Vijay rolled up with a 5-5 record as well, and this young team could make a lot of noise next year. Friends Select A came up just a hair short due to one of their key players, Jake, missing the event due an emergency, but they acquitted themselves very well. Wallenpaupack, Downingtown STEM, and State College B also finished at this level, each having some solid victories and coming down to the wire in several games which could have swung either way.
  • Lower down, Lancaster Mennonite and Indiana Area finished at 4-6. Brandon Roe from Mennonite finished 27th in the country in scoring, capping off a fine career as the school’s heart and soul player. Indiana also had a nice return to form after a season in which they hadn’t done as well as the past, putting up stats in line with their past performances. Friends Select B finished 3-7, while scrappy Carver, the first public school from either of Pennsylvania’s two big cities to ever attend HSNCT, picked up a couple of wins to finish 2-8.
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PA students play a pick up trash game during a meet-up Saturday night. Great Valley, Henderson, Downingtown East, Downingtown STEM, Lancaster Mennonite, Delaware Valley, Friends Select, and Alagar Homeschool are represented in this photo.

We also continued the tradition inaugurated last year of having a meetup for all PA teams to socialize. Sam Scarfone and Vijay Anne were presented with their GPQB awards, and the students self-organized a spirited game of trash while the coaches discussed organizational plans for next year.

2017 HSNCT will be remembered for its surprises. Having moved up from regional afterthought after last season, Pennsylvania furthered its way along the path to quizbowl-wide prominence and the standard to beat is now set: get a team to Sunday afternoon (top 8). The Commonwealth’s 16 schools represented at nationals was also the 4th-highest in the country, only behind host state Georgia and more populous states California and Texas. As the circuit continues to expand, I expect 16 to look puny in the near future.*

-Ben

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Downingtown STEM, just prior to a round 2 win.

* Including SSNCT, 23 schools from Pennsylvania attended some sort of NAQT national this season.

2017 HSNCT Preview Podcast

In this mammoth sized preview for NAQT’s HSNCT, Ben and Chris discuss where the 18 PA teams competing stand going into nationals week, predictions for how each might do, and make our calls for where we expect each to finish (no doubt embarrassing ourselves for posterity). We also discuss how the tournament works a bit. This description runs until about 8:30, at which point we begin the team-by team breakdown.

Click Here to Listen

SSNCT 2017 Wrap-Up

This year’s NAQT Small School Nationals, which took place at the quizbowl landmark Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL, featured a record shattering 11 teams from 10 schools participating out of the Keystone State. Due to format changes, there were three small school titles up for grabs: an overall title for traditional public small schools, a title for very small public schools, and a title for private and charter schools (the later being an entirely separate sub-tournament).

Complete stats for both divisions are here.

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Camp Hill poses with their haul of hardware from SSNCT.

In the public school division, Camp Hill matched Lehigh Valley’s feat last year of a 3rd place overall finish, bringing another big trophy home to Pennsylvania. Camp Hill also finished their season by winning the inaugural Very Small School title. They lost twice each to Glasgow and Danville, the two finalists (both from Kentucky), but otherwise went undefeated. Colton’s 82 points per game were sixth in the tournament, capping a breakout senior season for the First Team All-State player. The team also got great performances out of Sydney, whose three powers in round 18 proved critical in clinching a top-4 finish, as well as from Alex, Joseph, and Ben, who saved their best performances for last this season. Congratulations to all these players and to Coach Gianelli, who has now coached seven consecutive top-11 small school teams nationally and received GPQB’s 2016-2017 award for Coach of the Year.

Lakeland finished T-19, second among PA squads. They did well enough on day one to start out in the winners’ bracket Sunday, and notched a close 335-315 win over perennial Small School power Hallsville (MO) to clinch the playoffs. Ty and Michael paced the team with 16 powers apiece to make a dent in opposing team’s morale. Though 3 of the 5 teammates were seniors, they went out in style and have a lot to be proud of representing the Scranton area. South Side and Westmont Hilltop out of Western PA also made the playoffs and finished T29. Super job to both schools, whom each only brought one senior and could well be back there and beyond in the future. Southern Fulton, Kane, and West Shamokin missed the playoffs, but all won several games each and should be proud of this year and motivated for more competition in the future.

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Winchester Thurston finished 4th in the Private/Charter division. Photo credit Ryan Rosenberg and NAQT

In the Private/Charter division, a sharp Winchester Thurston did what we’ve come to expect from one of PA’s steadiest powers and finished 4th overall. What’s truly amazing about Thurston’s performance is that all four of their players–Nathaniel, Aiden, EJ, and Jacob- finished between 52 and 32 points per game, and in the top 25 total of this division’s overall players. Thurston might be the most purely balanced team in terms of four-player talent in Pennsylvania that we’ve seen in many years! All four also banked at least 14 powers. They are the only SSNCT team in PA that will also be going to HSNCT, so we’ll get one last chance to see them show their stuff.

Lower down, Renaissance Academy and two teams from Moravian Academy missed the playoffs, but still fought admirably. Renaissance has been on the circuit a few years now and, while not yet a powerhouse, has slowly steadily improved as time has gone on. They hit 14 PPB for the first time at a national tournament, which shows increasingly strong depth, and playoffs next year is a very obtainable goal for them. Moravian B was all freshman, and though they only won one game, can channel that experience into growth. I expect great things from them and any other PA schools that venture forth onto the national stage.

Overall, SSNCT was a great success for PA, with a top 4 finish in each division, the Very Small School championship title, and many memorable performances. We will have to see what HSNCT can do to follow this up.

-Ben