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).
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.
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.