Month: May 2019

2019 HSNCT Wrap-Up: Pennsylvania Shines Again

This past weekend, over 2,000 quizbowl players, staff, coaches, and family members descended on the Atlanta Marriott Marquis for the 21st iteration of the High School National Championship Tournament. This iteration of the HSNCT was among the most exciting ever. In a series of high intensity games, filled with power buzzes and wonderful personalities, Beavercreek High School from Ohio triumphed over University of Illinois Laboratory School in the final. For Pennsylvania, it was a banner performance as well. In what was widely thought to be a “rebuild” year following many senior phenoms graduating, the state instead went on to produce four top 50 teams, which is the most it has ever had. From first time entrants to HSNCT stalwarts, our teams answered many questions, learned new things, built stronger friendships, and had an absolute ton of fun. Below is a summary of how teams did, and some pictures from this thrilling ride.

Hempfield, in their first HSNCT appearance, finished tied for tops among Pennsylvania teams.

Seven PA teams made the playoffs:

Record: 11-5
Overall Finish: T-12th place
Best Win(s): 385-265 over Stanford Online A (CA), 390-175 against Georgetown Day (DC)
In their HSNCT debut, Hempfield finished their stand-out season with an 11-5 record. A true four man team, they successfully scaled up and proved competitive at a national-level tournament. GPQB Player of the Year Will Yaeger led the team in scoring with 51.00 PP20TUH. Hempfield’s strong performance in playoffs included a win against Georgetown Day, who they’d lost to previously in the season. This Hempfield team certainly worked hard this season and their T-12 finish at HSNCT is representative of their dedication.

Record: 11-5
Overall Finish: T-12th place
Best Win(s): 395-280 over Carnegie Vanguard (TX), 410-265 over Leland (CA)
This year’s team from Henderson proved the strongest in school, history, besting a previous high of T34 in 2016. Their 11-5 record included a close win against Belvidere on Saturday. Vijay Anne led the team in scoring with 50.72 PP20TUH. Though statistically overmatched by many of their playoff opponents, Henderson won three consecutive games by comfortable margins, and clearly were unfazed by playing top teams. That, in itself, is an element of excellence. This was a fitting performance for the year in which Coach Steve Sobieck received the Coach of the Year Award at the annual PAQB meetup (delivered to him by Henderson alumni and GPQB co-founder Ben Herman).

Henderson A is all smiles after shattering school records and going on a exhilarating run to T12.

Friends Select A
Record: 9-5
Overall Finish: 31st place
Best Win(s): 290-170 over Hempfield, 270-215 over Penn Manor
Comments: The young men from Friends Select impressed us with their better than anticipated 9-5 record, which included strong performances from Matt and Rudyard throughout the weekend. Friends Select got here in part by beating their Pennsylvania competition, notching playoff wins over both Hempfield and Penn Manor en route to their trophies. We’re not sure, but this might be the first time a Pennsylvania team had two playoff wins over in-state competition. Three of Friends Select’s players will hopefully return next year, and we look forward to seeing how they continue to improve.

Penn Manor
Record: 8-5
Overall Finish: 49th place
Best Win(s): 240-230 over St. Louis Park A, 255-235 over DeWitt
Comments: Penn Manor perhaps exceeded expectations with their strong performance including an unexpected playoff run. Connor Mayers led the team in scoring with an impressive 79.70 PP20TUH that landed him 14th in overall individual scoring. Penn Manor truly rose to the difficulty of this national tournament. Like Friends Select, almost all this team returns next season, so the sky’s the limit for this highly passionate squad.

State College A
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 73rd Place
Best Win(s): 305-165 over LASA B (TX)
Comments: State College’s unorthodox strategy of keeping teams together for their entire high school career regardless of performance gained them two playoff games during this year’s HSNCT. This team, led in scoring by JV Player of the Year Albert Zhang, put up a fight in their last playoff game against 2018 HSNCT champion Plano West A. State College High School has now made the playoffs in 19 of 21 HSNCTs, missing only in the first one in 1999 (which they didn’t play) and in 2013. They remain a marquee club in the Keystone State, and they will all be back next year to challenge for more.

Allderdice A made the playoffs for the second straight year.

Allderdice A
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 73rd place
Best Win(s): 325-285 over Atkins Academic & Technology
Comments: Allderdice struggled in their attempt to replicate last year’s excellent HSNCT run, with several close losses putting them into the losers playoff bracket, where they exited in the first do-or-die round. Despite this, they still have a lot to be proud of. Jakobi Deslouches’ impressive knowledge of history at the HSNCT difficulty really helped the team to make the playoffs. Austin, Leo, and Truman all also scored in bunches. The Dice team was very well rounded, and had a low neg rate.

Manheim Township A
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 97th place
Best Win(s): 250-245 over Midtown Classical
Comments: While not as high a finish as the past few seasons for this Lancaster area school, the team nonetheless performed in their usual well rounded manner. Will Steger’s 36.05 PP20TUH led the team, and further cemented him as their top player and a favorite for 1st team all-state next year. They also got a fine 15 PP20TUH from their freshman rising star, AZ. Manheim Township beat Plano West, HSNCT champions of last year, during their games.

Manheim Township A and B enjoyed exploring Atlanta’s Olympic Park during their session off from play. Quizbowl trips are about more than matches!

In addition to the above, Six Pennsylvania teams went 5-5 in the prelims, just missing playoffs. Great Valley A finished in 136th place with an even distribution of points and a relatively low neg rate. However, despite improved play, the school missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. They will look to get the playoff win monkey off their back again next season, as they search for a run befitting their clear talent. Great Valley B also finished 5-5, ending up in 145th place. GV B struggled with neg control, but also had an even distribution of points. Allderdice B’s 159th place finish included a close win over Troy (CA), during which Alana carried a clutch comeback at the end. State College B also went 5-5 in prelims. This is another team that has played together all season long. Taran and Chris led the team in scoring, and they ended up in 166th place. Friends Select B finished 5-5, indicating that FSS has the depth to match other elite programs in the state. Lastly, Trinity High from Camp Hill joined the above squads with a 5-5 record. The most amazing thing about Trinity’s performance is that this occurred with as little experience as any team at the event. Their school had only been to a single pyramidal invitational before jumping headfirst into HSNCT. They clearly did not sink, and I think they have an extremely bright future.

Seven Pennsylvania teams went 4-6 over the weekend. Manheim Township B had nice performance led by both juniors and seniors scoring. They continue to have a deep farm system. Lancaster Mennonite had some tough games at the beginning of prelims, but cinched a key 275-110 win against Novi (MI) in round 3. During that game,  Mennonite got every single toss-up in the second half, except one that went dead. Northeast PA’s Dallas went an impressive 4-6 in their HSNCT debut, which, like Trinity, was only their second pyramidal tournament ever. Their 300-190 win over Blacksburg (VA) featured 3 powers and helped them land 237th place. We hope to see them again for more pyramidal tournaments in the fall! Great Valley C finished in 246th place with their 4-6 record. As the only C team from the state at the tournament, they acquitted themselves very nicely, despite some youth. The Lehigh Valley’s Emmaus had an impressive 140-120 win over Stanford Online B (CA), landing them in 264th place. Seasoned SSNCT participant and fellow Lehigh Valley troop Moravian Academy competed this past weekend in their first HSNCT in almost a decade. They will all be back next year, and their strong performances and lots of experience gained from two nationals this year will serve them well. Pittsburgh Central Catholic also went 4-6. PCC was handicapped because all of their seniors were missing for graduation, but despite youth, they managed to exceed expectations and show other teams they’re no pushover.

Emmaus High School, enjoying their nationals experience.

Four other Pennsylvania teams competed. Wallenpaupack had a strong win against Cupertino Scholars B (CA) on Sunday morning, and ended up finishing in 285th place with a 3-7 record. Ambler’s Wissahickon was another HSNCT first time team and had a valiant effort in their games. Their win over fellow Pennsylvanians Delaware Valley helped them achieve a 3-7 record as well. Speaking of Delaware Valley, they finished in 317th place with a 2-8 record. Lastly, Armstrong qualified for HSNCT out of their local format, and the transition to HSNCTs of this and last year has been an adjustment, but their 140-120 win over Eureka (CA) shows promise in their abilities.

This was a blast to staff, and we’re proud of all these schools for achieving great success both on the buzzer and off. Our community continues to grow stronger, for not only do our teams achieve highly at the game of quizbowl, but we continue to build up friendships, camaraderie, and resources for all our students to explore the wide world of knowledge that quizbowl can open. Thanks go out to the 21 Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania expats who staffed this tournament, in particular the Carnegie Mellon team and alumni network, which seems to always come out in force for HSNCT. We hope to see all of our Pennsylvania teams again at pyramidal tournaments throughout the 2019-2020 school year. All but a few have ended their season here, and we wish them a wonderful summer.

-Ben and Emily

Pittsburgh Central Catholic overcame youth to put together a 4-6 record and prove their program’s strength in the Pittsburgh area.

2019 SSNCT Wrap-Up

This year’s Small School National Championship Tournament saw over 152 teams from across the country gather outside of Chicago for a weekend of quizbowl competition between small schools. Despite upsets along the way, the favorites in both the Traditional Public and Open division took home the gold. Congratulations to Glasgow (KY) and Miami Valley (OH) on their SSNCT titles for public and open, respectively.

Stats for the tournament are here. If you need a refresher on the format, see my preview post from earlier this week. For this post, I’m going to summarize some of the major headlines regarding the Pennsylvania teams.

Friends Select and Winchester Thurston Shine, Build Friendly Rivalry


Friends Select, on the way back to the airport, did quite well at SSNCT with several strong wins.

In terms of finish, the Pennsylvanians that scaled the highest were Philadelphia’s Friends Select and Pittsburgh’s Winchester Thurston, both finishing T-11th in the Open Division. They did well against a stacked field, but also worked to build what’s becoming one of the state’s most enjoyable quizbowl rivalries. The card system pitted them together twice in the prelim rounds. In Round 3, Thurston pulled out the last tossup to win a hard-fought squeaker, 360-355, in what all involved said was a great match. Friends Select avenged themselves 345-240 in the afternoon. After they didn’t get a chance to play for a third time in the playoffs, the two teams wanted to settle the question with a best-of-3 match, and scrimmaged each other informally (WT won) before playing some celebratory pop culture matches. It’s fantastic to see that the schools have not only started a charismatic, Philly-Pitt rivalry for top small private schools, but also are friendly and great sports as well.

Huntingdon Impresses in Traditional Public Tournament

The other playoff qualifier for PA this year was Huntingdon, who swung T-17th in the Traditional Public division. Taking my prediction to heart, they made sure to rub in their successes every time I encountered the team. It’s great to see them continue to do well and represent Central PA with honor and pride year in, year out. I can remember watching their first tournament appearance in 2015, and since then they’ve continued to study hard and enjoy quizbowl to the fullest. Well done!

Despite Strong Effort, Camp Hill’s Streak Ends

In something of a sad note, Camp Hill’s streak of eight 11th-or-better finishes ended this year, with a series of tough losses after a promising 4-2 start as Raceland-Worthington (KY) beat them in a win-and-in game between 5-4 teams in the last round. By points-per-game, Camp Hill was the best team to miss the playoffs, and exceeded the points-per-bonus of many playoff entrants to boot. While it’s a shame that the streak ended, this only means an opportunity to begin a new one. Sydney capped off a memorable career with just shy of 60 points per 20 tossups, good for 15th nationally individually.

First-Timers Sharpsville and Germantown Friends Have a Blast


Sharpsville is all smiles as they wait for their next opponents.

PA had a first-time entrant for nationals in both divisions, and both had some highlight moments. In Traditional Public, Sharpsville went 4-6. PA alum Adam Swift and I, who were moderating together, had them come through our room twice on Saturday, and they seemed to be having a blast. Jared and Brenna both had great, multi-buzz performances in a defeat of Gold Beach (OR) we read, which was their first win. Meanwhile, Germantown Friends debuted in open, and went 5-5. This team had no seniors and performed well against a very tough schedule draw. They will be on many PA pollsters’ radars come the preseason for the 2019-2020 season.

Numerous PA Schools Build For the Future

While it may not have been the first rodeo for these schools, Westmont Hilltop, Lakeland, South Side, and Southern Fulton also contested the Public division, and Moravian A and B contested in Open. All went either 5-5 and 4-6, acquitting themselves well on these questions. Once again, many of these players are underclassmen, and surely learned quite a bit at this tournament. Josh from Southern Fulton made the top 20 players for Public with 53 PP20TUHs (Points-Per-20-Tossups-Heard–yeah it’s a mouthful, but it’s used at NAQT nationals because the number of tossups heard each game is variable and so they normalize scoring by every 20 tossups heard).


South Side, having fun during the preliminary rounds.

This tournament was a thrill to staff. I have done a few SSNCT wrap-ups in the past, but it’s completely different to be on the ground and experience it as the players do, with twists and turns, highs and lows of emotion, and wonderful friends and conversations. At its heart, quizbowl is about people, and this SSNCT showed that. Major props to Nathan Murphy and the NAQT logistics team, who ran this event without a hitch and made the staffer experience a breeze.


2019 SSNCT Preview

Twelve teams from eleven different Pennsylvania schools will be competing at the 2019 NAQT Small School National Championship Tournament in Chicago this weekend. The event is designed for schools with small enrollments, and thus a smaller pool for team members. These teams qualified for SSNCT by finishing in the top 30% of teams from eligible schools at tournaments and leagues throughout the state, and they will be competing in separate Traditional Public School and Open (Private + Charter) divisions. The complete field can be found here.

In both divisions, teams will be playing ten power-matched prelim games on Saturday using a card system, and those with a winning record (6-4 or better) will make the next day’s playoffs. In the playoffs, double elimination will decide the champion. Further details can be found in our guide to national championships. Last year’s set was approximately the same difficulty as a NAQT IS set, so it will be easier than the larger HSNCT tournament later this month. PA teams have had success at SSNCT in the recent past, with Camp Hill obtaining 3rd in the Public School division (and 1st among the Very Small Schools) two seasons ago, and Friends Select and Winchester Thurston finishing in the top four of the Open Division within the last two years.

Here are quick summaries and my just-for-fun (and often comically wrong!) prediction for each team:

Traditional Public

Camp Hill

Few things are as sure in Pennsylvania Quizbowl as Camp Hill ranking among its top small schools. They will be looking to extend an impressive streak of eight consecutive top-eleven finishes for Small Schools nationally this weekend. Sydney, a longtime veteran and a great lit and myth player, will lead them. Unfortunately, their stats have been weaker than in years past and outside of Sydney, they lack a deep threat. Their good bonus conversion and high-pressure experience should get them to the playoffs easily; we will watch excitedly to see if the top-eleven streak continues.

Prediction: 7-3 in Prelims, top 15 Finish


Another team from Central PA, Huntingdon has developed over the years into a steady presence in Pennsylvania Small School rankings. They finished in a tie for fifteenth at last year’s SSNCT. I want to predict similar success this year, but their statistical record has a ton of red flags (low PPB on sets above the A-Set level, a healthy neg rate). SSNCT Public has a lot close games, and hopefully the senior-heavy lineup from Huntingdon’s experience serves them well. I think they’ll make playoffs again, but won’t make it quite as far as last time.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, top 25 Finish


Lakeland will be the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area’s lone representative at SSNCT. After losing last year’s all-state honorable mention player Michael Goerlitz to graduation, Lakeland went into a rebuild. They improved significantly as the year went on, going from about 10 to 14 PPB on IS sets. I don’t think they’re quite a playoff team, but Lakeland shows potential for a strong 2020.

Prediction: 5-5 in Prelims


Coming from the New Castle-Hermitage Area, Sharpsville will be making their nationals debut this SSNCT. They’ve been playing regularly and enthusiastically, and it’s great to see them challenge themselves with the top small schools. They should enjoy their trip to Chicago and keep building buzzer experience.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

South Side

A longtime regular on the circuit out of Beaver County, South Side is coming off a SSNCT playoff appearance last season. They’re not quite as strong statistically this year, but did manage a solid 7th place finish at Battle of the Burgh. SSNCT will be a good test for them, as a lot of their opponents will be similar to schools in their weight class in the Pittsburgh area.

Prediction: 5-5 in Prelims

Southern Fulton

This is something of a mystery team for us. Despite being from Pennsylvania, Southern Fulton hasn’t played at a PA event in years, instead showing up as an occasional competitor at Maryland events. They have excellent neg control this year it seems, though never finished above 27th at a tournament. It’s hard to get a grasp on them, and we’d love to see them around Pennsylvania more often.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

Westmont Hilltop 

Famous for “the recorder dance” that blew up on NAQT’s instagram a couple SSNCTs ago, Westmont Hilltop is back for more. They have a fantastic player in Moses Zeidan, who piloted them to a strong 2nd place at the Allderdice Invitational this year. Without him in tow, however, Westmont Hilltop has struggled mightily to even clear 100 points per game this season. I will make my prediction assuming they are at full strength.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 30 Finish

Open Division

Friends Select

Friends Select is coming of a 2nd place SSNCT finish last year, and while much of that team has graduated, there’s still quite a bit left in the tank for another run. Matt D’Annunzio has been one of this season’s breakout players, and Rudyard Lynch has turned into a grizzled veteran who feasts on NAQT categories like current events. The rest of the team can pitch in, and FSS always finds a way to leverage good real knowledge into a successful performance. They’re dropped back a bit on their abilities on science and fine art since last season, but they’ll make a deep run again.

Prediction: 8-2 in Prelims, Top 10 finish.

Germantown Friends

As for the other Quaker School, GFS is what we at GPQB might call an “Archetypal Emmaus”: a school which had never played quizbowl before, shows up in the fall, hits the ground running, and becomes an immediate impact team. Germantown Friends didn’t finish below 2nd at any event they played in season, with impressive stats (PPBs in the 20s, good power rate). The biggest concern for them is that they’ve never seen questions harder than the A-Set or introductory level, so the difficulty jump to nationals might be jarring. Because of this, I don’t expect too deep a run, but playoffs seem a reasonable goal and they will undoubtedly catch an unprepared team off guard.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 25 Finish

Moravian Academy A

Moravian has slowly risen through the ranks to become a solid performer out of the Lehigh Valley, and made playoffs at SSNCT last year. The entire roster from that run returns. They seem all-around solid, and their stats might not wow you, but they have a few top five tournament finishes to their name. I expect a similar result to last year.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 25 Finish

Moravian Academy B

Like their A team, these are hardworking players looking to cap off a great season. Stats don’t indicate a ton of depth with this program. I doubt they make the playoffs, but they should get good experience to keep Moravian a contender for years to come.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

Winchester Thurston

Winchester Thurston has spent nearly a decade as one of the Pittsburgh Area’s best schools, and this year is no exception. They have been significantly hampered by not being able to play with their full lineup this season, but flashed some excellent potential (a 59/96/19 line with 22 PPB during a winning performance at Allderdice Invitational, notably). They finished 4th in 2017 and T5 last year. This team seems similar in some ways, and should do almost as well.

Prediction: 7-3 in Prelims, Top 10 Finish