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:

Hempfield
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.

Henderson
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.

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