Last Saturday, 36 teams were on hand in West Chester for the latest installment of the Henderson Invitational Tournament. The result was a well-run and enjoyable day, filled with interesting and surprising results.
The tournament victory went to Great Valley A, who notched their program’s first of the season. They breezed through the first nine rounds, but took a weird 5 point loss to their own C team in round 10 due to uncharacteristically poor bonus conversion (Great Valley has a history of beating themselves in tight situations). They still secured a spot in the finals, where they faced a formidable Manheim Township A squad that went into the final undefeated. Down 250-95 at halftime, Great Valley rallied to get 7 of the next 8 tossups to take a 90 point lead. Their neg on tossup 19 briefly put the game back in play, but Manheim Township could not get enough points on the bonus, thus sealing the win for Great Valley. Great Valley was remarkably balanced, as John, Rishi, Anshu, and Noah each had between 30 and 57 points per game and all had over 15 powers. This performance shows that Great Valley comes ready to play and can respond well to adversity.
As for Manheim Township A, the sample size is large enough that we can say that at this juncture, they look to be the statistically strongest team in the state so far. Their 23.52 points per bonus on a regular difficulty set was almost two higher than any other team in the field, and they averaged over 10 powers per game. These numbers are incredible. While they’ve lost in the final at two straight invitationals, the talent is absolutely there and once they can close the deal, they might be unstoppable. Will and AZ finished 2nd and 6th in individual scoring for the tournament, and Sanya and Ellie are rounding into excellent specialists, with each providing over a power a game.
Great Valley B took third. They look just as deep as the A team, with four excellent scorers. Outside of a slightly lower power rate, their stats are almost a doppelganger for their A team, and Great Valley could quite honestly become the first school of the GPQB poll era to have two teams in the top 5 by year’s end. Trinity Catholic High School from Camp Hill finished in 4th. As the breakout team of last season, expectations were high but uncertain coming in. With this performance, they have put any doubts about their chops to rest. I read for them twice, and in those games they showed a few new-team knowledge gaps, but played with good strategy and teamwork. Luke’s 61 ppg was in the top 10 for the event.
Trinity’s 4th place finish came with a last question clinch over Penn Manor in round seven, who would in turn play Hempfield for 5th. The later team won that match. As last year’s state champions, Hempfield had quite a bit to replace, but it turns out much of the replacement was hiding in plain sight. Carsten was good last year, but was clearly under some shadow effect. Here, he broke out for 72 points per game, 4th overall, which would make any of his teammates on the state title team proud and established him as a major one to watch. They also debuted freshman Sebastian, brother of last year’s player of the year Will Yaeger, to a cool 30 points per game. Penn Manor continues to be a solid team, once again with their scoring coming mostly from Connor, who notched yet another scoring title with 121 points per game.
Also making the playoffs were Friends Select A and B, Manheim Township B, Great Valley C, a house team from Henderson (mostly their B and C team players), and New Jersey’s Ranney school. This was our first look at full strength FSS this year, and they looked quality as always. Their power rate is notably behind other top teams right now, which possibly explains the 7th place finish. Don’t overlook them, however, as they could just be warming up. Meanwhile, all of these PA schools shows continue to show depth, and will remain factors for years.
In first consolation, Downingtown East B took top honors, with a 7-3 record and an undefeated afternoon. Many of their wins were close and clutch, particularly a 25 ppb performance against Emmaus A in round seven which allowed them a rare win with only eight tossups answered. Oxford A also stood out as an up-and-coming team. Traditionally a bottom dweller in the Chester County league, Oxford has made great strides of late, and seem to be studying hard. Chris’ 79 points per game was 3rd at the event and lead them to a winning record. Lancaster Mennonite and Cedar Crest A represented the Lancaster-Lebanon league well, with several strong wins. While perhaps not strong enough to challenge the top 3 in the Lanc-Leb circuit yet, they have enough raw talent to build for more and better down the road. Downingtown East’s A team also made this bracket.
Lower on down, we saw new look Camp Hill return to the circuit in the midst of a coaching change and full scale rebuild. With 15 points per bonus, they have a good bit to work with, and they remain one of Pennsylvania’s top small schools. PALCS and Renaissance Academy, two Chester County charters, also played and got in a number of good buzzes. I was also encouraged by two new school debuts. West Chester Rustin, one of Henderson’s sister schools, made its first pyramidal tournament at this event. They went 3-7, and had a lot of deep knowledge that impressed many moderators. John Paul II high school also returned to the invitational circuit for the first time in a few years, and performed well for a group of inexperienced players. We hope to see both again very soon.
As a Henderson alum, it’s always wonderful to go back and staff there, and see how so many players enjoy the game. I saw a lot of happy people yesterday, and that’s the best part of any quizbowl tournament. Happy Thanksgiving to all GPQB readers!