Tournament Coverage

Philly Fall Tournament Wrap-Up (11/11/17)

36 teams from across the Greater Philadelphia area converged on Center City, Philadelphia Saturday for the Philly Fall Invitational, jointly hosted by Friends Select School and Carver HSES at Friends Select’s campus.

Full stats are available here.

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The winning duo from D-STEM A. Image via Twitter.

Open Division

Downingtown STEM A swept the field and finished with an unblemished 10-0 record, triumphing in an unusual 2 vs. 2 final against Wilmington Charter A. Propelled by Vishwa’s impressive 118 PPG (note that he actually averaged more points in the playoffs than in the prelims!) and Anish’s solid backing, STEM took on a tough (and somewhat uneven) Harvard Fall question set and was the only team in the field to finish above 20 PPB. Charter, playing somewhat shorthandedly as well, saw the continued emergence of Waley as a star player and excellent complement to A-team anchor Sohum. Great Valley A finished in 3rd, with a sterling performance from last year’s GPQB player-of-the-year Sam (26 powers to only 6 negs) counterbalanced by a consistent neg trend. GV averaged nearly 4 negs a match and barely broke even on the Power to Neg ratio. Downingtown East A finished in 4th, led as usual by Jackie’s strong generalist knowledge, and also picked up some solid assistance from Zach (28.9 PPB). Though they came close to knocking off Charter A, they had a harder time with their in-district rivals at STEM. Friends Select’s house team played with only half of their usual A-team (since FSS quite smartly chose to focus on prioritizing making sure the tournament ran efficiently by having their best readers read instead of play), allowing a rotating cast of A-team hopefuls to get some good experience. Henderson A made the top bracket as well, but isn’t quite ready yet to take back their place atop the Chester County hierarchy at this time.

Great Valley showcased tremendous depth throughout this tournament with their B, C, D, and E teams all finishing in the middle consolation bracket. With good coaching and a stable program in place for several years now, reinforcements from a burgeoning middle school program are helping to replenish and expand the ranks of GV teams this year and likely in future years. A young Penn Manor team continued its long-term expedition forth from the Lancaster-Lebanon League, highlighted with a 345-155 win over a balanced Downingtown STEM B team that came close to making the top bracket.

Wissahickon A, making their season debut, won the 2nd consolation bracket by a fairly large margin. Moorestown Friends, after a year’s hiatus from the circuit, returned and was led by a solid 40 PPG performance from Kayla. Science Leadership Academy A, playing up in the open division for the first time, had several close losses to GV B and Henderson A before finishing alongside Moorestown Friends (whom they beat in a close 200-195 match). Henderson’s enterprising B team, Carver’s house team, and Lancaster Mennonite (unusual but interesting to see several LL teams but not Manheim Township–who was down in Baltimore dogfighting with the DC circuit this weekend–at a tournament).

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Clockwise from the top: Haverford, D-East, and Middlesex County A. Image via Instagram.

Novice Division

Though they lacked their signature red-and-gold bowties, Haverford High school made a big impression in only their 2nd-ever pyramidal tournament of the past few years by winning the novice division and displaying some outstandingly deep knowledge in doing so. Though they have some knowledge gaps due to their relative quizbowl inexperience, they can go on impressive runs of powers and 30s that show just what  some of the other Delaware County Hi-Q schools might be capable of if they chose to play quizbowl. Downingtown East B, paced by a balanced attack with all of its players averaging 29 PPG or higher, showed that the future of D-East should be bright. D-East B’s only losses were to Haverford and they had an impressive 200-point win over Wilmington Charter B in the prelims. Middlesex County A (NJ), another young team recovering from several major graduations last year, was able to knock off Haverford in the first round but then got upset by their B team in the playoffs and finished just out of the finals. Downingtown STEM C and Middlesex B were also both freshman-dominated teams who seemed happy to make the top playoff bracket but then had a harder time. Prathik (MCA B) and Abhsenk (MCA A) both topped 50 PPG, so with their powers combined MCA should be set for the future and we welcome more NJ teams to come over to our tournaments in PA.

The middle consolation bracket was won by Bodine, where star sophomore Alex (60 PPG) is now complemented by an impressive newcomer in Raquel (42 PPG). Though they could stand to work on adding some more depth (only 6 powers), Bodine was only a tossup cycle away in 2 games from breaking into the championship bracket. Church Farm School made their quizbowl debut in solid fashion, getting a tough introduction from the B teams of Charter and D-East before settling down to finish high in their consolation bracket. Wissahickon B capped off their day with a nice 255-250 victory over a balanced Charter C team. FSS B, also rotating through a cast of newer players, romped through the lower consolation bracket thanks to the 65+ PPG of Hannah, while the rest of the bracket was filled out by new players from the many of the other Philadelphia schools including Franklin Towne, Rush Fine Arts, and even more of Science Leadership Academy, many of whose players were making their quizbowl debuts.

Fortunately for the novice players, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak set (written by veteran quizbowl coach and writer Bill Tressler) was very accessible, particularly on the tossups. The tossups were designed around being covertable but still had challenging lead-ins, and there were a number of clues that tried to tie in current events and recent pop culture. There were some list-like clues and a few pronoun/plural issues, but most of those have been marked to get corrected and didn’t detract from the overall accessibility of the set at all. I would highly encourage other schools interested in a set that I felt was slightly harder than SCOP Novice on the bonuses but easier than NAQT IS-A sets on the tossups to use it (and its future sequels!) in your area.

-Chris

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Rutgers Scarlet Knight Fall (9/23/17), Maryland Fall, and Princeton PHSAT Wrap-Ups (9/30/2017)

On two Saturdays in September, 9/23 and 9/30, seven Pennsylvania schools ventured outside of the borders of our fair state to open their quizbowl seasons. With some impressive showings all around, this year stands poised to be an extremely exciting one in Pennsylvania!

At Rutgers’ Scarlet Knight Fall tournament on 9/23, three teams from Friends Select and two from Delaware Valley began their 2017-18 campaigns. DV A finished the highest of the lot, ending up in the superplayoffs for 3rd place and claiming 5th overall. Colin Kawan-Hemler continued to lead the way with 45.65 points per game, but his teammates all added solid contributions, particlarly Frani King’s 35.22 PPG. They also won a game by the slightest of margins, 335-330, over Friends Select A. FSS A also demonstrated a balanced attack on the day, with 51.36 PPG from Richard Chen, 34.55 from Jake Shapiro, and 29.09 from Rudyard Lynch. Both teams notched key wins against top teams from the New Jersey region, as DV defeated Kellenberg A and Saint Joseph’s A, while FSS downed Princeton A. Both squads justified their preseason rankings nicely, and they look set for strong seasons ahead.

Friends Select B and C and Delaware Valley B also had good days as well, each finishing 4-7. FSS B demonstrated some balance of their own, as each of their players averaged at least a tossup per game. Jonah Taranta put in some impressive work as top scorer with 35.91 PPG. On DV B, Emma Dove led the way with 46.82 PPG, with strong support from Chris Secular. It’s certainly exciting to see programs continue to develop strong players for the future! Full stats for the Scarlet Knight Fall tournament can be found at this link.

Downingtown STEM and Lehigh Valley Academy each went 7-4 and finished 4th and 5th, respectively, against a challenging field on a housewritten set at Maryland Fall at the University of Maryland. STEM’s Vishwa Shanmugam compiled an especially impressive statline, scoring 103.18 points per game on the day, with 59 powers to 33 10s. The team as a whole added a major feather to its cap with a 430-290 win over Maryland power Montgomery Blair A, and they also scored a 435-275 victory over preseason #1 Lehigh Valley Academy. Alex Schmidt played solo on the day and put up nothing less than the spectacular numbers we’ve come to expect from him, going 60/67/8 for 139.09 PPG. Aside from one ten point victory against Thomas Jefferson C, though, his matches had high variance, as he either won big (including getting all 20 tossups against TJ D) or lost by a decent margin. Nonetheless, both teams should be proud of their excellent work at a difficult tournament! Stats for the day can be found here. You can also see an extremely cool breakdown of points by category for teams and players here.

Three more Pennsylvania schools, Downingtown EastHenderson, and “Western Lehigh”, played at Princeton on NAQT IS-168. Downingtown East and Henderson A played in the “competitive” division, while Henderson B and Western Lehigh were in the “standard” division. D-East had a relatively tough go of it, going 2-4 in the morning rounds and 4-6 on the day, but well-deserved plaudits must be given to GPQB contributor Jackie Wu for leading the competitive division in the prelim rounds with 69.17 PPG. Henderson A had a strong day, going 4-2 in the preliminaries and earning a place in the second afternoon bracket. They were led by last year’s GPQB JV Player of the Year, Vijay Anne, with 58.33 PPG in their impressive morning performance, with good support from teammates Aravind and Aidan. Henderson is a team clearly on the up-and-up, making for further excitement in southeastern PA tournaments to come.

In the standard division, Western Lehigh rode a strong performance from Sahil Inaganti (you can find our recent interview with him here) all the way to a third place finish. In many ways, Sahil and his team remind me of myself and my former Emmaus squad. He is clearly a strong generalist already, with further room to grow especially on points per bonus, and if his teammates can hone in on a couple of key categories, they can be a team nobody will want to face. Finally, Henderson B also acquitted themselves well on the day, going 3-3 in the morning rounds and topping their afternoon bracket. Three of their players, Will, Dhanush, and Abheya, all averaged over 20 PPG on the day, showing off their strong potential. Stats for both divisions at Princeton can be found at this link.

A brief note about posting tournament stats: Full stats from Princeton were not released until this afternoon (10/7), thus explaining the timing of this post. Posting stats a full week after the tournament is, quite frankly, not acceptable. When hosting a tournament, you should have a person whose dedicated job is to get stats completed and posted by Sunday evening at the latest. Taking some time to familiarize yourself with SQBS (here is a link to a good guide) can pay great dividends in getting stats published and available for interested teams, parents, and readers!

– Ryan

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.

Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Unofficial Preview and Chat 2017

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PSAC takes place within the chambers of the PA General Assembly (pictured here) and Senate. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Welcome to GPQB’s unofficial (we are completely unaffiliated with PSAC or any of the organizers) preview and coverage of the 2017 PSAC!

[Edit: We are updating unofficial scores in this Google Document; you can watch matches beginning again after lunch at 12:45 PM EST via the House stream here; we are continuing to update on Twitter and discuss in the chatroom here.]

Where else will you find a golden-voiced emcee read quality NAQT IS-level tossups alongside random “fanfare” bonus rounds of wildly varying difficulty within the beautifully furnished Pennsylvania House chambers? Where else will you find completely randomly generated schedules for each team’s two (usually!) prelim rounds that lead to extraordinarily unbalanced prelim schedules and playoff matchups based on points scored? Did we mention it’s 3 teams playing at once?

For randomness and ironic amusement value, PSAC is hard to top. Alas, it’s not ideal from a fairness perspective for a number of reasons that we detailed in our wrap-up from last year. But at least thanks to some recent reforms there aren’t tossups from the 1990s still being asked.

The format is…unique. 3 teams compete at once and first play a series of toss-up questions (which will be pyramidal NAQT IS-level questions), then each team gets a series of directed bonuses called “fanfares” that differ for each team. There’s a toss-up round, a fanfare round for each team, another toss-up round, and then a final fanfare round. And then that’s the match. The top 9 teams based on points scored in the prelims advance to the semifinals and the winners of those semis advance to the finals. Again, this is unique.

Thanks to the magic of PCN-TV, the whole competition should be streamable on video for anyone to watch (at least, that’s how it’s been in the past). Check here on Friday morning starting at 9 AM EST for hopefully a link to the video.

[Edit: PCN TV seems to be pay-only now, but you can watch a stream of the matches on the PA House stream here.]

We will be live-chatting over in the #paquizbowl chatroom and live-tweeting via @phillyquizbowl throughout the day on Friday as well starting at 9 AM.  Feel free to join us and send us any tips about match scores and such! We will update this post with a schedule if we can get one.

For newbies, PSAC is sponsored by the Chester County Intermediate Unit and allows each IU from around the state to send one representative to compete for the state title in addition to the defending champion returning from last year (which was Lehigh Valley Academy, who will return to defend their title this year). They decide the representatives in a number of ways, but usually with some kind of tournament–sometimes using pyramidal questions and other best practices, sometimes not.

Who’s representing whom this year? Well, we don’t exactly know yet! Please feel free to comment if you have information on teams competing. But here’s our best guess based on available information (read: searching Twitter and recent news articles):

[Note that some IUs just don’t send representatives sometimes; when not clear how a team got to state, we don’t say]

IU 1: Canon-McMillan

IU 2, Pittsburgh, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 3: Gateway

IUs 4-5, MidWest and NWPA, do not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 6 (Riverview): Rocky Grove
How They Got Here: Won the Riverview IU Academic Bowl.

IU 7 (Westmoreland): Burrell 

IU 8 (Appalachia): Hollidaysburg Area

IU 9, Seneca Highlands, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 10 (Centre): West Branch
Hot They Got Here: Won a draw

IU 12 (Lincoln): Spring Grove
How They Got Here: Won the IU 12 Academic Competition

IU 13 (Lancaster-Lebanon): Manheim Township
How They Got Here: Won the Lancaster-Lebanon League

IU 14 (Berks County): Wyomissing Area
How They Got Here: Won the Berks IU Academic Challenge

IU 15 (Capital Area): Cedar Cliff 
How They Got Here: Won the Capital Area IU Academic Competition

IUs 16: Lewisburg Area

IU 17:  No Info Found

IU 18: Wyoming Area 

IU 19: Lakeland 

IU 20 (Colonial): Bethlehem Catholic
How They Got Here: Won the Colonial IU Academic Competition 

IU 21 (Carbon-Lehigh): Whitehall
How They Got Here: Won the Carbon-Lehigh Academic Competition

IU 22 (Bucks County): Council Rock North

IU 23 (Montgomery County): Upper Dublin
How They Got Here: Won the Montgomery County IU Academic Competition

IU 24 (Chester County): Great Valley
How They Got Here: Won the Chester County Intermediate IU’s Academic Competition

IU 25 (Delaware County): Haverford
How They Got Here: Won the Delaware Hi-Q Competition

IU 26 (Philadelphia): Friends Select
How They Got Here: Won the Philadelphia City Championships 

IU 27: No Info Found

IU 28: Armstrong 
How They Got Here: Won the Indiana County Academic League

IU 29 (Schuylkill League): Blue Mountain 
How They Got Here: Won the Schuylkill League Academic Bowl

How will these teams do at PSAC? Well, with the uncertainty (many of these teams rarely, if ever, play pyramidal quizbowl tournaments outside of their league) and randomness in the scheduling it’s basically anyone’s game. Here are the teams that we know of competing who are ranked in the Morlan national rankings and/or in our GPQB mid-season poll (note that 6 of the top 10 teams in the GPQB poll are not competing at PSAC):

Lehigh Valley Academy: 12th nationally, 2nd in PA
Manheim Township: 43rd nationally, 1st in PA
Great Valley: 94th nationally, 3rd in PA
Friends Select: 162nd nationally, 9th in PA
Lakeland: 11th in PA

That said, Blue Mountain always trains hard and finished a surprising 3rd last year at PSAC (wish they would come to some more tournaments!) and Haverford did quite well earlier this year in the JV division at Great Valley’s tournament. We don’t have very good data on the other teams for the most part, but anyone could surprise. We hope that all these teams from areas outside of the centers of quizbowl around the state will come to more weekend tournaments next year–we’d absolutely love to welcome y’all and answer any questions about the wider world of quizbowl!

D-East’s HFT Mirror Wrap-Up [4/8]

12 teams gathered in Exton on April 8th to play a full round-robin tournament on one of the toughest sets in quizbowl, the Harvard Fall Tournament, at the first spring tournament hosted by Downingtown East HS. After a full 11 rounds, D-STEM won the final over Wilmington Charter B, with Friends Select A finishing in 3rd.

Full stats are available here.

This tournament was quite competitive at the top, with the top 5 teams all within 20 points-per-game of each other (319-339 PPG). D-STEM adopted a decidedly aggressive buzzing strategy, finishing with 42 negs (well above any other team), but also grabbing the tournament win. Paced by Vishwa’s 81 PPG, STEM hung on to emerge with the victory despite some very close matches. Charter B, a power trio with all members averaging at least 35 PPG, had surprisingly easy victories over all the PA teams except for STEM, but did drop a game to in-state rival Concord. Not quite sure who will be back next year for Charter, but it’s never a good idea to count Charter out for too long in quizbowl–they’ll likely be back and active in the SEPA region next year.

Friends Select A notched the highest number of powers of any team at the tournament with 27, but struggled a bit on the bonuses with only a 15.6 PPB (though it looks like that stat could influenced by a stat error in their match against Wallenpaupack that led to unusually low PPB that round). They were followed by a less-than-full-strength State College A, who dropped a surprising match early on to Penn Manor before recovering for a 4th-place finish. Wallenpaupack had perhaps the most interesting statline of the tournament: their PPB was the highest of the tournament at 18.17, but they only amassed 5 powers over the course of the day. This is a particularly unusual difference between depth on the bonuses compared to the tossups.

Charter A followed the top teams with a solid effort that fell just short in several close games and then there was a bit of a drop-off as Concord and Friends Select B both adopted fairly aggressive buzzing strategies that didn’t quite pay off for either. Penn Manor, in one of the very rare appearances outside the Lancaster-Lebanon League, put together a respectable effort highlighted by their win over State College A. A smattering of B teams and a house fill-in team rounded out the field and should be applauded for playing such a challenging set in what was essentially a pre-nationals tournament; the top 8 teams here are all registered for at least one national championship tournament.

Hopefully this experience will come in handy as the local teams prepare for nationals in less than two months. Plenty of time to keep practicing on tougher questions to get in shape for nats!

2017 Philadelphia City Championships Wrap-Up

This year, 10 schools from the city of Philadelphia gathered for the city-wide championships, which also double as an IU tournament and qualifier for the PA state tournament in Harrisburg. This is twice the number of schools as last year’s city champs and was the capstone for a year’s worth of explosive growth in participation in Pennsylvania’s largest city. Friends Select School played host and their Center City building provided an accessible and convenient location for the festivities.

Here are the final standings and complete individual stats for the day.
[updated w/nationals qualifiers]

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City champions Friends Select A, at ease before the finals games. From L to R: Rudyard, Jake, Richard, and Emma.

Friends Select A took home the title for the second year and will be going to Harrisburg as Philly’s representative. They were the unquestioned statistical leaders of the tournament, as their PPB (points-per-bonus) was four points above the nearest other team and their 41 powers (extra points for correct early buzzes) were more than twice that of any other team. We knew this team would be good after Richard and Jake went an impressive 4-6 at last year’s HSNCT, but the addition of Rudyard and his immense “real knowledge” has multiplied their early-buzz force. This junior-heavy team is completing quite the season and only loses pop culture specialist Emma next year. Friends Select’s B, C, and D teams also dominated as the school ended up with four of the six playoff bracket spots available. Other schools will have their work cut out for them against this deep roster of teams in the future.

Carver HSES A took second place, undefeated except for their final two loses to Friends Select A (completing a best-of-three final without need for a third game). In an ending a bit reminiscent of a video game, they had to play Friends Select D, C, B, and A in that order and made it to the “final boss” before yielding. They put on one of the most enthusiastic shows around, vigorously buzzing and collecting for spirited pep talks from Coach Shan Hogan. Carver’s teams (I read for both A and B) also play very smart–though they’re not a top-tier team at the state level statistically just yet, they do not make bad negs, they communicate well on bonuses, and they constantly encourage each other and high-five after good buzzes. This allows them to consistently punch above their weight and makes them a blast to read for. Their B team also earned several impressive wins throughout the day (including one over Masterman A) and showed a great deal of growth over the past few tournaments.

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Carver A receives advice from Coach Hogan before a match.

Central took the last remaining playoff berth. They went 5-4 on the day but did so against a brutal schedule. Though Central lacks an all-around power player outside of Marley (who had to leave in the afternoon, somewhat lowering their final PPB), all of their team scored well and they seem to get wins in a workmanlike fashion. Bodine and Rush finished tops in the Middle bracket. They were lead by the tournament’s second and first overall scorers, respectively. Bodine’s Alexandra, just a freshman, is going to be a top-flight player very soon, as she scores in volume and just needs to push up the power rate and focus during some rounds. Meanwhile, Rush deployed something of a secret weapon in Tara, who blasted 72 points per game in her first pyramidal invitational and consistently improved throughout the day. Awesome job by both.

The back end of the tournament contained a lot of newer or first time entrants from the city: Masterman, the Academy at Palumbo, and Furness all played their first quizbowl tournaments and each came away with at least one win. Franklin Learning Center and Franklin Towne Charter also returned and saw FLC win the battle of the Franklins by a combined 25 points over both FTC teams. It was good to see all of these teams participating and learning in this local environment; I saw some good buzzes from them and with continued regular events in the city, they will all improve in no time.

Overall, this was a nice example of how state qualifier/IU tournaments can run on good questions, use a fair format that allows teams to play many games (rather than just 1 or 2), and cater to teams of all levels of ability. The tournament was wrapped up before 3 PM and some teams finished as early as 2:15 or so. High School quizbowl in Philadelphia is rising and has so much potential, and we look forward to seeing its continuing development in future years!

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Franklin Learning Center vs. Academy at Palumbo, which occurred in round 5. Palumbo won a close match, 170-145.

-Ben Herman

Wissahickon Invitational Wrap-Up

16 teams competed in the first-ever Wissahickon Invitational on March 4th at Wissahickon HS in Ambler, PA. Full stats are available here.

Varsity
1. Friends Select A
1. Downingtown STEM A
3. Downingtown East A

JV:
1. Team Sahil of Parkland
2. Downingtown East B
3. Great Valley MS

Varsity

One thing that might be readily apparent from the final standings is the unusual presence of co-champions! After the preliminary rounds, Friends Select A finished with 1 loss and Downingtown STEM finished with 2 losses. This meant that FSS A would have the “advantage” in the final, meaning that FSS only needed to win 1 match to clinch while STEM would have to win both matches. STEM won the first match, but the second match wasn’t played as STEM was prematurely awarded the 1st place trophy. It was an honest mistake on the part of the hosts and the concept of an advantaged final is a bit tricky, though considering how superb the previous STEM-FSS matches were it’s a pity that second final match wasn’t played.

It’s usually a good idea for a tournament to make clear the finals scenarios to both teams before the finals begin (and as much as possible before the tournament, deciding for instance on how to play off potential ties) just so that everyone is on the same page before the finals start.

But that shouldn’t overshadow what was otherwise a great day for both STEM and FSS A, with STEM’s Vishwa averaging over 103 PPG individually and notching 51 powers. STEM’s Anish also contributed 36 PPG, which is a considerable number for being in the shadow of such a strong player. FSS A, finally playing with their full lineup after several months, saw three players amass 17 or more powers and sported a sterling 23.98 PPB. Both teams are young and look to be jockeying for position within the hierarchy of top 5 PA teams next year.

Downingtown East A also had a good run with a win over rival STEM and did it all without their all-star captain Jackie, who generously agreed to read rather than play to help make sure the tournament ran well. Kaushik and Zach both emerged as strong players in their own right and several normal B-teamers got a shot at playing on the A team. FSS B showcased FSS’ developing talent, with Jonah’s 13-1 power-to-neg statline being particularly impressive but with all of their players contributing. And Carver HSES A had their best-ever PPB on an IS-A set with 18.8.

It was great to see Hatboro-Horsham back at quizbowl tournaments after their debut at QFO in December. The MontCo schools’s stats, especially on tossups, are a bit depressed because the top-tier competition in the varsity bracket didn’t give anyone a chance to breathe, but they continued to fight until the end.

JV Division

In the JV division, Team Sahil of Parkland put on quite a show, with a dominating individual performance, especially for being the 2nd-ever pyramidal tournament by a sophomore! Downingtown East B made it clear that D-East is going to continue this year’s strong performance in future years and also played shorthanded. Great Valley MS is a real find; they have some glaring gaps because, well, they’re 7th and 8th graders who haven’t had a high school class yet, but they have very balanced coverage of all parts of the canon and, unlike many teams, excellent pop culture/sports knowledge. I also was pleased with their excellent sportsmanship, as they made sure to shake the hands of all their opponents immediately afterwards even when they lost close games.

Friends Select C, led by an every-improving Aidan, showed more of that trademarked FSS balance and depth while Hatboro-Horsham B exposed a new generation of their players to pyramidal questions and seemed to come out liking them. SLA had a bit of an off day, but Jack did well enough to secure the #2 individual scoring prize. Franklin Towne Charter sent two rather sleepy teams, given that half their members had been up for 24 hours at a dance thon event and then bravely came along to play a mentally taxing 9 rounds of quizbowl. We salute the iron men and women of FTC for such dedication and hope that they were able to include their academic competition services in their fundraisers as well. Carver HSES B notched a couple of wins themselves and also have an improving Aidan as well. William Tennent, making a rare appearance by a non-CBEAST Bucks County team, came with a very young team most of whom were making their quizbowl debut. Rachel V. in particular did a nice job of making the top 10 in individual scoring; hope that the WT team will come to some more events in the future.

All in all, the tournament went off logistically well up until the end–even a few hiccups in the afternoon like a disappearing reader and the internet crashing (again, note the dangers of trying to do wireless tournaments) didn’t delay it too much and 10 rounds were complete by 3:45. Wissahickon was a good venue and the hosts were enthusiastic and had plenty of well-compensated volunteer hour seekers, so hope that they can use their experience in the future to get run academic competition events in Montgomery County.

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament IV Wrap-Up and Comments

40 teams from across Pennsylvania and beyond gathered at Great Valley High School in Malvern, PA for the 4th edition of the always-excellent GVQBT.

Final overall results on Neg5 are available here:
Open
Novice

And final playoff results (which determined placement) are here:
Open 
Novice

Open Division

1. Lehigh Valley Academy A
2. Manheim Township A
3. Camp Hill
4. Downingtown East A
5. Downingtown STEM

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Lehigh Valley Academy A (foreground) collaborates on a bonus question in the final against Manheim Township A (background)

The tournament came down to yet another skirmish between the two teams who have battled back-and-forth throughout the year for supremacy in Pennsylvania: Lehigh Valley Academy A and Manheim Township A. Both teams were at essentially fully strength once the afternoon came around and went undefeated throughout the tournament into what was basically a best-of-3 final. MT A came away with the first match and only needed to grab one of the remaining 2 potential matches to win. But after MT A jumped out to a 120-point lead in Game 2, Alex from LVA simply went off, going on a run of 10 tossups in a row with a series of deep knowledge buzzes, buzzer-race wins, and conversions on negs from MT. This run seemed to break MT A’s confidence going into the final match and, though they kept it close for a bit, Alex put up another 130-point performance to claim the 1st-place trophy. MT A definitely has the firepower to beat LVA, but Alex’s consistency (while most dominant in history, he no major weaknesses and usually buzzes right after the power mark in almost any category) has made LVA A the team to beat now in PA.

Camp Hill finished in 3rd and seems to be on a steady rise through the ranks of the top teams in PA. Colton has always been a solid all-around generalist with deep strengths in history, but what’s triggered the latest rise has been Sydney’s emergence as a bonafide deep literature specialist. If they can find consistent 3rd and 4th chair specialists (although their teammates today definitely contributed some key buzzes), they have a good shot at winning the whole SSNCT. Downingtown East A continued its string of solid performances and got a nice win over local rival Downingtown STEM, though STEM is yet another team on the rise. STEM actually had Manheim Township A on the ropes with a lead going into the final TU in their match, but unfortunately negged to lose by 15 points. STEM has major pockets of deep knowledge, especially in science, and if they continue to develop players around Vishwa (who averaged 100 PPG today) they’re only going to improve.

Lancaster Mennonite continued their aggressive play, racking up 49 (!) negs over the course of the tournament and continuing to demonstrate strong pockets of knowledge in religion and history in the top bracket. Concord (DE) showed up without their best player and rode a favorable schedule into the playoffs while an under-strength Manheim Township B just seemed content to make the playoffs with a narrow 15 points win over Friends Select A. FSS A got a measure of revenge by running through the top consolation bracket and notching wins over Henderson A and an understrength Delaware Valley A. FSS continues to demonstrate outstandingly deep knowledge (4th-most for powers out of all teams at the tournament) but still needs to close up a few gaps and get all of their Big 3 playing at once more consistently. Both Bermudian Springs and Central Bucks East made the most of their appearances as well by finishing in the middle of that same consolation bracket.

Novice Division

1. Manheim Township C
2. Haverford
3. Central Bucks East
4. Great Valley Middle School B
5. Friends Select C

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Tournament Director and Great Valley Coach McCauley makes announcements before the JV/Novice division final of Manheim Township C (left) and Haverford (right).

Manheim Township C won the novice division trophy by defeating Haverford High School in the finals. Interestingly, though Manheim C did not have the most impressive PPB in the novice division, their on-the-buzzer skills were more than enough to make up for that. This will be a group of underclassmen to watch as they move up within the Manheim system. This finish also marked Haverford’s first appearance on the pyramidal quizbowl circuit in five years and they became one of only a small handful for DelCo Hi-Q teams ever to play in a weekend quizbowl tournament n Pennsylvania. They made the most of their time with an exciting up-and-down day that culminated in the runner-up finish to Manheim C. Paced by Jack’s 62 PPG , Haverford would be an excellent addition to the circuit–hopefully they can bring along some other Hi-Q teams too!

Everyone’s favorite CBEAST‘s B team actually finished with the highest points-per-bonus of all the novice schools, but lost to Haverford to finish in 3rd place. CB East has long been one of the most involved Bucks County schools in quizbowl (often called “Scholars Bowl” in Bucks) and it looks like they’re loaded for the next few years. In the rest of the novice division top bracket, Friends Select B (a 3-person team) was solid, but they turned out to have a weakness: middle schoolers. Great Valley’s Middle School sent a team of 7th and another team of 8th graders and both finished in the top 6 in this novice division. Even better, all of them were fairly well-balanced scoring-wise.It looks like GV will have a very solid pipeline of talent for the next few years. Rounding out the top bracket were SLA, who started strong but faded a bit after lunch, and PALCS, which is in the middle of a rebuilding phase this year.

Downingtown East C, who missed the top bracket by the smallest of margins in losing a tiebreak game to GV MS, let loose some frustration in pretty much stomping all the teams who tried to get in their way in the middle bracket. Lehigh Valley Academy B featured some of Alex Schmidt’s loyal teammates who finally got a chance to play outside the considerable “shadow” and acquitted themselves nicely.

Let us extend a big welcome to Franklin Learning Center, who joined the teams on the Cheese Bus of Knowledge from Philadelphia and made their quizbowl debut here. They got ahead of their intra-Philly competition with a win over Bodine in the morning, which boosted them into the middle bracket, where they put up a solid fight but were a bit outmatched by more experienced teams. Bodine themselves had a rough morning, but a great afternoon, winning the lower consolation bracket.

Also a big shout-out to Renaissance Academy for sending 4 teams worth of students in both brackets and all topping 10 PPB. In fact, every team at this tournament finished with at least 10 PPB except for a short-handed DV B. It was a good day of competition all-around and teams definitely got their money’s worth with at least 10 matches for each (a very cool bit of scheduling by Great Valley to avoid byes) and finishing everything but the 2nd game of the finals by 4 PM.

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Renaissance Academy poses for a picture.

A note on the question sets: while the HSAPQ Novice Set used in the novice division was quite solid and reader-friendly (if a bit challenging on the bonuses), the GSAC set used in the varsity division had a number of major issues. While this might have been excusable if this had been the first use of these questions, this was apparently something like the 8th mirror of the set and there were still major factual errors, confusing grammar (esp. a problematic use of too many pronouns in Lit. questions), and a near-complete lack of alternative answer lines, which often made this frustrating to read and led to a number of protests. This is unacceptable. I would not recommend using iterations of GSAC in the future unless the editors make it clear that they will incorporate feedback and improve their product.

-Chris 

Manheim Township Academic Challenge Wrap Up (1/28/17)

38 teams were on hand in Lancaster for the rescheduled annual Manheim Township winter event, delayed from December on account of snow. This did not faze teams, who had an interesting day playing in an unusual card system environment on an NAQT A-Set.

Stats are here.

Card system tournaments work by assigning every team a card to begin the day with a number, and after their first match, the winner takes the card with the lower number, and the loser the higher number. Teams are then sent to play games against teams with similar records due to the way the cards are set up, as opposed to traditional seeded bracket play.

This leads to some advantages and disadvantages. Because the cards match teams with similar records (for the most part; there ended up being a few uneven matchups due to the small number of teams) all day, most teams, even ones on the extremes in skill level, get more matches against teams their own level. This means fewer blowouts and the potential for more exciting games. However, when there are a small number of teams, it means the potential for many rematches, which traditional bracket play prevents. It also can mean fewer rounds, which means kids go home sooner, but get to hear fewer questions. Though 16 and 22 (which were the numbers in Manheim Township’s Varsity/JV) are usually considered too small for card system play, the number of rematches was not too egregious. It will be interesting to see if this experiment is replicated at future tournaments.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

2nd Place Varsity team Camp Hill A. From L to R: Ben, Alex, Colton, Joseph, and Sydney. Photo courtesy Camp Hill quizbowl.

Lehigh Valley Academy, after another 160+ ppg Alex Schmidt run, went 9-0 and won their second tournament this month. I really have nothing new that I can say about LVA. They are dominant, and they look unstoppable right now.

Because of the card system leveling matches and a relatively even field, no other team went better than 6-3 in the varsity division. Camp Hill A finished 2nd, their best place at a local tournament in a long time. They finished with the exact same points per game as Henderson A in the playoff bracket, requiring a half packet tiebreaker to get to the final. Colton Sanden’s 31 powers and 78 points per game served Camp Hill well, especially coming out when it counted during the tiebreaker. A fine wingman performance from Sydney Preston and backing performances by Ben Hass, Alex Drda, and Joseph Zullo, all of whom look to be improving, sealed the deal. They are poised for a big run at this year’s SSNCT.

Henderson, despite eventually losing the 3rd place match to finish 4th, continues to rebuild faster than most local moderators predicted. In freshman Vijay Anne, they have a clear JV player of the year candidate and a piece to build around for several seasons more. Downingtown East A took 3rd, weathering a strong schedule. Their one-two punch of Jackie and Kaushik combined for some strong performances, as they never put up less than 240 points and came within 80 of LVA in round five.

Elsewhere in the Varsity tournament, a reduced strength Great Valley A struggled more than usual without Dan and Everett, Wallenpaupack continued a solid season, and Cedar Crest, Carver HSES, Berwick, and Emmaus all got in solid tournament play as they build up and learn more. We also saw season debuts for Hempfield, Bermudian SpringsCumberland Valley, and Schuylkill Haven, all of whom did well, winning multiple games and representing their regions of the state admirably. Hempfield in particular should be commended for qualifying for nationals at the tournament by finishing 5th.

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Berwick High School after a hard fought tournament. Photo courtesy Berwick Quizbowl Team.

In the JV division, first time pyramidal entrant Lancaster Catholic rode a bit of beginners luck and a good deal of skill to a 7-2 record and the first-place trophy. With four players in at over 14 points a game, everyone contributed to a good run and a 30 point finals win over Great Valley B. I hope to see more of Lancaster Catholic at area events. The rest of the JV bracket was filled by teams from Philadelphia’s Central and Bodine, as well as squads from Huntingdon and many C and D teams from other schools. Potential rising stars include Huntingdon A’s Andrew Buonaccorsi and Great Valley C’s Alan Xu, who tied for the JV scoring title with 60 points per game each.

Overall, Manheim Township provided another sterling event, and recruited some new faces while satisfying some old ones. The storylines here may not have been the biggest ones, but there was plenty of close play to go around. Next stop: Westmoreland County, for the inaugural tournament at Norwin.

-Ben Herman

Downingtown East Invitational Wrap-Up

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Ramon, Lucas, and Alex from LVA with their first place trophy.

30 teams gathered in Exton, PA for the first-ever Downingtown East HS tournament. The final results were:

1. Lehigh Valley Academy
2. Manheim Township A
3. Centennial (MD) A
4. Centennial (MD) B

Full stats are available here.

What did we learn today?

  • Downingtown is full of excellent quizbowl teams. While D-East was occupied with hosting, Downingtown STEM, led by the tournament’s breakout star in Vishwa, made the most of their opportunities in their first-ever pyramidal tournament to make the top 8. They had an outstanding mix of deep knowledge and quickly caught on to the pyramidal questions and format as the tournament went on. Downingtown West made the step up in difficulty to the regular HS level and, though they struggled in a tough playoff bracket, had a solid 18+ PPB average and a good all-around performance by their lead scorer Ben. Both of these schools would be welcome additions to more tournaments and we hope to see them (and their B teams) around the circuit in the future.
  • The GPQB Poll’s #1 and #2 teams keep battling for state supremacy. So far, Lehigh Valley Academy is 2-1 against Manheim Township A this year. LVA’s only loss of the day was by 5 points to Baltimore-area powerhouse Centennial A and Alex Schmidt’s uncanny ability to go on a run of powers just when he needs it worked wonders in the final versus MT A. It’s notable that MT A’s win over LVA came on a housewrite while LVA has won both NAQT matchups with MT A.
  • It’s good to mix circuits. Centennial’s 3 teams made a strong impact on the tournament and Fayetteville-Manilus‘ top player came down from NY to play. More teams venturing out into other circuits is always a good thing to see and it helps add variety and challenge to the tournament fields.
  • Great Valley A can beat anyone. Centennial A is a bonafide national powerhouse (check out that 24+ PPB) and Great Valley A notched what NCAA bracketologists call a “good win” over them. When GV A is clicking, they can beat any team in the region. But whether or not they can perform consistently enough to string together several wins over the top teams remains unclear.
  • Teams are still figuring out their best A-team lineups. We don’t have that much info with the best teams at full strength due to both player absences and shifting lineups. Finding a good fit, especially for 3rd and 4th chairs on teams, can be tough in terms of both subject matter coverage and team chemistry. I’d advise teams to read this good post on the forums about being a 4th player and thinking through who would be good at that job.
  • There’s more to the Lehigh Valley than LVA. Allentown Central Catholic came down out of the valley and put in a solid performance to follow-up on their earlier Lehigh Valley Invitational results. Emmaus also made a welcome return to the circuit and rode the strength of lead scorer Mike to a solid middle-bracket finish. Would love to see more of these teams venturing outside of the valley and potentially hosting more tournaments within it in the future.
  • D-East did a good job as a first time tournament host. Despite a few hiccups with Neg5 and rebracketing (see below), this was an exceptional job as an almost entirely student-led enterprise. Everything was done by 4:30 PM even with issues like a team showing up late and leaving early. Hopefully the secrets of competent TDing will be passed down to future generations of D-Easters!
  • I don’t think Neg5 is ready for primetime. Yes, it is an improvement in some ways on the old SQBS stats software that requires centralized manual entry, but it’s not very user-friendly and when things go wrong, it can gum up the tournament to a greater extent than one with paper scoresheets. Training can help, but with the updates reconfiguring it pretty often it’s just more trouble than it’s worth for me at this point.

Next up on the quizbowl tournament slate here in Pennsylvania: Manheim Township (1/28), Norwin (2/4), and Great Valley and CMU’s Tartan (2/11)! Let’s do everything we can as a community to get these tournaments to run well and teams to attend.

Chris C. with Ben H.

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Great Valley D (left) vs. Downingtown STEM A.