The HHS Scholar Bowl team gathers around the Class 3 state championship trophy. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Houston High School Scholar Bowl Team won the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3 Scholar Bowl State Championship Friday (May 6) in the Memorial Union on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

Houston was joined in the Class 3 Final Four by Father Tolton Regional Catholic (of Columbia), Lutheran (of Kansas City) and Stockton, and the squads played a three-game round-robin preliminary round before being seeded for the semifinals. The games were played in the 22-22 format, with 22 “tossups” per game (11 per half) and 22 three-part bonuses attached to correct tossups. All questions were worth 10 points, for a possible 880 points.

Houston’s four-man A-Team of seniors Devon Sawyer and Alex Swallow and juniors Andy Durham and Ben Cook downed Father Tolton 500-190 in the first prelim, and then beat Lutheran 460-170 and Stockton 570-120 to earn the top seed in the semifinals. The Tigers then routed Father Tolton in the championship game, 510-150.

Lutheran beat Stockton in the third-place game, 380-140.

Houston finished the day averaging 510 points per game, the highest of any team in the three classes competing Friday in Columbia. The Tigers averaged 19.52 points per bonus and 19.09 points per rebound, out of a possible 30.

Houston reached the Final Four by defeating Calvary Lutheran 2-games-to-1 in a sectional matchup April 20 in Jefferson City.

The Tigers competed in nine varsity regular season tournaments, winning the Mountain Grove tournament and the South Central Association Tournament, and taking second at the Houston Fall and Spring tournaments and the Kickapoo Tournament. Houston also took third at the Strafford Tournament and went undefeated at the Class 3 District 1 Tournament at Portageville, averaging 524 points per game. The Tigers finished the 2021-2022 with record of 71-17 (including the postseason).

The trip to the Final Four was Houston’s second straight after making the quarterfinals in both 2019 and 2016. The squad was led by head coach Jason Pounds (a social studies teacher) and assistant coach James Allen (a science teacher).

“We are truly blessed as a program to receive the kind of support that we do from the school and community,” Pounds said. “I have talked to other coaches around the state and some of them feel like they don’t get much support. That has never been the case for us. The school and the community have been huge supporters for years.

“As I updated our scores on Friday on social media, I knew we were being followed by a large contingent of Tiger fans. That’s a great feeling. It’s an even better feeling to be able to reward that support with a state championship.”

Houston’s alternate players included juniors Aubrey Crockett, Emily Honeycutt, Tyler Lawson and Xander Riggs, sophomore Lilly Scheliga and freshmen Allie Benoist and David Eastman.

The HHS Scholar Bowl team in action.

“I hope the lesson that our players take from this is that hard work pays off,” Pounds said. “There were plenty of talented students at the Final Four, but no team worked as hard as ours did to make sure we won.”

Upon returning to Houston Friday night, the squad was met with a hero’s welcome, as dozens of people gather near the school to greet the bus and the Houston Fire Department and Police Department had vehicles on scene with sirens blaring.

FINAL FOUR GAME RECAP

In Houston’s first matchup against Father Tolton Regional Catholic, the Tigers got off to a fast start by taking the first 3 tossups and 6 of the 9 bonuses to take a 90-10 lead after three questions. They proceeded to take 6 more tossups in the first half to lead 280-50 at halftime.

Houston then claimed 7 more tossups in the second half to earning the blowout victory.

Cook led the team in scoring in the contest with 7 tossups, while Sawyer, Durham and Swallow scored on 3 tossups apiece. The other first round game saw Stockton defeat Lutheran 220-210.

In Houston’s second prelim, Lutheran took the first tossup and swept the bonus to start the game with a 40-0 lead. A short time later, Lutheran took Tossup 6 and swept the bonus to hold a 90-50 lead. But the Tigers took control from there. 

Swallow answered the next 2 questions and the team swept both bonus sets. Durham took Tossup 9 and Sawyer took Question 10, and the Tigers swept the subsequent bonus sets, scoring a perfect 160 points in 4 questions. Cook answered the final tossup of the first half and the Tigers had built a 230-100 lead.

HHS players and coaches are recognized after winning the Class 3 crown.

Houston then took 8 of the 11 second-half tossups to close out the win.

Cook, Durham and Sawyer all finished with 4 tossups in the game, while Swallow added 3.

In the Tigers’ third and final preliminary game against Stockton, the first question went unanswered, but the Tigers took the next 4 and converted 8-of-12 bonuses. After 5 questions, Houston led 120-10. Houston wrapped up the first half by winning the last 3 tossups and converting 10-of-12 bonuses to build a commanding 260-60 advantage.

To start the second half, Cook answered Tossup 12 and the Tigers swept the bonus. Stockton captured Tossups 13 and 14, but could only answer 2 of the 6 bonuses. The Tigers captured the other 4 on rebounds, and after question 14 led 340-100. They then answered 7 of the last 8 tossups to end the contest.

Ben Cook finished the game with 5 tossups, while Sawyer and Durham each had 4 and Swallow added 2.

Houston finished the preliminary rounds as the only undefeated team in the event.

In the final, Father Tolton took the first tossup, but the Tigers took 2 of the bonuses to even the score at 20. The Tigers took 3 of the next 4 and converted 7 of the 9 bonuses to build a 100-point lead at 120-20. Father Tolton would take Tossup 6, but the Tigers won the next 5 tossups and led 270-60 at halftime.

Houston then dominated the second half, winning 8-of-11 tossups and clinched the program’s first state title when Cook answered tossup 17 and the team converted 2 of the 3 bonuses. Cook and Sawyer led the team with 5 tossups each, while Durham had 4 and Swallow added 2.

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