US Quiz Bowl Teams Claims First at TQBA Big Tex Bonanza

The Greenhill Upper School Quiz Bowl A team brought home first place at the TQBA Big Tex Bonanza on Saturday, November 12.

The online tournament featured 23 teams in the Varsity division (with 9 more in the Junior Varsity division) from 17 schools. Familiar foe Strake Jesuit (Houston) fielded three teams, as did national power Cinco Ranch (Katy), who finished tied for 10th at last year’s Nationals. St. John’s School was also in attendance, as was Heights, with both schools from the Houston area. Teams from across the nation — Wilton (CT), Overlake (WA), and Chenery (MA) — also participated.

The tournament was played on “A sets” of questions. Due to the slightly lower level of difficulty, A set tournaments give younger teams (such as Greenhill A — made of Nikky Nandipati ’24, Kate Ponnambalam ’26, Maya Jagsi ’26, and Iyad Mohammed ’24 — all juniors and ninth graders) greater openings to perform well against older, more knowledgeable teams if they play aggressively. Aggressive play can backfire if the player ringing in is incorrect, so it’s a risky strategy.

Greenhill A ended the prelims with a very close loss to an improved Heights squad. Since there were no undefeated prelim teams and Greenhill A had the best points per bonus of the 6-1 teams, they entered the playoffs as the #1 seed and had a bye during the first round of the playoffs.

Greenhill A had a decisive win against Bellaire in the Round of 16, but worked hard to beat a very good Seven Lakes (Katy, TX) in the quarterfinals; the 395-275 final score does not reflect how close this match was for much of the game. In the semifinals, Greenhill A was down 250-125 at the half to Wilton, the Connecticut team led by a very gifted senior (who was the top scorer overall on the day) but rallied beautifully to win 395-365 to advance to the finals.

In the finals, Greenhill A played St. John’s (another much-improved team with a few very impressive upperclassmen). At the half, Greenhill A was once again down, this time by a score of 245-75. The team turned it on, got 8 of the last 10 tossups, and stunned St. John’s with a 395-280 defeat. Greenhill A played an incredibly balanced final, with Maya clinching the win on tossup 19 with a great science buzz on electronegativity, Kate finishing out the round with a power buzz (ringing in early into the tossup and being correct — which earns a bonus 5 points) about Edith Wharton, and Nikky setting up the victory with his consistently stellar performance.

Individually, Nikky led the team with 73.6 PPG, good for 11th among all competitors. Kate contributed 50.9 PPG, putting her 18th overall — but the second-highest scoring ninth grader in the tournament, and 2nd among all players who weren’t their team’s top scorer; this seems like an unusual distinction, but it is a testament to her quality and the depth of the team that she can put up such strong numbers despite playing on a team with someone also putting up numbers at least that good. Maya contributed 20.9 PPG, and she and Iyad supported the team on bonus questions throughout the day.

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