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Introduction

Welcome to Reach Scores!

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This is Reach Scores, a place to find out about, well, “Reach” scores.

Many Canadian high school students played, watched, or otherwise heard of “Reach for the Top”. It began as a CBC television program in the 1960s, left the airwaves, and returned as the classroom-based “SchoolReach”. Lists of alumni and champions are readily available on the web.

But what about scores? Unlike, say, high school sports, scores of Reach games are not easy to find. The Reach for the Top organization publishes results of tournaments they manage (Nationals and some provincial championships), but the pickings are slim for regional or historical results. Every now and then you’ll find a YouTube video or a news archive of a single game from a tournament, but it is often in the context of a school tooting its horn, rather than providing a larger scope of gameplay and competition for a region or time period.

I’d like to change that. I have already uploaded some tournament results on a wiki-style site (use this index of tournaments as a start) for historical interest. People ought to be able to find results without needing to dig through an internet or library archive, and I hope to make it more convenient for them. I will use this blog for updates, including planned recordings of games. I will probably also add analysis (such as my “R-value”) and opinion. Contributions, results or otherwise, are welcome through the contact methods listed on this site.

Thank you for visiting!

What Am I?

Still waiting on a “Why am I”

The SchoolReach “What am I” questions are the most common request to me for a strategy topic. For a brief summary, the questions are quite important, but have little in the way of gamesmanship for improving upon them.

“What am I” questions (along with other phrases like “Who am I” or “Where am I”) consist of four sets of clues leading to a single answer, where a correct buzz during the first clue part earns 40 points, the second part 30 points, the third part 20, and 10 points for a correct answer at the end. “What am I” questions have been around for the entirety of Reach’s history, and were also a part of Reach’s predecessor, the British Top of the Form. The question structure is similar to the no-longer-used 30-20-10 bonuses of College Bowl – I am not sure if the structure has a further common ancestor (based on Twenty Questions?) or whether the questions developed independently of each other.

“What am I” questions, in theory, are a great format for determining and rewarding deep knowledge of a subject. There is a prevalent belief that a player who has studied, say, Ethiopian history should get points over a person who memorized all the capital cities – in a “Where am I” about Ethiopia, clues might be about the Derg, the famine of the 1980s, Haile Selassie, and Addis Ababa, in that order. If the format is thought to be a variation of the quizbowl tossup (except with pauses and lots more points available), the “What am I” format is also a good way to introduce less well-known topics via the first few clues of a more general answer. People who have heard me read know I jokingly refer to the start of the game as “time to learn” – properly-written questions like these are, in fact, a great way to expand your canon of knowledge.

The key point, of course, is “properly-written”. Other than possibly assigned questions, “What am I” is the most critical to have written fairly, and rarely was up until a few years ago. When a 40-point swing is up for grabs, the editor can’t mention “David Copperfield” in the first clue of a Dickens question. While fluke 40s could pop up from time to time, other hallmarks of poor questions were vague opening clues like “I was a famous painter that made bold use of colour” (how many painters didn’t?) or useless biographical clues like “My time at Main Street High School inspired my later career”. A particular pet peeve of mine was the use of birthdates for opening clues – a birthdate is never an important aspect of a person (other than in Midnight’s Children or possibly Justin Trudeau), and often is a sign that the writer lazily took clues in chronological order from the encyclopedia entry on the individual. Thankfully, “What am I” questions are improving to the point where a player can make useful guesses on any of the parts that gradually get easier.

“What am I” questions provide up to 80 points in a standard game (more in championships). Almost 10% of the game can be achieved in 2 buzzes, but there isn’t much of a secret to them other than building a deeper knowledge base. Quizbowl tossups are a great place to start for practice: try a junior set first (which will have easily recognizable answers), then read the first sentence, pause, and make a guess. Continue to the next sentence and repeat until you have either reached the end or are confident of your guess. This could also be done in a group practice setting on buzzers where a reader who can see the answer in advance makes the pauses. Old “What am I” questions (especially more than five years old) are not a good source for preparing for new ones. As for gameplay, the main rookie mistake to overcome is never consult about options or answers half-way through: the other team could leap on a guess they hadn’t considered but heard from you! The lack of gamesmanship or tactical play in “What am I” questions is, in my opinion, what makes it a great part of a game that should reward the more knowledgeable team.

Have fun with the “What am I” format! Hopefully you get a nice 40 point buzz that you feel you really earned.

2020 BC Reach preview

Views from the west coast

The following has been contributed by Max from the University Hill SS team, with some minor editing corrections.

Coming off two consecutive strong years for British Columbia of putting both representatives into the quarterfinals, the top teams from the province are going to experience a lot of turnover. Eric Hamber loses their entire starting lineup, while University Hill, Churchill and Collingwood lose their top players who accounted for 50+% of their points during provincials. Because of this, it’s likely we’ll see new teams rise to the top, and I thought I’d share some thoughts on who they might be.

The Favorites

1. Saint George’s

This is not a slam dunk number 1 pick like Eric Hamber last season, but I have to give Saint George’s top status going into next year. They get two starters back from a fairly balanced lineup that took fourth at provincials, in addition to pulling from a junior team coming off a provincial championship. Furthermore, a team of grade 10-11’s from Saint George’s won BC History Bowl this season, ahead of a 3-man University Hill team and rivals Southridge. While Saints struggled against the top squads at provincials this year (losing 510-260 to UHILL and 420-220 to Hamber), their surprise win over Collingwood in the quarterfinals by an impressive 420-300 scoreline shows that they’ve got a potentially dangerous team. If Saints can manage a #1 seed at provincials then they’ll be hard to stop before the finals. Saints finished 4th at junior provincials two years ago.

2. Southridge

This might be a bit of a surprise for people outside of BC, but I think Southridge comes in at number 2. The general consensus going into provincials this year was that Hamber, UHILL, Churchill, Collingwood and Saints would be fighting for the three national qualifier spots. While that’s how things played out, Southridge showed that they were head and shoulders above the rest of the field, even giving Churchill a scare in their quarterfinal. Southridge is getting most of their senior squad back next year, and can pull from a junior side that got top seed at provincials before finishing second to Saints. While I think Saints gets a slight edge from experience and depth of lineup, I would not be at all surprised for Southridge to repeat their junior provincial championship from two years ago.

3. Churchill

This year Churchill relied primarily on two star players, one of which has graduated, the other will be returning with probably the strongest case for being B.C’s best player. While Churchill looks to have another strong eleventh grader who can slot in as a good second scorer, they lack the depth of Southridge and Saints going into next season. Churchill’s juniors played themselves to a 4th seed at junior provincials this year, but then lost a surprising 4-v-13 game and finished 9th. If Churchill’s grade 10 and 11’s experience a lot of growth this year, then Churchill will be in a position to challenge for first. However, as it stands, I have them a step behind Southridge and Saints. Churchill finished 3rd at junior provincials two years ago.

The Challengers

4. Eric Hamber

Although Hamber loses all their players from this year’s national semifinalist lineup, they have a strong squad of juniors ready to take over. Their quarterfinal loss to Saints at this year’s junior provincials was only by 20 points, and judging by their overall performance at the event, they arguably deserved 3rd. This being said, having no returning senior players is going to be a challenge for Hamber, and their juniors are going to have to get acclimatized to senior level packs quickly if they want to challenge for the title. Hamber made the smart decision of taking some of their juniors to Nats this year, and as a result they’ll be far more ready (and perhaps more motivated) than most grade 11’s to make a run at nationals. Although I think they’ll probably need another year of growth before they challenge for the provincial title, I could definitely see Hamber pulling off an upset in a 3rd place game and making Nats. Eric Hamber finished 5th place at junior provincials two years ago.

5. University Hill

With UHILL’s two top players graduating, it’s unlikely they’ll be as strong as last year. However, their 11th grader from the nationals lineup has been putting up strong scores when not shadowed by their top two, and has the potential to develop into one of the province’s strongest players. UHILL lacks incoming support from their juniors, but has grade 11’s who, while not starting for the senior team last year, have filled in as solid support players when needed. If UHILL develops their potential reliable specialists to fill in the weaknesses of their captain, then I could easily see them surpassing Hamber and making semifinals. UHILL finished 6th place at junior provincials two years ago.

This concludes my two cents for BC Reach going into the next year. The team that finished second place at junior provs two years ago was University Transitions. UTrans is an accelerated High School learning program, so their players have graduated, otherwise they’d be a strong contender as well. Burnett and the current UTrans team are other squads to watch. Burnett overcame a 13th seed at junior provincials to claim to bronze medal, and while their lineup of all grade 10’s had difficulty at senior provincials this year, they’ll come in with a lot of experience. UTrans earned second seed at junior provincials this year, but their performance fell off significantly in the playoff rounds, resulting in a fourth place finish. That being said, they had an 8th grader this year who impressed at junior provincials and attended senior provincials, so if they develop well next year, I could see UTrans doing well at provs. Finally, these are only early predictions based on what I’ve seen this past year. Teams can always come out of nowhere with a lot of hard work over the course of the season. I and Mike Liu (Churchill graduate) will be hosting a house-written tournament late this year, where we hope to learn more about the teams and get them ready to compete at the provincial and national level.

End of the season

Keeping PACE

With Nationals come and gone, the 2019 season has finished. The blog will go into “offseason” mode again. There won’t be an update each week, and the topics will tend to be less time-sensitive: a chance to look at old results and general analysis. Current events will resume in the next school year.

One team is still active. Lisgar CI, the runners-up in the recent Nationals, is at the PACE National Scholastic Championship south of the border. They have had a few Canadian participants over the years: Lisgar in 2011, 2013 and 2017, Waterloo CI in 2015, and White Oaks SS in 2016. Yesterday, Lisgar went 4-3 in their prelim pool to proceed to the upper half, went 1-4 in their afternoon bracket, and will compete for a spot between 41st and 44th today. In the morning, they came within 10 points of Chattahoochee A, who will be competing in the top 8 tier. After this tournament wraps up, I think that covers all Canadian team activity until the new season.

Finally, one project for the summer will be figuring out what to do about the database. It is on an unreliable host, but it offers freedoms and control that the main free wiki host (Wikia) does not. The short-sighted decision to set the site up with Semantic MediaWiki rather than regular MediaWiki will also make a transfer difficult, but not impossible. I’ll see how the site holds up for now, but two years in a row it has failed in the busy late April/early May period. I hope the inconveniences have not been too burdensome when people want to look up results.

Enjoy the summer – but get through the exams first!

2019 Nationals results

A Hamilton duel

The 2019 Reach for the Top national championship concluded on Monday. 14 teams from seven provinces competed: first in a round robin on Saturday that I covered in the previous post, then in playoffs on Sunday and Monday.

Westmount SS claimed the title over Lisgar CI in a final that was close up until the last blitz of questions. This is Westmount’s (and the Hamilton area’s) first national title. Congratulations to them, especially considering the logistical hardships they had to face throughout the year. Logistics didn’t affect their ability to demonstrate their knowledge base in several competitions during the year, and the title is hardly a surprise given their impressive track record. The results from the Reach organizers is found here, and the table I have generated is found here.

Ontario teams dominated the event. Westmount led the way by sweeping the round-robin and becoming the first #1 seed to take the title since UTS in 2013. UTS and Lisgar were the other two top seeds, and met in a semifinal. Despite UTS coming in as a favourite, Lisgar came through in the late game and scored one of the bigger upsets of the decade (by a team not named Bellerose). Lisgar should be impressed with their result, particularly while playing somewhat shorthanded, while UTS will be left wondering what could have been. UTS should still be good for another National run next year.

The BC teams were next in line, courtesy of Eric Hamber’s fourth place finish. Both teams did not look like they played on Saturday to the potential they demonstrated in provincials: Eric Hamber had a slow start and lost some key games in the quest for the fourth seed, while University Hill got wins but had the lowest R-value of any of the quarterfinalists. Both improved in Sunday, and both went as far as they could before being eliminated by an eventual finalist.

Alberta was neck-and-neck with the west coast teams, and got the better of them on Saturday. Renert’s 5th and STS’ 6th (by D-/R-value tabulation) are the best national results for each school, and this was the first time two Alberta teams finished in the top half. Renert is going to lose some strength to graduation, but a decent junior squad will still keep a provincial run alive. STS had a surprisingly good Nationals considering their past track record there, so hopefully they can fend off the likes of Webber and Old Scona to make another appearance next year. Webber did not have a great result, but the team is young and will have returning players next year. They can also take solace in knowing that they just missed the quarterfinals by 30 points.

Cobequid EC put reports of Nova Scotia’s demise to rest for now. Along with STS, this was another surprise from Saturday, and they capped it off with a narrow playoff win over KVHS. Cobequid proceeded to the first quarterfinal appearance by a Nova Scotia team since 2013. Participation in the province is still low, but the representative won’t be so easily dismissed next year.

Marianopolis, representing Quebec, had a positive turn-around from the prelims. They began Sunday with an unsurprising loss to the top seed of the first round, but then worked their way through the afternoon games and won the consolation final. This was much better than their Saturday results demonstrated, and they can hold their heads high for that. Marianopolis will be completely new next year, so we can’t really predict what lies ahead in Quebec competition.

The New Brunswick teams didn’t do as well as originally predicted. Based on the independent events and the provincial result, it looked like both teams could be in the running for quarterfinal spots, but neither came to fruition. Kennebecasis Valley always has a strong junior group to take up the reins after each graduation, and they will be an easy pick to return next year. Bernice MacNaughton will face a tougher path to Nationals next year if Fredericton HS can build upon their junior results.

Manitoba rounds out the field, but they shouldn’t feel too disappointed. SJR had a good Saturday run, and gave hints that they could make the quarterfinals, but drew one of the stronger first-round seeds and ended up in consolation. They can enjoy a win over Eric Hamber and keeping pace with former champions KV and Cobequid. River East had their first national appearance since the CBC era: they are probably pleased with their two wins. Both are in decent shape to represent Manitoba again.

Overall, this tournament was marked by incredible parity in the midfield and close, high-scoring games in the playoffs. While there is still a tier separating Ontario from the others, the rest of Canada will start dabbling in more competitions and hopefully close the gap. I wasn’t at Nationals, so I can’t comment on the questions or other logistics, but I hope that teams had a good time and represented their provinces well.

This concludes the competition year for most teams. Regardless of how far you finished, congratulations on your participation and good luck in the future. Remember to thank the coaches, staff, and parents who helped along the way. Even if you have graduated, there are volunteer roles, writing opportunities, and quizbowl in universities. Get out there and help grow the game you enjoyed!

2019 Nationals prelim results

Not on Pacific Time.

14 teams from across Canada went through a full round-robin yesterday at the Reach for the Top national championship. The scores from these games are used for seeding in the playoff bracket, where all save the bottom two remain in contention for the title. The seeds are:

  1. Westmount SS (13-0, 134%). Westmount got a critical win over UTS early in the day to allow them to go undefeated and avoid any Ontario teams in their potential playoff path until the final. They will have an easier draw than at provincials, but potential opponents Cobequid, KV, Eric Hamber or Renert still put up strong point totals relative to how they ended up seeded. I still think Westmount is on track for a great duel in the final.
  2. UTS (12-1, 136%). UTS took the prelim loss, but has the slim R-value lead. They have a history of turning into a dominant team once the long playoff games arrive, and a shorthanded Lisgar would be their only major challenge before the final. Despite having the lower seed, I’d give UTS the edge in a potential final with Westmount.
  3. Lisgar CI (10-3, 124%). If you told me Lisgar would go 10-3 with a loss to Eric Hamber, I’d have responded that they would be the fourth seed. However, lots of teams below them took more losses than expected, and Lisgar ends up third with a decent margin over the rest of the field. Not bad for being shorthanded. Lisgar looks on pace for finishing third overall, which would continue their tradition of third at provincials translating to third nationally.
  4. The Renert School (9-4, 112%). Renert finally broke through and have guaranteed themselves at least a quarterfinal match. If their opponent ends up being Eric Hamber, it will be a match of the slimmest of margins and they will face quite a challenge. Renert can take comfort in knowing that they also beat Hamber by the slimmest of margins in the round-robin.
  5. Eric Hamber SS (8-5, 113%). Hamber had a sluggish start to the day (jetlag?) and took a few too many losses, particularly to SJR and STS ranked below them. Hamber has the potential to be better than their R-value suggests: they might be able to make the semifinal, but I don’t think they are getting past Westmount. A 9AM playoff game might not be what a BC team desires, but I think they can at least get the win over Marianopolis.
  6. University Hill SS (7-6, 93%). A sixth seed for UHill is not surprising from pre-tournament prognostication, but they will need to improve once the playoffs roll around. They have the lowest points/R-value of any of the top 10 teams, and many of their round-robin wins were by less than 40 point margins. Flukes tend to not happen in the longer playoff rounds, but, thankfully for them, they drew a relatively weak Webber team to get their feet wet in the bracket.
  7. STS (6-7, 105%). STS leads a cluster of an intriguing batch of 6-7 teams that have good scores but picked up too many losses. STS has an unfortunate draw for their performace: first round opponent SJR beat them in the round-robin, and then UTS is waiting for them. STS was one of the good Saturday surprises, but they will have a tough Sunday.
  8. KVHS (6-7, 98%). Even for a down year, this is probably not where KV expected to enter the playoffs. They had a brutal first half of the schedule that involved facing all the top teams and falling to a 1-6 record at one point. However, a round 8 win over similarly-strong STS was a morale boost to help them finish the afternoon well. KV is out-of-place thanks to too many losses, and while their underlying scores should help for the longer games, a potential quarterfinal against Westmount will be too much for them.
  9. Cobequid EC (6-7, 97%). Cobequid was the other good Saturday surprise. They pulled strong scores against strong opponents in the morning (despite losing), and it seemed they would have the pace to win more afternoon games and make the top eight. However, that 10-point loss to STS ended up making a huge impact on where they finished, and now they have to face the similarly strong-but-poorly-seeded KV. That match is going to be close and they may still get that first Nova Scotia quarterfinal since 2013, but they would have to avenge the loss KV handed them in the round-robin.
  10. St. John’s-Ravenscourt (6-7, 96%). SJR wraps up the tight cluster of 6-7 teams that will all have to face each other in the opening rounds. They are probably slightly ahead of their expected order thanks to picking up a win against Eric Hamber, but as I mentioned with STS, this draw will not be kind. SJR’s first opponent, STS, is stronger on paper, but SJR did get the win in the round-robin.
  11. Webber Academy (3-10, 80%). There is some drop-off here. Webber may have expected to finish closer to the other Alberta teams after their provincial run, but it was not to be. They have managed to draw the statistically-weakest of the teams ranked above them (University Hill), but I think even that would be too much to overcome.
  12. Marianopolis College (3-10, 76%). The unknown wild card did end up making the playoffs, but they have to start against Eric Hamber, the strongest of the teams that have to play in the first round. Marianopolis will likely end up in the consolation bracket, where they can try to target matching their 11th place finish from 2017.
  13. Bernice MacNaughton HS (1-12, 69%). MacNaughton showed a lot of potential from their provincial result, and are probably disappointed that they weren’t close to their fellow New Brunswick opponents. I don’t know if there were other circumstances in play, but I thought they would finish a little higher up the order. They will be in the consolation bracket, but perhaps that is a place for them to make a turn-around.
  14. River East (1-12, 61%). River East got a win in their SchoolReach-era nationals debut, but they are still headed for the consolation rounds. They have one last chance for their Cinderella run before the clock strikes midnight.

I was not on-site, so this summary is just based on a cold, calculated look at the scores. The short prelim rounds can bring up different dynamics than the playoff rounds: short prelim games are more prone to volatility and upsets, while long playoff matches favour the deep teams that can put up points and overcome any mid-match swings. It should also be noted that since everyone played each other and no single team dominated over the rest of the field (unlike, say, UTS in 2018), R-value is mostly just a reworking of points totals.

There should be some close matches today, particularly KV-Cobequid, STS-SJR and the potential Renert-Hamber quarterfinal. If Monday comes down to a Westmount-UTS final, we could see a classic clash like Lisgar-UTS in 2017.

Good luck to the competing teams! Whatever your result, you can be proud of making it this far in the season.

2019 Nationals preview

14 titles in the field.

The Reach for the Top national championship is coming next weekend, with top teams from across the country vying for the title. Last year’s champion, UTS, is among the field and will be attempting yet another of their back-to-back title sequences. A mix of newcomers and long-time attendees will challenge them; could we see a first-time title winner? Here is a preview of the competitors, but please note that some teams may not end up attending:

British Columbia

Eric Hamber SS

  • Most recent national result: 5th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 2nd (2016)

University Hill SS

  • Most recent national result: 6th (2000)
  • Best national result (on file): 6th (1998-2000)

Sir Winston Churchill SS

  • Most recent national result: 7th (2017)
  • Best national result (on file): 5th (2008)

BC will be Ontario’s biggest threat to a strangehold on the semis. Eric Hamber will lead the way, coming in with the highest PPG (518) in any variation of packs done at provincials (in BC’s case, two 930-pt regionals + three 1110-point provincials). They have a chance at repeating their finals appearance of 2016 if they get a nice draw. University Hill has re-emerged on the national scene after almost two decades away; they are not far behind Eric Hamber on the provincial scene, and should be among the top six seeds. Churchill is a step behind the two leaders in BC, but if they attend, they are also in the running for at least a quarterfinal spot. The BC contenders have been preparing for nationals with small scrimmages on NAQT and independent sets – nothing on the official side, but enough to give them more exposure to material than past years.

Alberta

The Renert School

  • Most recent national result: 9th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 9th (2017-18)

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School

  • Most recent national result: 12th (2014)
  • Best national result (on file): 12th (2014)

Webber Academy

  • Most recent national result: 10th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 10th (2014, 2018)

It’s an all-Calgary representation for Alberta this year. Renert is probably in the best position they’ve ever had, and they will want to get out of the consolation bracket before their graduation window closes. A quarterfinal appearance is due for them. Renert put up 504 PPG on 1110-pt packs that included one housewritten round. STS has not had many national appearances, but went undefeated in their provincial pool along with Renert. They, along with now-regular attendee Webber, will be on the borderline between consolation and quarterfinals.

Manitoba

St. John’s-Ravenscourt School

  • Most recent national result: 10th (2017)
  • Best national result (on file): 7th (2007)

River East Collegiate

  • Most recent national result: unknown
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (1971)

St. Paul’s HS

  • Most recent national result: 14th (2017)
  • Best national result (on file): 3rd (2010)

This will not be a strong year for Manitoba. Their usual national quarterfinal contender, Kelvin HS, didn’t make provincial semis, and the game scores from those playoff matches were not as impressive as other provinces. The PPG of just semifinals, 3rd-place matches, and finals for each known province (all on 1110-pt packs, NB is actually the 3 games involving KV and MacNaughton): 410 for ON, 348 for NB, 329 for BC, 324 for AB, 304 for MB. Nevertheless, the Cinderella story from the province, if there is to be one, is the revived River East team – a national champion from the CBC days that restarted their Reach team a few years ago. They have played spoiler in Manitoba and would love to do so nationally.

Ontario

University of Toronto Schools

  • Most recent national result: 1st (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2002-03, 2012-13, 2018)

Westmount SS

  • Most recent national result: none
  • Best national result (on file): none

Lisgar CI

  • Most recent national result: 1st (2017)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2008, 2015, 2017)

As expected given the last few years, Ontario is the juggernaut that will hog the semifinal spots. UTS and Westmount have dominated the regular season, with the latter also surviving a prelim stumble at provincials to still make the final. Westmount has never been to nationals, but don’t let the novice status fool you: they are strong. Lisgar is somewhat weaker than the top two, and, combined with the fact that they took some surprise losses at provincials, will probably be the Ontario team most within reach of the other provinces.

Quebec

Marianopolis College

  • Most recent national result: 14th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 5th (2014)

Marianopolis is a wild card. I have no information on them, and they will be a completely different team from last year due to eligibility rules. The team has not made it out of the consolation bracket in recent years, but all it takes is one good cohort to pull the squad into the quarterfinals, like in years past. I’m not expecting a high finish from the college, but don’t underestimate the unknown.

New Brunswick

Kennebecasis Valley HS

  • Most recent national result: 4th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2010-11, 2016)

Bernice MacNaughton HS

  • Most recent national result: 13th (2015)
  • Best national result (on file): 13th (2015)

Nationals has been the “KV + Ontario” show for a while, but this year will probably be KV’s toughest road to a semifinal in a while. Attending all the independent tournaments gives them a leg up on the rest of Canada, but they are not among the Ontario leaders this year. The BC teams and possibly Renert will be breathing down their necks, now that they have had some extra practice events too. MacNaughton will likely put up a better result than past appearances; they were within a whisker statistically of KV at provincials and beat them once, and their PPG was comparable to Strathcona or Churchill if I try to compensate for the set differences. MacNaughton might have a shot at the quarterfinals, especially if there are some attendance drops.

Nova Scotia

Cobequid EC

  • Most recent national result: 11th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (1981, 2005)

Auburn Drive HS

  • Most recent national result: 15th (2018)
  • Best national result (on file): 10th (2008)

Nova Scotia has significantly declined from their glory days of a decade ago. There is very low attendance, but unlike New Brunswick, they aren’t bolstered by running or attending tournaments all through the year. I don’t have current information about how strong they are, but I think they’re headed for the consolation bracket.

This will be an interesting tournament. It is the first Nationals with public results available for most provinces, and I’m sure there are teams out there scouring the tables for any useful information. Unfortunately, due to every single province having a different method of playing out their preliminary matches, none can be compared directly with R-values. BC had a few shorter games, and have deflated points totals as a result. Alberta had one housewritten round (which didn’t make a large impact), but R-value comparisons to New Brunswick look odd because the “average” team in New Brunswick is a national qualifier! Meanwhile, Ontario played on 930-pt packs but still put up PPGs that would make the other provinces tremble. We’ll see how the varying results manifest at the real tournament.

As at Ontario provincials, UTS should be the favourite. They are quite used to Nationals and the grind of getting through all those prelim games in one day, even if they are not as much of a lock as last year’s cohort. Westmount will be close behind, and should have a good playoff draw this time as long as they don’t pick up too many losses in the short prelim games. Eric Hamber and Lisgar are the top contenders to round out the semifinal group. The quarterfinalists should include University Hill, KV, and Renert, but that 8th spot could be close between STS and MacNaughton (and Churchill, if they do attend). A good prelim showing by all these teams helps: large R-value upsets in the playoffs are rare thanks to the greater number of questions available.

Like I mentioned before the Ontario tournament, this preview is not fate. The games are in the players’ hands, and surprises can happen – just ask the 2013 Bellerose team. Good luck to all the competitors, and be proud of your accomplishment of being national contenders.

2019 Ontario provincials results

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A slight delay due to my travel, but the last provincial tournament will be wrapped up.

36 teams competed in the Ontario SchoolReach provincial championship last weekend. In a departure from the usual five pools of 8 (or occasionally 7) teams, teams were split into six pools of six for round-robins. After the round-robin, two crossover rounds were played: the pool winners played the winners of their adjacent pools on the schedule (ie: the “D” winner played the “C” and “E” winners), while the next two teams in the pool played the second and third placed teams of one adjacent pool. Similar patterns were used for the fourth and fifth placed teams, and then the bottom teams of each pool. As mentioned in the prelim update, Glebe CI went undefeated with the most points to claim the #1 playoff seed, while Westmount SS overcame a prelim loss to Northern SS and had the best record among the #7-18 tier.

The results table for the database is found here. The Google document prepared by the organizers is found here. The University of Toronto Schools won their playoff matches (by >100 point margins, too) to claim their third consecutive Ontario title. Westmount SS got through a poor seeding (helped by some upsets in other matches) to finish second and earn their first national qualification. Lisgar CI defeated Glebe CI in the third-place match to earn their ticket to nationals. The surprise of the tournament was Northern SS, who was the Banting of 2019: regional runner-up to a national contender, was off the radar of any recorded tournaments, defeated a different national contender in the prelims, and had underlying numbers to be listed 7th place in my table (best R-value among first-round eliminations). They, along with Bloor CI, made a great rare appearance at provincials and they will hopefully be inspired to participate in some other tournaments in the Toronto area.

The format change was a necessary overhaul after last year, as it created uncertainty up to the final round as to where the top teams would be seeded. However, from UTS in 2017 and 2018 and Westmount this year, there is still the issue of how a single prelim loss can unbalance the playoff schedule (with Central coincidentally being a victim most of the time). With rare exception, a prelim loss means your team will be in the bottom half of the playoff bracket – this is par for the course for most teams, but when you are considered a national contender, a matchup has been created that eliminates a good team too early. Central defeated Martingrove and Lisgar on Sunday, but finished lower than both on Monday. I don’t think modifications to the Sunday schedule will fix this.

Once again, I propose two ways to “save” strong teams in the playoffs:

  1. CBC format. Save the three highest scoring losers after round 1, then run an 8-team bracket with no further loser promotions. Additionally, the five winners are reseeded 1-5 based on their round 1 score (losers are also sorted 6-8). This shuffling means you have no ability to predict the later playoff path during prelim games, and there is enough loser promotion to save you from a top team in the bottom half of the original bracket. If this model was applied for 2019, Bloor and Michael Power would be eliminated, with the remaining matchups as UTS (1) – Northern (8), Glebe (2) – Central (7), Martingrove (3) – Lisgar (6), Abbey Park (4) – Westmount (5). Central would live to fight another day, although UTS and Westmount would have to meet in the semifinals. Teams may play differently in the first round if they knew that winning scores affected later seeding. A minor concern is that one additional game needs to be staffed in the schedule.
  2. Pick your opponent format. Use the same format and seeding system as past years, but when a top team is told of their opponent, give them the option of selecting a different team that hasn’t been slotted into a matchup yet. For example, Glebe would be originally offered Bloor, but Glebe could reject it and face a different available opponent (like UTS…). If UTS was then taken, the next remaining top seed (Lisgar) could take the offered opponent (Bloor) or select a different team. Most of the time, teams will choose their originally-assigned opponent (and not face the hubris of losing to a team they picked as worse), but it is an out for situations when a strong team is lingering in the poor seeds. A major concern would be choosing a opponent to manipulate the match for highest losing score – mixing this with option 1 could help, but unfortunately I don’t think the combination of picking opponents and allowing two teams from the same match to progress can coexist.

I was originally strongly in favour of option 2, but I am coming around to option 1 as a safer choice that won’t be too much of a disruptive change. A side benefit is that it can be touted as Reach going back to their roots as a television program.

I should also mention that this topic has very little relevance to the national playoff format. At nationals, a surprise prelim loss usually only drops you one rank in the seedings, not all the way to the bottom half. Top teams still progress with a reasonably fair bracket even if they take a loss on the first day.

Speaking of nationals, the big tournament is coming next week. I’ll try to make a quick turn-around to get the national preview up. Congratulations to the Ontario teams, and good luck to the teams competing at Nationals!