By Don Nelson
The Liberty Bell High School Knowledge Bowl team once again squared off with perennial powerhouse St. George’s in the final round of the state 2B championship meet last weekend, but this time it was second place that was on the line.
In 2017, Liberty Bell edged St. George’s and claimed its first Knowledge Bowl state championship.
In this year’s final round, Federal Way Public Academy finished with 16 points to take the championship. Liberty Bell and St. George’s were tied for second with 11 points each, necessitating what amounts to a Knowledge Bowl shootout.
As they did last year, the Mountain Lions prevailed over St. George’s, winning the playoff round 4-1, to claim the 2018 second-place trophy at the meet in Arlington.
In a bit of déjà vu, Liberty Bell again also survived a St. George’s challenge — as it did last year — to come way with the runner-up trophy.
The Mountain Lions won the state championship in 2017 with a lineup that almost entirely seniors. The only member of last year’s team who competed this year was captain Noah Batson. Other team members were Emerson Worrell, Lazo Gitchos, Nicholas Fitzmaurice, Liliana Hart-Beck and Tova Portmann-Bown. All of them competed at the meet.
After the morning competition, Liberty Bell was in second place in its division. Federal Way was in first, and St. George’s in third. The Mountain Lions survived a tough semi-final round to advance to the finals along with St. George’s and Federal Way.
After 25 questions, Liberty Bell had 7 points and the other two teams 6 points each. By question 32, it was a three-way tie, 8 points apiece. Nearing the end, at question 46, Federal Way had created a bit of distance with 14 points while Liberty Bell and St. George’s were locked up with 10 points each. When the 50th and final question was settled, Federal Way was the clear winner with St. George’s and the Mountain Lions both tallying 11 points.
The tension did not let up. St. George’s had earlier challenged a judge’s ruling that they had answered a question incorrectly. If that challenge was upheld, St. George’s would be awarded another point and second place. But after 10 minutes of conferring, the judge ruled against St. George’s and set up the playoff.
“We put them away at question 9 when we correctly answered a question for a 3-1 lead and also answered question 10 correctly for a 4-1 win in the 10-question tie breaker round,” Liberty Bell coach Leverett Hubbard reported.
“The last three years have been an incredible run for Liberty Bell and a dynasty for the program,” Hubbard said. “We have never done so well at state over any period.” Liberty Bell took second place in 2016, and had never placed higher than fourth before that.
Batson and Hart-Beck will graduate this year, but the rest of the team will return.
“Noah [Batson] has been the Most Valuable Player for the season and one of the strongest players in my 11 years of coaching,” Hubbard said. “He will be missed.”