Veteran team comes from behind twice to take 2B trophy
For a few minutes during the semi-finals of the state 2B Knowledge Bowl championship meet in Yakima last weekend, it looked like Liberty Bell High School’s chances for another state title were slipping away.
Needing a win to advance to the finals, the Mountain Lions quickly fell behind Ilwaco by 6 points — a huge margin in Knowledge Bowl competition.
But the experienced team, including four seasoned seniors and one freshman, rallied with an onslaught of correct answers to finish first in its semi-finals section.
Then it was on to the finals, where Liberty Bell claimed the state championship for the second time in three years, tallying 11 points to Life Christian’s 9 and Ocosta’s 7. Taking home the first-place trophy capped a remarkable four-year run for Liberty Bell. The Mountain Lions finished second in 2016, were state champs in 2017, then took second in 2018.
Representing Liberty Bell were seniors Lazo Gitchos, Emerson Worrell, Nick Fitzmaurice and Tova Portmann-Bown — all veterans at the state tournament level — joined by freshman Per Dillingham. “We had the most-experienced team in my 13 years as coach,” Liberty Bell coach Leverett Hubbard said this week.
Competition began with a round of 50 multiple-choice questions that all team members worked on to provide written answers. Liberty Bell answered 36 correctly to put the team in second place at that point among the 18 2B teams.
Next were four oral rounds of 50 questions each, for which the 18 teams were divided into two divisions. In its division, Liberty Bell won all four rounds and led all scoring in both divisions.
In the semifinals, the Mountain Lions faced Ilwaco — an unknown quantity for Liberty Bell, Hubbard said — and Mossyrock. Ilwaco bolted into the lead and was ahead of Liberty Bell, 9-4, at the halfway point. Then the Mountain Lions began their surge, reeling off five straight points in one stretch to finally catch and pass Ilwaco.
In the finals, Liberty Bell took the title with another come-from-behind win.
Life Christian started with an early lead of 2 points, Hubbard said. Although they tied the score with Life Christian on a couple of occasions, the Mountain Lions didn’t take the lead until question 48, and finished with three correct answers for the win.
The Mountain Lions got something like an assist from Liberty Bell English teacher Adam Kaufmann. Recently, Kaufmann taught a class about a Chilean poet’s work. One of the championship round questions was about that very poet, and Worrell was all over it. “Emerson nailed the question because of that English class,” Hubbard said.
“Our success this year was a combination of several factors,” Hubbard said. “Lazo participated in Knowledge Bowl for four years, Tova three years, and Nick and Emerson two years. They all had the benefit of competing against the highest-caliber teams at state last year.”
“You win by anticipating the question and determining the most likely answer,” Hubbard added. “Rarely is a question read in its entirety at the state level. This is the best team I’ve ever had at anticipating the question.”
“The team will be rebuilding for a couple years but, I hope to be competitive again in two years,” the coach said.
Last year, Liberty Bell took second place after a tie-breaker round with St. George’s. In 2017, Liberty Bell edged St. George’s and claimed its first Knowledge Bowl state championship. St. George’s was not part of the competition this year.