First place went to Midwood’s Ocean Science Team at the 2016 Bay Scallop Bowl administered by Stony Brook University on Saturday, March 5.
Every year, 16 teams from across the state participate at this regional competition of the National Ocean Science Bowl sponsored chiefly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Simply put, teams of four players compete against one another in rounds structured around two "team challenge questions" sandwiched at the beginning and end by a 6 minute round of buzzer questions. During the buzzer round, multiple-choice toss-up questions are read until a team answers one correctly. That team can then collaborate on a short answer bonus question to score additional points. Team challenges are timed worksheets that require all four players to cooperate and think critically to answer the prompts. The team with the most points at the end of the final buzzer round wins.
The day began at 15 minutes before six in the morning at Midwood on Saturday for the coaches, competitors, and spectators as they boarded the bus to Long Island.
"Midwood has sent a team to the Bay Scallop Bowl for seven years with nothing higher than last year’s third place finish, but I have a gut feeling this year is going to make Midwood history," said A-Team coach Mr. Alan Stack.
Bart Rosenzweig, Samuel Makarovskiy, Joseph Parziale, Andrew Li, Austin Siu
This year Midwood, once again, had the opportunity to bring an A- and a B-Team to compete.
"Having a B-Team gives the underclassmen a chance to experience the competition and work through their nerves, so they don’t have to go in blind when they compete for the win next year," said A-Team Captain Andrew Li ’16.
Following a complimentary breakfast and guest speakers, the "group stage" that determined seeding began. In the first round, Midwood’s A-Team faced St. Ann’s who had knocked out Midwood and won it all two years prior.
This year, the Hornets would have none of it. Quick buzzing left St. Ann’s in the dust as A-Team racked up a 98-48 victory.
"Their captain had his face in his hands by the end of the match from being beaten to the buzz on nearly every question," said Mr. Stack with a smile.
B-Team faced a quick buzzing team of its own in Commack but still pulled out a win of 74–58.
In the second round, it was Midwood vs. Midwood, which was the friendliest competition either team faced that day. A-Team and B-Team coaches Mr. Stack and Ms. Kimberly Lau shook hands cheerfully, and the round was off. The A-Team quickly took control and won comfortably 114–17. Nonetheless everyone was all smiles.
Round 3 pitted the A-Team against Commack and the B-Team against St. Ann’s. The A-Team won convincingly 105–52 by the end despite the shocking speed of Commack’s player 3 and some close calls earlier in the match. The B-Team had it tougher facing St. Ann’s and was down by 18 before the final buzzer round. Then B-Team turned it up and began to interrupt with confidence. They clinched the round 60–53 with a final interrupt and bonus with under ten seconds remaining.
"It was a frenzy. We just answered what we knew," continued B-Team co-Captain Allan Nosov ’17, "Luckily, victory was in the forecast."
That marked the end of group stages with the A-Team sitting at 3–0 and B-Team at 2–1. Following lunch, the A-Team was seeded second and set to face 15 seed Bellport.
The A-Team had trouble early on against the underdog Bellport and was only up by four points after the team challenges. Fortunately, in the final buzzer round the Hornets pulled through and won comfortably 73–36.
"Incorrect interrupts almost cost us there, and although we won, it should have been much cleaner," said Li nervously.
However, the real story was when the seventh seed B-Team was set to face the tenth seed Stuyvesant in Round 4. This was higher stakes than usual because it was single elimination, so a loss here meant a team would be booted from competition. Despite giving it their all, the B-Team fell to Stuyvesant by just over 10 points leaving the remaining eight teams in a double elimination tournament.
Samuel Makarovskiy and Andrew Li
"We were tied before the team challenges, we fell behind afterward, and unfortunately Stuy beat us in on the buzz in the final round," said B-Team player Anne Wang ’17.
"Although, I’m disappointed to lose," stated B-Team Co-Captain Jennifer Phu ’17. "Today made me want to place higher when we come back next year."
As luck would have it, the A-Team would face Stuyvesant in Round 5. The A-Team gritted their teeth for a grudge match but led handily early on keeping Stuyvesant to zero until the team challenges. By the end, Midwood won 102–40.
"That wasn’t too bad because we focus exclusively on ocean science," explained A-Team player Bart Rosenzweig ’16, "But their team was visibly just a general science team which gave us the edge."
Round 6 was the winners’ bracket semifinal, and the A-Team won without a hitch against Woodlands 90–28. Rosenzweig stunned the judges by answering a multiple-choice question on taxonomy verbatim before any choices were read.
Round 7 pitted Midwood against the first seed, host, and returning champion Mount Sinai. There was a crowd of Midwood and Mount Sinai spectators watching this winner’s bracket final that pitted two undefeated Goliaths against each other (figuratively of course, because we’re nerds after all). It was tied at 24 following the first toss up round, but the Hornets trailed at the end of the two team challenges. It was close when the Hornets came to within 6 halfway through the final buzzer round, but an interrupt cost them four points. They fell 57–71.
"We tried hard, but we could’ve been faster," remarked A-Team player Joseph Parziale ’16, "It’s not over yet."
This defeat left Mount Sinai in the grand finals undefeated to face the winner of the losers’ bracket finals. There, in Round 8, Midwood faced Stuyvesant for a rematch. It went the same as the first matc — the A-Team picked up points left and right leading the whole way through, winning by over 30 points.
"That loss could’ve demoralized us, but instead we powered on and got our momentum back," exclaimed A-Team alternate Austin Siu ’16.
That left Midwood with one loss versus undefeated Mount Sinai in Round 9. The Hornets needed to win twice in a row to win it all — no small task.
"Let’s go meet our maker," said Rosenzweig nearly with a straight face.
Then they were off. The first buzzer round was a blur, but by the end of it Midwood led by nearly 20 points. Despite taking a net point loss from the team challenge questions, Midwood outpaced Mount Sinai in the final buzzer round and won 87–57.
"The pro-Sinai crowd was shocked silent, and I knew the guys could do it!" cheered Ms. Lau.
Before the final round, at well past six in the evening, Mr. Stack simply said, "You did it once. They’re demoralized. Go out there and show them what you can really do."
At the outset, things looked grim. The A-Team was down 0–20 midway through the buzzer round but managed to scrape back to 14–24 by the end of the round. The challenges came, and Li said he didn’t feel at all confident. After the first challenge scores Midwood was down by 16 points, and the boys in blue sunk in their chairs.
"We knew the second even less than we knew the first," said Parziale grimacing.
To the team’s surprise, Midwood scored four more than Mount Sinai. Then down by 12, the Hornets were back in the game.
"I saw them jump to attention in their seats when they saw the scores, and I knew they were back in it," said spectator Michelle Do ’16.
The six minutes began to tick down. Midwood buzzed in correctly and converted a bonus to a come back at 38–40. Then Sinai lengthened their lead to 44–38. Midwood seized the lead for the first time with another toss-up and bonus conversion making the score 48–44, but Sinai quickly tied with two minutes left.
"They were neck-and-neck, and there were less than two minutes left," said Ms. Lau, "My eyes were glued to the stage, and my nails were clawed into my chair. I can only imagine how the guys on stage were feeling."
After a few incorrect responses on both sides, Midwood broke the tenuous tie and took a 52–48 lead with only 30 seconds left. Mount Sinai needed one question to tie and could win with a bonus.
The moderator began to read. It was about the Portuguese man o’ war’s anatomy. The reader got to the second choice. There was a buzz, interrupt, recognition, an answer and silence. Time was at five seconds. The reader looked down at the screen. He looked back up and said, "INCORRECT." There was a hush in the crowd. Minus four from Mount Sinai. Mr. Stack threw his hands into the air. Mount Sinai’s player 1 held his head in his hands. Time ran out. Midwood got a full reread and answered correctly. There was applause. The bonus question was foregone. The reader kept reading, but time was out. The time keeper yelled, "GAME." It was Sinai–44 and Midwood–56.
"There it was. Midwood had won, and I couldn’t believe it," gasped Ms. Lau, "I had to wait for the announcer to be sure."
"These guys put in years of work and it paid off in full," said spectator, alumnus, and former Captain Helen Wong ’15.
The next stop for Midwood is National Ocean Sciences Bowl in Morehead City, North Carolina in late April.
"I knew they could do it," concluded Mr. Stack. "I couldn’t be happier for them and what their victory will mean for the school for years to come."
Written by Samuel Makarovskiy (Class of 2016).
A redacted version of this article appeared in the March 2016 edition of Argus.