ELLISVILLE – Some of the top teams coming into the 2017 Jones County Junior College Bobcat Math League’s playoff competition were quickly picked off and sent home, stunning the eventual 2017 “Super Bowl” Champions, the Wayne County War Eagles, who had to fend off the 2016 Champions, the Oak Grove Warriors in the final round of the playoffs. This is the first time since the creation of the Bobcat Math League in 2012 for Wayne County to claim the title. Additionally, the War Eagle team took home a total of $2,900 in cash prizes for winning four-regular season matches, and for being a regular season wild card team and victorious in competition. Oak Grove received a total of $1,950 in cash prizes for their second-place finish, as well as for being a regular season division winner, and winning five-regular season matches.
“We really didn’t expect to win as the fifth-seeded team coming into the competition and to seemingly come from behind has been incredible,” said Wayne County senior and the team’s Most Outstanding Player for the regular season, Mona Heng. “I am just amazed because we only won one game all of the last season!”
What changed this year for the young Wayne County team? Second-year math coach, Allison Clark explained, it was simply a matter of practicing more.
“The students really practiced hard, every day for this competition. We set aside a one-hour practice time and for the first time and it really paid off,” said Clark.
Each of the 16 teams Most Outstanding Players for the regular season of the JCJC Bobcat Math League were recognized at JCJC during the final playoffs of the season including Wayne County HS, Mona Heng.
Another concern for the Wayne County team could have been the fact Oak Grove and Sacred Heart were entering the final playoffs undefeated, earning them a ‘bye’ in the first round of competition. However, the Sacred Heart Crusaders seemingly crumbled under the pressure early in their first match, losing to the sixth-seeded West Jones Mustangs, 24 to 15. The Mustangs were on a journey to reach the championships for a second consecutive year.
The Wayne County team confidently faced a rising Quitman team in their first round of the playoff finals to win the match, 27 to 17. Facing the Oak Grove Warriors in the second-round of the playoffs, would not end as well for the War Eagles who lost in a close match, 17 to 10. Wayne County would now have to fight their way to the top knowing another loss would be the end of their journey to the championships in the double-elimination contest.
The shell-shocked Sacred Heart team took a chance to double their score in their match-up with the Wayne County War Eagles, but the Crusaders ended up losing the 5-points they risked and the match. That costly but daring mistake by Sacred Heart sent them packing. Meanwhile, Wayne County’s 19-points and the early jump on the Crusaders put the War Eagles back in the hunt for the championships. The only team keeping Wayne County from reaching the championship round was the Presbyterian Christian Bobcats. PCS won a low-scoring match with the Quitman Panthers, 5 to 0, which was good enough to keep the Bobcats alive for another chance of regaining the championship.
Next, Wayne County and Presbyterian Christian faced off knowing it would be tough for either team to get a win. Perhaps it was destiny for the War Eagles who were hot on the buzzer and quick with the correct answers because the War Eagles kept the Bobcats from scoring more than 10 points. Wayne County racked up 22 points and earned the right to play in the championship round.
It was virtual war in becoming the 2017 Champions of the “Super Bowl” of Math for both of the final two teams, the Warriors of Oak Grove and the War Eagles of Wayne County. Captain of the Wayne County team, Dakota Brewer was quick to correctly answer and put points on the board. He single-handedly led the team to a 21-point lead before Oak Groves’ Peter Liang was able to get five points on the fifth question. Liang and Brewer’s efforts helped keep their teams’ scores to a five-point margin at the end the first half with Oak Grove scoring 19, to Wayne County’s 26 points.
After the half-time break, both teams were having a tough time adding points. Brewer’s missed answer about hybrid cars opened the door for Liang to snatch up five points. It remained, 24 to 26, through five questions before Wayne County’s Mona Heng came through with a correct answer widening the War Eagles’ lead, 31 to 24. Her efforts apparently energized Brewer to answer correctly on the next question furthering the teams’ lead 12-points with a, 24 to 36 score with three questions remaining. The Warrior’s lead man, Liang and Olivia Viguerie narrowed the gap with their additional seven-points to improve Oak Grove’s score to 31-points compared to Wayne County’s 36 points. Tensions mounted with both teams realizing the title and cash prizes were three-questions within their grasp. Both teams desperately tried to score but no one could find the correct answer, leaving the War Eagles to win the final match, 36 to 31. This is the first time Wayne County won the Championship under the revised format in 2012, with a six-week regular season competition and the formation of the Bobcat Math League.
“We really wanted to continue playing. I don’t think we really got nervous because we just focused on the questions,” said Heng.
Ironically, ten years ago, the War Eagles were the first champions of the then one-day Math Bowl competition in 2008 and then again the last year of the one-day competition in 2011.
“Perhaps this is the beginning of something special for us,” said Coach Clark.
Overall, the 2017 season was a rebuilding year for most of the 16 competing teams. All of the perennial giants battled with the loss of their top players because of graduation. Wayne County’s inexperience at the playoff level could have ended their season earlier in the competition. However it proves, on any given day, any team can win.
“Most importantly, we hope the students are learning from this type of competition and that it will have a positive effect on their education. Our research over the past 10-years shows an improvement in high school math subject test scores and ACT math sub-scores, which is our main goal,” said Bobcat Math League Commissioner and JCJC math instructor, Dr. Jessica Bunch. “However, we’re glad the spirit of competition is making the learning process a little more fun, interesting and financially rewarding for these high school students.”
The final standings and cash prizes for the top six-teams are as follows: 1. Wayne County - $2900; 2. Oak Grove - $1950; 3. PCS - $1250; 4. West Jones - $700; 5. Quitman - $600 and 5. Sacred Heart - $650. Sponsors of the BML include the Chisholm Foundation, Sanderson Farms, Corner Market, and Howard Industries. Results from the weekly competitions are posted on the JCJC Bobcat Math League webpage under “Division Standings/Schedules” at www.jcjc.edu/bobcatmathleague/ and on the Bobcat Math League Facebook page: Bobcat Math League - Facebook. For more information about the Bobcat Math League contact Dr. Jessica Bunch (JCJC Bobcat Math League Commissioner) at 601-477-5422 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.