West Point High has top 5A scholars’ bowl team in Alabama

Thomas L. Henry

The West Point Scholars’ Bowl team with their awards at the state tournament

WEST POINT – At Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham this month, the scholars’ bowl team from West Point High School (WPHS) came out as the top-ranked 5A team in the state of Alabama.  They also placed fourth overall, competing against teams at all levels from 1A-7A.  WPHS was the only non-7A team in the final four.

Team members included Captain Will Parker (named to All-State Tournament), Tom Parker, Kohan Lovett, Austin Frederick, Billy Ellis and Declan Cornett.

WPHS English teacher and scholars’ bowl team coach Thomas L. Henry described the team’s experience, “This year was a bit harder than last year.  After going 5-0 at the ASCA District Tournament in February and 5-0 again at the Regional Tournament in March, West Point was one of the top 24 1A-7A, public, private and/or magnet teams who were invited to the annual State Championship in Birmingham.  Teams were seeded based on performance throughout the year.  During preliminary pool play, no distinction is made among schools of different sizes.  Therefore, West Point was placed in a very difficult pool with 7A James Clemens, 7A Grissom, 6A Southside, 6A Pell City and 5A Arab.  Only the top two teams from that pool would move on to the “Elite 8” overall championship bracket.

“Every single team in our pool was from a larger school. Arab, who is also 5A, is the largest 5A team in the state. But, we managed to defeat everyone in our pool other than James Clemens (the eventual 7A and overall champion).

“The day started out rough. We had to play James Clemens first.  We lost the first round.  We knew then that we couldn’t lose another.  We bounced back and beat Arab.  Then we beat Pell City.  We had Grissom next.  We were really nervous when we heard that Grissom had defeated James Clemens, but we managed to beat Grissom and send them home.  We finished off pool play by defeating Southside.  Only the top two teams moved on to the playoffs.  In our pool, it was James Clemens and us.

“A total of three 5A teams made it to the eight-team, single-elimination playoff.  Teams were seeded by points scored in the prelims.  West Point ended up seeded no. 6 against no. 3 Springwood, a very successful private school who happened to have the state MVP on their team.

“The last time we played Springwood was in January at the Good Hope Invitational.  They defeated us 450-95 that day.  So, when I saw that’s who we were paired with, I was nervous.  But, the kids had played well all day, and I thought we may have a chance.  We played an incredible first half and built a strong 90-point lead against Springwood.  Then, they mounted a huge comeback in the second half, but we managed to hold on.  The other two 5A teams who made it to the quarter-finals, Sylacauga and St. Paul’s, both lost their quarter-final matches.  Therefore, we were the only 5A team still alive moving into the overall “Final Four” and were given the 5A state title.

“We ended up fourth overall.  The other three in the Final Four were James Clemens, Spain Park and Hoover. So, it was three 7A teams and 5A West Point.”

The WPHS scholars aren’t done yet, either.  On April 21 they will compete in the Snead State Invitational tournament, an event they won last year.  The following week they will travel all the way to Chicago to participate in the Small School National Championship, at which they placed fifth last year (That’s 5th in the nation, folks!).

Henry is proud of his students, and excited for what is still to come.

“This marks the most successful team in West Point’s history at the state level,” said Henry.  “Last year’s team also won the 5A title, but was eliminated in the quarter-finals and did not make it to the overall Final Four.  Considering that we lost our two top-scorers to graduation and were thinking that this would be a ‘rebuilding year,’ this is quite an accomplishment.  These kids have worked hard and exceeded expectations.  This is my fifth year as coach at West Point and we’ve managed to do a little better each year.  I’m looking forward to accomplishing even more next year!”

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