‘A force to be reckoned with’

West Point’s Scholars Bowl team poses for a photo following its victory at the state tournament. Left to right are Brady Laughlin, Sean Harbison, Eli Taylor, Abigail Roy, John Davis Yovino, Brodie Henry, Aaiden Jones, Starr Boyd, Sydney Holt and Eli Drinkard. (Photo courtesy of Lee Henry)

West Point High School Scholars Bowl team earns top 10 finishes in national tournaments

WEST POINT, Ala. – Perennial Scholars Bowl powerhouse West Point High School had its best season yet during the 2022-23 school year, with only one player beyond the 10th grade. The team went undefeated in county and district competitions, took one of two state championships (first place varsity, third place junior varsity), finished eighth in the national championship and fifth in another national tournament.

“These kids deserve a parade,” said team coach Lee Henry. “What they have accomplished is absolutely phenomenal. I’m not sure what else to say. I think that their record this season speaks for itself. County champions, district champions, state champions! Eighth in the nation. Almost all of them return for at least two more years. I’m just excited to see how far we can go!”

Of the 10 players on West Point’s team, only one graduated in May.  In fact, the rest of the team members were ninth and 10th graders, meaning that this team can compete, largely intact, for the next two years.

The coach’s son Brodie Henry took MVP honors on multiple occasions at the county, district and state levels.

Henry called his MVP son “the heart and soul of this team.” He continued, “As a coach and a dad, watching him play this game he loves is one of my favorite things in the world. He loves it and he’s really dang good at it! As he enters his last two years of competition, I know he’s going to keep his eyes on the goals he has set and help lead the team to their greatest potential. Whatever that ends up being, I couldn’t be more proud of him and his teammates. They are a force to be reckoned with.”

Brodie Henry told The Tribune, “Choosing to participate in Scholars Bowl has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As an admittedly cocky young kid, I had a thing for trying to be the best in my classes, as well as a passion for competition. Those factors, along with my dad being the coach, ultimately led me to join the team at West Point. Since then, I have made some of my best memories and friendships, with both my teammates and with players from other schools around the world. 

“Seeing my hard work put into this game, resulting in high team and individual placements at tournaments of all calibers, has given me a sense of accomplishment and joy that nothing else does. I also enjoy being able to help out with younger players if they need it, and am always willing to put in time to make sure our team as a whole succeeds at both the middle and high school levels. Without this game, I truly do not know where I’d be today.”

Lee Henry talked about his team’s experience at the upper levels of competition:

“Winning the ASCA (Alabama Scholastic Competition Association) State Championship was such a huge accomplishment. The moment it became mathematically impossible for us to lose the championship was a moment I won’t soon forget. Our only senior, Abigail Roy, was the one who sealed the victory. There was an audible celebration from the parents in the audience. I know I pumped my fists pretty hard. There were still a few questions left in the game, and we had to keep our composure as they finished out the round. But, the moment the game was over, I jumped up and hugged the team. The look of relief and happiness on Brodie’s face will always be on my mind. Athens is an incredible team and we had been worried about playing them all year. We kind of figured it may come down to us and them. Their coach is actually a former college teammate of mine. Angela Wagner and I competed together on the Athens State University team back in the early aughts. Beating them was no small task. 

“As for SSNCT (Small Schools National Championship Tournament), that’s our ‘white whale.’ Our ultimate goal is to win that national championship. I know that’s a lofty goal coming from a rural school in Cullman County. But, we’ve come so close, and I think we’ve got all the pieces in place to make a serious run at it. Brodie was the fifth-highest individual scorer in the tournament as a 10th grader. Every player who finished above him was a senior. In fact, there is only one other player (an 11th grader from Pennsylvania who finished sixth) in the entire top 10 who will be returning next year! We have a freshman, Brady Laughlin, who is a geography and science whiz, who will only get better and continue to complement Brodie’s knowledge base, which is primarily literature, art, music and other humanities. We also have some other talented young players who I will be working with to find their niches that will fill out the areas of knowledge we need to cover. We lost senior Abigail Roy, who will be sorely missed. But, we had no other seniors and no juniors.

“The PACE (Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence) NSC (National Scholastic Championship) is a very competitive, very difficult competition that makes no distinction among schools based on size, type of school, etc. At the PACE tournament, we weren’t just playing ‘small’ public schools anymore. The biggest, most wealthy schools in the nation can (and do) compete at PACE, as long as they have qualified. Massive public schools, private schools, magnet schools, etc. all compete against each other. And, for the first time, West Point decided to throw our hat into the ring. There were 72 teams in attendance. We were the only team that was both a ‘Small School’ and a ‘JV’ (all players were ninth or 10th grade) in the field. My goal here was to have at least a .500 record. We exceeded that goal by finishing with a 10-6 record! This put us as the number five Small School and number six JV team in this national tournament. The questions were extremely difficult and the teams were stronger than any we had ever faced, but we more than held our own against them and will go back next year and hopefully be even more competitive.”

Sean Harbison joined the West Point team this year after competing as a middle schooler for the Harmony School team. He told The Tribune:

“My experience with Scholars Bowl at WPHS is that I have had fun, making friends and playing the game. Scholars Bowl is not only a game, but a path on which I have made friends, had fun and learned a lot. The excitement of buzzing during a close match and the laughter shared with teammates have made this  an experience that I will never forget, and I look forward to continuing this for the next three years.”

Team members:

  • Abigail Roy, 12th grade
  • Eli Drinkard, 10th grade
  • Brodie Henry, 10th grade
  • Aaiden Jones, 10th grade
  • Eli Taylor, 10th grade
  • John Davis Yovino, 10th grade
  • Starr Boyd, ninth grade
  • Sean Harbison, ninth grade
  • Sydney Holt, ninth grade
  • Brady Laughlin, ninth grade

By the numbers

County Weekly Record: 11-0

  • Brodie Henry was County League MVP

County Tournament: 6-0 

  • 11th consecutive County Championship (66-0 since Henry started coaching West Point in 2012)
  • Brodie Henry was County MVP
  • Brady Laughlin was also All-County

ASCA District – Undefeated District Champions

  • Brodie was District MVP

ASCA Junior Varsity District – Undefeated JV District Champions

ASCA Junior Varsity State – 3rd 

ASCA Varsity State – Undefeated Division II (5A/6A) State Champions

  • West Point had won the 5A title a few times before, but this was the first time to win the Overall Div. II Title
  • Defeated Southside High 420-250 for the 5A title
  • Defeated 6A Champion Athens High School in a best-of-3 Championship series. West Point won in two games, 380-240 and 400-250
  • Brodie was State MVP

National Academic Quiz Tournaments SSNCT in Chicago 

  • Undefeated in preliminary rounds, 10-0 
  • In the double-elimination playoffs, won first three games before losing to Southwestern (Piasa, Illinois) and Batavia, Ohio
  • Finished eighth in the nation
  • Brodie Henry was the fifth-highest individual scorer. Everyone who finished above him was a graduating senior

Support your local scholar

Asked about his team’s biggest challenge, Lee Henry replied, “That’s simple: money. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who helped support the team through donations, etc. I’d like to especially thank Traditions Bank and their president, Mr. Tim Compton. Without the generous donation they made to our team, we would not have been able to compete in the National Tournaments that we attended this year. We really can’t thank Traditions Bank enough for their support. 

“Scholars Bowl is not a revenue-creating activity. We fund our team through donations and through hosting tournaments. However, it is a very expensive activity. We spent nearly $2,000 this year on entry fees to our national tournament alone. And that doesn’t touch the amount spent to travel, book hotels, eat, etc. We also have to pay for local tournaments, competition questions, practice materials, equipment, etc. I think people would be shocked to know how much we spend each year, even though we try to do everything as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of that cost ends up coming out of the pockets of the parents and kids on the team. 

“I urge local businesses to please consider supporting not only our Scholars Bowl team at West Point, but all the local schools’ teams! We are representing our Cullman County community across not only the state, but the nation! We are showing that our little rural Alabama schools can compete with any school in the country in academic competition! We are breaking down stereotypes about Alabama, and having fun doing it. But, we desperately need the support and financial backing of our community to continue doing so.”

If anyone is interested in learning how they can help out, please contact Lee Henry at thenry@ccboe.org, or reach out to your local high school or middle school.

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