Sacred Heart slays the “giants of math” to win JCJC Bobcat Math League’s “Super Bowl” Championship

Written By: Teresa McCreery
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Date Submitted: 2015-11-10 16:41:47

ELLISVILLE –The two “giants of math,” were slain, enabling Sacred Heart High School to claim the title and be the overall winner of the “Super Bowl” of Math Championship in the Jones County Junior College Bobcat Math League. The Crusaders left JCJC with $2,500 in prize money for students to split and $2,500 for the math coaches to share, scholarships and the Championship title.

“I never really expected this!” said Sacred Heart math co-coach, Rick Muli.  “I have teared up three times today.  I dreamed about being at this point in the competition many times. I am so proud of this team for making it a reality.”
The journey to the Championship was filled with challengers like Oak Grove who dominated all season long, and Stringer Attendance Center, who beat the Sacred Heart Crusaders in the regular season. Presbyterian Christian was also eager to defend its two, consecutive championship titles. 
The Crusaders said they have a “secret weapon” in senior, Matthew Gallardo. “He is freakishly good at math,” said Jack Wilkins.  “He’s the spearhead.”
Gallardo’s skills aren’t exaggerated. He earned the title, “Most Outstanding Player” in the League along with a Howard Computer laptop as his prize.  Gallardo is also a member of the All-League team, which consists of the top eight players who answered the most correct problems during the regular season.  The All-League Team is comprised of: Gallardo, Allen Huang-Oak Grove, Ruby Liang-Oak Grove, Key’Shawn Kennedy-Stringer, Jackson Dale-Stringer, Peter Liang-Oak Grove, Alicia Brown-Presbyterian Christian and Marli Bryant-Oak Grove.
The Sacred Heart Crusaders math team seemed to be on a “mission” that had their math coaches bursting with pride and tears. In the play-offs, the Sacred Heart math team managed to easily beat the number-one seeded team, Oak Grove in their first meeting, 44 to 7, while also handing the Warriors its first loss of the season. The two rivals would meet again in the semi-finals in a very tense match. Both teams were tied until Oak Grove pulled away in the fourth-round with Ruby Liang’s correct answer scoring five points. The Warriors earned all nine-points possible to pull ahead, 16 to 7.  Sacred Heart’s Nick Gallardo got to the buzzer first, earning five-points but his teammates were unable to answer the bonus correctly.  At 12-16, Sacred Heart’s Matthew Gallardo hit his stride and correctly answered the next three questions.  Younger brother Nick and Jack Wilkins picked up the bonus points pulling Sacred Heart ahead, 28 to 16. Oak Grove’s Allen Huang buzzed in first on the next question, allowing his team to earn the full, nine-points possible with the score, 28 to 25. Matthew Gallardo took it to the wire by earning the next five points, pulling the Crusaders ahead, 33 to 25. On the last question, Matthew Gallardo buzzed in first but he didn’t answer correctly, giving Oak Grove the opportunity to play in the final, Championship match and beat Sacred Heart if the Warriors could answer all three questions correctly.  Huang was able to get five points but his teammates could only answer one of the bonus questions correctly, finishing the round with 32 points. One-point kept the Oak Grove team from making the final round.
“Beating Oak Grove was wonderful to watch.  Beating them twice was unbelievable!  I am so proud of this team,” said Muli.

The Crusaders couldn’t rest easy though because the two-time champions, Presbyterian Christian and the first BML Champions, Stringer Attendance Center also made it to the semi-final round in the Division “Y” bracket.  The Stringer Red Devils whipped the PCS Bobcats in the quarter-final round 37 to 19.  The PCS Bobcats trounced on the Taylorsville Tartars, 30 to 10 to regain the chance at the title, but they would have to face Stringer again. In the semi-final round, Stringer proved they were the better team, knocking off the two-time champions and second-seeded team, Presbyterian Christian High School, 41 to 25.
The final round of the championship pitted the third and fifth seeded teams, Stringer and Sacred Heart respectively, against each other. Both teams’ coaches said they joked with each other about getting to this point and were happy, but shocked to be in the finals.
“The Sacred Heart co-coach, Rick Muli and I joked about taking care of the top competitors in our divisions, PCS and Oak Grove to make it to the play-offs, so we could make it to the final round.  I just never dreamed it would actually happen!” said Stringer math coach, Michelle Green.
Both teams’ students are familiar with the pressure of competition but it seemed like Stringer was having trouble focusing as the championship match began.  By the sixth question, Stringer found themselves behind 17 to 25.  The Gallardo brothers kept the pressure on by beating Stringer to the buzzer with the correct answers and earning half of the possible bonus points.   At the half, it seemed like the Stringer team had buried themselves in a hole with a 44 to 17 deficit. 
In the final half of the match, Stringer’s Key’Shawn Kennedy and Jackson Dale managed to turn up the heat to keep the Crusaders at bay, despite Sacred Heart’s best attempts to win the toss-up questions.  Stringer held Sacred Heart to 51 points, while gaining 11-points. However, Matthew Gallardo seemed to kick it into overdrive with the 14th toss-up question to help Sacred Heart score an additional 17-points and increasing their lead, 68 to 38. Stringer didn’t quit though. Jackson Dale managed to earn 10-points by answering the next two questions correctly which brought Stringer’s score up to 48, but it wasn’t enough to take home the title.
“Second place isn’t bad for a 1A team who beat teams from much larger schools. We were undefeated in the regular season,” said Stringer senior, Key’Shawn Kennedy.  “I have a lot of respect for Sacred Heart as the fifth-seeded team to rise up the ranks and be champions.”
Stringer math coach, Michelle Green credits the team’s success to the team’s three seniors who are self-driven to succeed, they encourage their teammates and they volunteer to practice nearly every night.  For their work as the runner-up team, they received $1,500 to split and the coach earned $1,500. 
Tied for third place with each team taking home $1,000 for their players to split and a $1,000 for each team’s coaches to split are Oak Grove and Presbyterian Christian High School. Northeast Jones High School and Taylorsville High School were tied for fifth place, earning $1,000 for each team and $1,000 for each team’s math coaches.  Columbia Academy and Lawrence County High School tied for seventh place with each team and its coaches splitting $500.
The final eight teams were determined after six weeks of regular season competition amongst 26 high schools participating in JCJC’s Bobcat Math League.
Each of the 26 team’s regular season’s Most Outstanding Players were also recognized at JCJC during the final play-offs, including: Bay Springs-Tyliyah McCullum; Collins-Paullexia Flowers; Columbia Academy- Jay Sanderson; Enterprise-Karleigh Shelton; Greene County-Shelby Csaszar; Heidelberg Academy-Mekijia Wheaton; Heidelberg HS-Tabarius Lindsey; Laurel High-Martina McLaurin; Lawrence County-Erin Rushing; Mt. Olive-Kaylee Lack; Northeast Jones-Savannah Smith; Oak Grove-Allen Huang; Perry Central-Angelina Piper; Presbyterian Christian-Alicia Brown; Quitman-Montari Johnson; Raleigh-Brooke Quicke; Richton-David Ray Hallman; Sacred Heart-Matthew Gallardo; Seminary-Layne Loftin; South Jones-Mary Woodyard; Stringer- Key'Shawn Kennedy; Sylva Bay-Delaney Bassett; Taylorsville-Paul Sullivan; Wayne Academy-Tylee Britton; Wayne County-Ty McGrew and West Jones-Erin Crater.
“We are very proud of this year's teams,” said BML Commissioner, Dr. Jessica Bunch.  “The coaches and players have worked really hard, dedicating time and energy to the competition and it really shows. We appreciate our sponsors and the interest they have in the Math League.  Their commitment to this endeavor means a great deal to all involved.”
The goals of the JCJC BML are to increase math interest in a greater number of students; to increase Mississippi standardized test scores and ACT math scores; to increase the number of students entering college and to foster community relations among high schools, businesses and JCJC.  Sponsors of the 2015 JCJC Bobcat Math League include Chisholm Foundation, Mississippi Power, Corner Market and Howard Computers.

For more information about Jones County Junior College’s Bobcat Math League, contact Dr. Jessica Bunch (JCJCBobcat Math LeagueCommissioner) at 601-477-5422 or
BML History: Stringer won the inaugural Bobcat Math League Championship in 2012, beating PCS.  The Red Devils came in second place in a one-day math bowl in 2009, 2010 and 2011, before the League was created.  In 2013 and 2014, Presbyterian Christian won the BML Championship title with Oak Grove earning second place in 2014, which was also the first year Oak Grove competed in the BML, and Lawrence County were runner-ups in 2013.
Wayne County was the first team to win the one-day Math Bowl contest held in 2008 and they won the last Math Bowl competition in 2011.


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