Oak Grove dominates JCJC’s Bobcat Math League Championships

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2016-11-08 16:04:27

ELLISVILLE –The Warriors of Oak Grove dominated the Jones County Junior College Bobcat Math League’s playoff competition in the mathletes’ third attempt to become Math “Super Bowl” Champions. During the six-week regular season, the Warriors not only won each match but they also outscored their competition by almost 50-points. In the championship round with West Jones, Oak Grove wasted no time scoring. They completed the first 13-questions scoring 46 points to West Jones’ 9 points.  After the half, West Jones found a “Bobcat Double” which allowed them to double the points (10 points) if they answered correctly or subtract 5 points if they answered incorrectly.  The Mustangs’ Nick Sumrall answered correctly and kept West Jones in the hunt. In the end, Oak Grove whipped West Jones, 74 to 31.
“We worked hard each year and after three years it feels pretty good to be the Champions,” said Oak Grove senior, Allen Huang, who also shares the honor of being the League’s Most Outstanding Player with his teammate, Jason Guo.   
Their math team coaches, Whitney Necessary and Laura Lightsey said the students felt pretty confident going into today’s playoff for a few reasons.
“Two of our senior students, Allen Huang and Jason Guo participated in the International Science Fair and they are also strong in math. Senior, Ruby Liang is well versed in trivia and math, and she has taken a lot of Advanced Placement classes. Our sophomore, Peter Liang excels in math and technology,” said Necessary. “I’m so glad they finally did it! They deserve the recognition for their natural abilities in the STEM areas and their hard work in winning the Championship.” 
Two Oak Grove mathletes, Allen Huang and Jason Guo received individual accolades as the Co-Most Outstanding Players with the highest individual scores during the regular season. Howard Industries awarded each, Huang and Guo with a computer laptop.  Additionally, the two Warriors earned All-League Team honors with Northeast Jones’ Parker Cruise, Sacred Heart’s Nick Gallardo, Presbyterian Christian’s Ben Majors, and Oak Grove’s Sarah Greer, Peter Liang and Ruby Liang. These eight students had the highest percentage of correctly answered questions during the paper test portion of all five regular season matches.
Individual high scorers from each of the 16 teams were also recognized during the Bobcat Math Leagues’ playoffs.  They are: Collins-Jacob Duke; Columbia Academy- Kenny Price; Laurel-Alexandria Seals; Northeast Jones-Parker Cruise; Oak Grove- Jason Guo and Allen Huang; Perry Central-Will Windham; Presbyterian Christian-Ben Majors; Quitman-Grace Bonner; Raleigh-Zach Smith; Richton-Marguerite Womack; Sacred Heart-Nick Gallardo; South Jones-Emmanuel Gonzales; Sylva Bay-Knute Malone; Wayne Academy-Tylee Britton; Wayne County-Bryce Herring and West Jones-Jack Taylor.
The playoff battle was not too difficult for the second-seeded Oak Grove team, however, they had to go through the sixth-seeded Northeast Jones math team twice to earn a spot in the semi-finals. In their first encounter with the NEJ Tigers, the Warriors took control easily getting 19 points. After the slow start, Northeast Jones’ senior Parker Cruise and junior Daniel Shelton found their groove and were able to score 12 points before Oak Grove regained control. In the end, the quick scoring Warriors outscored the Tigers, 31 to 19.  In the second match with the Warriors’, Northeast Jones found themselves in a similar situation. Oak Grove took charge from the start. The Warriors scored 37 points before NEJ’s Cruise was able to answer and win the final question. Oak Grove earned the championship playoff bid by winning, 37 to 5.
Before claiming a total victory, Oak Grove would have to knock off the West Jones Mustangs who made it into the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history, as the underdog, in the fifth place and holding one of two “wild card” slots. Ironically, Oak Grove was the only team that beat West Jones in the regular season in the final championship round.
“I’m just so proud of my team. In two upsets, they beat the number 4 and number 1-seeded teams!” said West Jones math instructor and math team coach, Courtney Hagan.  “These students amazed me by making it into the championship round and holding their own against a tough Oak Grove team.”
West Jones’ Jack Taylor and Jess Cooley said they preferred the written test portion during the regular season questions over the buzzer rounds. However, they also agree that being on the Quiz Bowl team helped prepare them for the STEM questions and the playoff rounds.  The West Jones mathletes narrowly beat Columbia Academy, 20 to 15 in the first round. The match between West Jones and Sacred Heart was uneventful as the Mustangs were able to overcome the fledgling Crusader team, 27 to 14 to make it to the semi-final round with Columbia Academy. West Jones was able to edge out the Columbia Academy Cougars in a quiet semi-final round, 19 to 5.
“Amazingly, we made it this far,” said West Jones senior Nick Sumrall. We were in shock that we didn’t lose in the first round against Columbia Academy but we had great teamwork and the technology and engineering questions helped us. Math is the hardest for us in the buzzer quiz-style competition.”
Initially, the 16-participating schools were unsure how adding STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) questions to the fifth-annual quiz style math league competition would affect the final standings.  Northeast Jones’ Parker Cruise said he liked the inclusion of the STEM questions. 
“It allows other kids, who are not math wizards to participate in the competition. We’ve enjoyed it this year.”
Most coaches agree the new format seems to have leveled the playing field while others, like Oak Grove’s Necessary, said the STEM questions may have given them an edge.
“I think because of Jason and Allen’s science experience and the various strengths of each student in the STEM applications we may have had a little advantage, otherwise I am not sure we would have done as well.  The last two years’ competitions were math only questions and we were not able to beat Stringer Attendance Center and Presbyterian Christian,” said Necessary.
The Sacred Heart team, which won the 2015 BML Championship, had only one of their students returning to competition this year.  The Presbyterian Christian Crusaders also had a fledgling team.  The Crusader’s math co-coaches, Rick Muli and Donna Wilson think adding STEM questions to this year’s competition may have helped some teams excel that have not been known to do as well in math-only competitions.
“With only math questions you can focus on the specific concepts for practice.  STEM questions are too broad to prepare students for in a competition like this.  This has been a learning experience which we hope to improve upon next year,” said Muli.
Wilson added, “We’re disappointed our team didn’t do as well this year but we are also glad to see different teams winning.  Students have to have a much broader knowledge base than we ever expected which is a good challenge for students and coaches.”
For the six playoff teams’ efforts, cash prizes were awarded. As champions of the Bobcat Math League, the Oak Grove Warrior team earned $1,000 to split amongst themselves.  The coaches will split $2,000 and $1,000 will go to the school. The second place West Jones coach earned $1,000 with the team and the school each receiving $500.  Coming in third place, the Columbia Academy Cougars’ coaches took home $500 and the school and players each received $250.  The fourth place team, Northeast Jones’ coach earned $300 with the players and the school getting $150 each. (Team members split the total cash prize.)
Commissioner of the BML and JCJC math instructor, Dr. Jessica Bunch explained why the cash prizes were extended to the schools this year. “We knew the students were benefiting individually with higher math scores.  Adding the cash prize for the schools was a way for the winning schools to see and feel the benefit of their participation in the JCJC Bobcat Math League.”
Additionally, new cash prizes were added this year. Each of the four division winners, Galileo Division-Sacred Heart; Gates Division-Columbia Academy; Archimedes Division-Presbyterian Christian and Pythagoras Division-Oak Grove each earned an additional $400 for the coaches to split, $200 for the players to split, and $200 for the school. Wild card teams, Northeast Jones and West Jones earned $200 for the coach, $100 for the players to split and $100 for the school. For each match won during the regular season the coach picked up an extra $100 too. 
“We’ll probably spend some of that money on taking these students to dinner and entry fees to the Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society) State Convention,” said Necessary.
The final order of finish from this year's postseason is Oak Grove as winners, West Jones as runner-ups, Columbia Academy in third place, Northeast Jones in fourth place and Presbyterian Christian and Sacred Heart tied for the fifth position. Sponsors of the 2016 JCJC Bobcat Math League are Chris Wilson of First Choice Realty, Lex Lindsey of the Chisholm Foundation, Wade Creekmore of C-Spire, Sanderson Farms, Sandra Wright of Magnolia Realty, Howard Industries, Corner Market, Jones County EDA and the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education. 


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