Q: Who finished fifth?

Senior captain Malcolm Perry just shook his head.

He had difficulty finding the words to describe the disappointing performance that Rappahannock County High School’s Scholastic Bowl team gave in the Bull Run District tournament.

“Devastating,” he said softly. “What a way to end our season.”

Indeed.

Strasburg, which did not win a regular season match, put together a strong performance in the first of two toss-up rounds and held off the Panthers, 180-145, to eliminate Rappahannock County from district tournament contention.

The fifth-place finish marks the worst showing a Rappahannock County Scholastic Bowl team has had in nine years.

Just two years ago, the Panthers went 25-1 en route to capturing the Group A state championship and finishing third in the nation in the small schools division of the National Academic Quiz Tournament.

“It was somehow fitting we were eliminated by the only team that had not beaten us all season,” Rappahannock County head coach David Naser said. “Our problem with a lack of focus has plagued us to the end.”

George Mason, the defending state champion, defeated Manassas Park, 340-105, to win the district title. The two teams advance to the Region B tournament Feb. 5 at Gretna.

The postseason tournaments are double elimination. Each match features two, 15-question toss-up rounds and a 10-question directed round.

The day started off all right for the Panthers, as they defeated Madison County, 180-170, with freshman Danny Collins answering the tie-breaking question in sudden death.

The Mountaineers, seeded fifth in the tournament, led 120-85, after the 10-question directed round. Rappahannock County staged a furious rally to open the final, 15-question toss-up round, as Perry and junior Clayton Hatcher combined to answer the first four questions correctly for a 125-120 lead. Midway through the round, Madison County landed correct answers for literature and music questions to pull ahead by as many as 20 points.

Again, Rappahannock got on a roll, with Perry and Collins combining for four consecutive correct answers for a 170-160 lead going into the final toss-up question. The Mountaineers got a literature question to end the match into sudden death.

Then, Collins buzzed in with the correct answer on a science question to give Rappahannock County the win.

“Everyone, I think, knew it,” Collins said. “I just beat Madison to the buzzer.”

Perry led the Panthers in scoring against Madison with 100 points.

“Malcolm started out strong, but he got quieter and quieter,” Naser said.

George Mason dispatched the Panthers, 320-120, in the second round. Collins led the Panthers with 60 points.

In the final match with Strasburg, the Rams took an 85-45 first-round lead and never looked back.

“A team that never won a match all year, and the first one that they win was against us,” Collins said. “That’s really bad. No one scored for us.”

Collins finished with 60 points. Hatcher chipped in 20.

“To me, Danny Collins and Clayton Hatcher are the rising stars on this team,” Naser added. “We’ve got a lot of work to do for next year.”

Collins pointed out that most of the Panthers will return.

“A senior captain (Perry) graduates. Our main literature person (Brittany Stephens) graduates,” he said. “So the other people will need to step up and produce next year.”

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