With the reigning national champions and new state champions in the TQBA delegation in Dallas for MSNCT, Kealing was as under the radar as possible for a two-time national champ. When those two teams – Harmony Excellence-Houston and T.H. Rogers – reached the winners’ bracket final while Kealing avoided elimination by 10 points, that narrative seemed to hold up.
Then Kealing won another five consecutive games, the final four against the top four teams remaining, showing the composure under pressure that defines a champion.
In beating Harmony by 35, Middlesex by 65, River Trail by 110 and T.H. Rogers by 65, the Kealing quartet of Evan Hochstein, Ryan Russo, Daniel Chan and Anna Tutuianu displayed the balance and poise to complete the obstacle course.
Tutuianu scored 50 points to help eliminate the reigning champions from Harmony and individual leading scorer William Golden, including the toss-up that sealed the result. Against Middlesex, Hochstein’s five powers and 95 points led the way, with Tutuianu again playing the role of closer.
River Trail awaited, with the winner earning a one-game final against T.H. Rogers. The Atlanta-area team had just scored the final 340 points in dominating Rogers to reach the final three. But Kealing killed their momentum with an early 155-0 run, and when River Trail climbed within 30 points again, Kealing simply accelerated away. Hochstein nailed nine tossups, and Russo added two powers to close the door on River Trail and set up the final clash with Rogers.
In the final, Hochstein outscored Rogers’ leading scorer Shomik Ghose 90-65, and despite three powers from seventh-grader Sanath Govindarajan, Kealing was able to respond once more when Rogers took a brief lead. Chan registered four toss-ups in the final; Russo regulated discussion throughout as captain, and Kealing stayed the course each time momentum swung.
Finishing 14-3, the Austin ISD magnet earned its third national title. While the first two were snatched with raw dominance, the third demonstrated the clutch play required to prevail in a remarkable series of tight clashes Sunday, beginning with a 375-370 win over Bumpus, Alabama, and running through a 355-345 win over Longfellow B. Their average margin Sunday was less than 65 points across nine games – but they won eight, and that’s what mattered.