PORT BYRON -- Riverdale High School proved a gracious but determined host Saturday of the IHSA Scholastic Bowl sectional.
The team, coached by Jim Campbell, topped squads from Elmwood, Farmington and Stark County (Toulon) to qualify for the state tournament, which starts Friday in Peoria. This is the second straight year Riverdale has won the Scholastic Bowl sectional and the fourth year in a row that it has won the regional meet.
Last year, Riverdale finished fourth in the state. None of the three schools that finished above them -- Latin School of Chicago, Mater Dei in Breese and St. Teresa in Decatur -- are in this year's state finals.
It has been more than 20 years since an area team has won the IHSA Scholastic Bowl state title. Rockridge High School claimed the top prize in 1991-92. Sterling Newman finished third in 2013-14.
Similar to the popular TV show "College Bowl" that aired from 1953 to 1970, Scholastic Bowl is an Illinois High School Association academic competition that pits teams of five players at a time against each other.
Team members compete to quickly and accurately answer a series of, usually, 20 toss-up questions that are followed by a series of three bonus questions for each correct answer.
In Saturday's round-robin tournament, Riverdale was challenged in the first match of the day by Elmwood before posting a 260-200 win. Riverdale then easily defeated Stark County 220-90 before edging out Farmington 250-230.
Riverdale now will play Piasa Southwestern High School at 10 a.m. Friday before facing off against Byron High School at 11 a.m. and Timothy Christian High School from Elmhurst at 1 p.m.
The top two teams from Riverdale's pool will advance to the state third-place and championship matches Saturday afternoon.
In Illinois, Scholastic Bowl has the longest IHSA season, starting the day after Labor Day and concluding in the middle of March. The first tournaments begin in late October, with the greatest number of contests occurring in January and February.
Two sets of state tournaments are run, one by the Masonic Lodges, which originally handled and sponsored Scholastic Bowl, and the other by the IHSA, which began its in the mid-1980s.
Earlier this month, Riverdale won the Class 1A Masonic Scholastic Bowl in Bloomington.