RICHMOND- It wasn’t a sophomore this time, but it was a new student who took home the victory as Hendrix junior Joe Coker’s gamble in Final Jeopardy paid off handsomely with a victory.

Coker defeated Northwestern freshman Beni Keown and USC sophomore Xiaoke Ying to clinch the 4th Semi-Finalist spot in the College Championship. The scores: $30,200 to $15,800 to $12,800.

The Warriors are off to the semi-finals, as are the Wildcats as their score ranks them #2 on the WC standings, assuring them of a game next week. The Trojans? Right on the bubble but a solid shot.

The news is also good for the Florida Gators as Kayla Kalhor’s score ranks #1 among the WC standings thus far, guaranteeing them a return next week. The 4th spot currently belongs to Carnegie Mellon, which leaves no wiggle room.

Six players have now clinched a birth, but we need nine. And there is only one game left. By Friday night, we will have those players left and the competition will only get hotter.

If Coker’s performance Thursday night is replicated in any form, he could very well end up having host Alex Trebek place the trophy in his hands. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

In the first round, each of the three players went full steam ahead until Keown found the Daily Double in “Returns”. He bet it all and lost. Not too bad considering it was early and how fast he was on the buzzer.

Going into the Double Jeopardy round, Keown actually held the lead at $5,200 to Coker’s $3,400 and Ying’s $2,000.

Coker took the first Daily Double in “Party in the USA”. No, Miley Cyrus did not sing the clue, but Coker sang praises of a correct response to take the lead.

Keown found the last Daily Double in “Chemistry”. While he missed it, it wasn’t a significantly large and as a result, he stayed close throughout the game, espescially as Coker had a few incorrect responses to only give him a small lead heading into Final.

Ying meanwhile, didn’t hear the Daily Double sound for her, and instead, paced herself with a near perfect game with only one missed clue, giving her a solid chance to win the game come Final Jeopardy.

Going into Final, Coker held a $400 lead over Keown while Ying wasn’t too far behind. Scores were $15,200 to $14,800 to $6,400. Not too far off and any thing can happen in the final clue.

The Category for Final: EUROPEAN BORDERS. The Clue: Barely changed since a 1297 agreement, the border between these 2 countries is called La Raya on one side & A Raia on the other. The Answer: Spain and Portugal.

Ying was correct and doubled up, giving her a solid, respectable score that could pay off at the end of tomorrow’s game. Keown bet small and was right, locked himself up for the next week.

Coker was right, but when his wager was revealed, it was a gasping moment as it was a near double. Game over and statement made.

Hendrix College shows why small schools can produce the biggest moments and its no to the next round.

Up Next: Indiana vs Liberty vs Minnesota

The Golden Gophers and the Hoosiers are rivals from the Big Ten conference. The Flames are making their debut in the big dance and look to be a threat.

It all comes down this week to tomorrow’s game. From 15, we managed to secure six players who have clinched either a victory berth or a Wild-Card berth. Nine players will remain after tomorrow’s game.

Who will be part of the Nifty Nine, and who’s going home with $5,000? The tournament continues.