Church of England deacon Nicholas Ferrar didn't have a chance.
After 11-year-old Hope Marie Copeland gave her sweet speech defending Harriet Tubman and her work on the Underground Railroad in a recent round of Lent Madness at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Southport, the abolitionist got enough votes to advance to the next round of the tournament.
It was all part of the first Lent Madness series at St. Philip's, part of a national event that is a churchy version of the NCAA's basketball tournament bracket system.
Lent Madness was created in 2010 by two Episcopal priests, the Rev. Tim Schenck and the Rev. Scott Gunn, and pits one saint against another until one winner comes out on top. Madness fans create campaigns for various saints, educating voters about their lives so they can knowledgably cast their ballots online, and the winning saints move up each time until the end of the holy season. St. Phillip's keeps a separate vote tally for their church alongside the national votes to see where they are lining up.
Each Wednesday during Lent, about 20 members have a soup dinner and prepare competing presentations for their saints in the church's fellowship hall. One man dressed in costume to defend John the Baptist's bracket. Another person made their own Lent Madness T-shirt to promote their saint. Another person made bookmarks with heart clips attached to them to remind people of Saint Benedict's life.
Some of the arguments were lawyerly and lengthy. One man defending St. Therese of Lisieux spoke for about 15 minutes about the saint whose devotional statues filled his home during his Catholic childhood.
And - just as in sports- the competition can get a little heated.
After 10-year-old Noah Huntley told the story of how Damien of Molokai died because he would not leave the colony of lepers even to seek treatment for himself, it was going to be a hard fight for the woman defending labor reformer Frances Perkins.
"Man, Damien, lepers and a kid! How am I going to follow that?" she said, laughing.
St. Philip's Christian education director Millie Hart said the series has been a light-hearted way to reconnect people with the histories and examples of the saints.
"Some of them have had very personal connections to the saints," she said. "It's something that all ages and abilities in our church can do together."