The questions in the final round were coming with lightning speed: What is the most widely spoken of the Bantu languages in Eastern Africa? Who was the first four-star black general in the history of the U.S. military? Who is the 7-foot-7 Sudanese who plays basketball for Philadelphia?

The answers are Swahili, Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. and Manute Bol.

When the dust cleared and the final bell sounded yesterday in the sixth annual Black Pursuits Quiz Competition, sponsored by the Prince George's County Library System, only the two all-male teams were left standing: Suitland High School and DeMatha Catholic High School.

For students, parents and organizers of the event, based on the highly successful "It's Academic" television model, the contest has become a time for schools to compete on a higher level than who has the best football team or the sharpest dressers in Prince George's. It is an arena where black history takes center stage along with rigorous study and teamwork.

The winners of yesterday's semifinal round will compete next Saturday in a live broadcast on Prince George's Community Television, Channels 15A or 15B.

"I think it is an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about their heritage, since they are not taught it in school in general," said Anita Johnson, whose son, Ernest Johnson Jr., was the captain of the three-member DeMatha team.

To Derrick Coley, 16, captain of the Suitland team, the contest was a way to teach as well as learn about black pride. Coley, along with the others on his team, is a member of Rites of Passage, an achievement group for black males at Suitland.

Bringing home the semifinal trophy "shows kids {at Suitland} that Rites of Passage is about something, and they will want to join," Coley said.

Clyde Davis, of DeMatha, agreed. "Black males are not achieving what they should," he said. Teammate Sean Cherry added, "You are seeing a good example of black males."

The competition started in 1985 as a board game drawn up by library staff to commemorate Black History Month. From there, the librarians sponsored a competition; the first year, seven high schools competed. As the competition has grown in prestige, more high schools have entered.

This year's contest had seven categories: the Colonial and Revolutionary War era; plantation life; the Civil War and Reconstruction period; the Harlem Renaissance; the civil rights movement; contemporary life and current events; and African geography, the newest and hardest category, according to the students.

The competitors told tales of studying hours each day since November, quizzing each other as they passed in the hallway or sat at the lunch counter, and poring over magazines and scholarly works such as Vera F. Rollo's "Black Experience in Maryland" and Susan R. Altman's "Extraordinary Black Americans From Colonial to Contemporary."

"This week we probably have done 60 hours" of studying, said Gwendolyn Allen, one of Suitland's coaches. "We called them on the telephone. We've given them every book that anybody has told us to give them. This was our first year participating and we were scared to death."

DeMatha's team members prepared separately and practiced as a group but once, the day before the event.

"Everybody wears black. We pray before and after," Ernest Johnson said. "Then we go back and focus, concentrate. This is what we've been working months for."

Other schools competing yesterday were Roosevelt, Seton, Friendly, Oxon Hill, Central, Forestville, Queen Anne Catholic, Laurel, Surrattsville, Potomac and Crossland.