Helland over Shahbazi for California State Women’s 9-Ball Title

Melissa Shahbazi and Melissa Helland

It must have felt like old times. Melissa Helland and Melissa Shahbazi were back on the road, heading off to compete in a California State Women’s 9-Ball Championship. Helland (formerly Melissa Herndon) and Shahbazi (formerly Melissa Morris) met and started their pool careers over 20 years ago, but hadn’t even seen each other for four years before they decided on playing the 2022 California State Women’s Championship at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento California on the September 18-19 weekend. 

Even with all of that time since they started off their pool adventure together, it was still Helland and Shahbazi meeting up at the end of the event. Shahbazi rode the top half of the bracket with wins over Kamilah Torch Morton, Lyndee Russell and Milianne Chin, while Helland took the bottom half of the bracket with wins over Cassandra Gray, Alicia Rousseau, Jamie Stewart and Savannah Easton. 

Shahbazi is just getting back to pool after a 10 year absence from the game, while Helland has been back in the game for a couple of years now, but it was Shahbazi scoring a 7-5 win to send Helland to the one loss side. 

The semi-final match between Helland and Savannah Easton was a rematch from their earlier meeting on the winner’s side and ended with the same result, an 8-4 win for Helland. Helland had nothing but praise for young Easton. “She played her heart out and I can tell she’s going to be a champion if she sticks with it.” said Easton. 

After the competitive hot-seat match, it was a different story in the double elimination finals, as Helland scored back to back 8-2 wins to capture another California State Women’s 9-Ball trophy to display next to the 2001 California State Women’s title that she won at College Billiards twenty one years ago. 

Helland commented on how it felt to be playing her old friend in the finals of an event again. “It was wonderful to have her back on the scene and playing in a competitive setting.  Of course, it can be difficult to find that killer instinct against a close friend (and roommate for the weekend), so I think we both struggled in the finals.  I’ve kept up with competitive play over the years, while she is just re-emerging, so I think that gave me the edge in terms of being able to grind out the win. “

Helland thanked her sponsors Golden State Billiard Supply and Jam Up Apparel for their continued support. Even with the win on this weekend, combined with a great 9th place finish at the WPBA event in Vegas earlier this year, Helland is hesitant to utter the famous “I’m back” line from Paul Newman in Color of Money. “I still wouldn’t consider myself “back”.  It’s more like having a foot through the door, but life/work keep me from barging 100% back into the room.   Hard Times Sacramento is like a home away from home and I always feel comfortable there.  I won the NAPT stop there in 2019, and now this CA State Championship.” she said. 

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