High School Billiards: A Decade of Champions

The 2011 BEF Texas State High School 9-Ball Championship completed the historic 10th year of the successful BETTER High School Billiard Program based in Dallas, Texas on May 17th, 2011.  Last years runner-up, the South Garland H.S. Colonels, rebounded from a heart-breaking loss in the previous years finals to a very respectable 17-1 record and their first championship title in this 10th anniversary of high school billiards. The Colonels join the short list of Texas high school champions in 9-Ball team competition that goes back to the fall of 2001.

The Texas playoffs season started with a pair of tough teams from the Garland Independent School District (ISD), the #2 Rowlett H.S. Eagles and the #1 South Garland H.S. Colonels facing off to see who would represent the Garland district in the 2011 BEF Texas State H.S. Playoffs.  The six times Texas champion Rowlett Eagles sponsored by the dedicated teacher Jeffrey Pilcher and their number one student player Trevor Campbell was no match for the Colonels as the Colonels charged into the semi-finals to face the Richardson ISD team.

The Richardson ISD squad comprised of players from three schools in the Richardson district i.e., the Richardson H.S. Eagles, Berkner H.S. Rams, and the JJ Pearce H.S. Mustangs. Last years painful loss in the finals for the Colonels, losing to Richardson ISD 28-27 on the last 9- ball, motivated the South Garland H.S. students this year to practice harder so that they would once again reach the finals and prove that they are the best high school billiard team in Texas.

The Colonels plan of shock and awe was evident as the Colonels completely overran the Richardson ISD team led by teacher sponsor Michael Hill to a no question who was the better team with this year's score of 38-19. One of the players from the composite Richardson ISD team, Caitlyn Shuping with the JJ Pearce Mustangs, was unable to attend and was missed as she was receiving academic awards in another high school event. Shuping has been selected and qualified for her 3rd Junior National entry this year at the Northern Illinois University. Shuping has been a BEF Academic All-American for all three years and had won 1st place in last years Artistic Billiards Challenge.

There were four ISD's that would represent the semi-finals this year for the Texas championships i.e., Wylie ISD, Rockwall ISD, Richardson ISD, and Garland ISD. The teams were seeded by their regular season records with the Garland ISD being seeded #1. In the past ten years Garland ISD has won eight of the ten Texas State championships. The #2 seeded team of the season, the Rockwall Yellowjackets, matched up against the #3 Wylie Pirates with Rockwall defeating the Pirates sponsored by the highly dedicated teacher Patrick Englert with a score of 33-24. The Rockwall Yellowjackets moved on to face the experienced South Garland Colonels who were the District #1 champions. The Yellowjackets finished out the season as Division #2 Champions with a final season record of 10-5.

In the 2011 BEF Texas State finals the well coached Colonels team handily defeated the 10th year Rockwall H.S. Yellowjackets lead by the very competitive and last years Teacher of the Year, Nicole Redmond, 33-24. This win in the finals was redeeming as the Yellowjackets had barley beaten the Colonels during regular season play for the Colonels only disappointing loss of the year. However, this match would be different as the Colonels never let the Yellowjackets come close as they dominated the entire match lead by the MVP senior and three year veteran Mason Morris who went 10-2.  Morris went 9-3 in the Garland ISD playoffs and 9-3 in the Semi-Final match for a total of 28-8 in playoff play. The Colonels also had on their talented squad the top two players in the Dallas area high school league who received the "Gold" and "Silver" medals for their season play for the boys with Justin Washburn and Brian Emrick winning 1st and 2nd place for the boys respectively.

Both Washburn and Emrick have also excelled in the 2011 Texas BEF qualifiers held in March and May with both players winning a spot at this years BEF Junior Nationals held in DeKalb, Illinois at the Northern Illinois University, July 6-10. Brian Emrick had won his spot winning the 2011 BEF Texas State 9-Ball Championship for the boys with Stephen Cooper, a Rockwall Yellowjackets "Bronze" medal winner, was the runner-up. The event was held May 14th at the 10 year host the AMF Richardson Lanes in Richardson, Texas. There are nine players who have qualified and been selected from the Texas program to go to the 2011 BEF Junior Nationals i.e., Justin Washburn (S. Garland H.S.), Brian Emrick (S. Garland H.S.), Kelly Gomez (S. Garland H.S.), Cynthia Cabrera (S. Garland H.S.), Kole Mcquire (Rockwall H.S.), Cooper Stephens (Rockwall H.S.), Tessa Brown (Sachse H.S.), Jackie Sisser (Sachse H.S.), and Caitlyn Shuping (JJ Pearce H.S.).

Other players for the Colonels squad include: Fabian Fortune, Michael Wesson, Chase Riggins, Christian Torres, Kelly Gomez, Cynthia Cabrera, and teacher sponsors Natalie Martin and Sean Duffey. The Rockwall Yellowjackets squad was lead by Kole Mcquire and Cooper Stephens with both players also selected through their high school play to attend this years 2011 BEF Junior Nationals. The Yellowjackets squad also consisted of Morgan Greenlee, Jason Cowan, Miles Kirkpatrick, Matthew James, Noah Hauessler, Kyle White, Alec Rigutto, Hana Garnett, and 10th year teacher sponsor Nicole Redmond.

What made this year's finals so special are the teacher sponsors, Sean Duffey the teacher "Gold" medal winner from South Garland and Nicole Redmond the teacher "Bronze" medalist from Rockwall. Both of these incredibly committed teachers have been involved with the program going back to the beginning of the program. Ironically, Sean Duffey, now with the Colonels was a prior student at Rockwall High School and the top player in Dallas in his junior and senior year with Mrs. Redmond as a co-sponsor when he played.  Both teachers competed in the finals match and would face off with Nicole Redmond winning the teacher rivalry game. Both teachers scored four points each for their respective teams. Sean Duffey had done an incredible coaching job with his students again this year and it paid off. His South Garland H.S. students were the first players to arrive usually two hours before a match with Duffey demonstrating and teaching critical billiard skills and strategy.

The billiard program is unique in high school sports as the coach's play along side with the students. The students and teachers have fun competing against each other and have shown to develop closer team ties as a result. The Texas based program, founded and directed by Earl Munson a 14 year BCA Instructor and 5-time BEF Junior National Tournament Director, has proven without a doubt that billiards is a winner as an alternative after school sport for any school.  The sport of billiards has shown a unique educational value and a motivational factor for the students participating in the program.  With deep cuts to school budgets across the country a billiard program offers after school club coordinators an inexpensive sport that students can now participate in.  If a sport can increase a student's interest in learning then it should be seriously considered. If you would like to start a program in your area then please contact the Billiard Education Foundation at www.billiardeducation.org to receive information on how to begin an exciting high school billiard program in your area.