International 9-Ball Open Plays Down to Final Four

Justin Bergman (Erwin Dionisio)
Only twelve players remained alive in the International 9-Ball Open at the beginning of play on Friday. Both morning matches were on the one-loss side, so every game would be fought as a life or death battle. 
The TV match was between James Aranas and Dennis Orcollo, both of the Philippines. Orcollo got things started by winning the first rack easily, but after that it was all Aranas. Aranas controlled the table throughout and won eleven games in a row to take the win 11-1. Our other match was much more dramatic.  This one had Jayson Shaw facing Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz and they were always within a  game of one another until they were tied at seven games apiece. That was when Shaw managed to gain control of the table and take it home 11-7.
The next TV match featured Alex Pagulayan against Darren Appleton. This looked like it would be a runaway as Appleton leapt out to an early five game lead. Pagulayan dug deep though, and soon they were tied at six games each. Then seven games each. Then momentum went over to the Pagulayan corner and he got to the hill at 10-7. In the next rack, Appleton came to the table after Pagulayan had snookered him badly. He kicked off the side rail and the one ball rocketed into the corner pocket. Then he made a table-length back-cut  into the  far corner to send a message that he was on the attack. He was rolling through the rack but must have momentarily lost focus when he jawed the seven in the corner. A little luck got him a safety but Paguylayan safed him back, got a shot and ran out for the win.
On the side table, Thorsten Hohmann faced a very tough Justin Bergman. Bergman controlled the matches throughout, until he had a 10-0 lead. Hohmann fought back well but it was just too late and too big a hill to climb. Hohmann managed to move three beads to his side of the string before Bergman finished him off 11-3. 
Our two final day session matches were Alex Kazakis against Joshua Filler and Jayson Shaw facing  James Aranas. These two matches were considered toss-ups.  Any of the four could win on any given day. Aranas and Shaw traded racks  until they were tied up at five games each, then Shaw got on a roll and owned the table throughout the rest of the match to take it 11-5.
Kazakis and Filler took a similar route. They stayed tight early, were tied at five games apiece, and then Filler took control and won the next five racks to stand on the hill before Kazakis took rack #16 and got us to 10-6. Kazakis then made an illegal break as he didn’t drive 3 balls above the head string. Filer bounced to the table and eagerly took that gift all the way home to win 11-6.
After a very entertaining break to celebrate the induction of the Jansco Brothers, Greg Sullivan and Alex Pagulayan into the BCA Hall of Fame, the evening session of play got started. 
On the winner’s side, Ko Ping-Chung faced Max Lechner to determine who would take on Filler for the hot-seat on Saturday morning. This match was another demonstration of Lechner’s mastery of the break on this week. He consistently made the 1-ball in the side and had shape on the 2-ball. Lechner led 4-0 before Ko could win a game, and Lechner extended that lead to 9-1 before Ko would win his second game. Ko fought back to 9-4, but scratched on the break in rack fourteen and Lechner won from there 11-4.
Alex Pagulayan had to put the festivities off the Hall of Fame dinner behind him and take on Justin Bergman in the other 7:30 match. Alex had an early 3-0 lead, fell behind 6-4, came back on top 8-6 and then finally lost to Bergman 11-8. 
The next round won on the one loss side with Alex Kazakis playing Jayson Shaw. It was an interesting contrast as Kazakis was taking the same approach to the break that Lechner had been so successful with this week, and playing the 1-ball in the side and the 2-ball three rails for shape. In a possible case of “Dance with the one that brung you” though, Shaw was crushing the rack like he usually does, and leaving shape on his next ball to the pool gods. Neither approach seemed to be showing any benefit over the other as the players were tied at 3-3 and exchanged racks to the 7-7 mark. Shaw finally took his first multi rack lead at 9-7 and then went on to win the match 11-7.
The final match of the night was between Ko Ping-Chung and Justin Bergman. Bergman took an early lead, but while he was unable to build much distance between he and Ko, Ko was unable to take control of the match away from Bergman. Towards the end of the match, both players starting show fatigue and started struggling with outs that would have been routine earlier in the day. The turning point of the match appeared to happen in rack sixteen with Bergman leading 8-7. Bergman hung a 7-ball, but Ko made it and hooked himself on the 8. Bergman banked in the 8-ball, and then missed the 9-ball. Ko couldn’t capitalize though, and missed it himself. Bergman finally dropped the ball for the 9-7 lead. Ko did get back to 9-8, but Bergman slowed things down a notch and played through the fatigue to win the match 11-8. 
Bergman will face Jayson Shaw Saturday at 10:30, while Filler takes on Lechner for the hot-seat. You can follow the action all week long, with our online brackets and real time scoring. Select matches will also be streamed online as part of Accu-Stats PPV coverage of the event