Jerry Tarantola Storms the Predator Tour at Castle Billiards

Scott Simonetti, Castle Billiards owners Minnie & John Trobiano, and winner Jerry Tarantola

The Predator 9-Ball Tour held its first-ever stop at the beautiful Castle Billiards in East Rutherford, NJ on November 7-8, 2009.  As anticipated, nearly a full field of 61 players came out to compete in this A/B/C/D event on what was a sunny November weekend.  In this handicapped event, the A/B players were split into the top half of the bracket, while C/D players competed in the bottom half, and for each class level difference, players were spotted one game on the wire.

Some of the top names who came out to Castle for this event include the "A" class points leaders for the 2009 season: Lionel Rivera, John Alicea, and Jerry Tarantola, along with Redgie Cutler, WPBA pro Megan Smith, and top NJ player, Scott Simonetti.

Along with Megan Smith, five of the area's toughest female players, Borana Andoni, Gail Glazebrook, Diana Rojas, Alison Fischer (myself), & Michele Li were also in attendance at this event.  With five or more female players, the top-finishing female is awarded $100, and Diana Rojas earned this award for the third time.

However, cashing in any event disqualifies a player for this award, and "Queen B" Borana Andoni had her sights set high at Castle.  After winning her first round match 7-2 against Alex Bourkovich, she would have a second round loss to Hank Anthony.  But, Borana got right back on the horse to defeat Romeo Singh (7-3), Steve Way (7-6), avenge her loss to Hank Anthony by knocking him out (7-6), and best Jeff Firester (7-6) to move on to day two.

Meanwhile, leading the A/B winner's bracket were Scott Simonetti and Jerry Tarantola.  Scott Simonetti has been an ever-present force in the NY-area pool scene for many years, and despite a recent illness which resulted in the loss of part of his left arm and left leg, he is still playing like a champion.  With the help of a bridge created by custom cue maker Paul Fanelli, Scott is back on his game and continuing to impress people with his presence at the table.  In this event, Simonetti went on a winning streak through Wali Muhammed (7-3), Junior Sanchez (7-6), Randy Schwager (7-5), followed by a hill-hill battle with Redgie Cutler that Scott came out ahead to then match up with Jerry T.

In this set, which started at 12 noon on Sunday, Tarantola and Simonetti traded games to tie at 4-4, when Simonetti pulled ahead to the hill, 6-4.  However, Jerry T grinded his way back to tie at hill-hill.  While he looked to have a straightforward run for the win, Tarantola ended up locking the cue ball onto the 9, having no shot.  This forced him to play a safe, hoping to put distance between the cue and 9-ball.  He left Simonetti a thin cut, which he missed, leaving the match for Tarantola.

On the bottom half of the chart, the C/D players were battling it out, but Shawn Sookhai and 15-year-old Jonathan Castillo were the two that remained undefeated at the start of Day 2.  Through working hard in pro/am, amateur, and junior tournaments, Castillo's game has steadily been getting stronger, and in this event he showed that his hard work is paying off.  Jonathan Castillo's dedication and sportsmanship has already garnered him sponsorship from Kwikfire Cues as well as Castillo Leather, and he his bound to have a bright future as one of the rising stars in pool. In the winner's bracket, Castillo defeated Jeff Firester (7-3), Gail Glazebrook (7-0), Taron Gunness (7-5) then Rafael DaBreo (7-5).

Castillo then faced Shawn Sookhai, where he duly jumped ahead to win the first five games in the match, 5-0.  However, Sookhai took the reigns and won the following four games to go 5-4.  But, Jonathan Castillo woke back up and took the next two racks to win 7-4.

This matched up Jonathan Castillo to play Jerry Tarantola in the match for the hot seat.  Castillo would get two games on the wire in a race to 7, and although he hung in there to tie at 4-4, Jerry T would claim the following three games to win 7-4.  Tarantola had been playing dominantly throughout the event, running through the winner's bracket with wins over Eddie Culhane (7-1), Megan Smith (7-1), Antonio Guerrero (7-4), then Justin Muller (7-2), followed by wins over Simonetti & Castillo, guaranteeing him a spot in the final match.

On Sunday at noon, eight players returned on the one-loss side.  Borana Andoni continued her fight, knocking out Teddy Cook (7-3), who had come over from the winner's side.  Borana followed up with a close battle with Raphael Dabreo that Borana pulled ahead from a 5-5 tie, to win 7-5.  However, Shawn Sookhai ended her run with a 7-3 defeat, and Borana settled for a 5th place finish.

The A/B one-loss side matches featured two solid wins at noon. Justin Muller defeating PA's Derek Schwager (7-4), after Justin had won three winner's side matches before falling to Jerry T.  Antonio Guerrero also defeated Redgie Cutler in dominant fashion 7-4, to meet with Muller.

In this match, it looked like Justin Muller would run away with the win, starting out of the gate with a 5-1 lead.  However, Antonio Guerrero retaliated to win six straight games and steal the match with a 7-5 win.  This set him up against the Scott Simonetti, who had been waiting for another chance after his loss to Jerry Tarantola.  Guerrero did not fare so well in this match, and Simonetti never gave him a chance, winning 7-2.

Scott then moved on to match up with Shawn Sookhai in the quarterfinal match (after his win over Borana Andoni), but Shawn also stood no chance, and Scott won easily, 7-2.  Now only two remained to do battle to see who would make it to the final match against Jerry Tarantola.

In the semifinal match, Jonathan Castillo (C) was spotted one game on the wire in a race to seven against Scott Simonetti (B).  In this match, Jonathan was impressive in his level of composure and control at the table, and battled back and forth with this veteran player.  Scott would reach the hill first in this match, but with the score 6-5, couldn't retain position on the 9-ball, missing and leaving a long shot for Jonathan, which he duly fired in to go hill-hill.

Tied at 6 apiece, Jonathan broke and successfully made the three ball.  He pocketed the 1 & 2, and everyone in the room watched as he lined up a 4-9 combination.  It was not meant to be, however, and the 9 rattled out.  This left Scott with a tough shot, and Jonathan was back at the table.  But, a miss on the 6 ball would let Scott back in, but the 8 blocked the 6.  Scott kicked but left a shot for Jonathan, but the 6 rattled again and hung in the pocket.

Scott would need to get position for the 8 on the opposite rail, but after pocketing the 6, the cue ball rolled straight for the corner pocket.  However, it hung in the jaws and Scott was hooked inside the corner with no shot on the 8.  Scott opted to kick uptable, and he hit the 8 perfectly, splitting the 8 and the cue to opposite side rails.  Jonathan went for a risky bank on the 8, and missed, leaving the the two balls open for Scott to take the win and move on to the finals.

The final match would be one race to nine between NYC Grind's own Jerry Tarantola (A) and Scott Simonetti (B), where Scott would get one game on the wire.  Tarantola jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but Simonetti came back with the next two racks to tie at 3 apiece.  From there, Jerry kept an edge over Scott, but they traded games until Jerry took the lead at 8-6.  Scott came back with an awesome runout to edge closer, to 8-7.

In the following rack, Scott broke and got to the 4 ball when he missed.  Jerry had a pretty clear out, and it looked like he was about to close out his second win against Scott to capture the event.  In getting position for the 8, the cue ball continued to roll toward it, and stopped just short enough to leave a shot.

He would need to get back uptable for the 9 ball, but juiced the cue ball too much, and it rolled straight into the corner pocket.  This gave Scott the game to go hill-hill, and all eyes were on the final table when Tarantola broke in the last rack.  A ball dropped on the break, and a cluster was narrowly avoided, allowing Jerry T to run out the rack to win.

Congratulations to Jerry Tarantola on his first-ever Predator Tour win, as well as to Scott Simonetti and Jonathan Castillo on their strong performances.

The Predator Tour would like to thank Predator & Poison Cues again for supporting the tour this year as well as Blatt Billiards, Delta-13 Racks, The Seminole Tribe of Florida, The Seminole Pro Tour, Designer of the Predator 9-Ball Tour site, Rob Omen of, Billiards Press, Mike Webb Custom Cues, RJH Custom Cues, Tiger Products, Mezz Cues, Mika Immonen & his Mastering Pool DVD Series,, Jim Murnak Custom Cue Cases, Master Chalk, Billiards Game Stroke Trainer,, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest, Inside Pool Magazine, Pool & Billiard Magazine, Maxim Billiards, and The Tournament Guide.
Special thanks to Digital Ink The Official Print Company for the Predator 9-Ball Tour.