Makiyama wins Socal Ladies Finale; Morris earns Tour Championship

Hiroko Makiyama with Frank from Pooldawg

There was plenty of drama to be had in the final match of the So Cal Ladies 9-Ball Tour 2010 season. Hiroko Makiyama, a local player well-known in the So Cal pool community, was facing Melissa Morris, a WPBA player well-known across the country.  Hiroko was in the hot-seat…having defeated a run of great players…including Melissa in the 2nd round, and Stacy Novack, another WPBA player and winner of the previous 2 SCL9T tournament, for the hot-seat.  In previous events, Hiroko's highest finish was 4th place…so she was already showing considerable improvement with a guaranteed 2nd place finish in her future.

The semi-final match was a rematch of the final matches from the previous 2 SCL9T events.  Stacy Novack, who held the overall points lead going into this event, and Melissa Morris, who was only 10 points behind in 2nd place.  Stacy had bested Melissa in both those matches…but the Tour Champion title was up for grabs if Melissa could find a win against Stacy this time.  Melissa had already played 5 matches on the one-loss side…so was geared up and ready to go.  On the flip side, Stacy seemed tired and not at all focused.  Her consistent play deserted her…and she left Melissa enough opportunities to win the match and claim the Tour Champion title.

Melissa had one more match to go in order to capture her first SCL9T win.  But she had Hiroko standing in her way…and Hiroko had already beaten her earlier in the tournament. The first 3 games of the final race-to-9 were all Hiroko. It looked like the long day was starting to take its toll on Melissa…and Hiroko looked strong and confident. But a couple of missed balls and position errors let Melissa creep back into the match…and the score was tied 3-to-3 in no time.

At that point…the momentum shifted completely to Melissa. She woke up and started to play with complete confidence. Soon the score was 8-4 in Melissa's favor…and all Hiroko could do was sit back and hope for any opportunity to try and mount a comeback.

That opportunity came at 8-4…when a poolplayer's worst nightmare came true for Melissa. Before she broke the 13th rack, she realized that the ferrule on her playing cue was cracked and that the tip was close to coming off. She made the decision to switch shafts…and it was a decision that ultimately cost her the tournament.  

At 8-4, Melissa had a chance to run out and win the set and the tournament. However, she never looked comfortable over the balls…and she missed late in the rack. Hiroko ran out to make it 8-5. Hiroko broke the 14th rack, pocketed a ball and had a runnable table. She ran 7 balls…then missed the 9-ball but left Melissa a tough shot. Still uncomfortable with the replacement shaft…Melissa missed the 9-ball to give Hiroko another game and bring the score to 8-6.

Here is where it got really exciting. In the 15th rack, the 2 players had a small safety battle on the early balls…and when Hiroko finally got a good shot at the 4 ball, she fired a bank into the side pocket and ran out to get herself only 2 games away from a victory.

More safeties ensued in the 16th rack…and everyone is the room was sweating the action. Hiroko played a terrific safety on the 7-ball and it seemed pretty obvious we were about to go hill-hill until Melissa made a phenomenal kick on the 7-ball and sliced it all the way up the side rail, past the side pocket and into the corner. Unfortunately…she wasn't rewarded with an easy 8-ball shot. After a few minutes of contemplation, Melissa chose to try and thinly slice the 8-ball…a shot that she clearly wasn't comfortable with…instead of opting for a relatively easy safety with the bridge. She missed…and Hiroko came with a long table cut on the 8-ball to make the match hill-hill.

Like the rest of match, the hill-hill game had plenty of drama.  It looked like Hiroko was going to run out the match, but a surprising miss on an easy 5-ball made all the spectators gasp.  She got a good roll and left Melissa without a way to pocket the 5-ball.  Her only option was a pretty routine carom on the 6-ball…but she didn't seem to see it.  After a few moments consideration, Melissa jokingly asked if someone could coach her on the shot.  She then took the bridge and attempted the carom…but missed it and left Hiroko an opportunity to play safe.  Hiroko's safety left Melissa hooked, but she put the 5-ball near the corner pocket. Melissa kicked one rail and came so close to making the ball that the 5-ball literally hung in the pocket. Hiroko then pocketed the final 3 balls to capture her first women's tournament title ever! Congrats to both players for a finely played finale!!!

As always, the SCL9T would like to acknowledge and thank our wonderful sponsors.  Tiger Products, Pooldawg, and Delta-13 have all been wonderful in their generosity and support.  I could not have made this happen without their help, so I give them big props for their commitment to the pool community. Another big thank you to Ned Morris of Morris Custom Cues who donated additional raffle prizes for the last 2 events.  

Thanks also to Andy Chen for providing such a quality live stream for the SCL9T events.  He is a pleasure to work with…and I am looking forward to implementing some of his exciting new ideas for next season.

A big, big thank you to On Cue Billiards.  The staff was friendly and accommodating and absolutely phenomenal in helping me with whatever I needed throughout the event.  The owner has already agreed to a 2011 event…so we will be back next year for sure!!!!

And finally…I would like to thank Jeannie Oshima for arranging to bring some local Marines from the nearby Miramar base.  They came out to support the ladies…and the ladies treated them to some challenge matches and some mini-lessons in their down time between matches.  It was a great experience for all involved…and Jeannie is the great lady that made it happen.

Here's looking forward to a bigger and better 2011.