McMinn double dips Espinosa to recapture Royce Bunnell Memorial 9-Ball title

Shane McMinn and Justin Espinosa

Clark wins One Pocket event, Smith goes undefeated in 8-ball

Though the 6th Annual Royce Bunnell Memorial, held this past weekend (Dec. 10-12) at Stixx and Stones Billiards in Lewisville, TX, did not crown a defending champion in any of its three events (9-Ball, 8-Ball & One Pocket), it did witness the crowning of a former champion. Shane McMinn, who won the 9-ball event in 2019, returned and came from the loss side to claim this year’s 64-entrant, $1,500-added 9-ball title. Last year’s winner, Clint Freeman, was on hand to defend his 2020 title, but finished in the tie for 7th/8th place with Joshua Keller.

Robert Clark won the 16-entrant, $1,000-added One Pocket event, which was added to the event lineup for the first time last year. Last year’s winner, Jeff Sullivan, did not compete. Tom Smith picked up the top prize in the 32-entrant, $500-added 8-Ball event. He was the only winner among the three to go undefeated. Last year’s winner of the 8-Ball event, Jim Ryan, finished out of the money this year.

McMinn’s trip through the 9-ball field, which would eventually take a loss-side detour, thanks to Justin Espinosa, began with a three-match, aggregate score of 21-5 as he downed Eric Hammond (1), Noel Villalobos (2) and Duane Payne (2). At that point, he ran into a winners’ side quarterfinal match versus Eric Aicinena, who chalked up as many racks against him as his previous three opponents combined. McMinn survived that challenge, only to encounter another; a winners’ side semifinal against Espinosa, who’d been battling right from the start with wins over Daniel Gilmore (5), Roman Bayda (4) and a relatively easy one over Jack Lynch (1) in their winners’ side quarterfinal match. Sky Massingill, in the meantime, had gotten by Darrell Smith (3), Mohammad Alrawi (2), Chad Burgess (1) and Shane Hvamstad (5), to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal versus Shane Manole. 

Espinosa sent McMinn off on a three-match, loss-side trip 7-5 and was joined in the hot seat match by Massingill, who’d survived a double hill match against Manole. Espinosa claimed the hot seat 7-2.

On the loss side, McMinn picked up Alwari, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Jeff Franklin 7-5 and Joshua Keller 7-4. Manole drew Aicinena, who’d followed his loss to McMinn with victories over TJ Davis and the event’s defending champion, Clint Freeman, both 7-3.

Aicinena did what he had to do to initiate a quarterfinal rematch against McMinn, downing Manole 7-2. McMinn obliged by putting a stop to Alwari’s loss-side run by the same 7-2 score. Aicinena put up a double hill fight against McMinn in that quarterfinal rematch, but fell short. 

McMinn eliminated Massingill in the semifinals 7-2 and headed into his own, necessary two-match battle versus Espinosa in the finals. McMinn took the opener 7-5 over Espinosa and improved on that score by a rack in the second set, 7-4, to reclaim the Royce Bunnell Memorial 9-Ball title.

Smith endures some strong challenges in his undefeated battle for the 8-ball title

Tom Smith may have been the only competitor to go undefeated on the Royce Bunnell Memorial weekend, but it was no walk in the park. Three of the four (race to 3) matches he played getting to the hot seat went double hill. He got by Jeff Franklin that way, for openers, and then took a breath to shut out Chad Burgess. Joe Pelayo and then, Greg Sandifer, in a winners’ side semifinal, also forced a 5th deciding game in their matches. Smith’s opponent in the hot seat match was JP Kinman, who, by contrast, had played just one double hill match (vs. Blake Kamiab). He’d shut out Jason Judd in his opener, before giving up the two racks to Kamiab, and then, gave up one each to Chris Gaither and (in the other winners’ side semifinal) Doug Winnett.

Smith must have come as a bit of a shock to Kinman in that hot seat battle. Smith turned the tables on him and shut him out. He did not return.

There were only two ways to win loss-side matches; shutout or double hill (2-1). Sandifer tried them both, going the shutout route versus Clint Freeman and, in the quarterfinals, versus Sky Massingill (who’d eliminated Willett 2-0). Apparently bored with shutouts, Sandifer gave up the single rack in the semifinals to Kinman, who ended up tallying only a single game over his final six. 

There were only three ways to win an 8-ball match at this event; shutout, 3-1, or double hill and to complete his undefeated run, Tom Smith had tried all three. He finished with the first two, shutting out Kinman in the hot seat match and giving up a single rack to Sandifer in the only set necessary in the true double elimination final to claim the Royce Bunnell Memorial 8-Ball title.

Gus Briseno, Robert Clark and Daniel Herring

Clark takes two out of three versus Briseno to claim One Pocket title

Somewhat like the 8-ball matches, there were only three ways to win one in the 16-entrant One Pocket event. Matches were races to 3 on both sides of the bracket.

Robert Clark shutout both Joshua Keller and Crispian Ng to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal vs. Daniel Herring. Gus Briseno, in the meantime, shut out JP Kinman and Clint Freeman to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Roman Bayda. Clark added a third shutout, over Herring, while Briseno had to battle to double hill versus Bayda, before joining Clark in the hot seat match. Clark went the 3-1 route to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Herring leapfrogged over a forfeit by Joshua Keller into the quarterfinals. He was joined by Bayda, who’d defeated Paul Villanueva 3-1. Herring and Bayda battled to double hill, before Herring advanced to meet Briseno in the semifinals. Herring and Briseno opted for double hill, too, but it was Briseno who earned the right to a rematch against Clark, waiting for him in the hot seat.

It took both sets, both of which went double hill. Briseno took the opener to even their ‘loss’ score. Clark took the second set to become the 6th Annual Royce Bunnell Memorial One Pocket champion.

Tour director David “Doc” Reyes thanked the ownership and staff at Stixx & Stones for their hospitality, as well as DFW Pool TV for streaming services. He also extended thanks to sponsors OB Cues, Fort Worth Billiards Superstore, Granite Guyz, Outsville Accu-Rack, Digital Pool, Cavalli, Eric and Becky Smith, Dallas 8-ball and John Eagle Honda.