Mike Pankoff wins Az State Barbox 9-Ball Title

Mike Pankoff accepts the trophy from last year's winner Tony Confalone

The Arizona State All Around Tour made their way to Alexanders Sports Bar on July 29th and 30th for the second leg on the tour and the 3rd Annual Arizona State Barbox 9-Ball Championship. A packed field was expected at the event and the fans were certainly not disappointed. One player was overheard stating that there were 20 players in attendance who had a reasonable shot at taking the tournament down.

Early on, it appeared that #1 ranked Doug Hale and 2004 Great Arizona Ring Game winner Jimmy Mendoza would be the players to beat in this one. Both players cruised through day one undefeated, along with Ryan Anderson and Mike Pankoff. Just missing the chance to play on day two, were #2 ranked Chris Bradford, Don Westbrooks, Evans Bishop and Tyson Cole.

Day two dawned with twelve players remaining and four of them were quickly sent to the sidelines as defending All Around Champion Tony Confalone as well as Jack Scerca, Ron Merseal and Tres Kane were eliminated in 9th place.

The next round saw the winners side whittled to just four players as Hale beat Ryan Anderson and Pankoff send Mendoza to the left side of the board. Meanwhile, on the one loss side, James 'Cheeseburger' Lester eliminated Gus Briseno and Eric Olson from Prescott eliminated Jack Rippel from Tucson.

The next round saw Lester eliminate Ryan Anderson 9-5 and Mendoza eliminate Eric Olson 9-3. This left a field of four players in contention for the title.

Early favorite Jimmy Mendoza's game ran into a hiccup and he couldn't seem to get anything going in his next match against James Lester. Lester, however, had no problems at all as he cruised to a 9-3 win to eliminate Mendoza in 4th place.

On the winners side, Mike 'Pancake' Pankoff and Doug Hale were facing off for the hot-seat. Mike raced to a 4-0 lead and kept the pressure on as he defeated Hale 9-6 to hand Hale his first loss in 2 events.

The semi-final match between Hale and Lester couldn't have been closer. The match was tied seven times and neither player was able to take more than a 2 game lead at any time. Lester got to the hill first at 8-7, but scratched on the six ball and allowed Hale to join him at 8-8 with Hale breaking. Hale came up dry on the break, but the run out would not be a simple formality for Lester. Possibly thinking about what the game meant, Lester missed a very makeable 7-ball. Not wanting to do the same thing, Hale cinched the 7-ball and left himself a much more difficult 8-ball than he had to. That would be his downfall as he missed the 8-ball and gave the game to Lester.

In the finals, Lester started out showing the crown how much his game has improved in the last month. Lester was away from the game for quite a while and just busted back onto the scene in the last couple months and his level of play has been rising by leaps and bounds ever since. He started the match with four straight break and run games and a quick 4-0 lead in the extended race to thirteen set. If anyone was worried that Pankoff would come out flat when he finally got a shot, those worries were quickly forgotten as Pankoff ran out the next game. And the next. And the next. Before anyone knew what happened, Lester's 4-0 lead was gone and the score was tied at 4-4. Pankoff was not done yet though. He played flawless pool, only missing one ball, as he won thirteen straight games and won the match 13-4.

First place was worth $2070 for Pankoff, including all of the side pots. Lester settled for $930 in second place money. Pankoff's first place finish propelled him into 2nd place on the all around points list, with Doug Hale still in first and James Lester in a very close third place position.

Event #3 is Straight Pool at On The Snap in Prescott on August 13th and 14th. We all expect longtime Arizona resident Rodney 'Babe' Thompson to put on a show in this one.

Complete Results:
1st Mike Pankoff $2070
2nd James Lester $930
3rd Doug Hale $560
4th Jimmy Mendoza $330
5th/6th Eric Olson, Ryan Anderson $130
7th/8th Jack Rippel, Gus Briseno $75
9th/12th Ron Merseal, Tres Kane, Jack Scerca, Tony Confalone $50