New Champs, Records Set at Az BCA State Championship

Men's Masters Champion Dennis Orender

The BCA players made their second trip to the beautiful Blue Water Casino in Parker Arizona on March 23rd - 25th for the Arizona State BCA Championship and what an event it was. Last year's record breaking participation was quickly eclipsed this year with a 30% increase across the board. A total of 197 singles players and 50 teams competed this year, making this event the largest attended event in Arizona league history.

Early buzz for the event centered around the changes from last year's inaugural event at Blue Water. The newly formed Masters Singles divisions had a lot of player's attentions as the top players would battle it out to determine the best of the best.

The first division to crown a champion was the Ladies Masters division. With this being the first year of the Masters division, the number of players eligible was small but talented. Four players, including two-time Open Champion Bernie Store, played a round robin format to determine the two players for the finals. Store's quest for a third straight Championship was on course early, as she swept the round robin matches undefeated with a combined score of 15-7. Store's opponent in the finals was teammate Michaele Kedanis who finished the round robin stages with a 2-1 match record and was the only other player to have a winning record at the end of round robin play.

Going into the race to seven finals, most fans thought it would be smooth sailing for Store. Kedanis has been a top Arizona player for a number of year and she had other ideas though. Store held an early 3-1 lead and 5-2 lead, but that was as far as she would get as Kedanis won five straight games for the 7-5 win and her first Az State BCA Championship.

The Men's Masters Division saw twelve players competing for the Championship, including last year's Champion and Runner-up Larry Eans and Jimmy Mendoza. This event had it's fair share of surprises as Eans had a first round bye and then dropped his next match to Dennis Orender. Eans would be eliminated by Mendoza in 7th place. Reigning National 8-Ball Champion Derek Cumm didn't fare much better as he lost to Pete Lhotka on the winners side. Two wins on the left side of the board were followed up by a loss to Mike Sandoval and a 5th place finish.

On the winners side, Dennis Orender and Pete Lhotka were making their way through the bracket. Orender scored wins over 04 Champion Ray Shobe, 06 Champion Larry Eans and Mike Sandoval while Lhotka defeated Derek Cumm and Brady Juve to get to the quarter final match. Orender continued his winning ways in this match and sent Lhotka to the one loss side by the score of 5-1.

Lhotka found Jimmy Medoza waiting on the one loss side. Mendoza had lost his first match of the event to Brady Juve and cut through the one loss side with four straight wins. Mendoza's momentum carried him over Lhotka for the rematch with Orender and his second straight appearance in the State Championship finals.

This set up the true double elimination finals between Orender and Mendoza. Mendoza took the first set 5-2, but came up short in the second set as Orender scored a 5-3 win for his first State Championship.

The Ladies Open Division saw the largest gain in participation going from 35 players in 2005 to 53 players this year. By noon on Saturday, the division was down to just four players; Angel Tafoya, Kitty Carroll, Cathy Thomas and Cathy Kelley. Those four players were whittled down to two when Carroll beat Tafoya 4-3 and Kelley beat Thomas 4-3. Carroll went on to take the hot-seat with a 4-2 win over Kelley.

Cathy Kelley ran into Holly Ryan on the one loss side. Ryan had bounced back from an early Saturday loss to Angel Tafoya with four dominating wins on the left side of the board, but ran out of steam in the match against Kelley. Kelley moved on with a 3-1 win to earn another shot at Carroll in the finals.

Kelley dominated Carroll in the first set of the finals and cruised to a 4-1 win. The second set looked like it would be a repeat of the first with Kelley racing to the hill with a 2-0 lead. Three games later, it was Kitty Carroll scoring the 3-2 win and holding the first place trophy for her first Az State BCA Championship.

The Men's Open Division went from 118 players last year to 127 of the strongest 8-ball players the state has to offer. The final two players on the winners side were Ron Weeks and Randy Pelton from the Northern Lounge PLM team. The match for the hot-seat started off close at 1-1, but Weeks won four straight games after that to take the hot-seat 5-1. On the one loss side, Charles Peten was on a roll. Peten had lost to Evans Bishop earlier in the tournament, but came back with left side wins over Tyler Fleishman, Jose Gonzalez, Eric Olson and Randy Pelton to get to the double elimination final match against Weeks.

Both players in the finals were experienced 8-ball players and it definitely showed in their play. Neither player was willing to give anything to the other player this close to the title, but in the end it was Peten whose game was just a little sharper as he defeated Weeks twice for the State Championship

The Teams got started on Saturday with each division headed up by teams with multiple titles under their belts.

The Ladies Division saw the three time defending champion Angels from Alexanders come in as huge favorites. Not only had they won the title three years straight, they had not lost a match in those three years. That record was quickly brought to and end as the Metro Closers from Metro Sportz Bar (Frances Medrano, Ann Lyman, Marita Incalcaterra, Marney Teague, Virginia Jennings and Doreen Sunn) scored a dominating 8-3 win early in the event.

The Closers went on to take the hot-seat with an 8-5 win over Sexy 101 out of The Snap. The Alexanders Angels bounced back with three match wins to get to a rematch with the closers in the finals.

The first set of the double elimination finals saw the Angels jump out to a 5-0 lead and cruise to an 8-2 victory to force a second set. The second set was much more competitive with both teams tied at 5-5 before the Closers proved true to their team name and closed out the set with three straight wins for the 8-5 win and their first BCA State Championship.

The men's division featured two teams just as dominating as the Angels. The Northern Lounge PLM team had regained the title last year from the Alexanders Nutz (now called Alexanders Cop and Robbers) and both teams were loaded with talent this year in the hopes of taking the title home. Between the two teams, they had five state titles between them.

The brackets had the two teams facing off in the final four on the winners side and the Northern Lounge PLM team won that match to move on to the hot-seat match. With the Cop and Robbers team busy on the one loss side, all Northern Lounge had to do was get by the Alexanders Numero Uno team (Ray Shobe, Ken Gouso, Jim Rabatin, Ron Merseal and Jose Gonzalez) to take the hot-seat. That proved to be more of a challenge than expected as Numero Uno scored an 11-9 win to take the hot-seat.

Northern Lounge found the Cop and Robber team waiting on the one loss side for the rematch that most people expected to see in the finals. The match ended with the same result as their first meeting and Northern Lounge earned a rematch with Numero Uno in the finals.

As late as it was, both teams still displayed some great 8-ball talent. The match was close at 6-6 when Northern Lounge put together three straight games to move ahead 9-6. From there, they held on for the 11-8 win in the first set. The second set saw Northern with an early 6-4 lead. Alexanders narrowed the gap to 8-7 but eight games was the most Northern would get as Alexanders won four straight games to win their first State Championship.

All in all, the event was a huge success and would not have been possible without the help of Blue Water Casino, Diamond Billiards, all of the Arizona BCA League Operators and the tournament staff (Erik "Bull" Vankerwyk, Kristie Ortega, Lynn Shoemaker, Chuck Parrill, Scott Waterhouse, Larry Eans and Mike Howerton).

Photo courtesy of Rick Schmitz.

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