Pao wins seven on the loss side to meet and defeat Shea in JPNEWT finals
Skip Maloney
Jul. 31, 2019
Caroline Pao (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)
Caroline Pao (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)
Going into the finals of the July 27-28 stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT), Caroline Pao had something of a dismal record on the winners’ side of the bracket. Of course, she’d only played twice, downing C.C. Strain 7-1 and then, falling to tour director Linda Shea 4-7 (11-8; 57%). Over the next seven matches on the loss side of the bracket, Pao gave up an average of less than two racks per match (1.43) and chalked up a remarkable aggregate score of 49-10 (83%), that included back-to-back shutouts in the quarter and semifinals. She capped the loss-side performance with a 9-4 victory over Shea in the finals to claim the event title. The $1,600-added event drew 28 entrants to Champion Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, MD.
 
Shea and Pao had distinctly different opening rounds, which may have contributed to their first matchup in the second round. Pao gave up only a single rack to Ceci Strain, while Shea locked up in a double hill fight that did eventually send Melissa Mason to the loss side. Odds were likely to have been good that Shea and Pao would have a double hill fight, but they didn’t. Shea prevailed 7-4, adding two matches to Pao’s event total.
 
With Pao at work on the loss side, Shea, the tour’s current #1-ranked player, advanced through Teri Thomas 7-2 and arrived at a winners’ side semifinal against the tour’s current #2-ranked player, Nicole King. Lai Li, in the meantime, the tour’s #3-ranked competitor, having dispatched Sharon O’Hanlon, Judie Wilson and Elaine Wilson to the loss side, faced Kia Sidbury (#7) in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Shea and Li advanced to the hot seat match 7-5 over King and Sidbury. Shea downed Li 7-2 to claim the hot seat, and waited on the fateful return of Pao.
 
On the loss side, it was King who drew Pao, four matches into her winning streak. At that point in time, Pao had given up only seven racks; one each to Noel Rima, Sharon O’Hanlon and Christie Hurdel and four to Anita Sowers. Sidbury drew Thomas, who, following her defeat at the hands of Shea, had eliminated Eugenia Gyftopoulos 7-5 and survived a double hill fight against Kathleen Lawless.
 
Thomas and Sidbury locked up in a double hill fight for advancement to the quarterfinals. Thomas, who’d already improved on her two previous appearances on the 2019 tour (finishing 17th in March and May), downed Sidbury to meet Pao, who’d defeated King 7-3.
 
Pao then chalked up two straight shutouts, against Thomas in the quarterfinals and Lai Li in the semifinals, to earn a shot against the so-far undefeated hot seat occupant, Shea, who came into the finals with a 72% game-winning percentage. Thanks to her 83% loss-side performance and her two winners’ side matches, Pao entered the finals at 76%. Pao completed her run with a 9-4 victory over Shea in the finals.
 
Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Champion Billiards and Sports Bar and Coins of the Realm, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, angle aim Art (Britanya Rapp), The Turtle Rack, Baltimore City Cues, and Billy Ray Bunn Cue Repair. The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for August 10-11, will be hosted by Triple Nines Bar & Billiards in Elkridge, MD.