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Shaw and Kelly take Pro Championship titles on closing night of the SBE

Jayson Shaw and Kelly Fisher

Bruner and Malm capture Amateur titles

The Annual Super Billiards Expo (SBE), like other tournaments of similar size and length, has a way of building momentum and speed as the week of it goes by. This varies slightly, depending on whether you’re a spectator or a player. As an example, Kelly Fisher, who emerged from a 63-entrant field and went on to become the undefeated WPBA Women’s Pro Players Champion on Sunday, played a single match on Thursday (she’d been awarded an opening round bye) and didn’t play again until Saturday, when she played twice. On Sunday, already among the event’s 16 players to enter the single-elimination phase, she played three times in a row to claim the title. Jayson Shaw, who went on to become the undefeated, 73-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event winner had the same experience. In both cases, the Thursday and Friday experience was a little slower. The Saturday and Sunday experience seemed to flash by like proverbial greased lighting.

The Amateur Players Championship, which featured four short of 1,000 entrants (by far, the most heavily attended event) began on Wednesday and like the Pro events, ended on Sunday. That single-elimination process began with a lot of layover time for the competitors; time which narrowed and eventually, went flying by. Its champion, Chris Bruner, though, was used to it. As a participant at the SBE for about 20 years, he’d finished third at the last one and over the years, had five or so finishes of 5th or better. But playing in the APA, he’d also been a veteran of similar, large-entrant fields, requiring days and days of non-stop pool, or in the early going of such competition, waiting for the non-stop pool to begin.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but with things like the APA Nationals in Vegas, you get used to those long days. You get accustomed to it; the mindset that you have to chill out, relax and go play your game.”

“I’ve been doing it for so long that in the last five or six years, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do,” he added. “Get as much rest as you can, get enough sleep, and just take it day by day.”

Bruner ended up winning 10 matches and only lost two sets. Only once did he compete against someone he knew; Brent Hensley, with whom he has been friends for a long time. To him, the reward had less to do with the $5,000 in cash that he received as the Amateur Champion, than it was about, after all of the years he’d been attending, finally winning it. 

“I’m still on Cloud Nine,” he said, about three hours after the event had ended, around 6:30 on Sunday night. “I’ve been so close for so many years.”

A field of 166 entrants competed in the Women’s Amateur Players Championship. Tina Malm went undefeated through that field to claim the title, downing Ashley Benoit in the finals.

By Saturday night, the WPBA’s 63-entrant Women’s 9-Ball Professional Championship had whittled down to its 16-entrant single elimination phase. The 16 women advancing (in fact, the entire field of the event) featured many of the most highly recognizable names in women’s pool and with the exception of two from the UK (the Fishers, Kelly and Allison), all were from the North American continent; two, being Canadians (Brittany Bryant and Veronique Menard). Among the 47 who did not make the cut were a few junior competitors – Skylar Hess, Savannah Easton and Hayleigh Marion – along with Jeri Engh, who, in her 80s, was the event’s oldest participant. Women of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were well-represented, along with the presence of, though not participation on the part of the tournament’s director, Linda Shea. Along with Kia Burwell and Caroline Pao, who did become two of the final 16, and C.C. Strain, who acted as the tournament director for all of the SBE’s Amateur events, tour members Ada Lio, Kathy Friend, Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Judie Wilson and Shanna Lewis competed.

On Sunday morning, the final eight paired up in four quarterfinal matches. The marquee pairing among them featured the Fishers, who’d last met in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic last month. Joann Mason-Parker took on Caroline Pao, Jennifer Baretta faced Kim Newsome and Canada’s Veronique Menard matched up with Teruko Cucculelli.

In races to 11, Kelly Fisher defeated Allison Fisher 11-8 and Joann Mason Parker downed Caroline Pao 11-2. “9mm” Baretta shot down Kim Newsome 11-6 and Cucculelli eliminated Menard 11-9. In the semifinals that followed, Kelly Fisher defeated Mason-Parker 11-4 and in the finals, met Baretta, who’d defeated Cucculelli 11-4.

Fisher and Baretta traded racks through the first five games, after which Kelly was ahead 3-2. She added a rack, off Baretta’s break for a two-rack lead before Baretta came back with two to tie things for the third time at 4-4. Fisher won seven of the next eight games to claim the title.

Look for a report on the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship and the top finishers from the eight Amateur events in a separate report on these pages. 

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Earl the Pearl tops Friday night battles in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Players Championship

Earl Strickland

Fishers still alive in the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. 

He’d played twice already. On Friday night at 9:30, Earl Strickland stepped to the tables of the Super Billiards Expo’s arena in search of his second win in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship. On Thursday, after a bye, he’d lost his opening match, double hill, to Alan Rolon Rosada and at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, downed Tyler Henninger 9-6. Both matches were very lightly attended. Modest crowds, dotting the three-level risers to either side of the 16 tables, laid end to end, side by side.

Friday night, though, was different. This was weekend-is-here Earl the Pearl time. And he got himself an audience. While there were certainly people in the crowd of some 200 or so spectators who were itching to see a show; not a pool show necessarily, but an Earl show, as only he can bring it. Instead, they got the professional ‘Earl’s here to win’ show, full of rock-solid shooting that saw him take control of a 2-2 match and win six in a row before some of the audience had even settled in. People (though not many) started leaving, like baseball fans leaving a stadium when the score is 12-0 in the seventh inning, wanting to get ahead of the traffic jam. Those who remained were switching their attention between what was left of Earl’s match and what was going on at the tables on either side of him (Shannelle Lorraine and Ada Lio were playing south of him, while Jesus Atencio and Mason Koch were battling it out north of him). 

Gomez managed to chalk up three racks and the remaining crowd went wild. Very quietly and not for long.

Earl finished off Gomez, quickly, only giving up one more rack and moved to the lobby outside the arena where folks gathered around the hand-written brackets to see who was coming up against who in today’s (Saturday) matches. Earl was scheduled to play Bart Czapla at noon, in a match that will determine whether he advances to the 16-player, single elimination phase of the event. The first round of that phase will play out at 6 p.m.

Earl was among those looking to see what was coming up next, and he took the opportunity to play to the audience that had been relatively quiet during his win over Gomez. They were lined up two or three deep around him, cameras at the ready, as he gave them a genteel comedian to play with. Standing for one shot with a broad grin on his face, he said that the woman to his left was prettier than he was, riffing on this to talk about his sagging limbs and a “face that looked like a truck hit me and then backed up.” Manifestly not true, but it got a laugh. He embellished on that central joke for a while before moving on to chat with spectators who’d obviously been paying strict attention to his match as it played out; questions and comments about shot situations and potential solutions, back and forth.

Jayson Shaw, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking to advance to the final 16 today, as well (2:30 p.m. against Billy Thorpe), joined the throng gathered around him and it took about two seconds for them to launch into a discussion about the tables and how they ‘played’ in a given match.

“I hit this shot,” said Shaw at one point, “that went into the hole and bounced out. The cue ball jumped up onto the rail, travelled all the way down table, jumping over the side pocket and then went back on the table, giving me a straight shot at the 4-ball.”

Lives of the legends playing out in one of their homes away from home.

There’ll be 32 competitors in the Players Championship facing advancement to pool’s version of the Sweet 16 today. Among those 32, on the winners’ side of the bracket, will be Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, Fedor Gorst, Darren Appleton and Shane Wolford.  In addition to Strickland, other loss-side competitors looking to make the cut and who’ll have to play two rounds to do it (or not), will be Danny Olson, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Joe Dupuis, Landon Hollingsworth, BJ Ussery, Jr. and Bucky Souvanthong. As of noon today, the potential for Strickland to face Rosado a second time remained alive, as Rosado stepped to the tables, looking for advancement beyond Eric Roberts.

The two Fishers continue to play for advancement to the final 16 of the WPBA Pro Players event 

Competition at the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship will dominate the afternoon schedule at the pro player arena. All 16 women who step to the tables at 2:30 p.m. today, haven’t played a match since Thursday; half of them on Thursday afternoon and the other half on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, the Fishers, Allison and Kelly, squared off in a game of 8-ball that was not part of the official proceedings and did not involve cue sticks, felt cloth or actual pockets. Instead, they settled into another kind of table to play an 8-Ball Pool Board Game that’s on display and being pre-sold (prior to publication) to attendees at the SBE from a vendor booth surrounded by cue manufacturers. Kelly is acting as the game’s Brand Ambassador and has been at the booth where it’s being demonstrated a number of times, playing against, among others, Darren Appleton, who reportedly broke and ran the first game of it he played. 

While the game doesn’t employ any of pool’s tactile qualities with cues or aiming skills (there are basically no missed shots if you’ve lined up the cue and target properly), it does manage to offer a degree of strategy and tactics, very similar to the kinds of decision-making involved in the actual game of 8-ball. There are opportunities for bank shots (played out on strict horizontal/vertical target paths) safety play and you can scratch, for example, all of which plays out in ways unique to the board game.   

Though new to the game, Allison won the single game against Kelly. They could play a real game of 9-ball against each other before the end of the women’s tournament, but only, for starters, if both of them advance to the event’s final 16. Kelly, who’s only played a single match so far, defeating Jessica Barnes on Thursday night, was to play Liz Taylor at 2:30 today and if successful, would play the winner of an Ashley Burrows/Emily Duddy match in the opening round of the single-elimination phase at 8:30 p.m. Allison, who played two women from the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) on Thursday (Judie Wilson and Kathy Friend) will be facing Angela Janic at 2:30 and if successful, will also play at 8:30, against the winner of a Monica Webb/Kim Newsome match (check the SBE Web site for streaming options).

Other competitors, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking for a slot among the final 16 women, include Emilyn Callado, Brittany Bryant, Caroline Pao and LoreeJon Brown. On the loss-side of the bracket, at noon today, also looking for advancement to the final 16, will be,  among others, Janet Atwell, Jennifer Baretta, and both Kia Burwell and Judie Wilson, representing the JPNEWT. Matches at 6 p.m. on the loss-side of the bracket will determine the eight loss-side competitors among the Sweet 16.

Super Seniors get underway, as Amateur Ladies, Seniors continue, with Juniors in the wings 

The original Super Seniors tournament, with long lines hoping for a waiting-list entry, gathered early this morning, while the 996-entrant Open Amateur event looked to enter its Final 16 phase at 1 p.m. today. The four-brackets of the Amateur Ladies event is still ongoing, as is the (plain, so to speak) Seniors tournament. Two junior competitions (17U & 12U) are set to begin today, as well. 

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Miller wins her second straight on J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour

Briana Miller and Kia Burwell

In the wake of winning the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour’s season opener last month (March 5-6), after being away from the tables for about three years, Brianna Miller commented that while she hoped to be increasing the frequency of her competition in the weeks and months ahead, she was going to “stick with the JPNEWT for right now, to get back into the swing of things.” She took a ‘swing’ at Stop #2 on the tour this past weekend (April 9-10) and as she did in March, so, too, in April. She went undefeated to claim her second straight 2022 tour title. The event drew 21 entrants to Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA. 

Absent from the entrant list this time around were Miller’s season-opening hot seat opponent (Kathy Friend) and finals opponent (Caroline Pao). In as clear an indication of “out of the frying pan, into the fire” imaginable, she faced tour director Linda Shea in the hot seat match and Kia Burwell in the finals.

Following victories over Gina Cunningham 7-3, Susan Kimble 7-1 and a shutout over Ada Lio, Miller faced Anna Marks in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Shea, in the meantime, got by Suzzie Wong 7-4, Jolene Retallack 7-2 and Carol V. Clark to face Nicole Nester in the other winners’ side semifinal. Nester had just sent Kia Burwell to the loss side in a rare shutout against Burwell.

Shea downed Nester 7-3 and turned to a hot seat match against Miller, who’d defeated Marks 7-3. Miller claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Shea and waited for Burwell to get back.

Burwell took her opening, loss-side round versus Suzzie Wong 7-5 and then, in something of a response to her winners’ side shutout loss, advanced to the quarterfinals, with two straight shutout wins over Carol V. Clark and fresh from the winners’ side, Marks. Nester picked up Alyssa Solt, who’d lost her opening round match against Linda Cheung and embarked on a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Ada Lio 7-4 and, in their rematch, Linda Cheung 7-3.

Nester stopped Solt’s loss-side run at four, downing her 7-3 on Saturday night. Nester was unable to return on Sunday for a rematch against Burwell, who leapfrogged over the quarterfinals and downed Shea in the semifinals 7-5. Miller completed her second straight undefeated run on the tour with a 7-3 victory over Burwell in the finals.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Cues, ThinkTechMD for their streaming and social media services, as well as Gina Cunningham (real estate agent of Keller Williams Integrity) and George Hammerbacher. The next event on the JPNEWT, scheduled for May 21-22, will be hosted by On Cue Sports Bar & Grill in Front Royal, VA.

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Briana Miller takes season opener on J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour

Briana Miller and Caroline Pao

She’s back.

After almost three years in which she had failed to record any sort of a payout in any pool tournament (that we know of), Briana Miller returned to Pennsylvania from St. Charles, MO, where she’d attained a degree in finance, thanks to a pool-related scholarship to Lindenwood University. She got a job upon graduation and then, later, just beyond the height of the pandemic, was allowed to transfer and do that job remotely, back at home in Allentown, PA. Just this past weekend (March 5-6), Miller went undefeated to chalk up her first win on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) in five years. Her last two recorded payouts came during the 2018 and 2019 Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Championships in which she finished 9th and 5th, respectively.

Miller’s last win on the JPNEWT, in November of 2017, featured two, back-to-back victories (hot seat and finals) over Tour Director Linda Shea. In a circumstance that at the time, we described to be “as rare as a teenager that doesn’t play video games,” Miller shut Shea out in both matches. Like that event, the tour’s 2022 season opener, with its 29 entrants, was hosted by Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD.

“It’s great to see her out and playing again,” said Shea after this past weekend’s event. “I loved it. She’s all grown up now; nice and settled and doing well. Her game showed it. She shot the lights out.”

It was, all told, a big come-back weekend for Miller that happened to accompany a turning point for the JPNEWT, as well. Their season opener capped an overall effort to revitalize the tour. Their 2022 season has begun with a new ‘look.’ They’ve partnered with a new streaming company – TTMD Streaming (ThinkTechMD) – which has brought a degree of professionalism and new vitality to the streaming services, including such improvements as multiple camera angles, the ability to do instant replay and steady commentary from the familiar face and voice of pool instructor George Hammerbacher and Wayne Everhart, owner of TTMD. The company has also undertaken to improve the tour’s presence on varied forms of social media and have been instrumental in creating a new tour Web site.

“They were very professional,” noted Shea of TTMD Streaming’s presence at the tour’s season opener, “and I’m looking forward to a great union with them.”

“Not only that,” she added, ‘but feature this: we held an amateur event, as well, for 450 and below Fargo rates that I’ve been trying to grow for two years. TTMD’s on board for our first event of the season and they get 25 women to participate. The most I ever got was eight. They worked that very hard and for sure, get all the credit for that 450 and under event. They even put four players in the main event, sponsored them.”

The winner of the ‘450 and under’ event was Lynn Richard, who came from the loss side (three matches) and claimed the title, with Linda Cheung as runner-up. There was also a preliminary, 17-entrant ‘chip tournament’ on Friday night, March 4, with races to one that proved immensely popular. 

“It was a lot of fun,” said Shea. “Only 17 people (mixed genders, won by Pete Boyer), but it was a blast and they want it to come back every week.”

In main event, Millers runs a gauntlet of some of the better-known competitors on the tour

In spite of what Miller encountered as a lot of new faces, she ended up facing people that she knew, beginning with Lai Li and following with Judie Wilson and Linda Cheung, which brought her to a winners’ side semifinal against another familiar face, Eugenia Gyftopoulos. Kathy Friend, in the meantime, got by Melissa Jenkins, Alyssa Solt and survived a tough double hill challenge by Caroline Pao before advancing to her winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio.

Friend downed Lio 7-3 and met up with Miller, who’d sent Gyftopoulos to the loss side by the same 7-3 score. Miller claimed the hot seat, her first in a long while, 7-2.

On the loss side, Lio picked up Linda Shea, who’d lost her opening match to Shanna Lewis and embarked on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was almost derailed by Melissa Mason’s double hill challenge in the second, losers’ side round. Shea survived that, advancing to eventually eliminate Linda Cheung and Kia Burwell. Gyftopoulos drew Caroline Pao, who, following her defeat at the hands of Friend, had eliminated Lewis 7-4 and Judie Wilson 7-1.

Pao defeated Gyftopoulos 7-5, as Shea was busy getting by Lio 7-3. It set up a classic JPNEWT quarterfinal match between two of the tour’s most enduring event champions; Pao and Shea. Pao won this round of that ongoing rivalry 7-4 and then, dropped Friend 7-3 in the semifinals.

The finals of the 2022 season, pitting Pao against Miller, was, by almost any standard, a classic of the tour’s long-standing and still ongoing history. Behind them, at this event, were quite a few former JPNEWT champions; Shea, Burwell, Friend, Lewis, Lai Li and in absentia, the memory of Karen Corr. Ahead of them, as is always the case, was the table in front of them. Miller completed her undefeated run with a 7-4 victory over Pao to reclaim her spot among the tour’s best.

She’d taken a break and had now come back, to her hometown and pool. 

“After I graduated (in 2018, from Lindenwood), I felt like a needed a break,” she explained. “I’d been playing since I was eight (but) felt as though I wasn’t having as much fun anymore. So, I shifted my focus to other things.”

As for future plans, she’s keeping her expectations and specific plans on a ‘tight rein,’ so to speak. A sort of one day at a time approach.

“I think I’m going to stick with the JPNEWT for right now, to get back into the swing of things,” she said, adding that her ‘future’ eye is extended forward a little, toward future WPBA events and CSI’s Predator Pro Series, as examples. She’s considering attending this year’s Super Billiards Expo, but more likely as a spectator and to get reacquainted with some of the women she’d come to know over the years. “I might just go and say ‘Hi’ to everyone.

“I’m not at that level of play (to be) in a Pro event yet,” she added. “I’ll just get out there when I’m ready. Right now, I’m just playing pool to have fun.”

Tour director Linda Shea thanked the ownership and staff at Triple Nines for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Cues, ThinkTechMD for their streaming and social media services, as well as Gina Cunningham (real estate agent of Keller Williams Integrity) and George Hammerbacher.

The next event on the JPNEWT, scheduled for April 9-10, will be hosted by Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA.

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Masciotti breaks through to win his first regional tour event, going undefeated on Tri-State Tour

Russell Masciotti & Matt Klein

It was the second time that Russell Masciotti and Matt Klein had met in the hot seat match on the Tri-State Tour. Last year, in April at Cue Bar in Queens, NY, Masciotti, looking for his first regional tour win anywhere, sent Klein to the loss side in that event’s hot seat match. Klein returned from a semifinal victory over Shane Torres to deny Masciotti that first regional tour win.

This year, on Sunday, March 8 at a $1000-added stop that drew 38 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY, things played out a little differently. The event last year was described (by me) as a “battle of the Bs,” both players at the time playing at a ‘B’ level on the tour. This year, Klein’s an ‘A’ player; second on the tour’s ‘A’ list, and was just coming off of a tour win a week ago. Masciotti is still a ‘B’ player; #15 on that list and still in the hunt for his first major win. They didn’t play in the hot seat match this year, because Klein was sent to the loss side early by Abel Barriento and had to win seven loss-side matches just to be in the finals. Masciotti stopped Klein’s run in the finals, finishing undefeated to claim the event title and his first regional tour win.

Masciotti’s path went through Basdeo Sookhai, David Grant and Julian Tierney before coming up against Thomas Schreiber in a winners’ side semifinal. In the meantime, Allison LaFleur and Ada Lio squared off in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Masciotti got into the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Schreiber. LaFleur joined him after sending Lio to the loss side 6-3. Masciotti claimed his second-ever hot seat, downing LaFleur 7-5.

On the loss side, it was Schreiber who picked up Klein, four matches into his loss-side winning streak, that had recently included wins over Julian Tierney 7-5 and a double hill win over Sherwin Robinson. Lio drew Jason Goberdhan, who’d eliminated Qian Chen 6-2 and survived a double hill win over Brandonne Alli to reach him.

Klein defeated Schreiber 7-5, and in the quarterfinals, faced Goberdhan, who’d sent Lio home 6-2. Klein advanced into two straight double hill fights, winning the first 8-7 over Goberdhan in those quarterfinals and then, defeating LaFleur 9-8 in the semifinals.

And so it was, that just a month shy of a year later, Klein and Masciotti met again in the finals on the Tri-State Tour. They battled back and forth to a 5-5 tie, before Masciotti reached the hill (6) first. In the middle of what looked to be a relatively easy runout that would have extended the match for Klein, he missed his shot at the 8-ball. Masciotti stepped up and cleared the table to claim the event title and his first regional tour win.

Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his staff at Steinway Billiards for their hospitality, as well as Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues, Liquid Weighted Cues and Billiards Engineering. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, March 15, will be hosted by Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ.

Perez downs Calton twice, goes undefeated to claim Tri-State Tour title

Eddie Perez & Robert Calton

While Eddie Perez has been competing on the Tri-State Tour, as far as we know, since 2011, he chalked up his first victory on the tour this past weekend (Sunday, Feb. 23). The runner-up, Robert Calton, is, as far as we know, a relative newcomer to the tour, having cashed in only one event (last September), when he made it to the hot seat match, only to be defeated and then eliminated by Pascal Dufresne in the semifinals. The two battled twice in this most recent stop – hot seat and finals – with Perez winning them both. The $1,000-added, C/D event drew 41 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Perez advanced through the field, downing Chris Farrell, Ada Lio, Jim Gutierrez and Bob Toomey to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Terry Mohabir. Calton, in the meantime, squared off against Alex Green in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Perez defeated Mohabir 6-2 and in the hot seat match, faced Calton, who’d sent Green to the loss side 6-3. Though he’d finished third a number of times over the years since 2011, Perez claimed his first hot seat with his first of two against Calton 6-2.

On the loss side, Mohabir picked up Patrick Meyers, who’d defeated Mark Antonetti and John Aquino, both 6-2, to reach him. Green drew Luis Lopez, who’d most recently eliminated Ada Lio in a double hill match and Bob Toomey 6-4.

Green downed Lopez 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals, where he was joined by Meyers, who’d handed Mohabir his second straight loss 6-2. Meyers then eliminated Green 7-5 in those quarterfinals.

Robert Calton put a stop to Green’s run 7-2 in the semifinals, but couldn’t put a stop to Perez’ first quest for a tour title in the finals. They battled to double hill (5-5), at which point Calton was battling to extend the race to 8. Perez prevailed to win the deciding 11th game and claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Paul Dayton Cues, Pool & Billiards, Liquid Weighted Cues, John Bender Cues, Billiards Engineering and Bloodworth Ball Cleaner. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, March 1, will be hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.

Fisher comes back from hot seat loss to down Barretta and claim Ashton Twins Classic in Alberta

Holem, Plowman, Osborn and Lane win four concurrently-run Amateur/Open events

 

Two of pool’s old-school professionals battled in the hot seat and finals of the WPBA’s 4th Annual Ashton Twins Classic over the weekend (Dec. 2-5). Allison Fisher, who entered the tournament as the WPBA's #1 competitor,, and Jennifer Barretta (#3) fought to double hill in the hot seat match, before Barretta prevailed. Fisher came back from the semifinals to meet and defeat her in the finals and claim the 4th Ashton Twins Classic title, her 82nd pro title. Since the event debuted in 2017, it’s been won by two ‘new-school’ professionals, Brittany Bryant (2017, currently #2) and April Larson (2018, currently #23) and in the past two years, by old-school professionals, Vivian Villareal (2019, currently #48) and Fisher this year. The $20,000-added event drew 50 entrants to the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary, Alberta.

 

The long weekend also featured four, concurrently-run Amateur and Open events; an Amateur Men’s 9-Ball (51 entrants), a Women’s Amateur 9-Ball (26), a Men’s 8-ball (71; the highest number of the weekend’s events) and a Women’s 8-Ball event (56). A summary of these four events, to include winners and runners-up will follow the Pro event details.

 

While the old-school professionals were represented in this year’s final, the new-school professionals were right there behind them, finishing 3rd (Russia’s Kristina Tkach, #22) and 4th (China’s Wei Tzu-Chien, #4). The tie for 5th place featured one each from the two categories; Janet Atwell (#11), who fell to Wei Tzu-Chien and the event’s 2017 winner, Brittany Bryant, who was eliminated by Tkach. The event’s 2018 champion, April Larson was on hand for this event, as well. She was sent to the loss side by Wei Tzu-Chien and was defeated in her first loss-side match by Kim Newsome (#24). Vivian Villareal did not make the trip to Canada.

 

Following an opening round bye, Fisher opened her six-match winning campaign with three victories in which she gave up a combined total of two racks; one each to (first) Stephanie Hefner and (third) Caroline Pao, with a shutout over Laura Smith in between. This set Fisher up to face Wei Tzu-Chien in one of the winners’ side semifinals (old-school/new-school). Barretta, in the meantime, had also been awarded a bye, and though not quite the domineering performance exhibited by Fisher, she did get by Stephanie Mitchell 9-2, June Maiers 9-3 and Monica Webb 9-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Brittany Bryant (another old-school/new-school matchup).

 

Bryant chalked up as many racks against Barretta as all three of Barretta’s previous opponents combined, but fell two short, advancing Barretta 9-7 to the hot seat match. Wei Tzu-Chien chalked up three times as many racks as Fisher’s first three opponents combined, but fell three short, advancing Fisher 9-6 to meet Barretta. As befitted their status, Barretta and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that saw Barretta down 5-8, before mounting a four-match comeback that left her in the hot seat and Fisher headed for a semifinal matchup versus Kristina Tkach.

 

Going into the money rounds on the loss side (17-24), there were still more than just a handful of potential winners vying to get back to the finals. Among them were Janet Atwell, who’d been defeated, double hill, by Caroline Pao and dropped into the loss side’s first money round. She subsequently got by Emily Duddy 9-7, Laura Smith 9-3, Monica Webb 9-6, and Jia Li 9-6, to draw Wei Tzu-Chien, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal.

 

Also lurking on the loss side was Kristina Tkach, who’d lost her first winners' side match (after a bye) to Kyoko Sone, and then launched an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take her all the way to the semifinals. After eliminating Ada Lio and Ashley Burrows to make it into the money rounds, she defeated Gail Eaton 9-1, Dawn Hopkins, double hill, Caroline Pao 9-5 and the WPBA’s #1-ranked competitor going into the tournament, Line Kjorsvik 9-2, to draw Bryant.

 

Tkach dispatched Bryant 9-2 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Wei Tzu-Chien, who’d eliminated Atwell 9-7. Tkach finished up her loss-side winning streak with a 9-3 win over Chien.

 

The commentators on the Cue Sports Live stream employed a slightly different vocabulary for the semifinal match, opting to call it a match between the ‘old guard’ and the ‘new guard.’ Fisher won the opening game of the semifinal match, and though Tkach responded to tie it up, she only did that twice and never got out in front. After the tie at the end of game #2, Fisher won three straight. Tkach came back with two, Fisher got another and Tkach won another two to create the second tie at 5-5. Fisher got out in front by two again, before Tkach chalked up her sixth and final rack. Fisher closed it out 9-6 for a second shot against Barretta.

 

The assembled were expecting a second double hill fight between the two ladies left standing. The race to 11 didn’t pan out that way, although it came close. Fisher took advantage of her second opportunity and downed Barretta 11-8 to claim her first (recorded) event title since she defeated Ga Young-Kim in the finals of the WPBA’s Ho-Chunk Classic in September of 2018.

 

From her home in Charlotte, NC a couple of days later, Fisher commented about her win and the prospect of future wins for her and players like her, like Jennifer Barretta, who's eight months younger than she is.

 

"It's like your own personal battle," she said. "You're constantly wondering 'Can you do it again?' 'Is it ever going to happen?' All those things go through your mind."

 

"There's not as much (time) distance (from former major victories) with me," she added, "but I was a prolific winner and as time goes on, you question and doubt. You're competing with yourself in personal growth."

 

Fisher is also assigning value to other considerations in her life; specifically her time at home with her family, which she noted she had not had much of in her past. Now, she's finding herself elevating that time on a priority scale above shooting pool. She has found that this shift in priorities tends to elevate the significance of each accomplishment.

 

"I don't play a lot these days, because some things (events) are not worth the time to be away from my family," she said. "I don't expect to be competing in 10 years time, so any victory is very valuable to me."

 

Concurrent Amateur/Open events take center stage

 

Kudos to Brian Champayne, who coordinated this long and multi-faceted event, which, as noted at the outset, included four other tournaments, including two which drew more entrants than the main event.

 

Up first on Thursday, January 2 were the Amateur Men’s and Women’s 9-Ball events. In the Men’s event, Tyler Edey and Kevin Osborn battled twice to claim the title. Edey won the first 7-1 to claim the hot seat. Osborn came back after downing Joe Spence 6-4 in the semifinals to defeat Edey 9-7 in the final and claim the Amateur Men’s 9-Ball title. Regene Lane went undefeated to grab the Women’s Amateur 9-Ball title. She and Cindy Nana fought a double hill hot seat match that eventually sent Nana to the semifinals, where she defeated Jenny Lucas 5-2. Lane defeated Nana a second time, this time 7-3 in the final to claim that 9-ball title.

 

On Friday, January 3, Tyler Edey was also in the finals of the most heavily-attended event of the long weekend, the Men’s 8-Ball, which drew 73 players. Edey was sent to the loss side in a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal, as Stephen Holem advanced to the hot seat, downing Mike Robinson 6-1 in the winners’ side final. Edey worked his way back through five loss-side opponents, including a double hill win over Robinson in the semifinals to face Holem in the finals. Holem completed his undefeated run with a 7-4 victory over Edey.

 

In the Women’s 8-Ball event, which drew 56 entrants, Bonnie Plowman and Tasha Thomas battled twice, hot seat and finals, to determine the winner. Plowman, who finished undefeated, took the hot seat match 5-3, and when Thomas returned from a 4-2 victory over Jana Montour in the semifinals, defeated her a second time 6-4 to claim the event title.

2019 NYC 8-Ball Championship – Ada Lio vs Omar Soto

Melendez goes undefeated* to claim his second Tri-State Tour title

(l to r): Juan Melendez & Matt Klein

With his victory* on the Tri-State Tour’s October 13 stop at the Spot in Nanuet, NY, his second overall on the tour, Juan Melendez made 2019 his best earnings year to date, surpassing his 2017 earnings, when he won his first Tri-State event. Going into the $1,250-added, Double Points event that drew 49 entrants to The Spot, Melendez was the Tri-State Tour’s #10-ranked C-Class player. In what proved to be his final match, vying for the hot seat, he downed the tour’s #5-ranked B+ Class player, Matt Klein. The two opted out of a final match.
 
Melendez was challenged early and just did survive a double hill fight against Ada Lio in the event’s opening round. He advanced to down Amanda Andries 6-3 and Suzzie Wong 6-1 to draw Brandone Alli in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Klein, in the meantime, squared off against Pascal Dufresne in the other one.
 
Melendez sent Alli to the loss side 6-4, as Klein was sending Dufresne over 7-5. In what proved to be the title match, Melendez claimed the hot seat 8-5 over Klein.
 
On the loss side, Dufresne picked up H. Marcelo (Mars) Adinolfi, who had defeated Joe Mazzeo and Desi DeRado, both 7-3, to reach him. Alli drew Adrian Daniel, who’d recently chalked up two straight double hill wins over Jim Gutierrez and Suzzie Wong.
 
Adinolfi and Daniel handed Dufresne and Alli their second straight loss; Adinolfi, 7-4 over Dufresne and Daniel, 6-3 over Alli. Adinolfi took one more loss-side step with a 7-5 win over Daniel in the quarterfinals.
 
Adinolfi gave Klein all he could handle in the semifinals that followed. They battled to double hill before Klein ended the match, and in effect, the event 7-6. Klein and Melendez agreed on the split of the top two cash prizes and Melendez came away with the official event title.
 
Tour representatives thanked Rhys Chen and his staff at The Spot for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Billiard Engineering, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues and Pool & Billiards. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, October 20, will be hosted by Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. 

Guzman goes undefeated, splits Tri-State top prizes with LaFleur

Juan Guzman & Allison LaFleur

Juan Guzman returned to Steinway Billiards on Sunday, October 6 to chalk up his first 2019 Tri-State victory*. He’d recorded a win on the Predator Pro Am Tour at Steinway back in April and a month later, finished in the tie for 9th place at the 9th Annual Ginky Memorial, sponsored by both tours and hosted by Steinway, as well.  He and the tour’s #3-ranked female competitor, Allison LaFleur, allowed the result of their hot seat match to stand (a win for Guzman) and opted out of a final. The $1,000-added event drew 47 entrants to Steinway.

Guzman’s path to the winners’ circle went through some Tri-State heavy hitters; Joe Mazzeo, Philip Pearce, Matt Klein and Shivam Gupta to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Lidio Ramirez. LaFleur, in the meantime, challenged Jason Goberdhan in the other one.

Guzman advanced into the hot seat match with a 7-2 win over Ramirez and was joined by LaFleur, who’d survived a double hill battle against Goberdhan. Guzman claimed the hot seat and, as it turned out, the event title with a 10-6 victory over LaFleur.

On the loss side, Ramirez picked up David Grant, who’d defeated Matt Klein 7-4 and Shivam Gupta 7-5 to reach him. Goberdhan drew Mark Antonetti, who’d eliminated Ada Lio 6-4 and just did squeak by Adrian Daniel 6-5.

Ramirez and Goberdhan handed Grant and Antonetti their second loss; Ramirez, 7-5 over Grant and Goberdhan 6-2 over Antonetti. A double-hill quarterfinal followed, which ultimately advanced Ramirez to the semifinals against LaFleur.

In what proved to be the last match of the night, LaFleur and Ramirez made it entertaining, coming to within a game of double hill before LaFleur edged out in front near the end and won it 10-8. Guzman and LaFleur opted out of the final, they split the top two prizes and Guzman chalked up the official win.

Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui Tips, Phil Capelle, BlueBook Publishing, Human Kinetics, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues, Dayton Cues, Liquid Weight Cues, Billiards Engineering, and Bloodworth Ball Cleaner. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 13, will be hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.