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Sim downs Hohmann in second set of NBL 8-Ball double elimination final to claim event title

Del Sim

Originally from Scotland, the man they call The Highlander – Del Sim – has chalked up two breakout performances in the past two weeks. On the weekend of April 9-10, he finished as runner-up to Jeremy Sossei at Stop #13 on the 2021/2022 Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour and then, this past weekend (April 16-17), he went undefeated to win the National Billiard League’s (NBL) 8-Ball Championships, hosted by the league’s flagship venue, Sandcastle Billiards in Edison, NJ. Combined, those two finishes have earned Sim more than all of his (reported to us) payout finishes over the past six years. This past weekend was the only victory (reported to us) since he won a stop on the Tri-State Tour in 2016.

“Well, well, well. . . I finally snapped off a title,” he wrote on the NBL’s Facebook page. “Doesn’t happen very often.”

“I feel reborn,” he wrote later, noting that the victory meant a lot to him for reasons that went beyond the tables. In addition to 8-ball being his favorite game among the many available, the win brought back cherished memories of his father, who would “beam with pride” when he would win in league play as a younger player.

“(It’s been) 8 years since he passed, almost to the day,” he added, “and I feel he would have enjoyed this one the most, with lots of drama and high-level play by all.”

Arguably, the highest drama of the event came in the second set of the double elimination final. Having been defeated by Thorsten Hohmann 8-2 in the opening set, Sim stepped to the table, on the hill at 5-3, with all of his striped balls on the table. Six of Hohmann’s solids were ‘running interference’ against any hopes that Sim was harboring of running to the 8-ball and finishing things right then and there.

“I knew this could be my last opportunity,” he would say later, as he provided commentary to a three-minute video clip of the event’s final rack. 

He stepped to the table and ran the rack. Game, set and match.

“Del played a great second set against me,” commented Hohmann, “and made a heck of an out to win.”

That ‘out’ entailed a planned route for the cue ball, which came off striking Sim’s last striped ball. The target ball dropped into a corner pocket, while the cue ball embarked on a journey that ran above, through and below four of the six solid balls still on the table, coming to rest in a position that allowed Sim to line up and pocket the winning 8-ball in the only pocket that it could have been done.

Del Sim and Thorsten Hohmann

The field of 32 for this NBL 8-Ball Championship, which, due to last-minute cancellations,  became 29 by the time it got underway, was drawn from 13 out of 16 scheduled qualifying events that took place around the country over the past few months. It is a formula that was part of the plan from the beginning, according to league founder Ed Liddawi and employed to hold the league’s 10-Ball Championships this past December.

“The three slots that were available,” explained Liddawi, “were filled by a runner-up and two, third-place finishers from the largest-field qualifiers.”

“We ended up with 16 amateurs and 13 Pros,” he added.

The NBL was to have been launched at about the time the country began its ongoing battle against the pandemic. Its start was delayed and as it has slowly begun its re-launch, it has been designed with far fewer qualifiers and main events than originally planned; a circumstance that Liddawi is planning to rectify in 2023.

Everything at this 8-Ball Championship, according to Liddawi, went according to plan, with (as featured in December’s 10-Ball championships) live music, a comedian (Frank Del Pizzo, with, reportedly, some pool humor in his repertoire) and a mixture of amateurs and pros facing off against each other at various points throughout the event. Two amateurs battled for the hot seat, as, on the loss side, Thorsten Hohmann, was finishing up what would be an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that started with a 6-1 loss to amateur competitor Joe Dupuis and eventually, took him to the finals.

Sim’s path to the winners’ circle went through Kenny Tran, Jason Lynch and John Morra to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Shane Albaugh. Al Lapena, in the meantime, got by Jerry Dunne, Lukas Fracasso-Verner (double hill), and Frankie Hernandez, to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against BJ Ussery.

Lapena and Ussery locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Ussery to the loss side. Lapena was joined in the hot seat match by Sim, who’d sent Albaugh over 8-5. Sim claimed the hot seat 8-6 over Lapena and watched, no doubt with some level of anxiety, as Hohmann worked through the final stages of his loss-side run.

On the loss side, Albaugh drew Hohmann, who’d recently chalked up loss-side wins #4 & #5 against Frankie Hernandez 6-3 and Dennis Spears in a shutout. Hohmann got by Albaugh 6-4 and in the quarterfinals, faced Morra, who’d survived a double hill match versus Ussery.

Hohmann and Morra (predictably) locked up in a double hill match that did eventually send Hohmann to the semifinals, where he eliminated Lapena 6-2. The Pro vs. Amateur battle was joined. The recent Hall of Fame inductee versus a competitor looking for his first (recorded) win in six years.

Things didn’t look too good for the amateur in the opening set of the true double elimination final. The Hall of Famer took that set 8-2. Sim ‘caught a gear’ in the second set, getting out in front in the shortened race-to-6 and on the hill, two racks ahead at 5-3. In the final rack, which took a little less than four minutes and was later to be commented on by Sim himself, Sim stepped to the table and ran the rack, taking it, as always recommended, one step at a time. He finished with a commendable display of skill and proverbial nerves of steel that earned him the event title. 

That display is on display as an archived match at the NBL Web site. It is recommended that you watch the live stream of it and switch to the NBL Facebook page to watch Sim run the final rack and comment on his thinking, from start to finish.

The NBL will begin its next season in December, with a schedule of to-be-determined dates at 64 sanctioned locations. The plan, as it was originally intended, will feature four Pro/Am main events, fed by a 2-stage series of eight qualifying tournaments. Further information can be found on the league’s Web site at https://www.nblusa.com/ and on the National Billiard League’s FB page. In addition to its immediate success, defined by accomplishing stated objectives with no apparent serious ‘glitches’ in the logistics of it all, this latest 8-Ball Championship is a model for Liddawi’s larger plan for the NBL.

“It was,” he said, “a ‘proof of concept’ event to show that this business model works.” 

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Sim To Face Lapena For NBL 8-Ball Hot-Seat

Del Sim

Day two is complete at the National Billiard League’s 8-Ball Championships, and the hot-seat is going to come down to Del Sim vs Al Lapena. 

Sim is looking to build on the success he had at last weekend’s Joss NE 9-Ball Tour stop and no one has been able to slow him down in this event. He has wins over Kenny Tran, Jason Lynch, John Morra and Shane Albaugh, while Lapena has wins over Jerry Dunne, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Frankie Hernandez and BJ Ussery. 

Action is fierce on the one-loss side today with six players battling it out for their share of the $28,000 prize fund available at this event. Fracasso-Verner will face John Morra on Saturday, with the winner taking on Ussery, and Thorsten Hohmann plays Dennis Spears with the winner playing Albaugh. 

Matches will get back underway Saturday at noon (EST).

Fans can follow all of the action with online brackets at Digitalpool.com. They are also providing free online streaming of every table on their Facebook page. 

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Acaba over Zuglan in Bristol. Ct

When you walk in the door to Bristol Billiards in Bristol CT, you just know that this is an action room. The gold crowns, the lights, Simonis cloth, 3 tight boxes, a billiard table and 17 tables with 4,5" pockets. That is what Steve Mahoney and his manager George Texiera want you to know, that is how they set it up. A players room. So when Mike Zuglan brought his Joss tour there this past week end along with 62 players it had to be a great tournament and it was.

 
Players from all over as far away as New Zealand, Philippines, Ireland and Spain along with the usual great players making up the best tour in the country. Right from the beginning Saturday till the finals on Sunday, great matches, hill hill, strong comebacks and just good pool. Mike Zuglan and Robb Saez battling hill hill with Zugan getting the win this time. Frankie Hernandez having Karen Corr 8-3 when Karen got Frankie on 3 fouls and played her heart out to get to 8-7 before Hernandez got the chance to get out and did. All day was like this and surviving undefeated for Sundays action was Carlos Vieira, Joe Tucker, Ryan McCreesh, Al Lapena, Frank Hernandez, George Texiera, Edgar Acaba and Mike Zuglan. On the one loss side we had cashing for his first time on the Joss Tour was David Gold vs Mike Davis, Cisco Diaz vs Rich Ross, Nelson Oliviera vs Chris Biddle and Ted Garrihan vs Robb Saez.
 
On Sunday it took Edgar Acaba to stop Mike Zuglan for the first time in his last 11 matches from last week end to now. Acaba played great for the two days and was not going to be denied as he sat in the hot seat. Playing through the one loss side Zuglan was again in dead stroke. With over $6900 in the prize fund and two of the nicest trophies this writer has ever seen at a tournament, he beat everyone else to meet up with Acaba for revenge. But the Filipino was not going to be denied and beat Zuglan 9-5. This was Edgar's first Joss win and I am sure not his last.
 
This was a great tournament and we can't say enough to Steve Mahoney, his wife Kat and their staff. We look forward to next year when the Joss tour will join Billy Zhuta in memorializing his son and adding a lot more money. Our thanks to Mike Webb, Webb Custom Cues for being there and setting up along with being a sponsor, Capone Cues, Giuseppe case, Simonis cloth and Joss Cues Ltd.
 

Zuglan wins in Waterville Maine

Joss Tour Director Mike Zuglan

Not only did Mike Zuglan bring his Joss Northeast 9-Ball tour to TJ's Billiards in Waterville, Maine this past weekend, he brought his A-Game along too. 62 Players from all over showed to play in this $3000 added event. The area this time of year is too beautiful for words and the competition was incredible. Playing for the cash this weekend, we had Zuglan, Sambajon, Acaba, Lapena, Saez, Altomare, Tavernier, Tucker, LaFlamme and more. The story in this tournament was not only Mike and the "big guns" on the Joss tour but also some the young players and their great play.

 
Saturday had it's share of close matches and good play. At the end of the day we had Chuck Altomare, Tom D'Alfonso, Mike Zuglan and Santos Sambajon all unbeaten. On the one loss side we had Karen Corr, Dave Hall, Ray Suda, Al Lapena, Sylvan Grenier, Dave Rodrigue, Darrell Canning and Carlos Vieira. Cashing for the first time on the Joss tour in his 3 years was Mike Hurley from Glenn Falls, NY and Patrick Adam from Quebec. Good job guys welcome to the cash line. Also cashing but not returning on Sunday was Joe Tucker and Robb Saez.
 
Sunday started with Zuglan beating Sambajon and young Tom "Shorty" D'Alfonso beating 5 time event winner Chuck Altomare. D'Alfonso played great for two days to meet up against Zuglan for the hot seat. After losing to Zuglan, Shorty had to wait for some great matches on the one loss side. Playing wonderfully, Karen Corr beat Robb Saez, Dave Hall, and Al Lepena. Karen came up on the short side to Chuck Altomare to finish a respectable 5th/6th. Darrell Canning from Prince Edward Island beat Pat Adam only to lose to fellow Canadian Syl Grenier. Grenier a newcomer to the Joss tour from Three Rivers, Quebec played well all week end beating Carlos Vieria on the hill, Dave Rodrigue, Joe Tucker and Steve Tavernier only to lose to Altomare and finish 4th. Altomare beat D'Alfonso to face Zuglan in the finals. In the last set it was all Mike Zuglan. At 3-1 Zuglan left himself with a long jump over a ball for the 4 ball. Hitting the cue dead perfect the 4 split the pocket and the cue went two rails for perfect position on the 5. It went that way for the entire set and Zuglan came out on top 9-4.
 
What a great event at a great room only 3 1/2 hours from Boston. This northern pool room has a lot to offer any serious player. Great tables, balls and cloth in a nice room makes it a great place to play. TJ and Debbie LaFlamme are incredible host and their staff really takes care of things. It is no secret that this is one of the tournaments a lot of us look forward to each year. Our thanks to TJ and Debbie along with Joss Cues Ltd, Webb Custom Cues, Giuseppi Cases, Cappone Custom Cues and Simonis cloth.