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A familiar trio of AWBT veterans get together for season opener, won by Evans-Taylor

Nina Tagley and Rae Evans

Bustamante, Miller take Balls Only, Second Chance events

It was actually back-to-back victories on the Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour (AWBT) for her, albeit separated by 14 months. In November of 2020, with all of the tour’s host locations having closed thanks to the pandemic, Rae Evans-Taylor teamed with Brian Honoway to win the tour’s traditional season finale, a Jack and Jill Scotch Doubles event, hosted by Main Street Billiards in Mesa. One year and two months later, this past weekend (Jan. 29-30), the AWBT opened a new season at Bull Shooters in Phoenix and Rae Evans-Taylor, went undefeated to win the $1,000-added, 9-ball main event that drew 40 entrants to the room.

In a pair of concurrently-run events, Joven Bustamante came from the loss side to win a $250-added, BALLS ONLY 10-Ball event that drew 30 entrants and Sara Miller went undefeated to win a $250-added Second Chance event that drew 12.

Any thoughts that things might be a little different at the end of the 14-month hiatus were dispelled as Evans-Taylor faced two tour veterans in the hot seat match and finals of the 9-ball main event. Both of those veterans, Susan Mello and Nina Tagley, battled her to a double hill final game before she prevailed to claim the 9-ball title.

Evans-Taylor had gotten by Tracy Price, Jill Watson and Veronica Poore to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Jaye Succo. Mello, in the meantime, the first of the two tour veterans to face Evans-Taylor, had won a play-in preliminary round over Jodi Hirning and then sent Crystal Parada, Mari Simonson and junior competitor Kennedy Meyman to the loss side to meet up with Jamie Hagerty in the other winners’ side semifinal. Nina Tagley had won her opening match against Colette Kruse, before losing a double hill fight to Amanda Pulley and embarking on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would see her compete in the finals.

Mello downed Hagerty 6-4 while Evans-Taylor defeated Succo 7-5. Evans-Taylor claimed the hot seat with a double hill win over Mello.

On the loss side, Hagerty was the one who had the misfortune of drawing Tagley, who was, at the time, four matches into her loss-side trip, which had recently included victories over Marcy Thomas and Veronica Poore. Succo picked up Leandrea Gaff, who was also working on a four-match winning streak that was about to end. Gaff had just eliminated Amanda Pulley, double hill and Colette Kruse 6-3.

Tagley sent Hagerty home 7-1 and in the quarterfinals, faced Succo, who’d ended Gaff’s loss-side streak 7-2. Tagley stopped Succo’s loss-side wins at 1 with a 7-3 win in those quarterfinals.

Tagley and Mello battled in the semifinals, both of them looking for a rematch against Evans-Taylor in the hot seat. Mello had faced her most recently in the hot seat match of this event, while Tagley and Evans-Taylor had battled at other times and other places on the tour.

Tagley won the semifinal battle 7-3 over Mello. The finals were a straight up, extended race to 9 and proved to be the second double hill match of the event for both of them. Evans-Taylor dropped the last 9-ball and claimed the title.

Bustamante wins 7 on the loss side to win BALLS ONLY, Miller wins 4 to claim Second Chance

Joven Bustamante’s winners’ side journey in the 30-entrant BALLS ONLY, 10-ball event saw him give up five racks in two matches, losing the second match to a competitor (Adam Hanten) who only had to chalk up four racks to win, which he did. Bustamante’s subsequent seven-match, loss-side trip saw him give up a total of nine racks in seven matches; two racks, three times/one rack, three times and one shut out. He crowned this achievement with back-to-back shutouts in a true double elimination final over Robert Moreno, who’d been sitting in the hot seat waiting for him.

It was Moreno and Joey Barrera who battled for the hot seat in this one. It turned into a double hill fight that eventually sent Barrera to a doomed semifinal meetup with Bustamante. The two opponents who’d lost out in the winners’ side semifinals – Tim Biggs to Moreno 5-0 and Jesse Johnson to Barrera, double hill – moved to the loss side and walked right into their second straight loss.

Biggs lost to Avery Reece and Johnson ran into Bustamante, four matches into his loss-side streak. Bustamante downed Reece in the quarterfinals 7-1 and began a 21-0 streak that saw him defeat Barrera once in the semifinals and Moreno twice in the finals.

Sara Miller’s run through the 12-entrant Second Chance field was a breeze by comparison. She dropped three opponents 4-2 to claim the hot seat and then defeated one of those three (Kaia Fujimoto) a second time, double hill to claim the Second Chance title.

Fujimoto was Miller’s first and last victory (4-0). Miller was Fujimoto’s second and eighth opponent, representing both of her losses (6-2).

Miller’s third opponent, Mari Simonson, battled for the hot seat, but as the victim of Miller’s third 4-2 victory in a row, she moved to the semifinals to be shut out by Fujimoto. Jill Watson, who’d been defeated by Miller 4-2 in a winners’ side semifinal, survived a double hill fight versus Barbara Lee on the loss side, lost a double hill, quarterfinal match to Fujimoto and finished 4th.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Bull Shooters, as well as sponsors Realty One Group, A Best Billiards, Las Glorias Grill, Goober Pet Direct, Your Way Logistics, Idle Hands Vintage, Sophia’s House Cleaning, Avalon Home Performance LLC, Big Time Threads and Friends of the AWBT. The nest stop on the AWBT, scheduled for March 5-6, will be hosted by Griff’s in Las Vegas, NV.

Evans & Honoway Win AWBT Jack & Jill Scotch Event

Brian Honoway and Rae Evans

With all of their host locations shut down by Covid, the Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour hadn’t ran an event since their tour opener at Bullshooters in Phoenix back in March. Tour staff worked with Thor Skogan at Main Street Billiards in Mesa though, and the traditional season finale, a Jack and Jill Scotch Doubles Event, was able to be saved and scheduled for November 14th. 

In less than 24 hours, the event was full with a field of 24 teams back in October. Changes in pool room occupancy restrictions then allowed staff to increase the field to 32 teams, with those eight extra spots being filled from an already full waiting list of tour members. “The ladies were itching to get out and play after the past year we had and it showed. “ said tour director Junior Flores.

When the event got underway, four teams quickly separated themselves from the pack. The winner’s side came down to Rebecca Wagner & John Gottlieb, Cathy Kelley & Bud Aiello, Rae Evans & Brian Honoway, and Maria Simonson & Bryan Bach. Evans & Honoway defeated Simonson & Bach in a hill-hill match, while Wagner & Gottlieb beat Kelley & Aiello in a slightly less stressful 7-3 match. The hot-seat would then go to Wagner & Gottlieb in a tough 7-5 match. 

The team to beat on the left side of the board was Leandrea Gaff & Tony Scerca. After a loss to Wagner & Gottlieb in the third round, Gaff & Scerca won four straight matches to earn their spot in the semi-finals against Evans & Honoway. The loss in the hot-seat match did not dampen Evans & Honoway’s drive. It appeared to motivate them even more. “We were pretty riled up after losing the hot-seat match” said Evans. “It definitely made us catch a gear and fight for the win.” They quickly raced to a 3-0 lead and controlled things on the way to a 6-1 win to earn their rematch with Wagner & Gottlieb in the finals. 

The final match was an extended single race to nine and it was Evans & Honoway who cruised to a 9-4 win for first place and their first AWBT win as a couple. “I expected it to be tough and was surprised at how well we played together” said Evans. “Getting to win an AWBT event with Brian was great” she continued. 

Tour Director Junior Flores commented on how nice it was to see the tour back together after the months of lockdown. “Lots of laughing and hanging out, with some competitive pool as well. Looks like everyone had a great time. Let’s hope 2021 we can start the tour back up stronger than ever.”, he commented. Flores expressed his thanks to everyone that helped with the event. “Big thanks to Thor Skogan for hosting this event and all the staff for taking care of us! Let’s give it up to Gil Franco, Cathy Hamilton-Kelley, & Cheryl Bower Timonen for helping run a smooth tournament.”, he said.