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Ryan Lineham is last man standing in 1,021-entrant SBE Open Amateur at 2024 SBE

Ryan Lineham with sponsor Elvis Rodriguez

An AZ ‘tip of the hat’ to Cecilia (C.C.) Strain for logistical control of the SBE’s largest fields 

While a great deal of the pool community outside of The Greater Philadelphia Expo in Oaks, PA last weekend was focused on the 118-entrant Diamond Open Pro Players Championship, most of the activity in the Expo Center during that week centered on the activity of nearly 2,000 amateurs who gathered to participate in seven different events; 1,901, to be precise. 

Just a little over half of those 1,901 were engaged in a single tournament, The Open Amateur Tournament, which drew 1,021 entrants, requiring utilization of 16, 64-player brackets. And every last one of those competitors, right from the start, were competing in what was the equivalent of the loss side in a double-elimination tournament; in another words, one loss and you’re out. Another set of words for that is single-elimination, which is fine if you’re playing in a group of between 16 and 32 players because you know when you start that you only have to win three matches (with 16) or four matches (with 32). Each individual listed in the 16, 64-player brackets knew that just for starters, they’d have to win five matches in a row, just to win the single bracket and then, win four more matches to become the 30th Annual Super Billiard Expo’s Open Amateur Champion.

That title went to Ryan Lineham of Coventry, RI but with so much to cover, we better get started with Bracket #1 of the 16. Maybe not . . .

There were six other Amateur Player events; A Seniors event (50+) which drew 381 players, a Super Senior event (65+) with 251, a Women’s Division with 184, two juniors event; one for 17 & under (56 entrants) and one for 12 & Under (47 entrants). There was also a 32-entrant, Pro Am event, open to one and all.

There were very few moments throughout the entire weekend (April 11-14), when there weren’t 100s and 100s of pool matches going on at any given moment. This is a regular, commonplace part of the annual Super Billiards Expo. All of the above does not take into account the activities of the TAP League’s Rally in the Valley, an annual team event open only to TAP League members, who form teams on-site at the SBE or have won in TAP League Nationals. 

Rachel Walters with sponsor Steve Dunkel

So, on to (some of) the details. Ryan Lineham, the SBE’s 2024 Open Amateur Champion, has been competing in cash tournaments in the New England area for about a dozen years. His best (recorded) earnings year was in 2018, when he won The Perfect Spot Open Men’s Amateur event in Nanuet, NY and finished third in that year’s Ocean State 9-Ball Championships in Rhode Island. Among the Final 16 in the Open Amateur event at the SBE (in races to 5, best of three sets), he got by mid-Atlantic pool veteran Chris Bruner, Bob Madenjian, local player Derek Schwager in the semifinals and downed another mid-Atlantic veteran in the finals, Danny Mastermaker 5-1, 5-4.

The Seniors event crowned Maryland’s Pat McNally as its champion. McNally chalked up a few wins on a local circuit back in the early ‘aughts;’ ’02, ’03 and ’04, winning two events on the New England Players Tour back then. In the last of those three years, he finished third at a Northeast 9-Ball Open XVI that was won by (now) Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour director, Mike Zuglan. McNally entered the event’s quarterfinals (final eight) and downed Gary Kiersey, took down John Vitale in the semifinals and finished with a 5-3, 5-3 win over Pennsylvania’s Tim Tanana to claim the title.

The Super Seniors contingent of 251 consisted of four, 64-player brackets whittle down to two players each, who advanced to the event semifinals. Ace Aughtry took out James Edwards, as James Sanders ended Tom Waters bid in the other semifinal. Aughtry claimed the title, taking the best-of-three-set final 4-3, 1-4, 4-0.

Pennsylvania’s Rachel Walters, who was Delaware State’s Ladies Bar Box 8-Ball Champion in 2023, in addition to cashing in a few stops on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) that year, took the top prize in the SBE’s Women’s Division. From that division’s four, 64-entrant brackets, Walters advanced to down another JPNEWT veteran, Tina Malm, as Marie France Blanchette eliminated Harley King in the other winners’ side semifinal. Walters claimed the Women’s title 4-1, 3-4, 4-0 over Blanchette.

Niko Konkel with Mom Shannon

Winston-Salem, NC’s Niko Konkel, who’s been making a name for himself as a junior competitor over the past few years, worked his way through the 56-entrant, all-gender field, that included the Tate sisters, Bethany and Noelle, and a host of his fellow competitors on the Junior International Championship series of events, to include Eddie Vondereau and Grayson Vaughn. He met and defeated a JIC veteran, D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain in the event semifinal, as Tanner King was busy eliminating Noelle Tate in the other semifinal. Konkel claimed the title 5-1, 5-3 over King in the final.

The younger set (12 & Under) saw Hayden Ernst, another veteran of the JIC series, take the title from 46 others who competed. Ernst downed Roman Boone in one of the semifinals as Johnny Hammontree eliminated Gavin Matthew. Ernst gave up only one rack over two sets in the final. He gave that one up in the opening set and closed the door with a 5-0 win in the second set to claim the title.

The combination amateur/pro event (ProAm), which, in a way, invites a kind of ‘wannabe’ crowd to take on the more experienced, ‘been there, done that’ crowd. The event drew 64 entrants and saw Nicholas Tofoya claim the title over Jonathan “Hennessee from Tennessee” Pinegar. Tofoya worked his way through the field to meet and defeat Ricky Evans in one of the semifinals, as Pinegar was working on the elimination of New England competitor Kevin Guimond in the other semifinal. In two, races to 6, double-hill matches Tofoya claimed the ProAm title.

Hayden Ernst

Finally, a word here about the folks who put this monumental series of amateur events together and keeps it motoring forward through who knows what kind of aggravation can and probably does occur. We here at AZ tend to hear more regional tournament director gripes than normal because we hear about them more often. And these are folks that are generally dealing with numbers between 32 and 64 (usually). The bigger events, with and without pros, might, on a good day, get 128 pool players in a room (as the Diamond Open Pro Players Championship did at this SBE), but that is just a little more than 1/10th of the multiple events that C.C. Strain has to deal with for the entire weekend of the SBE. And she does it with style, grace and a staff of folks around her that draws its energy and unflappable demeanor from her. They are quite well aided by a central arrangement of desks that is placed on platforms, high enough to keep the crowd at a distance while allowing it to step up and ask the hundreds of hundreds of questions that it brings to that table in a given 15-minute span. There are those who would contend that the SBE Amateur events could not happen without her. There are very few who would argue the point, nor as of this writing, anyone who is making any attempt to challenge her for the job.    

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Van Boening chalks up his 6th SBE 10-Ball title

Shane Van Boening

Appleton wins One-Pocket event, while veteran Loree Jon Hasson wins the Ladies 9-Ball Open


Last year, at Allen Hopkins' 24th Annual Super Billiards Expo, John Morra denied Shane Van Boening his sixth Diamond Open 10-Ball Professional Players Championship title, defeating him 13-10 in the finals. At the time, Van Boening had won five of his seven attempts at the title, including three in a row between 2102-2014. On the weekend of March 30-April 2, at what was the 25th anniversary of the Super Billiards Expo, held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, PA, Van Boening chalked up that sixth win (in eight attempts), downing Johann Chua from the Phillipines 13-10 in the finals. The 10-Ball Championships drew 64 entrants.

Over at the One Pocket tables that drew 32 entrants, Darren Appleton emerged as the winner, downing Derek Schwager in the finals. In the Diamond Women's Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championships that also drew 32, a familiar name, Loree Jon Hasson (formerly Loree Jon Jones), bested Jennifer Baretta in the finals to claim her first title. 
The total fields of the above three Pro events (128) were but a fraction of the nearly 2,000 entrants (1,856) in seven different tournaments, not including a couple of junior tournaments, held for the 17 & under and 12 & under crowd of relative newcomers to the sport. Making up just over 55% of the total number of competitors at this year's event was an Open Division Amateur event, which drew 1,024 entrants, broken up, initially, into 16 brackets of 64 entrants each (a tip of the hat to C.C. Strain for her tournament directing job of coordinating this massive tournament). Each original, double-elimination bracket yielded a single winner, who advanced to a single elimination field of 16. Christopher Byers won five matches to emerge from his individual bracket, and won four more in the single elimination phase of the tournament, including a 5-1, 4-5, 5-3 victory over Larry Kressel in the finals to win his first major Amateur title.
By the time the Open 10-Ball Championships (the fifth of 15 Mosconi Cup Qualification Events in 2017) had boiled down to its final 16 players and its single elimination phase, the field was like a 'dream team' for any promoter looking to draw spectator crowds to an event. Half of them were former members of either the European or USA Mosconi Cup teams, including two members of the 2016 USA Mosconi Cup team (Skyler Woodward and Van Boening), and three members of earlier Mosconi Cup teams (Dennis Hatch, Earl Strickland, and Oscar Dominguez). The 'Sweet 16' also featured two members of the 2016 European Mosconi Cup team (Darren Appleton and Jayson Shaw) and one member of an earlier European Mosconi Cup team; twice MVP Mika Immonen
Half of those eight were gone after the single elimination phase's opening round was over. The Iceman, Mika Immonen, had been defeated by eventual finalist Johann Chua in a double hill match, Hatch downed Strickland 13-7, Kevin Cheng defeated Sky Woodward 13-10, and Carlo Biado eliminated Appleton 13-6. Also advancing to the final eight were Van Boening (13-9 over Lee Van Corteza), Jayson Shaw (13-4 over Hunter Lombardo), Jeffrey DeLuna (13-10 over Dennis Orcullo), and Oscar Dominguez (13-4 over Sergio Rivas).
In the event quarterfinals, Johann Chua and Jayson Shaw locked up in a double hill match that eventually sent Shaw packing. Hatch downed DeLuna 13-8, Biado eliminated Kevin Cheng 13-10 and Van Boening kept on trucking, 13-5 over Oscar Dominguez. Fighting for an appearance in the finals, Chua bested Dennis Hatch 13-7, as Van Boening took care of Biado 13-8. Van Boening closed it out to claim his sixth SBE title with a 13-9 victory over Chua in the finals.
Hasson returns to the playing field to claim Women's Open 9-Ball title
The 32-entrant Women's Open 9-Ball event was not without its marquee names. Karen Corr was the most prominent among them, but the field also included The Texas Tornado, Vivian Villareal, and Jennifer Baretta, who advanced to the finals. There was also a contingent of outstanding (and long-standing) regional tour competitors, like Linda Shea, Kia Sibury, Emily Duddy, Borana Andoni, Caroline Pao, and Rhio Anne Flores (to name just a few). The field also featured former junior champions, Brittany Bryant and the teenager, April Larson. It also contained a name that people hadn't heard in a while; 8X BCA Champion and Hall of Fame inductee, Loree Jon Hasson, who would emerge from the loss side, and eventually claim the title.
The double elimination phase of the event advanced until there were four left on the winners' side (Corr, Bryant, Duddy, and Heather Cortez) and four on the loss side (Hasson, Baretta, Villareal, and Flores). Hasson, who'd lost in the event's opening round to Villareal 9-2, worked her way through four loss-side opponents, eventually defeating Erin McManus to earn her right in to the Final Eight. Baretta, who'd been defeated by Corr in a winners' side final eight battle, played only one loss-side match, ending a four-match, loss-side run by April Larson. Villareal, who'd also been downed by Corr in a winners' side final 16 matchup, got through three loss-side opponents (Andoni, Shea and in the final loss-side win, Sidbury). In her only loss-side match, Annie Flores, who'd been defeated by Duddy in a winners' side final eight match, defeated her only loss-side opponent, Dawn Fox, to join the event's final eight competitors.
Loree Jon Hasson's credentials as a champion showed up in her first two, single elimination matches, in which she defeated, first, Karen Corr, and then, in a re-match, Vivian Villareal. Both matches went double hill to put Hasson into the finals. As Hasson was busy with Corr, Villareal was eliminating Brittany Bryant 11-6, Annie Flores was downing Emily Duddy 11-9 and Jennifer Baretta was ending Heather Cortez' weekend 11-4.
Hasson advanced to the finals with the aforementioned double hill defeat over Villareal, while Baretta ended what was a remarkable overall performance by Rhio Anne Flores 11-9. After two double hill matches against the best in the business, Hasson got out in front of Baretta in the finals and stayed there, winning the Women's Open 9-Ball title 11-5.
Appleton claims SBE One Pocket title
The 32-entrant Diamond Open One-Pocket Professional Players Championship advanced through initial double elimination brackets to produce eight, single elimination opponents, who were three matches away from the title. In the opening round of this final phase (best of three matches, with ties after two, decided by a single, sudden death game), Adam Kielar defeated Phillip Wines 2-3, 3-0, and 1-0 (sudden death), Appleton shut Corey Eulas out twice, Derek Schwager eliminated Eddie Crespo 3-1, 3-1, and Vincent Cimarelli downed Jonathan Ailstock 3-0, 3-1.
Appleton and Schwager advanced to the finals with identical 3-1, 3-1 victories over Kielar and Cimarelli, respectively. Appleton completed his title run with a 3-1, 3-0 victory over Schwager in the finals.
While the winners of the varied events of this 25th Annual Super Billiards Expo, held under the auspices of Allen Hopkins productions, got to bring home both cash and bragging rights, the unsung heroes of the event were Doug Ennis (assisted by Frank Del Pizzo), who coordinated the Pro events, and C.C. Strain, who kept the Amateur events, including the massive, 1,024-entrant  Amateur Open running. They did it all in four days, thanks in no small measure to the facility that hosted the event – The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks. Also on hand to keep those who couldn't attend in person entertained were Upstate Al (and a variety of guest commentators) and the production crew of AZBTv.

Appleton goes undefeated to take SBE One Pocket event

Darren Appleton

This year's One Pocket tournament at the Super Billiards Expo was absent quite a few of the marquee names that were on-hand for the 2015 tournament. No Dennis Orcollo this year, or Corey Deuel, or Skyler Woodward. No defending champion Jason Brown, either. The event did feature Darren Appleton, Warren Kiamco and a short list of other known names, like Billy Thorpe, Jorge Rodriguez, and Bob Jewett. It came down to Appleton and Tom Zippler. Appleton going undefeated to win it, Zippler going three on the loss side, and two more among the final eight to challenge Appleton in the finals. The event, held on the weekend of April 14-17, drew 32 entrants to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA.
Appleton got by Billy Thorpe in the opening round, and following victories over Illir Jaho and Dan Milligan, moved among the final four on the winners' side and into the single elimination phase. Joining him in the opening round of this phase was Russell Parsons. Jewett and Vincent Cimarelli squared off in the other winners' side quarterfinal.
In the loss side quarterfinals, Kiamco facEd Martin Ciccia. Zippler, who'd been sent to the left bracket by Kiamco, got by Ed Polumbo, Steve Fleming and Derek Schwager, to draw Joseph Sellechia in the other loss-side quarterfinal.
On the winners' side, Appleton downed Parsons 5-1, earning him a semifinal match against Cimarelli, who'd eliminated Jewett 5-3. On the loss side, Ciccia picked up a forfeit win, when Kiamco was forced to make a decision between One Pocket or the 10-Ball tournament. Zippler, in the meantime, defeated Sellechia 5-1. Appleton defeated Cimarelli 5-2, for a finals date with Zippler, who'd eliminated Ciccia 5-3.
Appleton completed his undefeated run. He closed it out with a 5-1 victory over Zippler in the final to claim the 2015 Diamond Open One Pocket Professional Championship title.

Shuff double dips Reynolds to take Action Pool Tour stop

Brandon Shuff (File photo courtesy of Jeff Smith)

Brandon Shuff won five straight on the loss side to meet and defeat Tour Director Ozzy Reynolds twice in the finals of the Action Pool Tour stop on the weekend of April 14-15. The event, streamed live via The Big Truck Show, drew 40 entrants to Break Time in Salisbury, MD.

Shuff was challenged immediately at this event, surviving a double hill battle versus Chris Garrett in the opening round of play. He went on to defeat Mike Mcnaughton 9-5, and then got caught up in a second double hill battle; this time, against Brett Stottlemyer. At double hill, Stottlemyer actually sunk the 9-ball, but the cue ball traveled multiple rails, and hung in a pocket, before dropping in to essentially give Shuff the victory. Shuff then ran right into Brian Deska and a third straight double hill match that sent him to the loss side.

Deska moved on to face Reynolds among the winners’ side final four. Joining them were Fred Scott and Danny Bell. Reynolds downed Deska 9-7, and moved into the hot seat match against Bell, who’d defeated Scott 9-6. Reynolds survived a double hill match against Bell, and for the first time since April of 2011 on the Great Southern Billiard Tour, he was in the hot seat.

Deska moved over to face Kevin West, who’d defeated Jeremy Perkins 9-6 and Paul Helms 9-2. Scott picked up Shuff, who, following his defeat at the hands of Deska, had defeated Josh Brothers 9-3 and Derek Schwager 9-1. Shuff downed Scott 9-5 and was denied a quarterfinal re-match against Deska, when West defeated him 9-3. Shuff defeated West 9-7 in those quarterfinals, and followed that with a 9-6 win over Bell in the semifinals.

In the opening set of the true double elimination finals, Reynolds appeared to be on his way to a single set victory. Shuff took the opening game, but Reynolds ran four straight, including two break and runs to take an early 4-1 lead. They traded racks to 6-3, and Reynolds added another to stretch his lead to four games at 7-3. Shuff won two in a row to narrow that lead to two games, and Reynolds won the 13th rack to reach the hill first. Shuff came back to win four straight and force a second set.

Reynolds opened the second set with a win, but Shuff came back to break and run the second rack and add five more for a commanding 6-1 lead. Reynolds took the next game, but it proved to be his last. Shuff won three in a row to win the second set.

Cheryl Sporleder claimed the 8-entrant Second Chance Tournament title on Sunday, defeating her husband, Sean Sporleder twice to do it. He’d defeated her in the hot seat match 5-2, and she’d gone on to shut out Paul Oh in the semifinals. She returned to double dip him in the finals.