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New Champions Launch at Space City Open IX

Roberto Gomez

Gomez, Bayaua, Compton, Almaraz, and Martinez, III Earn Titles

Roberto “Superman” Gomez captured the Space City Open IX, 128-player 9-ball division, defeating John “Mr. Smooth” Morra in the finals, 9-2, 7-5, taking home his first 9-ball division title. Gomez earned a well-deserved, $1,500 bonus, and new “All-Around” title, for his stellar play across all three divisions. Taking home first titles, Houston’s Ernesto Bayaua showed off his skills, defeating Alex Calderone in the one pocket division final, 4-3, while Oklahoma’s Chip Compton ousted Las Vegas’ Gary Lutman in the 9-ball banks division final, 4-3. In the ladies open 9-ball division, Mille Almaraz went undefeated, besting Ming “The Empress” Ng in the finals, 7-4. Finally, in the junior 9-ball division, Lazaro “Little Laz” Martinez, III, defended his 2019 title, marking up three consecutive title wins in his division. 

The Derby-like, Space City Open IX, was held December 2nd-5th, 2021, at Big Tyme Billiards in Spring, Texas, with four days of free live streaming provided by Southern Streaming. The event featured 178 players, competing in five divisions, over four days. The event drew players from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada, and even Canada. Roberto Gomez returned to defend his 2019 one pocket title, along with champions John Morra, Chip Compton, Tommy Tokoph, Ernesto Bayaua, Manny Chau, Alex Calderone, Charlie Bryant, and WPBA Touring Professional, Loreejon Jones, all vying for a piece of the $56,195 payout and $1,500 “All-Around” bonus. 

Space City would like to thank those who were instrumental in the production of this event; John Newsome, Kim Newsome, Ruth Paine, Chuck Adams, Mike Fabacher with Southern Streaming, owners and staff at Big Tyme Billiards, Mike McDonald and Alamo Billiards, Poison by Predator Cues, Predator Cues, Outsville Billiards, Jerry Olivier, and Brutal Game Gear. Vendors for this event included Jerry Olivier Cues and Cue Repair, Joe Salazar Connoisseur of Custom Cues, and Brutal Game Gear. Special “thanks” to Jerry Olivier Custom Cues and Cue Repair and Brutal Game Gear who added an additional $500 to this year’s junior division. 

The open, ladies, and junior 9-ball divisions were played on twenty-four, Diamond bar tables. The one pocket and banks were played on six, nine foot tables. Predator Arcos II ball sets and Accu-Racks were used on all tables, supplied by event sponsors Predator Cues and Outsville Billiards, respectively. Big Tyme Billiards provided a smoke-free environment, and some of the best playing equipment Texas has to offer, for the billiard extravaganza.

Roberto Gomez (Chris Castaneda)

The true double elimination, 128-player open 9-ball division kicked off Saturday morning at 10am, and concluded on Sunday evening. In the final sixteen on the winners’ side, Ernesto Bayaua sent Manny Chau west, 9-2, Eric Aicinena overwhelmed Felipe Yniguez, 9-4, and John Morra overpowered Joey Bourgeois, Jr., 9-3. Las Vegas’ Scott Kitto slid by Andy Jethwa, 9-7, Roberto Gomez denied Kenneth Price, 9-5, and Austin’s Justin Espinosa eased past Steve Lenz, 9-8. Derek Fontenot beat Eric Cantrell, 9-4, and San Antonio’s Rick Moreno outplayed Jessie Moore, 9-4. The next round witnessed Aicinena oust Bayaua, 9-4, Morra deny Kitto, 9-3, and Gomez detour Espinosa, 9-3. Rounding out the final four, Fontenot bested Moreno, 9-3. 

Advancing to the hot seat, Morra thwarted Aicinena, 9-2, while Fontenot upset Gomez, 9-4. Morra defeated Fontenot in the hot seat match, 9-6. On the one-loss side, Steve Lenz fought his way into the final eight with wins over Charlie “Hillbilly” Bryant, 7-3, Price, 7-3, and Bayaua, 7-2. Blaine Barcus eliminated eight players, including Cantrell, 7-3, Moore, 7-2, and Kitto, 7-4. Chau dusted off New Mexico’s Donivan Pedroncelli, 7-3, Cesar Arrechiga, 7-2, and Espinosa, 7-2, while Moreno ended Bourgeois, Jr., 7-3. Barcus maintained momentum, ousting Lenz, 7-4, but falling to Gomez by the same score. Chau handily beat Moreno, 7-2,  and Aicinena, 7-4. Gomez defeated Chau, 7-2, and Fontenot, 7-1, to meet Morra in the finals. In the first set, Morra could not gain ground, while Gomez had the break down cold. Gomez dominated the first set, 9-2. In the second set, Morra seemed to regroup, but Gomez inched ahead to capture the second set, 7-5, and his first, Space City, open 9-ball division title.

Ernesto Bayaua

In the single elimination, 38-player one pocket division, teeing off in the final eight, Alex Calderone defeated Roberto Gomez, 4-2, while Kenneth Price made quick work of J.C. Torres, 4-1. Ernesto Bayaua slid past John Morra, 4-3, and John Gabriel overwhelmed Mark Nanashee, 4-1. Final four action witnessed Calderone eliminate Price, 4-1, and Bayaua escape Gabriel, 4-3. In the final match, it was a fight to the finish for Calderone and Bayaua. Players traded safeties and games, for hours, until a determined Bayaua pulled ahead to close out the set, 4-3, earning his first Space City, one pocket division title.

In the single elimination, 36-player 9-ball banks division, final eight action witnessed Chip Compton defeat Alex Calderone, 4-1, and John Morra shut out Kenneth Price, 4-0. Local favorite, Tommy Tokoph, curbed Mark Nanashee, 4-1, and Gary Lutman sent Gabriel packing, 4-1. Down to the final four, Compton struck a blow against Morra, 4-2, and Lutman upset Tokoph, 4-3.  In the final match, Compton edged out Lutman, 4-3, to win his first, Space City, 9-ball banks division title.

Mille Almaraz

The 34-player, ladies open 9-ball division, featured defending champion, Ming Ng, returning champion, Natalie Rocha, Indiana’s Toni Tucker, and Canadian, WPBA Touring Professional, Suzanne Peters. Making their way to the winners’ side, final four, La Le overcame Mary “Princess” Avina, 7-6, Michelle Yim, 7-4, and Suzanne Peters, 7-2, while Ming “The Empress” Ng passed Michelle Abernathy, 7-3, Toni Tucker, 7-4, and Christy Grigsby, 7-4. Mille Almaraz detoured Ruth Paine, 7-3, Yvonne “The Casher” Asher, 7-1, and Natalie Rocha, 7-6. Laurie Clouette came on strong, with wins over Sara Bork, 7-4, Brandi Scott, 7-5, Loretta Miller, 7-2, and Teresa “Princess of Pool” Garland, 7-6. On the west side, reaching the final eight, Tucker shut out Rocha, 5-0, while Garland took out McHaney, 5-3. Peters overwhelmed Pierce, 5-2, and Petrosino sent Grigsby home, 5-3. On the winners’ side, Ng bested Le, 7-2, and it was Almaraz over Clouette, 7-2. In her hot seat match debut, Almaraz took down the defending champ, 7-5, further securing her position in a very tough field. Back on the one-loss side, Tucker took out Garland, 5-2, and Le, 5-3, while Petrosino ended Peters, 5-3, and Clouette, 5-0. Tucker claimed five matches before Petrosino stopped her run, 5-3. This was Petrosino’s eighth, match win, an incredible run to reach the final three, after losing her very first match to Melissa Smith, 7-5. Petrosino was forced to settle for third place, after suffering a 5-3 loss at the hands of Ng. The rematch between Almaraz and Ng was set in motion. A confident Almaraz took control of the first set, and did not look back. She defeated Ng, 7-4, to capture her first, Space City, women’s open 9-ball division title.

Lazaro Martinez III

The junior 9-ball division commenced on Sunday, featuring 13 competitors from across Texas. On their way to the winners’ side, final four, Gabriel Martinez defeated Aniyah Maldonado, 7-2, and Ace Smith, 7-2, while Lazaro “Little Laz” Martinez, III, bested Vania Davila, 7-0, and Jayden Holt, 7-1. Mary Grigsby outran Makenzlee Cameron, 7-4, and Cameron King, 7-4, while Kevin Gallegos slid past Nathan Garay, 7-6, and Eva Grigsby, 7-4. On the one-loss side, after suffering a first round loss to Holt, Tyler Miller was on a mission, eliminating Davila, 5-2, King, 5-0, and Maldonado, 5-3. Holt dusted off Cameron, 5-1, while Smith ended Garay, 5-2. Smith vanquished Holt, 5-2, and along with Miller, reached the final six, and the money. On the east side, the Martinez brothers faced off in the final four, with Gabriel advancing, 7-1, while M. Grigsby lost her bid for the hot seat to Gallegos, 7-2. G. Martinez made quick work of Gallegos, 7-0, to capture the hot seat. On the west side, Laz ousted Miller, 5-2, and M. Grigsby defeated Ace, 5-3. Laz went on to eliminate Grigsby and Gallegos, to meet brother Gabriel in the finals. Gabriel gave it his best shot, but was outmatched by Laz, suffering a two-set defeat. With this victory, Laz secured his third, consecutive, Space City, junior 9-ball division title.

The Space City Open is the largest pool tournament in Texas, featuring five divisions, and is held annually, the first week in December. For more information, visit www.SpaceCityOpen.com. 

Martinez & Mast win 13 & Under Stop #8 on JIC and Championships at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke

Sofia Mast

It was made abundantly clear on the final weekend of competition for the Junior International Championships’ two 13 & Under divisions (boys and girls) that the competitors were reluctant to finish competing. The weekend, which began on Friday, Sept. 17 at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA was to have been a Championship event for the 13 & Under divisions, for which its players had already qualified. The competitors decided that not only did they want to hold the scheduled Championship event, they also wanted, while they were there anyway, to compete in an 8th regular event. So they did both. On Friday and Sunday, the two divisions competed in the 8th event of the JIC series, and on Saturday, they held their Championship event.

Stop # 8 of the JIC series drew 14 boys and 10 girls to their respective 13 & Under divisions. The 13 & Under Championships drew 10 boys and 9 girls. And just to keep everybody busy, the weekend also included Stop # 8 for the 18 & Under Boys (39 entrants) and Girls (14 entrants) and the ProAm Division (32 entrants). The 18 & Under Boys and Girls will play their Championship event at the tail end of the 2021 International Open next month (October 28-30 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, VA), while the top three competitors from the final rankings of the ProAm division, who were awarded entry fees, will be competing in the 9-ball Open. There were to have been only two ProAm competitors who qualified for entry to the International Open, but a tie for second place led to three who qualified – Joey Tate, Landon Hollingsworth and Nathan Childress. A report on the final stop for the two 18 & Under and ProAm divisions will appear separately.

Stop # 8 of the 13 & Under divisions were won by undefeated performances from Gabriel Martinez and Sofia Mast. It was Martinez’ third win of the series, having won in March and June. Before he finished the 8th stop, he would compete and go undefeated in the 13 & Under Boys Championship, as well (more on this later). It was Mast’s 5th win in the division, having finished as runner-up in Stops #2, #4 and #5.

Martinez went through Julian Scruggs and Eddie Vondereau to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Jayce Little. Adrian Prasad squared off against Hank Leinen in the other one. Prasad and Martinez advanced to the hot seat; Prasad, 7-5 over Leinen and Martinez 7-2 over Little. Martinez sent Prasad to the semifinals and claimed the hot seat 7-2.

In those semifinals, Prasad drew Leinen, who’d defeated Vondereau and Jayse Alton, both 7-1, to reach him. Leinen earned a shot at Martinez in the hot seat with a 7-5 victory over Prssad. Martinez completed his undefeated run with a 9-5 win over Leinen in the finals.

Mast’s four-match path to the winners’ circle in the 13 & Under Girls division went through Carley Tomaszewski to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup against Noelle Tate. Long-time JIC rival to Mast, Skylar Hess, faced Arianna Houston in the other one. Mast got into the hot seat match 7-4 over Tate. Hess joined her after downing Houston 7-1. Mast claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Hess.

On the loss side, Noelle Tate followed her winners’ side loss against Mast with a double hill victory over her sister, Bethany before downing Houston 7-4 in the quarterfinals and then, Hess 7-3 in the semifinals. She fell to Mast a second time in the finals 9-2.

Gabriel Martinez

Martinez wins his second undefeated event on Saturday; Mast, Hess and Tate are top 3 again

The Girls 13 & Under Championships, sandwiched between the two days of the 8th stop on the series finished in almost the same way as the 8th stop. Mast, Noelle Tate and Hess finished 1, 2 & 3 on Stop #8, while Mast, Hess and Tate finished 1, 2, & 3 in the Championships. 

Mast’s path in the Championships ran through Skylynn Elliot and Franki Spain to arrive at what (time-wise) was her first of two hot seat matches against Hess, who’d defeated Taylor Perkins and Noelle Tate. It was Hess claiming the hot seat 7-5 over Mast in the Championships. 

On the loss side, in the semifinals, Mast drew Noelle Tate, who, following her winners’ side loss to Hess, had defeated Elliott 7-3 and Spain 7-2 in the quarterfinals. Mast and Tate battled to double hill in the semifinals, before Mast prevailed for a second shot against Hess. Mast downed Hess 9-4 in the finals to claim the 13 & Under Girls’ championship title. 

Facing a couple of the same opponents, Gabriel Martinez went undefeated (time-wise, first) in the 18 & Under Boys Championship. He’d faced Hank Leinen in the finals of Stop #8 of the 18 & Under division and squared off against Leinen in a winners’ side semifinal in the Championships. Martinez won that match 7-2 and advanced to his first of two hot seat matches against Adrian Prasad. He shut Prasad out in the Championships’ hot seat match (and gave up only two racks in the hot seat match they played against each other the next day).

On the loss side, Prasad drew a rematch against Eddie Vondereau, who, after losing their first matchup 7-1, went on to defeat Timmy Cossey, Konnor McFayden in the quarterfinals and then, in the rematch, shut Prasad out in the semifinals. Martinez completed his undefeated run with a 9-4 victory in the finals to claim the 13 & Under Championship title.

JIC Tour Director Ra Hanna thanked all of his sponsors for their help in making this event possible, Mike Littman with Littman Lights, Matt Suite at American Billiard Covering, Dynaspheres, Chris Wilson at The League Room, Kory & Trena Wolford from Wolfs Den Billiards and Mike from Michael’s Billiards.

13 & Under Boys Championships

1st Gabriel Martinez $600 a CueTec Propel Jump cue
2nd Eddie Vondereau $400 2×4 leather case
3rd Adrian Prasad $200

13 & Under Girls Championship

1st Sofia Mast $500
2nd Skylar Hess $250
3rd Noelle Tate $125

Martinez and Cutting win Junior 9-Ball Open 19 & Under Boys & Girls events in Sacramento

Tatum Cutting

A measure of how much junior competition has grown in just the past year is name recognition. In the early part of this year, even if you were a regular reader here at AZ, you might never have heard of Tatum Cutting, Sofia Mast, Gabriel Martinez or Landon Hollingsworth. Now, with fall just around the corner and some major junior championship events on the horizon, you’re probably recognizing those names. Their current relevance is that the first two (Cutting and Mast) finished as winner & runner-up in the $5,000-added Junior 9-Ball Open for 19 & Under Girls event held at Hard Times Billiards in Sacramento, CA this past weekend (Aug. 14-15). The second two (Martinez & Hollingsworth) finished as winner and runner-up in the $5,000-added boys’ equivalent at the same location. 

In a very small field of young women (seven), the finalists in the 19 & Under Girls event were two of the best junior competitors in the country, Tatum Cutting and Sofia Mast. Each has won two of the six events on the Junior International Championship (JIC) circuit. Cutting was runner-up to Mast twice in those events, while Mast placed 3rd and 4th in Cutting’s two wins. Having attended all six of the JIC events, Mast is currently ranked as #1 in the JIC 18 & Under Girls division. Cutting is third. This time out, it was Cutting who took home the top prize. They faced each other twice; in a double hill opening match and again, in the finals.

Cutting’s initial victory put her into a winners’ side semifinal match against Kennedy Meyman, whom Cutting had faced and defeated in the semifinals of the 3rd JIC event back in April. Savannah Easton and Asia Gillespie squared off in the other one.

Cutting sent Meyman to the loss side 7-3 and in the hot seat match, faced Easton, who’d defeated Gillespie 7-4. Tatum gave up just a single rack to Easton and claimed the hot seat. 

On the loss side, Mast downed Hayleigh Marion 7-2 to pick up Asia Gillespie. Meyman drew Sophia Lua, who’d lost her opening round match to Easton and drawn a loss-side bye to reach Meyman.

Mast downed Gillespie 7-4 and in the quarterfinals, faced Meyman, who’d shut out Lua. Meyman, who won the JIC’s opening event in the 18 & Under Girls division is currently ranked #2 (behind Mast). Mast and Meyman came within a game of double hill, but it was Mast who edged out in front by two to win the quarterfinal 7-5.

Mast then downed Easton 7-4 in the semifinals for a shot at one of her familiar opponents, Cutting, waiting for her in the hot seat. Cutting downed Mast a second time, this time 7-4, to claim the event title. 

Gabriel Martinez

Boys’ field of 17 features top names from BEF Junior Nationals and JIC

The top finishers in the 19 & Under Boys division of this event have figured prominently in both the BEF Junior Nationals and the JIC series. The winner of this event, Gabriel Martinez, finished 4th in the Junior Nationals (16 & Under), is 5th in JIC rankings for 13 & Under Boys (having won two of the six events) and 18th in 18 & Under boys. This event’s runner-up, Landon Hollingsworth, was the winner in two divisions of the Junior National competition (18 & Under and 16 & Under), though he hasn’t performed as well in the JIC series, where, in the 18 & Under division, though he’s competed in all six events, he hasn’t finished better than 5th.  

Adrian Prasad currently leads the pack of 13 & under boys on the JIC ranking list, having won three events in that division and finished in the tie for 7th at this event. Nathan Childress, who finished 4th is the leader on the JIC’s 18 & Under Boys list, having won four of the six events.

In Sacramento, Martinez’ path to the winners’ circle went through Nathan Nunez and Adrian Prasad to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal meetup with Spencer Ladin. Hollingsworth, in the meantime, got by Cody Hill, Payne McBride and his own brother, Cameron Hollingsworth to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal matchup versus Nathan Childress.

Hollingsworth got into the hot seat match with a 7-3 win over Childress. Martinez joined him after surviving a double hill battle versus Ladin. Martinez claimed the hot seat 7-4.

On the loss side, Ladin picked up Andrew Hutchins, who’d just eliminated Cameron Hollingsworth in a double hill fight. Childress drew Lazaro Martinez (whose brother was in the hot seat), who’d recently defeated Adrian Prasad 7-3.

Martinez and Childress battled to double hill before Childress prevailed and advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Ladin, who’d defeated Hutchins 7-3.

Ladin took the quarterfinal match, double hill, to draw Hollingsworth in the semifinals. Hollingsworth won 7-4, earning himself a second shot at Martinez in the hot seat, waiting for him. Martinez completed his undefeated run with a 9-6 win in the finals. 

Tournament director Desiree Dominguez thanked sponsors Predator, Simonis Cloth, Jam Up Apparel, Dunkel Custom Cues, Sacramento Internet Marketing Agency, Molina Mike, Phil Prentice, Aaron’s Pool Parlor (for providing live streaming throughout the event) and Omega Billiards.

Hollingsworth Highlights Slate of New Junior National Champions

Landon Hollingsworth

With a total of ten divisions being contested over five days, the 2021 Billiard Education Foundation’s Junior National Championship at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center was going to have a number of players celebrating hard fought wins, but the player walking away with the most accolades was South Carolina’s Landon Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth didn’t just turn in one undefeated performance. He went undefeated to win both the 18 & Under Boys Division and the 16 & Under Boys Division. Hollingsworth had an early scare in the 18 & Under Division, going hill-hill before beating Indiana’s Jake Sollman. After that win, it was pretty much smooth sailing as Hollingsworth won twenty three of his next twenty eight racks to take the hot-seat, defeating Ohio’s Riley Adkins in the process. Adkins made quick work of Eric Roberts in the semi-final match 7-1, and then took his best shot at Hollingsworth in the finals. In the end though, it was Hollingsworth with an 11-7 win over Adkins, for the division win.

Hollingsworth was tested in the 16 & Under Boys Division, not only by reigning 14 & Under Boys Division Winner (from 2019) Lazaro Martinez III, but also Joey Tate. After sending Tate to the one loss side in the final four on the winner’s side, Hollingsworth faced off against Martinez for the hot-seat, and Martinez took him to hill-hill before Hollingsworth won the match. Martinez then lost in the semi-final match to Tate, giving Tate an opportunity to avenge his that earlier loss to Hollingsworth. The final match was a close one, but didn’t start out that way. Hollingsworth rushed out to a 9-3 lead, before Tate turned it on and pulled back within two racks at 9-7. Tate kept up the pressure and was within one rack at 10-9 down when he missed a 9-ball while stretched across the table, to leave Hollingsworth with ball-in-hand on the case 9-ball for the title.

The two rack difference in the finals was stressful enough on the parents and fans in attendance, but the finals of the 14 & Under Division did them one better, with a hill-hill final match to determine the Champion. Minnesota’s Harry Leinen had defeated Kyle Yi, out of Texas, in a 9-5 hot-seat match. Yi was right back in the finals, and took Leinen to hill-hill before Leinen deposited the final 9-ball for the title.

Aryana Lynch

In the 18 & Under Girls Division, eventual winner Aryana Lynch was tested from the starting gun, as she won back to back hill-hill matches (Bailey Barber and Hayleigh Marion) to get things started. After a relatively stress free 7-2 win over Savanna Wolford, Lynch was again tested, this time by Tiana Jiang in Jiang’s first real competition in over a year. Lynch finally sent Jiang to the one-loss side 9-7 and Sofia Mast then defeated Jiang 7-3 to setup the final match between Mast and Lynch. That final match went Lynch’s way 11-6 for the title.

With all of the drama in the other divisions, the 16 & Under Girls Division really had very little drama to speak of. Minnesota’s Kennedy Meyman put on a 9-ball clinic, beating four opponents and not allowing one of them past two racks. Meyman’s final record for the entire division was thirty four wins out of a total of thirty nine racks. She defeated Elli Gonzales for the hot-seat and again in the finals by a combined record of 20-3.

The 14 & Under Girls division was the only division that had a defending champion involved in the finals. Reigning champion Skylar Hess took the hot-seat with a 9-8 win over Virginia’s Hayleigh Marion. Marion was back with a vengeance in the finals, and defeated Hess in another close match, 11-9, for the title.

This year’s event saw the addition of two new divisions for the players to compete in. The 10-ball division was open to any players 22 and younger in a unique “triple elimination” format. While players had to lose three matches to be eliminated from this one, Wisconsin’s Mason Koch showed that the best way to make sure you don’t lose three matches is to not lose any of them. Koch defeated Ricky Evans for the hot-seat, and then Florida’s Justin Toye in the finals.

The 8-ball division was also something new this year, and the field of 65 male and female competitors proved how popular it was. This division saw Lazaro Martinez III in the hot-seat, after a 3-0 win over brother Gabriel Martinez. In the finals though, it was Gabriel taking control and defeating Lazaro for the division win.

Also in play at this event, were two blind draw scotch doubles events that saw Lazaro Martinez III team up with Joey Tate to win the 22 & Under Scotch Division and Landon Hollingsworth teaming up with Savannah Easton to win the 16 & Under Division.

Dates are already set for the 2022 Junior National Championship and the event will take place on June 21st – 25th, right back at the South Point Hotel and Convention Center.

 

Junior National Brackets Tightening Up

Kennedy Meyman

The brackets at the 2021 Billiard Education Foundation Junior National Championship are working their way towards the end and some brackets already have hot-seat occupants. 

In the 16 & Under Girls division, Kennedy Meyman from Minnesota has cruised into the hot-seat. Meyman turned in a combined score of 23-4 to take the hot-seat and will await the winner of Hayleigh Marion and Elli Gonzales in the finals. 

The 18 & Under Girls has Aryana Lynch in the hot-seat, after a marathon 9-7 victory over Tiana Jiang today. Jiang will face either Sofia Mast or Savanna Wolford in the semi-finals early Friday morning. 

Rounding out the Girls divisions, Skylar Hess sits in the 14 & Under Girls hot-seat, after a hill-hill win over Hayleigh Marion today. Marion is facing Bethany Tate today, with the winner earning their place in the finals against Hess. 

The Boys Divisions have a few more matches to go. In the 18 & Under Boys division, Landon Hollingsworth will take on Riley Adkins for the hot-seat on Friday. 

Hollingsworth will also compete for the 16 & Under hot-seat, in a match against Lazaro Martinez III on Friday. 

In the 14 & Under Boys division, Kyle Yi and Harry Leinen will compete for the hot-seat on Friday morning. 

The 8-ball division sees the possibility of an all Martinez hot-seat match on Friday with Lazaro Martinez III and Gabriel Martinez both in the final four on the winner’s side. 

Finally, the 10-ball division has Mason Koch in the hot-seat with a 9-7 win over Ricky Evans. Evans will go to battle with Justin Toye on Friday morning to determine who faces Koch in the finals. 

All of the action can be followed this week with online brackets at compusport.ca and BBTV is streaming select matches on his YouTube and Facebook pages.

Sofia Mast continues domination of JIC Girls’ divisions

Sofia Mast

Gabriel Martinez wins 13 & Under Boys division, Prasad stays on top of the division rankings

Sofia Mast, 12, has won two of the five 18 & Under Girls events of the Junior International Championships (JIC), being held under the auspices of On the Wire Creative Media. This past weekend (June 24-26), at a JIC stop at Stixx & Stones in Lewisville, TX, which drew 11 entrants, she went undefeated to chalk up her second win in a row, having won the previous event, held in May in Bowie, MD. She was third in this division event in March and finished in 5th place twice. She has been the winner in three of the five 13 & Under Girls events, as well, including this most recent event last weekend (in a round robin format for four entrants), and was runner-up in the other two. As a result, she is at the top of the rankings in both of the girls’ divisions of these JIC.

Gabriel Martinez won his second JIC in the 13 & Under Boys Division (10 entrants), this past weekend, having also won the event in March. Adrian Prasad, who did not compete at this event, leads the 13 and Under Boys division in the rankings, having won the event the other three times it’s been held and was runner-up to Martinez in the other event in which he competed.

A preliminary round set up three matches in the 18 & Under Girls event, which advanced Savanna Wolford, Tatum Cutting and Casey Cork, while awarding April Gonzales a bye. Sofia Mast’s path to the winners’ circle in the 18 & Under Girls Division began with a match against Tatum Cutting, which she won 7-4 to enter a winners’ side semifinal match versus Precilia Kinsley. Wolford faced Gonzales in the other one.

Wolford got into the hot seat match 7-4 over Gonzales and was joined by Mast, who defeated Kinsley 7-2. Mast claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Wolford and waited on what turned out to be the return of Tatum Cutting from the loss side.

On the loss side, Gonzales picked up Cutting, as Kinsley drew Kennedy Meyman. Cutting advanced to the quarterfinals 7-1 and was joined by Meyman, who defeated Kinsley 7-3. Cutting downed Meyman 7-4 in those quarterfinals and then, by the same score, eliminated Wolford in the semifinals. Mast completed her undefeated run with a 9-7 win over Cutting in the finals.

Mast defeated all three of her opponents in the four-entrant, round robin event for the 13 & Under Girls. She downed Taylor Perkins 7-2, April Gonzales 7-3 and Asia Gillespie 7-1 to claim the event title. April Gonzales finished in 2nd place, having won two of her three matches; double hill (7-6) over Asia Gillespie and 7-1 over Taylor Perkins.

Harry Leinen, Gabriel Martinez and Treyshawn Bia

A preliminary round in the 13 & Under Boys event advanced Treyshawn Bia, Hank Leinen, and, with byes, Jayse Alton and eventual winner Gabriel Martinez to a first winners’ side round. Martinez shut out his first opponent, Lucah Gianino and picked up Treyshawn Bia in the winners’ side semifinal. Hank Leinen shut out Tyler Smith in the preliminary round and gave up only a single rack against Landon Dunlop to draw Jayse Alton in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Martinez gave up only one rack to Bia and advanced to the hot seat match. Leinen shut out Alton to join him. It took a 13th deciding game to claim the hot seat and it was Leinen who did so.

On the loss side, Bia picked up Bryson Moore, who’d previously eliminated Landon Dunlap 7-4. Alton picked up Tyler Smith, who’d defeated Lucah Gianino 7-4. Bia defeated Moore 7-1 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Smith, who eliminated Alton 7-5. Bia won the quarterfinal match 7-2 over Smith, but had his loss-side streak ended 7-3 by Martinez in the semifinals. Martinez finished his run with a 9-6 victory over Leinen in the finals.

On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna awarded Precilia Kinsley the event’s regular Sportperson Award, while Joey Tate picked up the Jeanette Lee Comeback Award. He also thanked Anju and John Bergman and their Stixx & Stones staff for their hospitality, as well as his assistants, Chris Reinhold (handling photography), the Wolfords (Kory and Treena, for their help), Chris Wilson (owner of The League Room in Parkersburg, WV), Mike Littman of Littman Lights and Hanna’s streaming crew. Hanna once again gave a shout out to all of the families of the junior players, whose camaraderie has made these events “truly, one big traveling family.” 

The next stop on the JIC series of events, scheduled for July 16-18, will be hosted by The League Room in Parkersburg, WV. Detailed accounts of the Pro Am & 18 & Under Boys Division can be found elsewhere in our News reports.

Martinez brothers win two out of five divisions of Junior International Championships

Lazaro and Gabriel Martinez
(Photo courtesy Chris Robinson)

In the second of eight Junior International Championships (JIC), held under the auspices of On the Wire Creative Media at Racks Billiards and Sports Bar in Sanford, FL this past weekend (March 12-14), two brothers – Gabriel and Lazaro Martinez – won two of the five events. The younger Martinez, Gabriel (13), won the Pro/Am event that drew 28 entrants, while the older brother, Lazaro (14) won the 18 & Under Boys event that drew the largest field of entrants (36). Gabriel competed against the 18 & Under Boys, as well, although he was sent to the loss side by his brother in a winners’ side semifinal and eliminated by the eventual runner-up, Nathan Childress, in the event semifinals. Gabriel won the first JIC event in the 13 & Under Boys division and competed in that event this time, as well, although he was sent to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal match by the eventual winner, Adrian Prasad (who was runner-up to Martinez last time), and later eliminated in his first loss-side match by D’Angelo (Jaws) Spain.

In the female divisions, Ohio’s Tatum Cutting won the 18 & Under event that drew 12 entrants and North Carolina’s Bethany Tate won the 13 & Under division that drew 9 entrants.

There were, in all, 77 entrants and 99 entries, indicative of the fact that more than just the Martinez brothers competed in a number of events at this most recent JIC. The junior competitors are collecting tour points that will be used for seeding in the tour finale, scheduled to coincide with the International Open at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside in Norfolk, VA in October. 

At present, Gabriel Martinez leads the two-event point totals with 10,000 for his two victories. Adrian Prasad is in second place with 9,250 and D’Angelo Spain is in 3rd place with 3,500 points.

As originally designed, the events were broken down into their separate age divisions so that younger players would not have to enter events and face the possibility of competing against older, more experienced opponents and potentially, getting discouraged when they lost, early and often. The reaction to this division by ages surprised On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna.

“I didn’t want the 13-year-olds to get disappointed,” he said, “but I didn’t realize how much interest the younger kids would have in competing against the older players. They want to play with the big boys.”

“That,” he added, thinking of case-in-point, Gabriel Martinez, “has been fantastic.”

As always, ladies first. The increased opportunities for competition among younger females has not begun to affect the numbers that these junior events are seeing in the female divisions. Neither of the female events which drew 9 and 12 entrants this past weekend, drew as many as the Boys 13 & under (14) and combined, the girls’ events didn’t draw as many as either the Pro Am (28; which included some female competitors) or the Boys 18 & Under (36). That, as players and their parents, begin to become aware of these events, is likely to change.

Tatum Cutting’s undefeated path to the winners’ circle in the Girls 18 & Under event went through Precilia Kinsley, Alana Sanchez and Bethany Tate, with an aggregate score of 21-5, which put her in the hot seat match against Sofia Mast, who’d been awarded an opening round bye and then defeated Kennedy Meyman 7-5 and Savanna Wolford 7-3 to join Cutting. Mast chalked up as many racks against Cutting in the hot seat match as all of her previous opponents, combined, but was sent to the semifinals 7-5. Mast and Bethany Tate fought a double hill battle in those semifinals, both looking for a rematch against Cutting. Tate prevailed, and then fell to Cutting in the finals 9-4.

In the 13 and Under girls’ event, it was the combatants in the 18 & Under semifinals (Bethany Tate and Sofia Mast) who battled twice before Tate claimed the younger girls’ title. Tate had gotten by Skylar Hess and her own sister, Noelle Tate and advanced to the hot seat match. Mast  joined her, following victories over Franki Spain and Gianna Fiore.

Tate claimed the hot seat after a double hill fight. Mast downed Hess 7-5 in the semifinals and returned for a rematch. A second double hill fight ensued and for the second time, Tate prevailed and was able to claim the event title.

One goes undefeated, the other with one loss to claim boys’ titles 

In the 18 & Under Boys division, Nathan Childress and Lazaro Martinez fought twice to claim the title. Martinez had gotten by Riley Adkins, Trenton White, Ivo Linkin and his own brother, Gabriel to arrive at the hot seat match. Childress’ path to the hot seat match went through Conner Scruggs, Hank Leinen, D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain, and, in a double hill fight, Nathan Nunes. 

Martinez downed Childress the first time 7-3. Childress’ semifinal was against Martinez’ younger brother, Gabriel and he just did survive it, double hill, for a second shot against Lazaro. Childress got much closer in the finals, but not close enough, as Martinez finished his undefeated run to claim the Boys’ 18 & Under title 9-7.

In the 13 & Under Boys’ division, it was Adrian Prasad and Harry Leinen battling twice. Leinen had gotten by Iann Nolen, Fred Hill, Jr., and Konnor McFayden to arrive at the hot seat match. Prasad had sent Caleb Chase, Andrew Johnson and Gabriel Martinez to the loss side to face Leinen.

Leinin took the first of their two, 7-4. Prasad returned from a 7-3 semifinal victory over D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain for a rematch. He won that rematch 9-7 to claim the 13 & Under Boys title.

In the mixed gender Pro Am event, 13-year-old Gabriel Martinez had his hands full. He seemed to be getting stronger as he got closer to the finish line. Following a bye, he advanced past Landon Hollingsworth, Brent Worth and Julio Estevez, demonstrating increased success – 7-5, 7-4, 7-2 – to arrive at the hot seat match. Joey Tate, in the meantime, seemed to be showing signs of getting weaker. He got by Cash Lance 7-3, Trenton White 7-2, Lazaro Martinez 7-4 and Kodi Allen 7-5. It was Tate, though, who claimed the hot seat 7-4. 

Gabriel moved west and in the semifinals, faced Justin Toye, who’d sent Gabriel’s brother, Lazaro, to the proverbial showers in the quarterfinals. Gabriel eliminated him 7-3 and got a second shot at Tate.

You could almost see it coming. Two of the most promising juniors in the game faced off in the finals of the mixed-gender, Pro Am finals and battled to double hill. Gabriel Martinez prevailed to earn his second title at the second event on the Junior International Championships calendar.

Ra Hanna thanked the ownership and staff at Racks Billiards and Sports Bar for hosting the event, as well as sponsors Mike Littman of Littman Lights, Dynaspheres and The League Room. He also extended thanks to his tournament director, Corey Wolford and Jay Helfert. The next stop on the Junior International Championships tour, scheduled for April 16-18, will be hosted by Racks on Rocks in Peoria, IL.

(Watch for an extended report on this second JIC event in the upcoming edition of the BUZZ, coming in April, which will include interviews with the participants and their parents about the growth of opportunities for junior players.)   

 

On the Wire Creative Media launches Junior International Championship Tour

Fracasso-Verner wins Pro Am Division of five-event weekend

Lukas Fracasso Verner, Ra Hanna and Ricky Evans

In an effort to provide junior players with more opportunities to compete beyond those offered by the Billiards Education Foundation with their single national championship every year, On the Wire Creative Media has launched a nation-wide effort to create a Junior International Championship Tour. That effort premiered on the weekend of Jan. 7-9 with five events, held under the auspices of On the Wire Creative Media and hosted by Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA.

At this premiere event, with plans in motion to create five more this year, five champions were crowned; one each for Boys and Girls, 18 and under, as well as one each for Boys and Girls, 13 and Under. In addition, a Pro Am event for competitors 20 and under crowned a champion.

Cameron Lawhorne from Lynchburg, VA took the top prize in the Boys, 18 and Under event, which drew the largest number of entrants (39). Lazaro Martinez was runner-up, while Austin Summers finished in third place. Kennedy Meyman (MN) picked up the title in the Girls, 18 and under category (12 entrants), with Bethany Tate from Raleigh, NC as runner-up. Tate was playing above her ‘weight,’ so to speak, as she was eligible and also competed in the Girls, 13 and under event. She was runner-up in that event, as well. Courtney Hairfield (VA) finished third in the Girls, 18 and Under.

Gabriel Martinez from Texas, came out on top among the Boys, 13 and under (9 entrants), with Adrian Prasad (CA) finishing as the runner up. D’Angelo Spain (MD) finished in third place. In the Girls, 13 and under event, which featured a round robin format for its four entrants, Sofia Mast from Land of Lakes, FL was the winner. Sisters Bethany and Noelle Tate finished 2nd and 3rd.

Winners of the events received a variety of prizes. According to Ra Hanna, owner of On the Wire Creative Media, the tour was designed to create something of a middle ground between the single BEF yearly event and a junior player’s ability to compete in cash-prize tournaments in their local area.

“I wanted the junior players to have a platform where they could play, year round,” he said.

Hanna also created what might be thought of as a transitional event, designed to offer players who’ve aged out of the ‘18 and under’ category. That Pro Am event at this inaugural championship drew 33 entrants and was won by Lukas Fracasso-Verner, who had also won the precursor of this event, a junior championship held in conjunction with Accu-Stats International Open in 2019.

Fracasso-Verner faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals of the Pro Am event. Both of those opponents were former BEF Junior Champions. His hot seat opponent, Nathan Childress, was the BEF Junior Champion in the 14-and-under Boys division, two years in a row (’15 & ’16). Fracasso-Verner’s opponent in the finals, Ricky Evans, was the 14-and-under Boys champion in 2014 and the 18-and-under Boys champion in 2016 (the year after the 18-and-under Boys champion was Chris Robinson, recent member of the USA’s 2020 Mosconi Cup team and the photographer at this junior championship event).

Fracasso-Verner opened his campaign with a 7-3 win over Julio Estevez and followed it with victories over Eddie Vondreau 7-1 and Riley Adkins 7-3, which set him up to face Ricky Evans for the first time, in a winners’ side semifinal. Childress, in the meantime, had defeated Adrian Prasad 7-1, Trenton White 7-5 and Eric Roberts 7-4 to square off against Kodi Allen (BEF Junior Champion, 16-and-under, ‘19) in the other winners’ side semifinal.

By identical 7-5 scores, Fracasso-Verner and Childress sent Evans and Allen, respectively, to the loss side and turned to face each other in the hot seat match. Fracasso-Verner claimed the hot seat over Childress 7-2.

On the loss side, Evans picked up Eric Roberts, who’d been defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal by Childress and then, defeated Brent Worth 7-5 and Joey Tate (brother to the Tate sisters and BEF Junior Champion, 14-and-under, ’17 & 18) 7-1. Allen drew Trenton White, who’d also been defeated by Childress, and was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had most recently eliminated Riley Adkins, double hill and Austin Summers (BEF Junior Champion, 18-and-under, 2017) 7-2.

Evans advanced to the quarterfinals 7-5 over Roberts and was joined by White, who’d defeated Allen 7-3. Evans ended Allen’s loss-side winning streak with a 7-2 victory in those quarterfinals.

Evans and Childress battled to double hill in the semifinals, but it was Evans dropping the final ball and advancing to his second shot against Fracasso-Verner. Fracasso-Verner made short work of the final race to 9, allowing Evans only two racks before claiming the inaugural event of the International Junior Championship Tour.

According to Hanna, there are five other events scheduled on this junior tour, pending confirmation of a variety of sites. He is hoping to elevate the juniors’ game and set it on a path toward the future.

“The future of US junior pool shone brightly on this past weekend at the Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA,” he wrote in a press release about the results this past Sunday. “I dare you to find a more committed group of young men and women who are dedicated to this beautiful game of ours.”

Hanna thanked title sponsor Littman Lights, Tournament Director and Wolf’s Den owner, Kory Wolford (as well as his staff) and official tour photographer, Chris Robinson.

Top Three Finishers:

18 and under Boys
Cameron Lawhorne
Lazaro Martinez
Austin Summers

18 and under Girls
Kennedy Meyman
Bethany Tate
Courtney Hairfield

13 and under Boys
Gabriel Martinez
Adrian Prasad
D’Angelo Spain

13 and under Girls
Sofia Mast
Bethany Tate
Noelle Tate

Pro Am
Lukas Fracasso Verner
Ricky Evans
Nathan Childress