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Cullen comes back from loss side, downs Fracasso-Verner in NE 9-Ball Players Championship

Ryan Cullen & Lukas Fracasso-Verner

Lukas Fracasso-Verner got by the slightly higher-ranked Ryan Cullen once, but he couldn’t get it done a second or third time in the finals of the New England 9-Ball Series’ Players Championship (stop #16), held on the weekend of March 16-17. Cullen came back from the initial loss and double dipped Fracasso-Verner in the event finals to become the tour’s 2019 Players Champion. The $1,000-added event drew 50 entrants (27 in a lower bracket, 23 in an upper bracket) to Yale Billiards in Wallingford, CT.

The two met first in a winners’ side semifinal, which, in effect, was the final of the event’s initial upper bracket. So, too, did Tyler Boudreau and Jimmy Gonzalez meet in a winners’ side semifinal, which, in effect, was the final of the event’s initial lower bracket. Playing with a FargoRate that was six points below Cullen’s (650-644), Fracasso-Verner got by him the first time 7-4, which put him into the hot seat match against Boudreau, who’d defeatEd Gonzalez 4-3 (Gonzalez with the higher FargoRate – 500 to 400 – racing to 6). Fracasso-Verner gave up only a single rack against Boudreau (racing to 4) and claimed the hot seat 10-4.
Put another way, Fracasso Verner won the event’s upper bracket competition, while Boudreau picked up the win in the event’s lower bracket competition. Neither one of them would win the overall Players Championship title, won by Cullen.
On the loss side, with the brackets still divided, upper bracket competitors Cullen and Mike Hurley met, while in the lower bracket, Gonzalez and John Porto hooked up. Hurley had survived a double hill fight against Bart Rivezzi and eliminated Mario Argentino 7-3 to draw Cullen. Porto had downed Nicole Netherland 5-3 and shut out Tim Nieves to pick up Gonzalez.
Cullen downed Hurley, double hill (7-5) and in the quarterfinals, faced Gonzalez, who’d defeated Porto 5-3. In those quarterfinals, Cullen (from the upper bracket) eliminated Gonzalez (from the lower bracket) 9-2.
In the semifinals, Boudreau, separated from Cullen by 250 FargoRate points (600-450) put up a double hill fight (in essence, Boudreau began a race to 10, with 6 on the wire), but it wasn’t enough. Cullen chalked up the 10 he needed before Boudreau had won his necessary 4th rack.
In a straight-up race to 7, in the opening set of a true double elimination final, Cullen and Fracasso-Verner battled to double hill before Cullen finished it to force a second set. Fracasso-Verner weakened a little in the second set, and Cullen pulled ahead to win it by three 7-4 and claim the Players Championship title.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Yale Billiards for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell, Bourgeois Farms and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#17), scheduled for Sunday, April 7, will be a Partners Tournament, hosted by Snookers, in Providence, RI. The event will be limited to the first 64 teams and pre-registration is recommended.

Dechaine, from the loss side, and Fracasso-Verner split NE 9-Ball Players’ Championships

(l to r): Anthony Petruzelli, Mike Dechaine & Lukas Fracasso-Verner

In the end, it was a battle of generations. Though Mike Dechaine hasn’t got enough years on his resume to be considered a member of any ‘older’ generation (in the vein of Earl Strickland, Nick Varner, or Shannon Daulton, as examples), he has certainly earned the title of veteran player. At 16, Lukas Fracasso-Verner is still young enough to be considered a ‘Junior,’ although he’s been competing against fellow juniors, veterans and the Pros for over three years now.
The two met in the finals of the $2,000-added New England 9-Ball Series Players’ Championships. Held on the weekend of March 17-18, the event drew 56 entrants to Yale Billiards in Wallingford, CT. To the surprise of many, although not, apparently, to Dechaine himself, Mike lost his opening match to Lance Lisciotti. This launched a 10-match, loss-side winning streak for Dechaine that allowed him to challenge Fracasso-Verner in the finals. Dechaine took the opening set of the true double elimination final, before he (with a three-hour drive ahead of him) and Fracasso-Verner (more or less in his own backyard), both at that stage with a single loss, opted out of a final match and split the top two prizes.
Dechaine’s opening round loss was a 5-6 victory for Lisciotti (as a Pro player, Dechaine was racing to 10). Asked if the loss came as a bit of surprise to him, Dechaine said that it hadn’t.
“No,” he said. “Lisciotti is capable of playing well, and he played well.”
Later in the tournament, Dechaine had the opportunity for a re-match, and the results were quite different. It should also be noted that in Dechaine’s 10-match, loss-side run, he won just over 89% of the games he played, with an aggregate score of 110-13.
As Dechaine began work on the loss side, Fracasso-Verner (an A player) and Anthony Petruzelli (C+) were advancing through their respective upper- and lower-bracket fields for a meetup in the hot seat match. Verner won four to meet Ryan Urso (a B Player) in one winners’ side semifinal, while Petruzelli won his four to face fellow C+ player, Jimmy Gonzalez in the other one. Fracasso-Verner and Petruzelli gave up only two racks between them (one each, to Urso and Gonzalez) to move into the hot seat match. Fracasso-Verner was even stingier in the winners’ side final, giving up none at all to sit in the hot seat.
Meanwhile, back at the (loss-side) ranch, Dechaine was mowin’ ‘em down, one by one. Opening loss-side wins of 10-1, 11-1, and 11-3 brought him into the money rounds, where he defeated Bobby Hilton by shutting him out and then, in his re-match against Lisciotti, sent him home 10-2. This set him up to face Urso, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Gonzalez’ first opponent on the loss side was Jack Cooper, who’d shut out Ralph Caton in the first money round, and then survived a double hill fight against Darryl Helm (5-5; Helm, as a C+, racing to 6) to reach Gonzalez.
Dechaine and Cooper handed Urso and Gonzalez their second straight loss. With Urso racing to 4, Dechaine eliminated him 11-1. Cooper gave up only one to Gonzalez in a 5-1 victory (Gonzalez racing to 6). Dechaine took the quarterfinal match 13-1 over Cooper, and completed his loss-side run with a 12-2 victory over Petruzelli in the semifinals.
The final match actually dropped Dechaine’s winning-game percentage down a notch, from its 89.4% after the semifinals to 88% at the end of the first double-elimination set. Dechaine won it 10-2, and then, in consultation with Fracasso-Verner, opted out of trying to make it two in a row.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Yale Billiards, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Molinari, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-Ball’s National and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell, Championship Cloth, and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#20), scheduled for the weekend of March 24-25, will be a $500-added, 8-Ball event, to be hosted by Legends Billiards, in Auburn, ME.