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Wagner Back in the AWBT Winner’s Circle

Kaitlin Stengel and Rebecca Wagner

In her second tournament back on the Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour, Las Vegas’ Rebecca Wagner shook off the rust and came through the one loss side to win stop three at Main Street Billiards in Mesa, Arizona on June 4th – 5th. 

Wagner was the top rated player in the event, and she had to earn each and every match win, as she was giving up 6-3 races in many of her matches. She made it past 6-3 races against Claudia Justus and Misty Anderson, but a 6-3 race against tour veteran Terri Johnson-McCauley was too much for Wagner to handle. “She came with some crazy good outs that I didn’t anticipate.” said Wagner. 

Johnson-McCauley didn’t have too long to celebrate on the winners side, as she dropped her next match to eventual hot-seat occupant Kaitlin Stengel. Stengel followed up the win over Johnson-McCauley with a hill-hill win over Stephanie Martin and then a win against Simone Huskey for the hot-seat. 

Back on the one loss side, Wagner ended Saturday with two hill-hill wins (both 6-3 races) over Jamie Hagerty and Joanne Mattingly.

Wagner’s Sunday started with a 6-5 match against Rae Evans, who had not lost a match through the first two AWBT events this season. That perfect record was brought to an end by Huskey on the winner’s side Saturday and Wagner was happy to end Evans’ weekend in 9th place after a hill-hill match. 

Wagner went on to win four more matches on Sunday to get to the single elimination final against Stengel. As Stengel is still a bit of a newcomer to the tour, this was the first meeting between Wagner and Stengel, but Stengel said she was familiar with her opponent’s game. “I had never played Rebecca Wagner but I have had the pleasure of watching her shoot before. Rebecca plays an excellent game, striking when she has the opportunity and playing safe until she does.” she said.

For Stengel, the appearance in her first final on tour was proof that her hard work is paying off. “Mitch (Ellerman) was kind enough to give me a few pointers while playing some racks at Metro Sports Bar last week, and I’ve also been working with Jon Smith a bit in the last few months. Both of them have really helped me with my stroke mechanics, cue ball movement and practicing with intention” said Stengel. “Over the last 6 months I have been putting a lot of attention on my mental focus during competitions. I definitely think that this, along with a nice sprinkle of luck, was what made the biggest difference for me at this event”. 

In the end, the finals appeared to come down to experience. For Wagner, a final match like this is nothing new, but for Stengel it was her first time in a situation like this. “ I think that the nerves of being up against such a high caliber player and the fatigue from a long weekend of pool definitely took its toll on my game” said Stengel. “The skill level difference got into my head and I didn’t approach my sequences in the same way I had for the rest of the weekend”.

Wagner won the extended final match 8-2 and while she says she thinks she is playing at maybe 80% of her game, she isn’t sure how many more events she will be able to get back out to attend in the immediate future. “I’m still working two full time jobs so probably not much time for competition but I’ll sneak an event or two in” she said. 

Both Wagner and Stengel will have their next opportunities on July 9th – 10th when the AWBT travels to Pockets in Tucson, Arizona for stop #4. 

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Spahiu Makes Statement at UPT Tour Stop

Besar Spahiu (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

 As the day's of the Inaugural UPT Tournament drew near and the players list was filling up, Besar Spahiu was the biggest underdog leading to the event. July 6th, 2017 as the players filled Raxx Pool Room in West Hempstead, Spahiu had paid the Amateur level entry fee to later on prove that he was much more. 
The Ultimate Pool Tournament Inaugural event drew just under 30 players, and with such a small field, there were some big name players. The Ultimate Pool Tournament brought out a format for the event in which a set can go hill-hill or a complete blowout. In order to rise to the occasion, Besar Spahiu quickly realized by the second day of the event, the break is what would win him the tournament. As players were breaking from the box, with the 10ball racked on the spot, balls were flying everywhere, but a dry break quickly lead to players losing that rack. Besar,had utilized his breaking capabilities in which majority of his break shots lead to 1 or more balls being pocketed. 
Spahiu drew one of the tougher Amateur leveled players in NY, rated A++ on the Predator Pro/AM Tour,Rob Pole. Spahiu And Rob began play at 7PM on July 6th in what was expected to be a great showcase for the first round match. Besar quickly set the stage with a quick win over Pole even before the 2hour time limit sending Pole to the Loser side to face Co-Founder of UPT, Elvis Rodriguez. At this point, Besar had patiently waited for his next opponent for the 9PM round in which he had already felt comfortable. Denis Grabe had just completed his battle with Michael Wong in a outstanding 9-2 victory as Besar was already awaiting for Denis at the next table. 
Denis and Besar had an incredible back and forth battle, in what had boiled down to the better breaks and capitalization of the spread. As the match had finished up fairly quickly, once again before the 2hour time limit, Besar was feeling good about himself with a win over the Estonian sending Grabe to the "B" side of the chart.
What had lied in the eyes of Besar was determination. Besar would continue his quest on Friday with the first round with Brooklyn's own, Jorge Rodriguez. Besar came in equipped and ready for battle, but Jorge had the better of the set. The first round had left both players aggravated at the mistakes and the rolls of the table, but both players never gave up. Young 24 year old Besar was on a mission that day as he quested to be the better player but Jorge Rodriguez had stopped him in his tracks with a 9-6 win over Spahiu. This match had pushed Jorge Rodriguez to remain on the winner side to face, "King Kong Kaci" as one referenced him over the livestream of the event. Klenti Kaci would try to avenge for his friend in a semi-finals round with Rodriguez. 
Over on the "B" side of the bracket Spahiu needed to  redeem himself from his mistakes as he did not waste any time as he went on the next available table for practice. In what was another back and forth battle with a credited player from the Predator Pro/Am Tour, Besar Spahiu had played Victor Nau in the 5PM round. Given that this was Besar's 2nd match for the day but 3rd match for Victor, Victor seemed to be fatigued at the early going of the match letting Besar get the early lead of the set. Taking a break at the 4th rack,it was just what both players needed to rejuvenate. With Besar having a 4-1 lead over Victor, he had let loose at this time of the set allowing Victor to step up to the plate and making it a 4-3 game in a matter of minutes. Besar knew at this point he couldn't let this one slip, as he shifted into a higher gear playing a lot of tough safeties leaving Victor, nearly impossible kicks but someone was able to get out of them. As though the safeties didn't plan out as great as Besar wanted to, both players gave it there. In which at one point everyone thought Besar would have definitely lost this set. Besar playing with determination had other plans, better plans, as Besar capitalized on some key mistakes leading with 8-6 on Victor, Besar breaks the following rack making not a singLe Mistake to win the set. With a sigh of relief after that win, Besar's toughest opponent was yet to come. At the 7PM round Besar was waiting on 2 world renown players, Tony Robles and Mika Immonen in what had been a blow out that no one saw coming, Tony had beaten Mika and sent him packing with a 9-3 victory. 
Table 28 of Raxx Pool Room, the secondary streaming table of the event was appointed to the Besar and Tony Robles match without regret. This match showcased the immortality of Besar Spahiu amongst thousands of spectators worldwide. In what had been already a long day for all players competing, Besar showed what he was really made of. Besar played hands-down the best he had played while competing at this event. Tony Robles had seemed to use all his energy in his previous match against Mika, but he was shooting well enough to run a table. Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes, and that is what exactly happened in this match. Besar limited the amount of times Tony Robles was able to shoot at the table. Besar capitalized on every mistake made by Robles to gain the early leade of 3-0 then 5-0 then 7-0. Besar was playing well, and Tony Robles was being outplayed by the Albanian youngster. Everyone was astonished from the spectators to the commentators to the fans tuned in from Tokyo to Serbia. A well fought day to stay alive , Besar had completed his quest to compete another day and head over to Day number 3 in which 6 players would return for a prize purse of over 10,000.00.
Spahiu would return to day 3 bright and early, an hour and a half before his scheduled match awaiting his opponent Jeremy "Giant Killer" Sossei who had came a long way and battled through a tough field consisting of Mark Gray, Elvis Rodriguez, Alex Kazakis, Jon Smith and Jorge Rodriguez. Jeremy and Besar would go on and put on a show for everyone watching as the safety battles were intense and both players were in it to win it. The experience of Jeremy Sossei made him the favorite, but Besar being the under dog had already set the stage that he was very well much playing on the same plane as his partner, Klenti Kaci. Spahiu and Sossei would put on quiet a match which lead to about 2 hours and 30 minutes. At the end the underdog became the big dog as Besar won to move on to the next round with a tremendous win of 9-7 over Jeremy Sossei. 
Besar would quickly break away from pool as Alex Kazakis had been waiting after a loss to Klenti Kaci for the hot seat match. This match would have been the longest match of the event traveling a bit over 3 hours of play on the main stream table. As both players were determined to cash for the grand prize, both players played nothing short of great and they had both put on a show for the fans. With a neck and neck set of points going back and forth, this set was a true meaning of a pool match. Both players triumphed with incredible runs, mistakes, safeties and unbelievable encounters back and forth, it was obvious that both it was taking a toll on the players. Besar would take the lead, as Alex Kazakis would trail right behind him and never letting Besar lead by more than 3 points ahead. The set had came down to the wire, in which the match was 8-8, as Alex was at the table, it came down to tieing up the 7ball and Cue Ball in which Alex was more than capable of running out. Besar took advantage of the failed safe played by Alex and ran the table to gain the win and the right to play in the finals. 
The finals would come about around 9PM on Saturday July 8th as the chat room was packed and Klenti had been waiting for 5 long hours for this match. Besar and Klenti had both came here from Albania with one mission on their mind and that was to conquer to pool world of America. Klenti Kaci was the favorite leading to this match, but after the show Besar had put on, everyone thought twice about this match up. The finals was set up for a single race to 11 points in which both players made many mistakes throughout the sets. At some times of the match both players would make mistakes that they would end up conceding with 3-4 and even 5 balls on the table.As the set started winding down, it seemed as if Besar Spahiu was ready for another tournament. The ending result coming down to 11-7 victory over Klenti Kaci, and that was a statement made out to the pool world that Besar will be a dominant factor in every tournament he participates in.
The Ulimate Pool Tournament founds would like to congratulate Besar Spahiu on a well deserved win of claiming the top prize and earning the respect of many for his determination and dedication to be the best. 

Frost holds off record field at Diamond Pool Tour Season Opener

Scott Frost and Bobby Emmons (Photo courtesy of Rick Schmitz)

​A new tournament format and new sponsors helped to draw eighty six players to Skip & Jan’s Sports Bar in Tempe, AZ on February 7th and 8th for the Arizona State Barbox 10-Ball Championship and season opener of the new Diamond Pool Tour presented by Casino Del Sol Resort (formerly the Desert Classic Tour).
With the field divided between “A” players and “B” players, the “A” bracket held twenty nine of the top players from Arizona and New Mexico. This bracket was won by Scott Frost, who had tough matches with Arizona bar table specialist Jon Smith and local hot-shot Bobby Emmons at the end of his quest. On the one loss side, Donivan Pedroncelli scored impressive wins over Smith and Donald Mangahas before falling to Emmons 7-4.
The “B” bracket held a whopping fifty seven players with no clear cut favorites in sight. The bracket was won by New Mexico’s Linn Vissage, who defeated recently crowned AZ State Senior Barbox Champion Guyle “Tom” Fielder 7-2 for the hot-seat. Fielder then dropped a lopsided 7-0 decision to Spike Aiardo on the one loss side.
The two brackets combined on Sunday afternoon and Frost took the final hot-seat with a 7-2 win over Vissage. On the one loss side, Emmons ran over Aiardo 7-1 and then sent Vissage back to New Mexico with a 7-4 win.
This left Emmons and Frost facing off for the tournament win. The first set went to Emmons 7-4, but Frost looked to have the advantage in set #2. Emmons came back from an early deficit though, and tied the score at 6-6, setting up one game for the title. Emmons would get out of line during a fairly routine out in that final game and Frost pounced on the unexpected chance back at the table. Frost effortlessly ran out the remaining balls for the title.
Thirteen players came back on Sunday to compete in the Neil’s Garage Cabinets Second Chance tournament. This event would see Burt Balancad put together an undefeated run with wins over Matt Gagne, Bernie Store, junior player Nick Kline and Steve Blackburn in the finals for the win. Blackburn would finish in second place and Kline would take third. Kline was also the winner of the “top junior” bonus, sponsored by the Phoenix APA league.
The Greenmail Top Female Finisher bonus went to Bernie Store and there was no winner of the Greenmail Bounty, as 2014 Desert Classic Tour season finale winner Mitch Ellerman was not in attendance at this event. The Greenmail Bounty will be on Frost at Stop #2, on the 9’ tables at Bullshooters on March 14th and 15th. 
Event organizers expressed their thanks to Natalie at Skip & Jan’s for hosting this great event, Cassie at Skip & Jan’s for being a complete rock star in putting up with all of the players over two days, Rick Schmitz for the great photos and “Fast” Lenny Marshall & George Teyechea for the great job of streaming both days of the event. 
The Diamond Pool Tour is proudly sponsored by:
Diamond Billiard Products –
Casino Del Sol Resort –
Neil’s Garage Cabinets –
Greenmail Internet Marketing –
QB Custom Cues –
Volturi Custom Cases –
Cue Sport International –
The Arizona BCA, TAP and APA league systems. 

Avila Wins DCT B/C Stop

Oscar Avila – Photo courtesy of Rick Schmitz

Oscar Avila has long been one of the top B/C players in the valley, but until October he had never won a DCT event. He can now mark that accomplishment off of his to-do list as Avila forged an undefeated run through the field at Bullshooters on October 4th and 5th.
In order to win any tournament, the eventual victor has to defeat the second place finisher. Most of the time, the event winner will have also beaten the third place finished. Avila pulled off the trifecta accomplishment of defeating the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place event finishers.
In the second round of play, Avila defeated eventual second place finisher Chris Miller 6-0. Next up was eventual fourth place finisher Evan Beeson, and Avila sent him packing to the one loss side too.
The hot-seat came down to Avila and “C Player” Dwayne Beagle. Beagle held the hill at 4-2, but Avila came back to win the match. “I needed a miracle and got four in a row” said Avila after the tournament.
On the one loss side, Miller was taking the scenic route to the finals. Chris won five straight matches, including eliminating Beagle in the semi-finals to earn his rematch with Avila in the finals.
Unfortunately for Miller, he would come up just short in the finals as Avila scored a hill-hill win for his first DCT title.
Days after pocketing the final ball, Avila still couldn’t really explain how he had put it all together for the win. “Being a participant in the DCT for years now, I have never had the feeling I had that night. Everything looked effortless (Mitch style) and I made safety decisions like (Jon Smith). When you believe in yourself, the sky is the limit.” 
The Desert Classic Tour will be at Stingers on November 1st and 2nd for their next event – 9-ball on the bar tables.

Ellerman Unstoppable At DCT Tour Stop

Mitch Ellerman

Mitch Ellerman defeated John Smith in a match between arguably the two best barbox 8-ball players in the state to capture first place at the Desert Classic Tour’s June event on the 1st and 2nd at Stingers Sports Bar.
As is always the case, the field in this one was a tough one. The forty player field included eight of the top ten players on tour, with only Scott Frost and Manny Chau missing. 
Saturday matches were tough on both sides of the board, and a number of top players would not make it to Sunday play. #2 ranked Nick Deleon dropped matches to Gary Koschnik and Jerry Stuckart on Saturday. #4 ranked Bobby Emmons also failed to reach day two after a “three and out” performance. #10 rated Mike Sandoval had an even worse day with two straight losses in his first two matches.
Only eight players would earn places in Sunday’s matches, with four players undefeated and four players who already had one loss.
Sunday winner’s side matches saw tour points leader Mitch Ellerman scoring an 8-5 win over John Smith and DCT tour director Dennis Orender scoring a 6-2 win over tour newcomer Jason Stanley.
On the one loss side, Tres Kane eliminated Tucson’s Mike Hamman 6-4 and B player Rick Armbrust scored a 5-0 win over Brett Huth. The next round of one loss side play saw Kane fall to B player Jason Stanley 5-5 and John Smith send Armbrust to the seats with a hill-hill 6-4 win. John Smith then eliminated Stanley in 4th place with a dominating 6-0 scoreline.
Back on the winners side, Ellerman was playing Orender in an 8-6 race. Orender took a 1-0 lead and Ellerman had to come with back to back “miracle shots” to avoid a 0-2 scoreline. After Ellerman knotted the score at 1-1, he cruised to an 8-3 win and the hot-seat.
The semi-final match between John Smith and Dennis Orender saw Orender holding early 1-0 and 2-1 leads before Smith took control to win the match 6-3.
The final match was a true contrast in styles as Ellerman has never found a reason to use more than one practice stroke, and Smith brings a very methodical approach to the table and won’t pull the trigger until he knows exactly what he wants every ball to do. On this day, it was Ellerman’s rapid fire game that controlled things. Ellerman won the first three racks and never trailed in the match. Smith got back within two racks twice, but a 5-3 Ellerman lead quickly became an 8-3 Ellerman win.
The Desert Classic Tour will be at Skip & Jan’s on August 17th and 18th for their next event – a barbox 10-ball event.