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Wilkie goes undefeated to claim inaugural B & L 2022 Open 10-Ball Championship

Brian Kilgore, Shaun Wilkie and Lai Li

Inaugural events in the pool world, can be fraught with any number of issues. It takes a clear idea of what needs to be done and an extraordinary amount of perseverance and assistance to assure that it does. It requires the patience of a saint and the temperament of a seasoned psychiatrist, especially when the inaugural event draws a long list of Atlantic coast pool veterans, as the inaugural $5,000-added B & L Open 10-Ball Championships did this past weekend (Feb. 19-20), drawing 106 entrants to Center Pocket Café and Billiards in Bowie, MD.

“I think they did a great job,” said the event’s winner, Shaun Wilkie, who went undefeated to claim the title, downing runner-up, Raphael DaBreo twice; in the fourth round and again, in the finals.

Wilkie noted that while the inaugural B & L Open 10-Ball Championships weren’t Kilgore and Li’s ‘first rodeo,’ from his perspective, their previous tournament experience tended towards smaller venues and decidedly smaller crowds. The Center Pocket Café and Billiards venue helped, too, in that with 29 tables, they were able to keep matches moving throughout the two-day event.

“Those extra tables can get you more players, moving through the bracket,” said Wilkie. “Speeds it up.”

“Sometimes, too, you get pool rooms wanting their tables back (for use by the general public),” he added, “but the room made sure that all of the tables were available. We had tables available for the whole first day.”

Runner-up Raphael DaBreo, who has, as he put it, “dabbled’ in the experience of running tournaments himself, noted that the B & L organization was “very punctual and professional the way they ran it.”  

“From the player meetings right on through getting everyone playing by noon,” he said. “They were super transparent, too, and if they keep going in the direction of their inaugural event, they have a bright future ahead of them, in my opinion.”

DaBreo also noted that the ongoing proliferation of tournaments and operators is likely a reaction to what players in these tournaments perceive about them; that they’re not done well, and that they, personally, could do a better job.

“I’ve always felt that you wouldn’t have so many tournaments and operators, if someone was doing it right,” he said. “But sometimes you run into situations where it’s not being done well; funds are disappearing or there are discrepancies with skill levels or with local tournaments, maybe someone hasn’t paid. There always seems to be something that comes up.”

“They did it right,” he added of B & L’s inaugural efforts at a much larger event.

They join a wealth of tournament organizations, promoters and tournament directors who get it right, as well, more often than not. Once established, though, the good ones rarely get the credit they deserve. Their efforts can be taken for granted in tournament narratives that focus on the players, so here and now, at B & L’s inaugural ‘big’ event, credit where credit’s due. 

Wilkie and DaBreo ran through a gauntlet of the aforementioned Atlantic coast’s best to reach the finals. The five competitors Wilkie defeated on his journey to the hot seat match could have been the final five in any number of Atlantic coast tournaments over the past decade. Wilkie opened against Brian Dietzenbach and Joey Mastermaker, defeating them both 7-2, before running into DaBreo, whom he sent to the loss side 7-4. And as if that wasn’t enough, he drew BJ Ussery in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Ussery got to within a game of double hill, but Wilkie finished it at 7-5 to draw Thomas Haas in one of the winners’ side semifinals. 

Kang Lee, in the meantime, got off to a shaky start, with Josh Thiele battling him to double hill. Lee prevailed to send Coen Bell, Henry Cha and John Moody, Sr. to the loss side and face Thomas Zippler in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Wilkie downed Haas 7-4, as Lee dispatched Zippler 7-5. Wilkie gave up just a single rack in the battle for the hot seat and waited in it for DaBreo’s return.

On the loss side, the two Thomases (Haas and Zippler) ran right into their second straight loss. Haas had the relative misfortune of running into DaBreo, who was four matches into his loss-side streak, that had most recently included the elimination of John Moody, Sr. 6-2 and Derek Benavides. 6-3. Zippler picked up a re-match against Paul Krimes, who’d sent him to the loss side in a match that kept Krimes out of the winners’ side quarterfinals. Krimes won five straight to get to the rematch, including victories over Justin Muller 6-4 and to the surprise of many (likely, his opponent among them), BJ Ussery 6-4.

DaBreo downed Haas 6-1, while Krimes was wreaking his 6-1 vengeance on Zippler for the earlier defeat. Krimes’ satisfaction with the results of his rematch was short-lived, as DaBreo didn’t grant him a rack in the quarterfinals that followed.

The semifinals weren’t really the ‘pre-party’ to the finals that DaBreo was hoping for. Lee battled tooth and nail to double hill before DaBreo prevailed for his second shot against Wilkie, waiting for him in the hot seat. 

The finals weren’t too much of a ‘party’ for DaBreo, either. Wilkie completed his undefeated run with a 7- 2 win over DaBreo to claim the inaugural B + L 10-Ball Championship title.

It was Wilkie’s first win since he won the MD State Bar Table 10-Ball Championship this past November. A tumultuous couple of months followed that saw him place 25th in Turning Stone XXXIV last month (Jan. 6-9). On January 25, the man who’d started him playing pool, his grandfather, passed away. He’d been spending a lot of time, before and especially after, with his grandmother, and in a way, brought his grandfather with him to the tournament.

“I had him in my heart the whole time,” he said, “and I was really happy to pull it off, for me and him.”

Brian Kilgore and Lai Li thanked the ownership and staff at Center Pocket for their hospitality, as well as all of the players who signed on to make their inaugural B & L 10-Ball Championship a success. 

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Sossei comes from the loss side to win Predator Open; Thiele goes undefeated on Amateur side

The Predator Tour traveled to Connecticut on the weekend of March 22-23, drawing 33 entrants to a $500-added Amateur event, and a very short field of seven entrants to a $500-added Open tournament. Jeremy Sossei came from the loss side to defeat Tony Robles in the finals of the Open event, while Josh Thiele went undefeated to claim the Amateur title.
 
With a seven-entrant field, a first win by Sossei (over Bart Rivezzi, owner of the Corner Pocket Cafe, in Orange, CT, which hosted the event) put him among the winners' side final four. He was joined by Mike Dechaine (who'd defeated Kevin Guimond), Phil Davis (who got by Mike Jackson), and tournament director Tony Robles, who'd drawn a random bye. Dechaine hooked up with Sossei, as Robles faced Davis. Dechaine and Robles sent Sossei and Davis to the loss side by the same 7-3 score and faced each other for possession of the hot seat. Robles claimed it 7-5 and waited on what turned out to be the return of Sossei.
 
Over on the loss side, Guimond eliminated Rivezzi 7-4, to pick up Davis. Jackson picked up a loss-side bye to draw Sossei. Guimond defeated Davis 7-2, and in the quarterfinals, faced Sossei, who'd finished Jackson's day 7-3. Sossei got by Guimond 7-5 and then denied Dechaine a second shot at Robles with a 7-3 win in the semifinals. Sossei completed his loss-side run with an 11-5 finals win over Robles to claim the Open title.
 
Josh Thiele's victory in the Amateur event was almost overshadowed by a nine-match, loss-side winning streak by Brooke Meyer, who'd been defeated in the opening round of play and fought back to meet Thiele in the finals. Thiele met Jack Smith in one winners' side semifinal, while Joe Wilson Torres met up with Chickie Romero in the other one. Thiele survived a double hill match versus Smith, and in the hot seat match, faced Romero, who'd defeatEd Torres 7-4. Thiele claimed the hot seat with an 8-6 win and waited on Meyer.
 
Just a little shy of halfway through his loss-side winning streak (four down, five to go), Meyer defeated Dave Shlemperis 7-2, and then, Billy Santiago 7-6 to pick up Smith. Torres drew Mike Esposito, who'd survived two straight double hill matches, versus Barry Lawson, Jr., and Tony Ignomirello, to reach him. Meyer eliminated Smith 7-5, and in the quarterfinals, met Torres, who'd eliminated Esposito 7-3. 
 
Meyer defeated Torres 7-3 and then, almost had his loss-side winning streak ended, when Romero fought him to double hill in the semifinals. Meyer prevailed, though, living to fight a final match. Thiele completed his undefeated run with a 7-2 win over Meyer and claimed the Amateur title.