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Larson goes undefeated to capture 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic title

April Larson

In discussing the young April Larson, in an interview about her which appeared in Billiards Digest magazine last July, Mark Wilson, captain of the US Mosconi Cup team for three years, made mention of her skills and the likelihood of their development over time.
 
"She's got the tools," he said. "It's just a matter, now, of sharpening them."
 
Since that interview, Larson, a five-time Junior Nationals Champion in two separate divisions (under 13 & 13-17), has gone on to compete at the professional level, chalking up a victory at the North American Pool Tour's (NAPT) Summer 10-Ball Classic last August, and finishing among the top 10 in four other events last year; a stop on the North Central Pool Tour (runner up), the Super Billiards Expo's Women's Championship (5th), the NAPT's Inaugural 10-Ball Invitational (7th) and The Tornado Open (9th).
 
On the weekend of June 10-11, she traveled with her sharpened tools to Calgary, Alberta and went undefeated at the $5,000-added, 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic to chalk up her first (recorded) win of 2017. This, in spite of a strong nine-match, loss-side winning streak by her eventual opponent in the finals, Emily Duddy, who'd finished third in the 1st Ashton Twins Classic last year.
 
In races to 9, Larson's seven opponents in this most recent event, which drew 46 entrants to the Hidden Spot in Calgary, were chalking up an average of just under five racks per match against her (4.71, to be exact), but her undefeated run through the field was surgical, none the less. What had to be frightening to her opponents was the casual ease with which she approached every shot, stroke and eventual game victory; no signs of body language hinting at nervousness, silent aggression, or frustration when an unlucky roll or unforced error led to one of those 4.71 racks against her. Just a friendly, business-like attitude that served her well through the 100 games that she played, and the 67 of them that she won to secure the title.  
 
And the recently-turned-17-year-old has yet to graduate from high school.
 
"I have one more year left," she said, "and I can't wait to be out."
 
With plans to join Mark Wilson's program at Lindenwood University, where she will presumably further sharpen her already considerable skills, her future in the sport is bright. And being noted by those who've opposed her, like veteran pro LoreeJon Hasson, who defeated her in a one-on-one Challenge Match at The Break Room's 2nd Annual 8-Ball Classic last weekend. The match went double hill before Hasson won the challenge and then warned potential opponents in Larson's future.
 
"WPBA ladies," said Hasson, after the match, "Watch out! April is the real deal."
 
Following victories over Maria DeWolff, Shaundra Norquay, Kathie MacDonald and Denise Belanger, Larson moved into a winners' side semifinal against the opponent who would end up keeping Larson's racks-against average below 5, Rashiela Dela Cruz. In the meantime, one of the event-namesake Ashton twins (Joanne) advanced to the other winners' side semifinal versus Liz Cole.
 
Dela Cruz chalked up her event-leading seven racks against Larson, but the youngster put up her nine and advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Ashton, who'd defeated Cole 9-5.
Larson grabbed the hot seat 9-3 over Ashton and waited for Duddy to complete her loss-side run.
 
On the loss side, it was Dela Cruz who ran into Duddy, six matches into the streak that would put her into the finals against Larson. Duddy had most recently eliminated Theresa Lien 9-2 and Veronique Menard 9-7. Cole drew Cathy Metzinger, who'd defeated Robyn Petrosino 9-1 (Petrosino had sent Duddy to the loss side in the event's second round) and last year's Ashton Classic winner, Brittany Bryant 9-6 to reach her.
 
Duddy advanced to the quarterfinals 9-6 over Dela Cruz, where she was met by Metzinger, who'd eliminated Cole 9-7. Duddy defeated Metzinger 9-3 and then spoiled Joanne Ashton's bid for a second shot at Larson with a 9-7 win in the semifinals.
 
By virtue of her resume, her gutsy loss-side streak and natural inclinations toward self-confidence, Duddy entered the race-to-13 finals prepared to win. She maintained that air of confidence through about 14 of the eventual 18 games, in spite of chalking up only one of the first seven. At 6-1, she chalked up two in a row to cut Larson's lead in half. They traded racks to 7-4, before Larson chalked up three for a 10-4 lead. In the 15th rack, Larson took aim at an easy 9-ball shot and rattled it in the hole. Thanking goodness for small favors, Duddy dropped it to win what would prove to be her last rack.
 
In typical style, Larson shrugged off that single one of her very few unforced errors, and returned to the table for racks 16, 17 and 18. She won them all to complete her undefeated run, and claim the event title.
 
On her way back home, Larson said that underneath her apparent calm exterior throughout the tournament ("Everybody says that," she noted), was a nervous wreck. Friends who gathered around the pool table when the last match was over were surprised that she was shaking, a remnant of nerves, hidden below the surface of her calm exterior.
 
"Oh, for sure," she said. "I was glad it was over."
 
Though she'd faced and defeated Duddy before at her first SBE appearance two years ago, she was under no illusions that a win this time would be guaranteed.
 
"I told some friends of mine before the event started that if I got into a final against either Emily or Joanne (Ashton), it was going to be tough," she said. "I wanted this real bad, and I knew I had to forget who I was playing, and just play the table."
 
And she did, of course. She joined Emily and a few gathered well-wishers in a ceremonial 'shot' just after the match ended; a 'shot,' which given Canada's age restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, and her own preferences, consisted of milk. She tries not to drink anything during a match – no water, or soft drinks – to avoid any need for a bathroom break, but she reportedly welcomed the milk.
 
She'll rest up for a week, and then travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in Big Dog Billiards and Diveny Custom Cues' 2017 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo, scheduled for June 21-25. Though she won't be a part of that event's Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge, One Pocket Championship or Banks Ring Game, she will sign on to that event's $2,000-added 9-Ball Open, where she'll mix it up with the boys.
           
"I've been able to experience the best of the best women," she said, "so it's all the same to me."
 
Note to Mosconi Cup organizers: It might be time to rethink the male restriction on members of the US team.
 
" I certainly hope so," she said, "because that's what I'd like to do."
 

Roberto Gomez Double Dips to Claim CWO 8-Ball Title

Roberto Gomez

Held March 9-11, 2017 at Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City, Oregon, this installment of the Men’s Chinook Winds Open 8-Ball Championships, the 4th Annual, featured some of the biggest names in professional men’s Billiards.  There were a couple of past champions — Skyler Woodward and Rodney Morris.  You might also recognize some of the other contenders — Shane Van Boening, Dennis Orcollo, Billy Thorpe, Warren Kiamco, Amar Kang and Josh Roberts — to name but a few.  There were also some notable newcomers — Roberto Gomez, Joey Gray, Johann Chua, Jeffrey DeLuna and Manny Perez.  Some Western BCA players made their presence known as well, including — Randy Camantigue, Stan Tourangeau, Randy Baker and crowd favorite, Richie Geiler.  In all, there were 108 entered in the Men’s Division and and 28 in the Women’s.  
 
As always, the party started with a Calcutta auction on Wednesday evening (March 10).  It was a spirited affair overseen by CWO TD Bill Henderson and WBCA President Darcy Williams.  The Men’s Division Calcutta total was $24550 with $9600 the first place payout and the Women’s was $2010 with $820 the first place payout.
 
Then came the Late Night 10-Ball Invitational, a new event aimed at the professionals.  The format was $1000 entry, 16 bracket limit, race to 13, single elimination, winner breaks with a first place prize of $8000.  The “Late Night” referred to when the matches were played, starting Wednesday after the Calcutta, the final four playing Thursday after CWO play was finished for the day and the final on Friday night, again after CWO play was finished for the day.  The bracket filled with all the upper echelon pros ponying up a grand each for the big payout at the end.  By the end of play Wednesday, Jeffrey DeLuna vs Dennis Orcollo and Josh Roberts vs Shane Van Boening were all that survived.  Everyone was looking forward to a Orcollo/SVB final but up jumped DeLuna who beat Dennis Orcollo to move into the final against Shane Van Boening.  The final score was 13-11/SVB and was basically a clinic, with nine break and runs (including the winning rack), one 1-10 combo in game 2 and all the rest runouts following three dry breaks and the very occasional mistake on the part of one player or the other.  Jeffrey collected $4000 for 2nd place and Dennis and Josh received $2000 each for getting to the semis.  Fun format + great shooting + a large and appreciative crowd = a successful event. Look for it to be on the menu next time.
 
Thursday the main event got underway with many great match-ups for the spectators to watch.  By the end of the night, many of the serious contenders were on the back side of the bracket (Roberto Gomez, SVB, Jeffrey DeLuna, Ramil Gallego, Johann Chua, Taylor Anderson, Dennis Orcollo, Warren Kiamco and Alex Olinger) and only one could fight his way to the final.  Tough bracket.   The marquis matches included Rodney Morris vs Dennis Orcollo (7-6 Rodney), Rich Geiler vs Jeffrey DeLuna (7-4 Rich) and SVB vs Marc Vidal (7-6 SVB just after Marc took out Johann Chua 7-4).
 
Friday was a new day and everyone, especially the back side dwellers, hoped it would be a good one for them but, unfortunately, many of the top guns would be up against each other before the end of the day with many eliminated.  Before the end of the day, Skyler Woodward, Amar Kang, Rodney Morris and Billy Thorpe would also find themselves on the back side, nearing extinction.  By the end of play, only 9 would be left in. 
 
Saturday began with Roberto Gomez sending Amar Kang home as he began his single-minded quest for the final.  He went on to eliminate Josh Roberts, Rodney Morris, and crushed Billy Thorpe’s hopes for a rematch with Joey Gray after losing the hot seat to Gray 7-6.  Shane Van Boening looked to be on his way to a shot at another big pay day until he ran into Rodney Morris, who had another plan, winning 7-5.  Dennis Orcollo seemed to be on a collision course for SVB but he was derailed by former Champ Skyler Woodward 7-6.  As we already know, Roberto Gomez would not be stopped on his way to the final with Joey Gray, taking out his final two obstacles (Morris and Thorpe).  The Gray/Gomez final was on, but before we get to that, it should be said that the hot seat match was one of the best of the event, with Joey and Billy trading break and runs and run outs all the way to the decider.  Joey broke dry and Billy marched through the rack until leaving himself a delicate shot on the 4-Ball to get on the 8.  He missed the 8 and walked away from an open table and gave the game and the match to Joey.  So close yet so far.
 
In the first set of the final (yes, a possible double dip materialized), Roberto was warmed up and ready to go.  Joey was a little cold and never really got into the match, winning only two games.  Roberto, with four break and runs plus three runouts following a Gray dry break, a missed shot and a foul on the break took the first set 7-2.  Joey doubled his win tally in the second set but there was no stopping Roberto.  His near flawless play continued as he closed out the match and claimed the title with his 8th break and run of the two set match. 
Roberto collected $10,000 for his performance over the three days of the CWO and Joey Gray went home with a respectable $6400 for his efforts.  Complete results and payouts follow.
 
All the while the men were in action, there was also a small Women’s Division (28 entrants) playing for a first place prize of $4000.  Former champion Nicole Keeney was on hand with a few other notable out of towners (Brittany Bryant, Emily Duddy, Kelly Isaac and Bernie Store among them) as well as some of Western BCA’s finest (Liz Cole, Kim Jones and Cindy Sliva).  Brittany Bryant and Bernie Store made it through the front side undefeated to the point match, with Bernie winning 5-4 to get to the final.  Cindy Sliva, after taking out both Keeney and Duddy, met up with Bryant in the back side point match.  There Cindy met up with a determined Brittany and was shut out and finished in 3rd place.  Brittany went on to the final and another shot at Bernie.  Brittany had to beat Bernie twice and she got off to a great start, shutting Bernie out 5-0 and the double dip was on.  Often the first set is just warm up for the winner of the hot seat and this proved to be the case here.  Bernie played much better the 2nd time around.  The ladies traded games until the got to the hill-hill decider.  Bernie had won the lag, so she had the break.  It was a good break until the cue ball found a pocket.  The table was wide open and Brittany never looked back as she ran out to claim the title.  Complete results and payouts follow.
 
There were 2nd chance tournaments for both the men and women, with 28 men and 6 women not ready to call it quits.  Lake MacKay beat out Danny Smith for first and $1400 in the Men’s and Kathie MacDonald prevailed over Myra Cables for first and $450.
 
That brought the festivities to a close.  None of the spectators went away in any way disappointed.  The pros put on quite a display of prowess on the table and were very approachable.  We cannot thank enough our great sponsors — Chinook Winds Casino Resort, Western BCA and Bud Light.  The Western BCA staff — TDs Mike Jensen and Bill Henderson, Tournament Registrar Darcy Williams, Referees Darryl Farley and Dwayne Payne, Graphic Design/Advertising/Photographer Robbin Iredale, Podium Manager Pam Carraway and Payout Supervisor Cathy Dunford — all worked long hours to make these events a success.  Lenny Marshall of OnTheRailTV streamed and recorded many great matches that will soon be available for viewing (a link will be provided on westernbca.org).  Many thanks to Bad Boys Billiards Production who provided the 7-foot Diamond tables and bracketing.  Chinook Winds again provided a great and welcoming venue for all the players and spectators.  Mother Nature was the only negative, causing interruption of internet service, but that’s March on the Coast, nothing to be done about that.  
 
If you came to play, we thank you and hope you come back next time.
If you came to watch, we’ll try to put on an even better show next time.

Bryant goes undefeated to win inaugural Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary

Joanne Ashton, Brittany Bryant, Eleanor Callado, Beverley Ashton and Emily Duddy

Fresh off her fourth place finish in the North American Pool Tour's Women's 10-Ball Invitational in Herndon, VA, last weekend, Brittany Bryant traveled to Calgary, Alberta to compete in the inaugural Ashton Twins (Joanne and Beverley) Classic, on the weekend of June 11-12. Though challenged twice by Eleanor Callado, Bryant went undefeated through the field of 32 that had signed on to compete in the $2,000-added event, hosted by The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
 
Following victories over Kathie MacDonald, Liz Cole, and Emily Duddy, Bryant squared off against Veronique Menard in a winners' side semifinal. Callado, in the meantime, who'd defeated tournament namesake Joanne Ashton, Farla Salmanovitch and Janet Atwell, met up with Toni Sakamoto in the other winners' side semifinal. Bryant sent Menard to the loss side 9-5, and in the hot seat match faced Callado, who'd defeated Sakamoto 9-7. Bryant claimed the hot seat 9-4 over Callado, and waited on her return.
 
On the loss side, Sakamoto picked up Emily Duddy, who'd been defeated by Bryant in the third winners' side round. Duddy opened her loss-side campaign with a victory over Nathalie Chabot 9-1, and just did survive a double hill battle against Kathie MacDonald. Menard drew Janet Atwell, who'd been sent to the loss side by Callado, and then eliminated Liz Cole 9-6 and Sandy Badger 9-7.
 
Atwell and Menard locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Atwell to the quarterfinals against Duddy, who'd ended Sakamoto's run 9-2. Duddy earned herself a shot at Callado in the semifinals with a 9-6 victory over Atwell.
 
Duddy, who's in the midst of her best year, to date, as a pro (financially), fought Callado, back and forth, one victory at a time, to a 6-6 tie, and then pulled out in front to reach the hill first, ahead by two. Callado, though, fought back to tie it and force a case game. Callado won that game to earn a re-match against Bryant in the hot seat.
 
In spite of a relatively long wait, Bryant opened the single race to 11 with four straight racks. Callado chalked up rack #5, but Bryant came back to win four more to take a commanding 8-1 lead. With some applause-worthy shooting in rack #10, from an enthusiastic crowd, Callado chalked up her second. Bryant took racks #11 and #12 to reach the hill, and then closed it out to claim the event title.
 
The Ashton Twins and Tour Director Stephanie Toy thanked the ownership and staff at The Hidden Spot for their hospitality, as well as sponsors SBI Landscaping, Infinity Mechanical, Inc.,
Sierra Publishing Company, Jenny Lucas from Score Saloon (game by game scoring), Orange Theory Fitness, Nasty Boy Drywall Services, World Sports and Poker.com, Westcreek Consulting, and Randall Morrison for the on-line streaming service.

Jing Liu Goes Undefeated in NWPA Season Opener

On March 22-23, 2014, the NWPA’s first tour stop of 2014 was hosted by Malarkey’s Pool & Brew in Tacoma, WA.  The tournament was ran on 9 9-foot Gold Crowns with Rail2Rail Productions providing a free live stream all weekend. The NWPA tour standings and 2014 schedule are available at www.nwpatour.wordpress.com and is sanctioned by the WPBA. All skill levels are welcome to play and players can accrue points towards their semiprofessional status while gaining experience playing some of the top women players in the northwest. 
 
Twenty-eight ladies came out to compete Saturday morning. There were several new players to the tour including Kathie MacDonald (Victoria BC), Anna Busley (WA), Kristen Cambas (OR), and Lindsay Hays (WA). Ladies returning after a minimum of one year (or more) not playing on the tour included Western BCA Grandmasters Linda Carter, Carissa Biggs, and 2014 US Bar Table 10 Ball Champion Cindy Sliva.  Liz Cole also returned for the inaugural event, climbing to 24th in the WPBA rankings after her performance at the WPBA Masters in Mt. Pleasant, MI Feb 6-9, 2014. The format was 9-ball, alternating break, race to 7on the A side  and a race to 6 on the B side. There were several first round byes, but play sped right along, without any major upsets going through the early rounds.
 
Sunday morning, only eight players remained. A side match ups included Kathie MacDonald vs. Jing Liu and Liz Cole vs. Cindy Sliva. Jing and Cindy both advanced through their morning matches, by the same score of 7-4. Jing and Cindy then squared off in the hot seat match. Jing advanced by the score 7-6 to earn her spot in the final. B side match ups included Carissa Biggs vs. Anna Busley and Natalie Seal vs. Suzanne Smith. Anna and Natalie advanced through their first round of play 6-3 and 6-2, only to come up short in their next rounds, Anna and Natalie both fell to their opponents Liz and Kathie by the same score, 6-2. Kathie then squared off against Liz. Kathie seemed to have the edge in their match and advanced by the score 6-4. Kathie then played Cindy and defeated her as well, 6-4.
 
The final was one race to 9, alternating break. Throughout the entire final, Jing shot with confidence and precision, affording her opponent few and fewer opportunities as the match proceeded. Jing maintained and expanded her lead steadily throughout the match, allowing her opponent only four racks of the 13 games played. Jing was the 2013 NWPA Rookie of the Year and demonstrated how hard work and perseverance in the off season can contribute to growth as a player. Congratulations to Jing for her win and to Kathie MacDonald for such a strong debut performance. 
 
Great tournament ladies!  The NWPA’s next event is the 3rd Annual Martha Hartsell Memorial and will be hosted at The Cue Ball in Salem, OR on April 19-20.  
 
Seven ladies returned on Sunday for the $100 added Second Chance tournament. With a $10 entry, nearly all players received at least their entry fee back in the true double elimination tournament, race to 3 on the A side and race to 2 on the B side.  Rebecca Slyter ended up winning top prize, defeating Linda Carter 2-1 in the second set of the finals. Linda won the first set 3-2. Good work ladies, nice shooting.