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Kelly Fisher goes undefeated, Allison Fisher is runner-up at WPBA Northern Lights Classic

Allison Fisher and Kelly Fisher (Photo courtesy WPBA)

There are any number of back stories to the $20,000-added, WPBA Northern Lights Classic, held this past weekend (March 16-20) that offer a striking ‘snapshot’ of the WPBA’s past, present and future. Encompassing all three of those time periods, at the event to which 64 entrants were invited to the Northern Lights Casino Hotel and Event Center in Walker, MN, were the competitors who squared off in the event finals; the Fishers, Kelly and Allison, who’ve played so many matches against each other over the years, that they have no idea how many times it has actually happened. 

The last time they faced each other in an event final was a little hazy to them, as well. Two days after the Northern Classic, from Allison’s home in Charlotte, NC, they pondered the question together over coffee. Kelly came up with a possibility, and after a moment or two of mutual reflection, they both settled on 2016 as the last time they’d met in a final. At that event – the 19th Annual International Women’s Tournament of Champions, held in September at the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City – Kelly started both sets of the races-to-four finals, up 2-0, but Allison came back to win four straight, twice, and claimed the title.

“We’ve played against each other since then,” said Allison, “and the last time was pre-COVID, of course, but I think that was the last time we were in a final together.”

Kelly had won the WPBA’s Sondheim Kiwanis Invitational Tournament last year, while it had been just weeks over three years since Allison had last appeared in a WPBA event, which, as it turned out, was the last time they’d faced each other in a match that wasn’t a final. It was the 2019 WPBA Masters Tournament, held in September at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Michigan. Kelly had been sent to the loss side of the event in the second round by the eventual winner (Siming Chen) and went on a nine-match, loss-side run that would propel her to the finals. Six matches into that loss-side run, Kelly ran into Allison, who’d been sent to the loss side by Kristina Tkach in a winners’ side semifinal. Kelly advanced and was eventually defeated by Chen in the finals.

Noting something of a protracted absence away from a more regular schedule of WPBA events, together, they made note of the fact that it was good to gather with their mutual WPBA friends and acquaintances, old and new. 

“The WPBA competition is back on schedule and it was great to see a lot of the old faces, and some new faces, some youngsters, too,” said Kelly, “and the future is bright.”

“I think it’s wonderful that we had juniors at this event, especially by WPBA invitation,” said Allison. “It’s nice for us to see them, because they represent well, they look good, they’re playing great. . . 

“Professional,” Kelly interjected.

“Yes, they’re very professional,” Allison said, “and I think that’s the move, anyway. To invite more younger players as much as we can.”

It should be noted before moving on to the event itself, that in addition to its junior contingent which included 12-year-old Savannah Easton, it also featured 84-year-old Jeri Engh, making the demographic representation at this WPBA event, span almost four generations of the WPBA’s ongoing history.

Appearing in the same half of the upper bracket, the Fishers meet in the only two places possible 

They knew from the start, that they were not going to play in the hot seat match. Positioned in the upper half of the 64-entrant bracket, it put the Fishers in a possible first match against each other in the winners’ side semifinals. The second possibility was in the finals and both were exactly what happened.

Kelly Fisher got by Kelly Isaac (forfeit), Bonnie Arnold 8-4 and Dawn Hopkins 8-1 to reach Allison Fisher. Allison Fisher shut out Peg Haggerty and Catherine Tschumper before downing Kim Newsome 8-3 and Monica Webb 8-6, to draw Kelly. From the lower half of the bracket, Joann Mason Parker, who, prior to winning a stop on the Garden State Pool Tour, a 3rd place finish on the Tri-State Tour and cashing in three events of a New Jersey-based Women’s Invitational event last year, had not won or even cashed in a tournament in over a decade, sent LoreeJon Brown, Cathy Metzinger, Janet Atwell (double hill) and Brittany Bryant to the loss side, drawing Jennifer Baretta in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kelly sent Allison to the loss side 8-6, as Baretta and Parker locked up in a double fight that eventually sent Parker to the loss side. Kelly claimed the hot seat 8-4 over Baretta and waited for Round 2 of Fisher v. Fisher.

On the loss side, Allison picked up Bryant, who’d followed her loss to Parker with a victory over Sara Miller 8-5 and survived a double hill battle against Ashley Burrows. Parker drew Monica Webb, who’d followed her loss to Allison Fisher in a winners’ side quarterfinal with victories over Sarah Rousey 8-2 and Angela Janic 8-4.

Parker’s somewhat improbable run was ended by Webb 8-5. Allison advanced to the quarterfinals after eliminating Bryant 8-5. Fisher leap-frogged over the quarterfinals on a Webb forfeit and then, defeated Baretta 8-5 for a second shot at Kelly, waiting for her in the hot seat.

In a race to 10, the two Fishers came within of game of forcing a 19th deciding game, but Kelly pulled out in front to claim the WPBA’s Northern Classic title 10-8.

“She’s at the top of her game,” said Allison of Kelly. “She’s always improving, rarely misses a shot. She’s a tough opponent and you have to be in top form to play her.”

“All the stuff she’s been doing in the past year is showing up in her game,” she added. “We’re good friends, so she’s helped me out with my game, too. It’s always fun playing her.”

“Both matches we played were really good, high standard, great quality matches,” said Kelly, “and the final was very, very exciting for spectators, I’d say; a high standard match.”

“Allison’s thoughts of retiring are going to have to go out the window,” she added. “She’s playing too good for that, to be honest. She’s playing great.”

Kelly will be headed for Las Vegas to be competing in both the WPA 10-Ball World Championships (March 28-April 1) and the WPBA Predator Event (March 31-April 3), both being held at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino. Allison will follow to participate in the later of those two events. 

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