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White and Joey Tate go undefeated to win Pro Am/18 & Under Boys division at Stop #2 of JIC

Joey Tate, Trenton White and Nathan Childress

Bethany Tate, Hess and Leinen take 18 & Under Girls, 13 & Under Girls and Boys titles

“And they’re off!!” says a voice emanating from some mythical PA system, followed, seconds later, by “Rounding the first turn, it’s ‘GoGetEm’ in the lead . . .”

If you think of competition in each of the five divisions comprising the Junior International Championships (JIC), sponsored by Viking Cues, as a series of eight horse races, Stop #2 in the 2022 series is like a snapshot of the junior competitors, just after they’ve broken out of the gate and are headed into the first turn of a mile-long race. Not a lot of useful information in that snapshot in terms of how it will all play out as they round the final turn and head for home in the fall, but it’s compelling to watch as they jockey for position. 

The five divisional events drew a total of 112 entrants to Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL, with a great deal of crossover, including in the ProAm division, which saw nine girls from both age groups make up just over 22% of the 40-entrant Pro Am field. As intended by JIC tournament director and On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna, this group of young competitors do not flinch at playing above their normal ‘pay grade,’ whether that be defined by age or gender. The ferocity of competition, even as viewed in the snapshot of the series’ ‘first turn,’ is fierce. None of the five winners from Stop #1 repeated as winners in Stop #2. Some of the Stop #2 winners had not chalked up a win in the first season.

Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Gianna Fiore

Some of the ‘ponies’ in their separate divisional races are hot on each other’s trail. In the 13 & Under Girls race, Sophia Mast and Skylar Hess are running neck and neck. They met twice in the season opener; in their opening match, won by Hess, and again, in the finals, won by Mast. They met twice last weekend, too, and once again, in their opening matches of the 10-entrant event. They fought to double hill before Mast prevailed, moving on to a winners’ side semifinal against Asia Gillespie, and from there, to the hot seat match, which she won, downing Gianna “Mini Banks” Fiore 7-5. Hess came back through five matches on the loss side, including a 7-5 win over Savannah Easton in the quarterfinals and a 7-1 victory over Fiore in the semifinals. In the finals, this time Hess prevailed 9-5. Hess was also the top finishing young woman (9-12) in the 40-entrant ProAm division (the largest field at Stop #2).

The winner and runner-up in Stop #1 of Season Two in the ProAm division (Landon Hollingsworth and Joey Tate, who were also winner and runner-up in Season 1’s 18 & Under Boys division championship) become runner-up (Tate) and among the eight competitors who tied for 17th (Hollingsworth). Trenton White, who had yet to win an event in the series (either season) went undefeated to claim the Stop #2 ProAm title. He got by five opponents, including a double hill win over Justin Toye and a winners’ side semifinal, 7-5 win over Kashton Keeton to give Joey Tate a shot at him in the hot seat match. White won their first of two ‘rounds’ 7-5.

On the loss side, two veterans of the JIC series, Riley Adkins and Nathan Childress, faced each other in the quarterfinals. Childress, who’d entered last season’s 18 & Under Championships as the #1-ranked player in the division, downed Adkins 7-4 and then fell to Tate by the same score in the semifinals. White took Tate down a second time, in the finals 9-6, to claim Stop #2’s Pro Am title.

White fared well in the 18 & Under Boys division, as well, finishing in the tie for 5th/6th, but Tate went undefeated in that event and never faced White, which, from Tate’s perspective, was probably just as well. Tate advanced through to the hot seat match, where he defeated Ivo Lemon 7-5. White was eliminated in the 5th/6th matches by Hollingsworth 7-5, who went on to defeat Dustin Muir 7-3 in the quarterfinals. He was eliminated 7-4 by Lemon in the semifinals, which, again from Tate’s perspective, worked out just fine. Tate claimed the 18 & Under Boys title, downing Lemon a second time, 9-5.

Sofia Mast, Bethany Tate and April Gonzaez

‘Favorites’ in the 18 & Under Girls race fall to a (medium) ‘longshot’

With Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Kennedy Meyman (winner of this division last month) in the 16-entrant, 18 & Under Girls division, they’d have shown up on a ‘toteboard’ as a group of three ‘favorites’ in Stop #2’s race. And at the end of four rounds of match play (around the final turn and headed for home), Sophia Mast was in the lead. . uhh, hot seat. She’d not faced Hess, which, from her perspective, was probably just as well, but she had sent Meyman to the loss side in the opening round, survived a winners’ side semifinal, double hill fight against Bethany Tate, and shut out April Gonzalez in the hot seat match.

Bethany Tate (15) had entered her winners’ side semifinal match against Mast, looking at the distinct possibility that she could face her 11-year-old sister, Noelle, in the hot seat match. It failed to materialize when Mast sent Bethany to the loss side and April Gonalez sent Noelle over. The sisters arrived on the loss side of the bracket at the same time, again looking at the distinct possibility of facing each other, this time in the quarterfinals. Bethany did her part, eliminating Courtney Hairfield 7-5. Noelle was eliminated by Precilia Kinsley, though not before she’d forced a 13th single game, for all of the proverbial marbles.

In the quarterfinals that followed, Bethany and Kinsley also battled to double hill, before Bethany prevailed, advancing to eliminate the competitor who’d sent her sister to the loss side, April Gonzalez (7-5) in the semifinals. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Noelle rooting for her sister to cross the finish line first, as Bethany and Sofia Mast stepped to the table for the finals. And it worked. Bethany and Mast came to within a game of double hill, but Bethany chalked up her first JIC win 9-7.

D’ Angelo Spain, Hank Leinen and Roman Boone

Absent last month’s winner and runner-up in the 13 & Under Boys division, Hank Leinen stepped up to go undefeated and become yet another junior competitor to win a first division-event title. D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain finished as runner-up. They met first in a winners’ side semifinal, won by Leinen 7-3.

Meeting up with Leinen in the hot seat match was Roman Boone, who’d sent Gaige Wells to the loss side 7-4 in the other winners’ side semifinal. Leinen claimed the hot seat 7-2 and waited on Spain’s return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Spain, after eliminating Landon Dunlap 7-2, advanced to a quarterfinal versus Jayce Little, who’d defeated Wells 7-1. Spain and Little locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Spain to a semifinal win over Boone 7-3. The 13 & Under Boys final pitting Spain against Leinen came within a game of double hill, but in the end, Leinen edged out in front to claim the division title 9-7

Ra Hanna and all of his support ‘crew’ thanked the owners and staff at Diamond Billiards, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues. The next stop on the Junior International Championships (#3), which will see the competitors stretch their ‘legs’ through the long straightaway on the far side of the track (stops #3 through #7), is scheduled for March 25-27 and will be hosted by The Rack and Grill III in Aiken, SC.

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US and Canadian Teams Announced For World Junior Pool Championship

Three members of Team USA, Sofia Mast, Aryana Lynch and Tiana Jiang (Photo courtesy Roy Pastor)

While the recent changes in requirements for travel to Europe, have the event in a sort of limbo, the Billiard Congress of America is still proud to announce the participants who are slated to travel to Austria on October 6th – 10th for the Predator 2021 WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships. 

The members of Team USA are:

Riley Adkins, Daniel Martin, Landon Hollingsworth, Joey Tate, Payne McBride, Kyle Yi, Jayden Liu, Niko Konkel, Harry Leinen, Aryana Lynch, Sofia Mast, Tiana Jiang, Savanna Wolford, Skylar Hess, Alice Adams, Hayleigh Marion and Kennedy Meyman

In addition to the seventeen players representing the USA, the BCA also announced that Arnaud Rakovich, Issac Yee and Haydar Ali Cappo are representing Team Canada at this event. 

As announced in a previous release from the BEF, “Allocations for the prestigious 2021 2021 WPA Predator World Junior Pool Championship, (…) will be provided to the highest placed finishers in the boys open 16 & Under and 18 & Under divisions, and in the girls open 18 & Under division”. With some candidates unable to travel to Austria, the BCA opened up invitations to the champions from the 14 & Under Girls, 16 & Under Girls and 14 & Under Boys Divisions. All three of these division winners are confirmed for Team USA.  

Some of these warriors are asking for help on social media to fund their trips to Austria, so if you see one of your favorite players on the list of players, check out their social media pages and help any way that you can. 

Junior National Brackets Tightening Up

Kennedy Meyman

The brackets at the 2021 Billiard Education Foundation Junior National Championship are working their way towards the end and some brackets already have hot-seat occupants. 

In the 16 & Under Girls division, Kennedy Meyman from Minnesota has cruised into the hot-seat. Meyman turned in a combined score of 23-4 to take the hot-seat and will await the winner of Hayleigh Marion and Elli Gonzales in the finals. 

The 18 & Under Girls has Aryana Lynch in the hot-seat, after a marathon 9-7 victory over Tiana Jiang today. Jiang will face either Sofia Mast or Savanna Wolford in the semi-finals early Friday morning. 

Rounding out the Girls divisions, Skylar Hess sits in the 14 & Under Girls hot-seat, after a hill-hill win over Hayleigh Marion today. Marion is facing Bethany Tate today, with the winner earning their place in the finals against Hess. 

The Boys Divisions have a few more matches to go. In the 18 & Under Boys division, Landon Hollingsworth will take on Riley Adkins for the hot-seat on Friday. 

Hollingsworth will also compete for the 16 & Under hot-seat, in a match against Lazaro Martinez III on Friday. 

In the 14 & Under Boys division, Kyle Yi and Harry Leinen will compete for the hot-seat on Friday morning. 

The 8-ball division sees the possibility of an all Martinez hot-seat match on Friday with Lazaro Martinez III and Gabriel Martinez both in the final four on the winner’s side. 

Finally, the 10-ball division has Mason Koch in the hot-seat with a 9-7 win over Ricky Evans. Evans will go to battle with Justin Toye on Friday morning to determine who faces Koch in the finals. 

All of the action can be followed this week with online brackets at compusport.ca and BBTV is streaming select matches on his YouTube and Facebook pages.