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Joey Tate wins 18U Boys and ProAm divisions of JIC’s Stop #4 in Arizona

Bethany and Joey Tate (Corby Dayhoff)

Sister, Bethany Tate claims 18U girls title

All in all, it was a good weekend for the Tate family on the Junior International Championships, which held its fourth 2022 stop in the series at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ this past weekend (May 6-8). The family’s oldest son that plays on the JIC (among 12 in the family), Joey Tate, went undefeated in the 18U Boys division and came back from a winners’ side semifinal loss to arch-rival Landon Hollingsworth in the ProAm division to down him in the finals. Sister Bethany lost the hot seat match in the 18U Girls Division, but came back from the semifinals to down Savanna Wolford in the finals. Bethany ended up meeting and being defeated by brother Joey in a winners’ side semifinal in the ProAm division, while younger sister, Noelle, finished in the tie for 7th in the 18U Girls and 4th in the 13U Girls Division.

It was also a good day for the JIC’s most well-known rivalries with Tate and Hollingsworth squaring off in both the 18U Boys division and in the ProAm division, while Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess battled in the finals of the 13U Girls division; both won by Mast. They competed, but not against each other, in the 18U Girls division.

The event drew a total of 53 entrants (with some crossovers) to Bullshooter’s. The younger divisions drew very low numbers (three for the 13U Boys and four for the 13U Girls).

Tate’s undefeated win in the 17-entrant, 18U Boys division opened with a 7-4 victory over Landon Hollingsworth and then sent Ivo Lemon to the loss side 7-3, which set Tate up for a winners’ side semifinal against Rylan Yoder. Eddie Vonderau, in the meantime, defeated Deke Squier 7-3 and Payne McBride 7-5 to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Nathan Nunes. Two double hill matches ensued for advancement to the hot seat match, won by Tate and Vonderau. Tate claimed the hot seat 7-4.

On the loss side, Yoder picked up Payne McBride, who’d followed his loss to Vondereau by eliminating Hollingsworth 7-4 and Ben Kleinfelter 7-5. Nunes picked up Brent Worth, who’d defeated (among others) Jamison Gall 7-3 and Justin Maywin 7-5 to reach him.

McBride and Nunes advanced to the quarterfinals, where McBride won a double hill match versus Nunes, only to be downed himself in a double hill match by Vondereau in the semifinals. Tate completed his undefeated run with a second win over Vondereau in the finals 9-5.

The multi-gender, 20-entrant ProAm field (largest at this event) featured two matches between Joey Tate and Hollingsworth; hot seat and finals. Tate had sent Ben Kleinfelter and Jahnythan Craig to the loss side to meet up with his sister, Bethany. Hollingsworth, in the meantime, got by Rylan Yoder and Nathan Nunes to face Payne McBride in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Hollingsworth defeated McBride 7-4, as Joey was working at sending his own sister to the loss side 7-2. Hollingsworth claimed the hot seat over Tate 7-2. 

On the loss side, Bethany Tate picked up Brent Worth, who’d followed his winners’ side loss to Hollingsworth with a double hill win Justin Maywin and a 7-2 win over Nunes. McBride drew Jahnythan Craig, who’d recently eliminated Yoder and Gall, both 7-2.

McBride and Worth advanced to the quarterfinals, where McBride prevailed 7-3 and was then downed 7-4 by Tate in the semifinals. The tables were turned on Hollingsworth in the finals, who chalked up only two racks in the 9-2 win that gave Tate his second title of the event.

Bethany Tate wins 18U Girls, Mast wins 13U Girls as Vondereau takes 13U Boys

Bethany Tate’s path to the winners’ circle in the 18U Girls division went through her sister, Noelle, whom she defeated in the opening round in a somewhat predictable double hill fight. Tate then faced two ‘Savanna’s’ in a row; one with and one without an ‘h.’ She downed Savannah Easton 7-5 in a winners’ side semifinal to advance to the hot seat against Savanna Wolford, who’d defeated Sofia Mast 7-4 in their winners’ side semifinal. 

It was Wolford who grabbed the hot seat 7-3 over Tate. On the loss side, Precilia Kinsley backed up her winners’ side, first-round defeat of Skylar Hess with a 7-4 victory over Mast in her (Mast’s) first loss-side match. In the quarterfinals, Kinsley faced Kennedy Meyman, who’d survived a double hill match against Easton.

Kinsley advanced one more step, downing Meyman 7-2 in those quarterfinals, before she and Bethany Tate locked up in a double-hill semifinal that eventually sent Tate to a second shot against Wolford. Tate and Wolford battled to double hill, before Tate dropped the last ball to claim the 18U Girls title.

The two 13U-division events, with a combined eight entrants, were combined into a single event, which played out, in the beginning, as a round robin event, with each competitor playing seven matches. The top contenders were arranged into a male/female pair of single elimination matches that determined the winner in each division. 

Eddie Vondereau’s record in the round robin games earned him a bye in the single elimination phase of the 13U Boys division, as Deke Squier downed Brennan Fee 7-2. Vondereau downed Squier in the finals 9-2, with Fee finishing third. In the opening round of the single elimination phase of the 13U Girls division, Sofia Mast defeated Noelle Tate 7-2, as Skylar Hess downed Savannah Easton 7-4. In the event’s modified single-elimination format, Easton defeated Tate to finish third, with Tate, fourth. In the finals, Mast claimed the 13U Girls title with 9-5 win over Hess. 

Stop #4 of the Junior International Championships, sponsored by Viking Cues, signaled the end of the series’ first half of competition. With four events left, Joey Tate and Landon Hollingsworth are in possession of the top two spots in both the 18U Boys division and ProAm division. Tate, with this past weekend’s win and three previous runner-up finishes, is atop the ProAm division, with Hollingsworth in 2nd place, Brent Worth in 3rd and Lazaro Martinez, 4th. In the 18U division, the order is Tate, Hollingsworth, Ivo Lemon and Lazaro Martinez.

Bethany Tate, who’s won three of the first four events, is atop the 18U Girls division, with Kennedy Meyman in 2nd place. Noelle Tate sits in 3rd place and Skylar Hess is 4th. In the 13U Boys division, it’s D’Angelo Spain atop the standings. He’s been runner-up twice and 3rd twice, though he has yet to win a stop. Deke Squier is 2nd, with Eddie Vondereau, who’s won the two events in which he has competed, in 3rd place.

In an effort to assist in travel arrangements associated with the Junior International Championships and the BEF Junior Nationals, the next stop on the former has been scheduled in close time-and-location proximity to the latter. The JIC’s fifth stop, scheduled for the weekend of June 18-20, will be hosted by Griff’s in Las Vegas, while the BEF Junior Nationals will be held the following week (June 21-25) at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in the same city.

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Shaw and Kelly take Pro Championship titles on closing night of the SBE

Jayson Shaw and Kelly Fisher

Bruner and Malm capture Amateur titles

The Annual Super Billiards Expo (SBE), like other tournaments of similar size and length, has a way of building momentum and speed as the week of it goes by. This varies slightly, depending on whether you’re a spectator or a player. As an example, Kelly Fisher, who emerged from a 63-entrant field and went on to become the undefeated WPBA Women’s Pro Players Champion on Sunday, played a single match on Thursday (she’d been awarded an opening round bye) and didn’t play again until Saturday, when she played twice. On Sunday, already among the event’s 16 players to enter the single-elimination phase, she played three times in a row to claim the title. Jayson Shaw, who went on to become the undefeated, 73-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event winner had the same experience. In both cases, the Thursday and Friday experience was a little slower. The Saturday and Sunday experience seemed to flash by like proverbial greased lighting.

The Amateur Players Championship, which featured four short of 1,000 entrants (by far, the most heavily attended event) began on Wednesday and like the Pro events, ended on Sunday. That single-elimination process began with a lot of layover time for the competitors; time which narrowed and eventually, went flying by. Its champion, Chris Bruner, though, was used to it. As a participant at the SBE for about 20 years, he’d finished third at the last one and over the years, had five or so finishes of 5th or better. But playing in the APA, he’d also been a veteran of similar, large-entrant fields, requiring days and days of non-stop pool, or in the early going of such competition, waiting for the non-stop pool to begin.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but with things like the APA Nationals in Vegas, you get used to those long days. You get accustomed to it; the mindset that you have to chill out, relax and go play your game.”

“I’ve been doing it for so long that in the last five or six years, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do,” he added. “Get as much rest as you can, get enough sleep, and just take it day by day.”

Bruner ended up winning 10 matches and only lost two sets. Only once did he compete against someone he knew; Brent Hensley, with whom he has been friends for a long time. To him, the reward had less to do with the $5,000 in cash that he received as the Amateur Champion, than it was about, after all of the years he’d been attending, finally winning it. 

“I’m still on Cloud Nine,” he said, about three hours after the event had ended, around 6:30 on Sunday night. “I’ve been so close for so many years.”

A field of 166 entrants competed in the Women’s Amateur Players Championship. Tina Malm went undefeated through that field to claim the title, downing Ashley Benoit in the finals.

By Saturday night, the WPBA’s 63-entrant Women’s 9-Ball Professional Championship had whittled down to its 16-entrant single elimination phase. The 16 women advancing (in fact, the entire field of the event) featured many of the most highly recognizable names in women’s pool and with the exception of two from the UK (the Fishers, Kelly and Allison), all were from the North American continent; two, being Canadians (Brittany Bryant and Veronique Menard). Among the 47 who did not make the cut were a few junior competitors – Skylar Hess, Savannah Easton and Hayleigh Marion – along with Jeri Engh, who, in her 80s, was the event’s oldest participant. Women of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour were well-represented, along with the presence of, though not participation on the part of the tournament’s director, Linda Shea. Along with Kia Burwell and Caroline Pao, who did become two of the final 16, and C.C. Strain, who acted as the tournament director for all of the SBE’s Amateur events, tour members Ada Lio, Kathy Friend, Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Judie Wilson and Shanna Lewis competed.

On Sunday morning, the final eight paired up in four quarterfinal matches. The marquee pairing among them featured the Fishers, who’d last met in the finals of the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic last month. Joann Mason-Parker took on Caroline Pao, Jennifer Baretta faced Kim Newsome and Canada’s Veronique Menard matched up with Teruko Cucculelli.

In races to 11, Kelly Fisher defeated Allison Fisher 11-8 and Joann Mason Parker downed Caroline Pao 11-2. “9mm” Baretta shot down Kim Newsome 11-6 and Cucculelli eliminated Menard 11-9. In the semifinals that followed, Kelly Fisher defeated Mason-Parker 11-4 and in the finals, met Baretta, who’d defeated Cucculelli 11-4.

Fisher and Baretta traded racks through the first five games, after which Kelly was ahead 3-2. She added a rack, off Baretta’s break for a two-rack lead before Baretta came back with two to tie things for the third time at 4-4. Fisher won seven of the next eight games to claim the title.

Look for a report on the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship and the top finishers from the eight Amateur events in a separate report on these pages. 

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Danny Mastermaker collects first Super Billiards Expo title in debut of 6-Ball

The competition is starting to heat up at the 2022 Super Billiards Expo being held at the Greater Philadelphia Convention Center in Oaks, PA. The doors opened on Monday (April 18) with TAP League’s National Championships and by Tuesday, the SBE had crowned its first champion. Emerging from a field of 204 entrants, initially spread out over four single-elimination brackets, Danny Mastermaker grabbed that first title in the game format of 6-Ball, downing Fred Goodman in the finals 6-2, 6-2.

Though not by any means a new format, it made its debut here as an SBE event, playing out on Diamond ‘bar box’ tables. Utilizing the same rules as 9-Ball, with, as one might imagine, the 6-ball as the game’s ‘money’ ball, it has some advantages and disadvantages over the more popular standards; 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball. It is, also as one might imagine, a much quicker game. Here, at the SBE, it played out in races to six, best two out of three sets for advancement. For some, it was a familiar game, while for others, like Daniel Dagotdot, who was one of the four competitors emerging from the four brackets, it was a new experience. His thoughts on the game itself highlighted aspects of the game, which are something of a good news, bad news situation.

“It is so hard to make a ball on the break,” he noted of his first experience, “and if you break and don’t drop a ball, 90% of the time, you lose.”

It also creates a ‘do or die’ scenario, where if you step to the table after your opponent has broken, you better be prepared to finish the game from that point. An alternate break format softens the ‘do or die’ consequences somewhat, though Dagotdot made note of the same cautionary note about the nature of the game.

“Unless there’s a pack somewhere,” he said, “if you miss, you’re done, too.”

“I do like the game,” he added, “and you can’t ever really say you don’t get a chance.”

The game format appears to be attracting its share of ‘side action’ matchups at the SBE. Apparently, Dagotdot noted, players on the amateur end of the player spectrum like the odds better in a game that’s “fast-paced, with very little safety play and (not much) strategy.

“It might develop as a format with that action angle to it,” said Dagotdot. “I saw a lot of players doing that in the first two days.”

Loye Bolyard, tour director of the Maryland State Championships series of events, played 6-ball growing up, but at this stage, doesn’t see it showing up on his event calendar any time soon. Like Dagotdot, he noted the most obvious difference that it makes in game play.

“It’s all about the break, but there’s really no downside to it,” he said. “The good thing is that anybody can play.”

Open Amateur tournaments are underway, as are the two Pro events

The SBE’s Open Amateur event, with 962 registered entrants got underway on Wednesday, sporting 16 double-elimination brackets. The TAP League National Championships concluded, while its Rally in the Valley event began. On Thursday, the two Pro events got underway; the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship and the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championships. Today (Friday), as the Open Amateur Players championship entered its third day, the Seniors Amateur Players Championship and the Women’s Amateur Player Championships got underway. 

The 74-entrant Diamond Open 9-Ball Pro event finished two rounds of play on Thursday, with a list of the ‘usual suspects’ advancing. The only real (apparent) surprise in the early rounds, which included a lot of opening round byes, was Earl Strickland’s second round (after a bye), double-hill loss to Alan Rolon Rosado. Among those advancing to a third round today (Friday) were Darren Appleton, Mika Immonen (downing junior competitor Landon Hollingsworth), Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, BJ Ussery, Fedor Gorst, Jayson Shaw, Billy Thorpe, John Morra and Kristina Tkach, who was the only one who played two matches, albeit one, a forfeit win over Lukas Fracasso-Verner.

The 63-entrant WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championships had much fewer byes in its opening round and played a single round, followed by eight matches of a second round. Like the Open event, it featured its own set of ‘usual suspects’ advancing. Kelly Fisher was the only player to receive a bye and won her opener. Winning two and advancing to a third round were (among others) Kelly Fisher, Allison Fisher, Monica Webb and Kim Newsome. Playing their second round today (Friday) were (also among others) were Jennifer Baretta, Janet Atwell, Brittany Bryant, Carolyn Pao and Loree Jon Brown.

Junior players like Landon Hollingsworth, Payne McBride, Skylar Hess and Savannah Easton (among others) are competing in the Pro events and will be competing in two separate junior events (17 & Under, 12 & Under), beginning on Saturday. The winner of each division will win paid entry to Billiards Education Foundation’s Junior Nationals. The top 16 in each division will qualify for the event. Each division’s winner will be recognized by the BEF as the Pennsylvania Jrs. State 9-Ball Champion. 

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“Kwikfire” goes undefeated to win second straight WPBA title

Kelly Fisher

Fresh off her undefeated win two weeks ago at the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic in Minnesota, where she faced Allison Fisher for the first time in a final match since 2016, Kelly Fisher came to the CSI/Predator US Pro Billiard Series’ Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, held this past weekend (March 31-April 3) and went undefeated a second time to capture her second straight WPBA title. Though Allison Fisher was, once again, ‘in the house,’ the two did not meet up at this latest event. Allison was eliminated in the opening round of the single-elimination final phase to which they’d both advanced. The event drew 64 entrants to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The event was divided into two phases; an opening, 64-entrant, double-elimination Phase 1, followed by a 16-entrant, single-elimination Phase 2 that eventually crowned Kelly as the champion. The format was best-two-out-of-three races to 4. If the competitors were tied after two matches, a “spot shootout’ followed to determine the winner.

Kelly, who was in a 16-player, Phase 1 bracket that included eventual runner-up, Brittany Bryant, advanced to be among the eight winners’ side entrants in Phase 2 without having to play a third match. She played a total of 27 games against three opponents in Phase 1 and gave up only three of them, downing Sarah Kapeller (4-0, 4-1), Ashley Burrows (4-0, 4-0) and Cathy Metzinger (4-1, 4-1). To join Kelly in advancement to Phase 2, Bryant, in the meantime, had to play 44 games and lost 18 of them. She got by Anna Riegler and junior competitor Savannah Easton, both 4-2, 4-2, before facing Jennifer Baretta, who won the opening set 2-4. Bryant came back to win the second set and the “spot shootout,” both double hill.

Angela Ticoalu got by Jeannie Seaver, Nicole Keeney and Woojin Lee with an aggregate score of 24-15 to qualify for Phase 2, as did Susan Williams from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket. Williams sent June Maiers, Vang Bui Xuan and Joanne Ashton to the loss side to join Ticoalu in the winners’ side advancement to Phase 2.

Allison Fisher chalked up an even more impressive Phase 1 than Kelly had. She, too, advanced to Phase 2 without having to play a third match against any of her three opponents, downing Susan Wilbur, Veronique Menard and Naomi Williams and giving up only two racks (to Menard, in their second race-to-4). Kyoko Sone joined Allison in advancement to Phase 2 from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket, downing Sandy Badger, 13-year-old junior competitor Sofia Mast and Amalia Matas Heredia.

Rounding out the field of eight winners’ side competitors to advance to Phase 2 were Jasmin Ouschan and Line Kjorsvik. Ouschan got by two of her opponents without having to play a “spot shootout” third match, downing Tamami Okuda 4-2, 4-1 and Beth Fondell 4-1, 4-2, before splitting her first two against Mary Tam 1-4, 4-3. Ouschan won the shootout 3-2 to advance. Kjorsvik did not play a third, tie-breaking “spot shootout” against any of her first three opponents either, joining Ouschan in advancement after defeating Gigi Callejas (4-1, 4-2), Camille Campbell (4-2, 4-0) and Melissa Helland (4-0, 4-1).

After five losers’ side rounds, Kaylee McIntosh, Woojin Lee, Angela Janic, Heather Cortez, Melissa Helland, Mary Tam, Amalia Matas Heredia and Ashley Burrows joined the eight winners’ side competitors in advancement to Phase 2, which in some ways, was notable for those left behind as much as for those who advanced. Among those who failed to make the cut were long-time WPBA veterans (in no particular order) Stephanie Mitchell, Teruko Cucculelli, Monica Webb, Jeannie Seaver, Liz Cole, Kim Newsome, Emily Duddy, Dawn Hopkins, Loree Jon Brown, Janet Atwell and Caroline Pao. It should also be noted that while both 13-year-old junior competitors, Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess, failed to advance, one (Mast) fell to an opponent (Angela Janic) who was among the final 16 and the other (Hess) was eliminated by someone (Cucculelli) who arguably should have been. It was the first appearance for these two extraordinarily talented and professionally-composed young women and WPBA competitors should be on notice that these two will be back and barring any unforeseen life changes, for many years to come.

The Final Four in this event competed in plenty of time for those so inclined to turn their attention to the NCAA Final Four, which got started well after the four ladies in Vegas got underway at about 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was an International Final Four, which was absent representation from the United States.  Kelly Fisher, representing the UK was matched up against Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan. Spain’s Amalia Matas Heredia, who, in February, chalked up her first win on the European Ladies’ Tour, faced Canada’s Brittany Bryant.

Kelly Fisher had kept her no-third-match streak going through the opening round against Heather Cortez, whom she defeated 4-1, 4-0 before drawing Angeline Ticoalu, who took the opening set against Fisher 4-2. Fisher came back to win the second set 4-1 and then, in something of a nail-biter, the “spot shootout” 6-5. Ouschan, who got by Kaylee McIntosh 4-0, 4-1 in the opening round of Phase 2 had her own nail-biter in the second round, where she won two straight double hill fights against Kyoko Sone to draw Kelly.

Advancing to the other semifinal, Bryant had played 24 games against two opponents, eliminating Woojin Lee 4-2, 4-1 and then Ashley Burrows 4-2, 4-3 to advance. Heredia proved to be Allison Fisher’s downfall in the opening round of Phase 2. Fisher took the opening set, double hill, but Heredia came back to win the second set and the “shootout,” double hill. Heredia went on to down Mary Tam 4-1, 4-3 to pick up Bryant.

Kelly Fisher downed Ouschan 4-2, 4-1 in their semifinal matchup. She was joined in the finals by Bryant, who’d defeated Heredia 4-2, 2-4 and 4-2 in the “shootout.” 

It’s not hard to imagine Fisher’s “I’ve got this,” and Bryant’s “Uh, oh, trouble right here in Sin City” when Fisher shut Bryant out in the opening set of the final. It’s also not hard to imagine the spectator’s rooting for Bryant in the second set when she and Kelly finished the 6th game, tied at 3 apiece. Fisher, though, completed her undefeated run by winning the second set to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, as well as sponsors and partners the WPBA, Alfa Coin, CueSports International, Predator Group, Kamui, Seybert’s, Medalla Light, Rums of Puerto Rico, BCA Pool League and the USA Pool League.

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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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Evans Stays Perfect on AWBT

Susan Williams and Rae Evans

The Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour made their way up to Griff’s in Las Vegas, Nevada for their second stop of the year on March 5th and 6th, but even the change in scenery didn’t change anything at the top of the tour, as Rae Evans extended her undefeated streak and won her second (third, going back before Covid) straight tour stop. 

The field of thirty seven players held most of the usual Arizona suspects, along with some of the top female talent in Sin City. Two notable additions to the field this time were junior players Savannah Easton and Asia Gillespie. Easton caught a first round bye, while Gillespie won her first match against Ma Deterala 4-0. The second round saw both junior competitors drop their matches (Easton to eventual winner Evans) and then end up paired against each other on the one loss side. Easton got the best of her fellow junior warrior and stayed alive on the left side of the board all day on Saturday, finally succumbing to local champion Rebecca Wagner on Sunday. In her first AWBT tour stop, Easton made quite an impression. Evans commented on both young player, “Savannah does so much stuff better than me. She breaks better than most players and has better fundamentals. I could go on and on. The other junior in the tournament (Gillespie) played amazing too. They both are fierce”.

After the win over Easton, Evans had wins over Billie Jo Smith, the aforementioned Wagner, Mandy Beck and finally AWBT veteran Susan Williams for the hot-seat. Williams earned a hard fought victory over Pearl Ortiz in the semi-final match, to earn another shot at Evans in the finals. Evans had beaten Williams fairly handily for the hot-seat 7-1, but she had a fight on her hands in the extended final match. Both players were tied at 1-1 and 2-2 before Williams took the first two rack lead of the match at 4-2. That might have woke Evans up as she proceeded to win six straight racks to take the hill at 8-4. Williams dug back and won three in a row to get within one rack at 8-7, but a missed 8-ball by Williams in the sixteenth rack was her last trip to the table and Evans won the match 9-7. 

For Evans, it was her second straight undefeated win on the tour, but she still felt she got fortunate to get the win, commenting after the match about how everyone on the tour is playing so much better after the long Covid break. “I didn’t have an easy match all weekend. All of the ladies are putting in so much time practicing and getting better. I’ve seen tremendous leaps in some of their games”, she said. 

Tour director Tim Daniel thanked everyone for coming out to compete in the event, as well as Mark Griffin and his great staff at Griff’s. He also sent out thanks to all of tour’s sponsors, Constantin Alexander with Papa C Productions for their streaming coverage of the event all weekend and finally his partner on the tour, Justine Bishop for her continued support in making the AWBT a success.

The Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour will be back in action on June 4th-5th at Main Street Billiards, in Mesa, Arizona for 8-ball on the 7 foot Diamonds. 

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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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Savannah Easton Goes Undefeated at Griff’s

With the Junior International Championship going into its second season, it is becoming more and more common for fans to see its top junior players branching out from their success in the junior ranks to succeed in open events. For eleven year old Savannah Easton from Las Vegas, she might be skipping the success amongst her peers and moving full speed into open event success.

Easton outdistanced a field of thirty three other players to win the Griff’s Ladies 640 & Under Fargo 9-Ball event over the weekend of January 29th – 30th. 

Easton says she has been “hitting balls” on a pool table since she was four and her first real interest in playing the game seriously came from playing her Dad Larry on the family pool table. It was also words of encouragement from her Dad that helped prepare her for playing the event at Griff’s. “My Dad told me that if I shoot with confidence, good things will happen” she said. “I also knew that even if I lost, it would be a huge learning experience for me.”

That confidence paid off on Saturday, as Easton (Fargo 447) had wins over Val Porter and Ces Ralston, both higher rated players and both opponents that Easton defeated without the handicap she was getting. 

Easton came back on Sunday in the final eight on the winner’s side and said that while she was warming up with her Dad she started thinking about possibly making it to the finals of the event. Easton’s first two Sunday matches were against Catherine Colosia and Amani Ali. Colosia looked to have things under control against Easton, leading 4-2 in a straight race to 5, but Easton took advantage of errors by Colosia to win three straight for the win. Ali would fall 5-3 in the next match.

The hot-seat match was against Yen Huynh, who had been mowing down opponents all weekend. Huynh had allowed one opponent to get to the hill against her so far in the event, and was just coming off of an 8-1 drubbing of Janna Nelson. Easton was getting three games in the 8-5 race, but again she didn’t need the handicap as she beat Huynh 5-3 to take the hot-seat.

Easton’s opponent in the finals would be her toughest challenge yet. California’s Gigi Callejas has been a successful player on the west coast for a couple of years and has top finishes in both regional and national tours. Callejas had dropped her second match of the event to Colosia on Saturday but then forged a seven match winning streak on the one loss side. The finals would be true double elimination, but Easton would only need one set to score a hill-hill victory and celebrate the undefeated tournament win. “When I sunk that last 9-ball for the win, I couldn’t believe I actually won the whole tournament undefeated” said Easton days after her victory. “It never really sunk in until the next day because I was so tired”.

Easton has hopes to build on this success and says she hopes to become like her idol Margaret Fefilova. She credits Fefilova with helping in her early success, as well as other champions like Tyler Styer, Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann and Hunter Lombardo who helped her with her technique at the table. More importantly, Easton credits the support that she gets from her Mom and Dad on her “journey to becoming the next World Champion”.

Easton is currently sponsored by Predator, Kamui, JamUp Apparel and Bangin Ballz Billiards. Next up for Easton is the Junior International Championship stop in Cape Coral Florida next week, where she hopes to continue her success. 

Hollingsworth, Martinez and Meyman win their divisions at JIC Season 2, Stop #1

Courtney Hairfield, Kennedy Meyman and Noelle Tate

Vonderau and Mast capture 13 & Under titles

“Last year was practice,” said Ra Hanna of On The Wire Creative Media and tour director of the Junior International Championships, sponsored by Viking Cues, which began its second season last weekend (Jan. 14-16). In a snowstorm.

“Practice is over now.”

The weather had an impact that forced Hanna to cut it short. His concern for the safety of his junior competitors, as well as the family members who’d helped get them to Roanoke, VA, led to squeezing play in all five of the JIC divisions into two days, instead of three. That same weather led to flight cancellations that pinned Hanna in Roanoke until Wednesday.

“The safety of the players and their families was what was most important,” he said, noting that a cycle of soft snow and freezing temperatures had made the roads “like an ice-skating rink.”

The event, now officially known as the Junior International Championships, sponsored by Viking Cues, drew a total of just over 100 entrants, across its five divisions (with some cross-over between divisions), to Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA. Hanna had expected more and was convinced that in the absence of the weather, there would have been more.

Niko Konkel, Lazaro Martinez and Garrett Vaughan

Returning to compete in the JIC’s second season were the winner and runner-up of 2021’s 18 & Under Championship finals, Landon Hollingsworth and Joey Tate, who finished 1st and 2nd in Season 2/Stop #1’s 31-entrant Pro Am Division. They did not fare as well in the 18 & Under division, finishing 4th (Hollingsworth) and in the tie for 17th place (Tate).  The 18 & Under Boys division was won by Lazaro Martinez, who went undefeated, downing Niko Konkel, who’d lost to him in the hot seat match and returned from a victory over Garrett Vaughan in the semifinals, to be defeated a second time.

In the absence of 2021’s 18 and Under Girls’ Champion, Tatum Cutting (who has turned 19), the young woman she shut out in the championship finals of that division in October, Kennedy Meyman, got ‘right back on the horse,’ so to speak. Meyman lost her opening match in the 11-entrant, 2022 division opener, but rallied to win six in a row and then, down Courtney Hairfield in the finals.

The 13 & Under divisions, which drew 17 boys and 9 girls, saw the emergence of a new(er) rivalry and the renewal of an old one. Eddie Vondereau and Grayson Vaughan battled twice for the boys’ title; hot seat and finals. Vonderau downed Vaughan both times to claim that title.

Grayson Vaughan, Eddie Vonderau and D’Angelo Spain

And in the 13 & Under Girls’ division, it was storied JIC rivals, Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess, who, like Vonderau and Vaughan, battled twice for the event’s division title. After each was awarded a bye in the opening round of play, they met in what was the first match for both of them. They came within a game of double hill, but it was Hess who edged out in front to send Mast to the loss side 7-5. Mast breezed through her first three rounds on the loss side by an aggregate score of 21-4. In the quarterfinals that followed, Noelle Tate (sister to Joey) put up a fight that earned her more racks against Mast than her first three loss-side opponents, combined. Mast advanced 7-5 to the semifinals, where she defeated Savannah Easton, appearing in her first JIC event, 7-4.

“That was one of the surprises of the event,” said Hannah. “(Easton) beat out some of the top girls in that division (Franki Spain, Raygen Wilson & Skylynn Elliott) to finish third in her first event.”

So, once again, it was Mast and Hess squaring off against each other; a matchup that occurred in the quarterfinals of the 18 & Under Girls Championship last October. Mast dominated the extended race-to-9, winning it 9-2 to claim her first, and likely, not her last 2022 JIC title. 

If it ain’t broke . . .

There are differences in this second JIC season, but they’re about some minor additions and an expectation level being fostered by Hanna and the crew of folks who helped him last year and continue to do so this year. Kory and Trena Wolford, owners of Wolf’s Den, are among them.

Skylar Hess, Sofia Mast and Savannah Easton

Viking Cues has joined as a sponsor, and as such, will contribute to prizes, a scholarship to be awarded to the player who receives the tour’s Brendan Crockett Sportsmanship Award, aspects of the tour’s day-to-day operations, and when appropriate, unspecified equipment. Hanna noted that Dynaspheres “stepped up,” as did Mike Littman with Littman Lights. The tour is working with DigitalPool this year, which will feature what Hanna described as a “custom environment” with the expected brackets, updated division rankings, player profiles and live scoring.

“The players themselves are going to be doing the live scoring from their smart phones,” said Hanna. “They’ll be uploading scores to that site in real time.”

“We’re looking at a shot clock on the big tables,” he added of one other embellishment they’ll be considering bringing, literally, to the tables. “Modeling the atmosphere to that of the professionals, so that (the players) won’t be ‘deer in the headlights’ out in the world.”

“We’re also going to be sponsoring some of the players going into Pro events throughout the year,” he added. “It’ll be up to the player to decide which Pro event they might want to attend, whether it be Turning Stone, or the Super Billiards Expo. (The tour) will be off in April and we’re going to send a nice little contingent. With four of the divisions, a representative from each division would be nice.”

The plan is to provide the junior players with more than just an opportunity to compete throughout the year, but to provide them, as well, with the tools necessary to compete against increasingly difficult competition in what could well be difficult venues.

“I don’t want them complacent,” said Hanna. “I want them to know that there’s always going to be someone coming for you and that things aren’t always going to be perfect; not the balls, not the tables, not the general environment.”

“I want to go to war with this group,” he added. “The make-up of this group is the right combo to succeed; we’ve got everything – gunslingers, mercenaries, the quiet types. We’re going to make some noise this year.” 

The Junior International Championships, sponsored by Viking Cues, will hold the second stop of its second season on the weekend of Feb. 11-13. It will be hosted by Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL.