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Tierney goes undefeated to capture his first regional tour title on Garden State Pool Tour

Dinko Busanich, Julian Tierney and Mike Johnson

It’s something of a recent phenomenon, this mixing of possible games in a tournament. Not entirely new, but event organizers have been getting creative with the ways that they mix the games; from changes that dictate ‘x’ amount of 8-ball or 9-ball (or other) games in a single match to the format employed by the Garden State Pool Tour at its most recent event this past weekend (Oct. 15). At the $200-added Halloween Classic that drew 18 entrants to Breaker Billiards in Clifton, NJ, 8-ball was the designated game on the winners’ side of the bracket and 9-ball was the game on the loss side. Competitors not only had to absorb a first loss and continue play knowing that there was no longer any room for error, they had to move from what is generally considered to be an easier game (if there is such a thing) to a harder one. 

Julian Tierney didn’t have to worry about that. He won all of his matches, going undefeated  playing 8-ball. When it came time for the true double elimination finals against Mike Johnson, the game played in the opening set was 8-ball. Had it gone to a second set, they would have finished up playing 9-ball. Tierney took the opening set to claim his first (recorded) regional tour title.

Tierney followed an opening round bye with two straight shutouts, over Michelle Brotons and Jason Blanchard, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Dinko Busanich. Johnson, also with a bye, locked into a 6-2 pattern that sent Tom Mac and Ron Lichtenberger to the loss side and set him up to face Sumit Bansal in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Tierney defeated Busanich 4-2, as Johnson kept his pattern going with a 6-2 victory over Bansal. Tierney broke the pattern, downing Johnson 6-3 to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Busanich drew Lysander Diaz, who, after losing an opening round match to Aurelio Romero, went on a four-match winning streak that had recently eliminated Lichtenberger and Frank Rodriguez, both double hill (5-6; Lichtenberger and Rodriguez racing to 7). Bansal drew Romero, who’d defeated Mikeal Kim 7-4 and Rob Rodriguez, double hill to reach him.

Romero won his fourth loss side match, downing Bansal 7-4, as Busanich eliminated Diaz, double hill. Busanich and Romero battled to double hill in the quarterfinals that followed before Busanich closed it out.

Busanich came into the semifinals with a Fargo-calculated 68.3% chance of winning the match against Mike Johnson; Busanich racing to 8, Johnson to 5. Johnson battled him to double hill and won it 5-4 for a second shot at Tierney, waiting for him in the hot seat.

Though Johnson’s Fargo-rated chances of winning the opening set of the true double elimination final against Tierney were even lower than his chances against Busanich (7.5% vs. 31.7%), Johnson battled Tierney to double hill in a straight-up race to 7. Tierney had the last word though and claimed title to the Garden State Pool Tour’s 2022 Halloween Classic.

Tour director Dave Fitzpatrick thanked the ownership and staff at Breaker Billiards, as well as sponsors Billiards Engineering, IntheBX, Kamui, Off the Rail, Jflowers Cues and Cases, John Bender Custom Cues and Pool-a-holic.

The next stop on the Garden State Pool Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 12-13 at Rockaway Billiards in NJ, will be the Annual Amateur New Jersey State Championships. The tour’s final event – The Grand Amateur Invitational Championship – will be held in December.

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Pelech goes undefeated to win NJ Garden State Pool Tour’s 2022 season opener

Clint Walker, Don Henriquez and Justin Pelech

There’s nothing like a handful of cash to inspire a pool player to move on to bigger and better things. Look, therefore, for the name of Justin Pelech, likely to appear at a regional tour stop near you, sometime in the near future. According to our records, prior to Saturday, January 8, Justin Pelech had cashed in only two events, finishing in the tie for 9th place at the MD State 10-Ball Championships about a month ago, and in 2020, finishing in the tie for 5th place at the NJ Garden State Pool Tour’s 4th Annual Fall Brawl. He nearly tripled the amount of cash he earned at both of those events by winning the Garden State Pool Tour’s 2022 season opener, going undefeated at the $350-added event that drew 38 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. The room was recently awarded the Tour Players’ Choice Host Room Award, voted on by tour players in the 2020/2021 season.

As Pelech was sitting in the hot seat, awaiting the results of the semifinals, he may have been counting cash chickens ahead of their hatching and thinking ahead to those bigger and better things. But he was also likely to have been watching the loss-side progress of a scenario that can spoil plans for big cash in the future; a competitor coming at him from that loss side of the bracket, chalking up twice as many match wins as he’d amassed getting to the hot seat. On that Saturday, in Wayne, NJ, it was Donald “Big Don” Henriquez, who’d lost his opening match and then won 10 straight for the right to challenge Pelech in the finals.

Rewind to the winners’ side semifinals. In the upper bracket (B & C+ players), Pelech, after downing Frank Rodriguez, Nick Torocca, and Rob Wetherhold, faced Sumit Bansal. From the lower bracket (C and lower), Clint Walker, who’d sent Fritz Innocent, Kris Manuel and Marc Lamberti to the loss side, squared off against Dakota Zbuchalski in the other one.

Pelech advanced to the hot seat match 7-2 over Bansal and was joined by Walker, who’d defeated Zbuchalski, 6-1. Pelech claimed the hot seat, double hill, and waited for Henriquez to complete his loss-side run.

Henriquez did. The last of his victories came in the semifinals, when he defeated Walker 6-1.

Henriquez began the finals with three beads on the wire in a race to 8. Pelech broke dry in the opening rack and Henriquez ran the rack. Henriquez broke and ran the second rack, too, which, with his three beads already in place, gave him a 5-0 lead. At which point, any dreams Pelech may have been harboring about gold at the end of this particular rainbow may have seemed to be in jeopardy.

But Pelech came back to win six straight. Confidence lit the rainbow back up, until Henriquez chalked up the 12th rack, tying the score at 6-6. Pelech reached the hill with rack 13, though, and when Henriquez missed, just barely, a shot at the 6-ball in the next rack, Pelech pounced and dropped the rack’s final four to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked Shooters Family Billiards owner, Kris Consolvo-Kemp for his hospitality and presented him with his room’s award as the Players’ Choice Host Room for 2020/2021. The next stop on the NJ Garden State Pool Tour, scheduled for Saturday, January 29, will be hosted by Players Billiards in Eatontown, NJ.