Archive Page

McMinn double dips Espinosa to recapture Royce Bunnell Memorial 9-Ball title

Shane McMinn and Justin Espinosa

Clark wins One Pocket event, Smith goes undefeated in 8-ball

Though the 6th Annual Royce Bunnell Memorial, held this past weekend (Dec. 10-12) at Stixx and Stones Billiards in Lewisville, TX, did not crown a defending champion in any of its three events (9-Ball, 8-Ball & One Pocket), it did witness the crowning of a former champion. Shane McMinn, who won the 9-ball event in 2019, returned and came from the loss side to claim this year’s 64-entrant, $1,500-added 9-ball title. Last year’s winner, Clint Freeman, was on hand to defend his 2020 title, but finished in the tie for 7th/8th place with Joshua Keller.

Robert Clark won the 16-entrant, $1,000-added One Pocket event, which was added to the event lineup for the first time last year. Last year’s winner, Jeff Sullivan, did not compete. Tom Smith picked up the top prize in the 32-entrant, $500-added 8-Ball event. He was the only winner among the three to go undefeated. Last year’s winner of the 8-Ball event, Jim Ryan, finished out of the money this year.

McMinn’s trip through the 9-ball field, which would eventually take a loss-side detour, thanks to Justin Espinosa, began with a three-match, aggregate score of 21-5 as he downed Eric Hammond (1), Noel Villalobos (2) and Duane Payne (2). At that point, he ran into a winners’ side quarterfinal match versus Eric Aicinena, who chalked up as many racks against him as his previous three opponents combined. McMinn survived that challenge, only to encounter another; a winners’ side semifinal against Espinosa, who’d been battling right from the start with wins over Daniel Gilmore (5), Roman Bayda (4) and a relatively easy one over Jack Lynch (1) in their winners’ side quarterfinal match. Sky Massingill, in the meantime, had gotten by Darrell Smith (3), Mohammad Alrawi (2), Chad Burgess (1) and Shane Hvamstad (5), to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal versus Shane Manole. 

Espinosa sent McMinn off on a three-match, loss-side trip 7-5 and was joined in the hot seat match by Massingill, who’d survived a double hill match against Manole. Espinosa claimed the hot seat 7-2.

On the loss side, McMinn picked up Alwari, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Jeff Franklin 7-5 and Joshua Keller 7-4. Manole drew Aicinena, who’d followed his loss to McMinn with victories over TJ Davis and the event’s defending champion, Clint Freeman, both 7-3.

Aicinena did what he had to do to initiate a quarterfinal rematch against McMinn, downing Manole 7-2. McMinn obliged by putting a stop to Alwari’s loss-side run by the same 7-2 score. Aicinena put up a double hill fight against McMinn in that quarterfinal rematch, but fell short. 

McMinn eliminated Massingill in the semifinals 7-2 and headed into his own, necessary two-match battle versus Espinosa in the finals. McMinn took the opener 7-5 over Espinosa and improved on that score by a rack in the second set, 7-4, to reclaim the Royce Bunnell Memorial 9-Ball title.

Smith endures some strong challenges in his undefeated battle for the 8-ball title

Tom Smith may have been the only competitor to go undefeated on the Royce Bunnell Memorial weekend, but it was no walk in the park. Three of the four (race to 3) matches he played getting to the hot seat went double hill. He got by Jeff Franklin that way, for openers, and then took a breath to shut out Chad Burgess. Joe Pelayo and then, Greg Sandifer, in a winners’ side semifinal, also forced a 5th deciding game in their matches. Smith’s opponent in the hot seat match was JP Kinman, who, by contrast, had played just one double hill match (vs. Blake Kamiab). He’d shut out Jason Judd in his opener, before giving up the two racks to Kamiab, and then, gave up one each to Chris Gaither and (in the other winners’ side semifinal) Doug Winnett.

Smith must have come as a bit of a shock to Kinman in that hot seat battle. Smith turned the tables on him and shut him out. He did not return.

There were only two ways to win loss-side matches; shutout or double hill (2-1). Sandifer tried them both, going the shutout route versus Clint Freeman and, in the quarterfinals, versus Sky Massingill (who’d eliminated Willett 2-0). Apparently bored with shutouts, Sandifer gave up the single rack in the semifinals to Kinman, who ended up tallying only a single game over his final six. 

There were only three ways to win an 8-ball match at this event; shutout, 3-1, or double hill and to complete his undefeated run, Tom Smith had tried all three. He finished with the first two, shutting out Kinman in the hot seat match and giving up a single rack to Sandifer in the only set necessary in the true double elimination final to claim the Royce Bunnell Memorial 8-Ball title.

Gus Briseno, Robert Clark and Daniel Herring

Clark takes two out of three versus Briseno to claim One Pocket title

Somewhat like the 8-ball matches, there were only three ways to win one in the 16-entrant One Pocket event. Matches were races to 3 on both sides of the bracket.

Robert Clark shutout both Joshua Keller and Crispian Ng to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal vs. Daniel Herring. Gus Briseno, in the meantime, shut out JP Kinman and Clint Freeman to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Roman Bayda. Clark added a third shutout, over Herring, while Briseno had to battle to double hill versus Bayda, before joining Clark in the hot seat match. Clark went the 3-1 route to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Herring leapfrogged over a forfeit by Joshua Keller into the quarterfinals. He was joined by Bayda, who’d defeated Paul Villanueva 3-1. Herring and Bayda battled to double hill, before Herring advanced to meet Briseno in the semifinals. Herring and Briseno opted for double hill, too, but it was Briseno who earned the right to a rematch against Clark, waiting for him in the hot seat.

It took both sets, both of which went double hill. Briseno took the opener to even their ‘loss’ score. Clark took the second set to become the 6th Annual Royce Bunnell Memorial One Pocket champion.

Tour director David “Doc” Reyes thanked the ownership and staff at Stixx & Stones for their hospitality, as well as DFW Pool TV for streaming services. He also extended thanks to sponsors OB Cues, Fort Worth Billiards Superstore, Granite Guyz, Outsville Accu-Rack, Digital Pool, Cavalli, Eric and Becky Smith, Dallas 8-ball and John Eagle Honda.

Eberle comes from the loss side to win 24th Annual Jay Swanson “Swanee” Memorial

Max Eberle, Ben Sutherland, Tom Kovacs and Chris Robinson

The first evidence AZBilliards documented about Max Eberle was his 9th-place finish in the ESPN Ultimate Challenge (Men’s Division) in February, 1999. The single-elimination event was won by Efren Reyes, with Dennis Hatch as the runner-up. Eberle shared his 9th place finish with Allen Hopkins, Alex Pagulayan, and Johnny Archer, among others. Moving into his 21st year as a cash-earning entrant in the AZBilliards database, Max Eberle began 2020 with a bit of a bang,  working his way through to a winners’ side semifinal and then, three matches on the loss side to meet and defeat ‘young gun’ Chris Robinson-Reinhold in the finals of the 24th Annual Jay Swanson “Swanee” Memorial on the weekend of January 18-19. The $3,000-added event drew 64 entrants to Griff’s in Las Vegas, NV.
The field included the event’s current champion, Vilmos Foldes, but did not include last year’s runner-up, Oscar Dominguez. Alex Pagulayan, two-time winner of the event in ’11 and ’12 was registered, but forfeited his first two matches. The ‘old school’ versus ’new school’ meeting in the finals had its origins in the event’s winners’ side semifinals, when Eberle, after victories over Avelino Arciaga (8-1), Mike Hutcheson (8-5), Chris McDaniel (Forfeit) and Mitch Ellerman (8-6), faced Alfonso Moreno, Jr. (it was Ellerman who’d  sent Foldes to the loss side). Robinson-Reinhold, in the meantime, got by Victor Cucuzza (8-4), Ronnie Wiseman (8-3), Ian Costello (8-6) and Anthony Ortega (8-6) to face Tuan Tran in the other winners’ side semifinal.
Eberle and Moreno, Jr. locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Moreno to the hot seat match and Eberle off on his three-match, loss-side trip back. Robinson-Reinhold and Tran came within a game of having their match go to double hill, as well, but Robinson-Reinhold pulled ahead near the end and won it 8-6 to join Moreno, Jr. in the battle for the hot seat. Robinson-Reinhold won that fight, decisively, 8-2 and waited in the hot seat for the return of Eberle.
On the loss side, as the event moved into its first money rounds (13-16), Foldes, having won his first loss-side match 7-1 to KC Massey, continued to lurk. He’d win two more; to Chris McDaniel 7-5 and Tom Smith 7-3 before falling to Brian Begay 7-5. Begay would move on to face Eberle, coming over from his winners’ side semifinal fight. Tuan Tran picked up Ellerman, who, after his winners’ side quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Eberle had eliminated James Cabal 7-2 and Ian Costello 7-3.
Ellerman advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-4 win over Tran. Eberle earned the rematch with a 7-2 victory over Begay. Eberle downed Ellerman a second time, 7-5, in those quarterfinals and then, downed Moreno, Jr. 7-3 in the semifinals.
Eberle chalked up his first (recorded) major victory since he won the Derby City’s 14:1 Challenge in 2013. ‘Old School’ downed ‘New School’ (in the person of Chris Robinson-Reinhold) with a 10-6 victory in the finals.