Taylor comes back from down-by-four in finals to defeat Pao on JPNEWT

Liz Taylor (Jay Chiu)

There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Caroline Pao signed on to the April 10-11 stop on the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT), looking for her seventh straight win on the tour, dating back to 2019. Of course, everyone else who signed on was looking for a win as well, including Liz Taylor, who’d finished in 3rd place, behind Pao and Nicole Nester in the tour’s season opener last month (March 6-7).

As she’d done in March, Pao was forced to seek this past weekend’s event title from the loss side. In fact, this time out, she was forced to win three on the loss side just to get into the finals. Liz Taylor had sent her over and though Pao would come back to challenge her in the finals, Taylor completed an undefeated run to claim her first event title since she’d gone back-to-back last November, winning the VA State Ladies 8-Ball Championship and a week, later, Stop #10 on the 2020 JPNEWT. The event this past weekend drew 19 entrants to Markley Billiards in Norristown, PA. 

Taylor and Pao were on something of a collision course from the start. Pao got by Suzzie Wong, Shelah Joner and Christine Pross (7-2, 7-3, 7-3), as Taylor, awarded an opening round bye, shut out April Hatcher and then downed Kia Burwell 7-5. This set them up to face each other in one of the winners’ side semifinals. In the other winners’ side semifinal, the tour director, Linda Shea, squared off against Judie Wilson, who, following a bye, had chalked up two 7-4 victories against Nicole Nester and Kelly Fox.

A third straight 7-4 win put Wilson into the hot seat match for the first time since 2018 (her best recorded earnings year, to date), when she fought for it twice; once, in April, against Burwell (then, Kia Sidbury) and then, versus Shea in December. Taylor and Pao, in the meantime, battled to double hill, before Taylor prevailed. Taylor put the hammer down in the hot seat match, giving up only a single rack to Wilson.

On the loss side, Pao picked up Kelly Fox, who, following her defeat at the hands of Wilson had eliminated Sharon O’Hanlon 7-3 and Kris Consalvo-Kemp 7-4. Shea drew Pross, who followed her loss to Pao with victories over Rachel Walters 7-5 and Carianne Merkle 7-3. 

Pao advanced to the quarterfinals 7-2 over Cox and met up with Shea, who’d defeated Pross 7-5. Pao eliminated Shea 7-3 in those quarterfinals and then, Wilson 7-4 in the semifinals.

Taylor got off to a bit of a rocky start in the extended-race-to-9 final. If she reached 7 racks first, it’d be over. If Pao reached 7 first, the race extended to 9. With the momentum of her three loss-side matches, Pao jumped out to an early lead that was four racks by the end of the 6th game, 5-1.

Taylor chipped away at that lead, winning four of the next six (7-5), but couldn’t stop Pao’s extension of the match to nine games. She did, however, stop Pao from completing any more games. Taylor won four in a row to claim the event title.

Tour director Linda Shea thanked Russ Urffer and his Markley Billiards’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor J. Pechauer Custom Cues, Bitzel and Associates PTPA (Physical Therapy), George Hammerbacher (Advanced Pool Instructor), and, for the livestream, angle aim Art (Britanya E Rapp). The next stop on the JPNEWT, scheduled for the weekend of May 15-16, will be hosted by First Break Bar & Grill in Sterling, VA.