Trajceski and Klein split top prizes on Tri-State Tour stop in Clifton, NJ

(l to r): Matthew Klein and Llija Trajceski

Llija Trajceski, in his payout debut on the Tri-State Tour on the weekend of January 20-21, finished second. A week later, on Sunday, January 28, he moved a half-step closer to winning his first Tri-State Tour title. The ‘half-step’ was defined by his position in the hot seat when he and Matthew Klein opted out of a final match, allowing Trajceski to claim the official event title of a $1,000-added event that drew 29 entrants to Clifton Billiards in Clifton, NJ.

Klein was awarded an opening round bye in this event and was sent to the loss side in a double hill battle against Mac Jankov in the event’s second round. Jankov joined him at the conclusion of the following round when he was defeated 6-1 by Vijay Patel, who advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Teddy Lapadula. Trajceski, in the meantime, faced Irene Kim in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Trajceski, who’d been defeated in a winners’ side semifinal the week before, advanced to the hot seat match 7-2 over Kim in this one. He was met by Patel, who sent LaPadula to the loss side 6-1. Trajceski got into his first Tri-State hot seat with a 6-1 victory over Patel.

Meanwhile, on the loss side, Klein was at work on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him to the finals, though no further. With two notches on his loss-side belt, Klein drew a re-match against Jankov, winning it 6-1. He went on to defeat Frank Sieczka 6-2 and drew LaPadula, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Kim matched up with Allison LaFleur, who’d defeated Shweta Zaveri 6-2 and Qian Chen 7-4 to reach her.

Klein advanced to the quarterfinals 6-3 over LaPadula. The ladies Kim and LaFleur locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Kim to join Klein. Klein took the quarterfinal match over Kim 7-4, and then chalked up what proved to be his last win with a 6-3 defeat of Patel in the semifinals.

Trajceski and Klein opted out of the final match. Trajceski went home with his first, albeit with an asterisk, Tri-State title.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at Clifton Billiards, as well as sponsors John Bender Custom Cues, Ozone Billiards, Sterling Billiards, Kamui, Digicue, Billiards Digest, Human Kinetics, Blue Book Publishing, Phil Capelle Publications, and Joe Romer Trophies. The next stop on the Tri-State Tour, scheduled for Sunday, February 18, will be a double-points, 10-ball event, hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.