Van Boening goes undefeated to win his second US Open title

Shane Van Boening
In the end, the 37th Annual US Open 9-Ball Championships came down to something of a rotating break and run contest. The match preliminaries and post-match ceremonies took almost as long as the two-hour final match itself. After a four-year hiatus that saw Mika Immonen and Darren Appleton win four straight US Open titles between them, Shane Van Boening returned to the winners' circle he'd last stepped into in 2007. The week-long, $60,000-added event drew 220 entrants to the Holiday Inn Virginia Beach Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center.

Van Boening's path to the title didn't get tricky for him until late in the overall event-game. He advanced to the winners' side final eight having won 80% of his games, giving up only 11 racks in 55 games to Adam Smith, Tom Karabatsos, Nick Van Den Berg and Chris Melling. Then he ran into Ronnie Alcano, who chalked up almost as many racks against him as the previous four opponents combined, in a double hill match that just did move Van Boening into the winners' side semifinals and a match against Jose Parica.

At this point in time, Van Boening's eventual opponent in the finals, Dennis Orcullo, was working in the west bracket, having been unceremoniously sent there by Efren Reyes (11-7), who'd follow him over, once Alex Pagulayan got through with him 11-5. Van Boening, in the meantime, sent Parica over by the same 11-5 score, and faced Pagulayan for the hot seat. Van Boening sent him to the semifinals with another 11-5 score. In three matches, his winning percentage had dropped from 80% to 74%, but sitting in the hot seat, Van Boening had only one more match to win.

Meanwhile, on the loss side, Appleton, Alcano, Niels Feijen, Johnny Archer and of course, Orcullo were still at play. Appleton, who'd been sent west by Reyes in a double hill match that locale buzz suggested was the best match of the entire tournament, got into the 9/12 matches against Archer. Appleton downed him 11-7 and ran right into Orcullo, who ended Appleton's hopes for a third straight US Open title with an 11-7 win.

Coming over from the winners' side semifinals, Parica picked up Orcullo, while Reyes drew Alcano. Alcano's the one who eliminated Niels Feijen (11-5), and Jung Lin Chan (11-7). Reyes dropped Alcano 11-9, as Orcullo eliminated Parica 11-4. It was payback time in the quarterfinals that followed, with Orcullo avenging the previous loss 11-8. Orcullo then took care of Pagulayan 11-7 in the semifinals, leaving The Lion free (as he did when he finished third last year) to entertain the crowd prior to the finals at 7 p.m.

They played a total of 20 matches, did Messrs. Van Boening and Orcullo in the race-to-13 (ahead by two) finals and 11 of them were runouts from the break; seven for Van Boening and four for Orcullo. Together, they sunk a total of 27 balls off the break (Orcullo was the only one to come up dry on a break and he only did that twice).

There was very little safety play, and only two unforced errors; both by Van Boening, and one of them was followed by an inadvertent drop of a ball that allowed him to continue. There was a fair share of 'magic' in the shot-making of both finalists, as evidenced by this reporter's use of an acronym to keep track - ATCGW, it said in notes, meaning "And the crowd goes wild". 

At the start, they traded racks to a 2-2 tie, at which point Van Boening went on a seven-game run that included four break and runs. With a seemingly insurmountable 9-2 lead, Van Boening broke rack 12, sinking three balls. One of them, though, was the cue ball. Orcullo stepped up, and ran the table to begin a five-game run of his own. Four of the five games he won were runouts from the break, and suddenly, Orcullo was only behind by two.

Orcullo broke rack 17, sinking two, but didn't have a clean shot at the 1-ball. He attempted a jump shot which failed and Van Boening cleared the table. The South Dakota Kid ran the next two tables, and he was on the hill. Orcullo would step to the table only once in the final rack. He attempted a combination shot that failed, giving the table back to Van Boening, who cleared it to complete his undefeated run and earn his second US Open title.

In post-match ceremonies, Behrman thanked just about everybody, including his sponsors, his daughter, Shannon, and his triple directors - Jay Helfert, Ken Shuman and John Leyman (a co-director of the Northeast's Tri-State Tour, who performed admirably in his first-ever appearance at the US Open).  Behrman also thanked the host - Holiday Inn Virginia Beach Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center - although he and his daughter indicated early that the Open would not likely return to the site next year. Players and spectators alike expressed concerns, both directly to officials and in numerous private conversations throughout the weekend, about the new site's lack of adequate space. "It is neither player, nor spectator-friendly," noted the Great Southern Billiard Tour's director, Shannon Daulton

"We know what you need," Behrman told an audience in the Accu-Stat TV arena on Friday. "You need a bigger ballroom."