Story by NYC Grind Editor, Alison M. Fischer
New York’s top pool competitors, both amateur and professional, were out in full force on the weekend of January 19-20 for the Predator Pro/Am Tour’s 2013 season opener at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NY. For amateur players, the 9-ball division was held over both days, and the season got off to a great start with a field of 98 players in that event. In addition to the tournament kickoff on the first day, a break and run raffle contest was held, which was won by Koka Davladze, who took $1,300 for his jackpot prize.
Breaking through in this event was Westchester, NY player Dennis Lake, who ran through undefeated to earn his first win on the tour and cash in on the $1,500 first prize. Lake, who has played on the tour on and off since the tour’s opening season in 2008, claimed wins over Alex Borukhovich 7-5, Glenn Ramsey 7-4, Jose Batista 7-6, Jud Parker 7-3, and Ambi Estevez 7-4 to make it to the hot seat match in the C/D side of the bracket.
Junior Sanchez, one of the tour’s top players in the ‘A’ Class (having finished ranked #4 at the 2012 season end), met with Dennis Lake in the battle for the hot seat on the second day of the event. Sanchez and Lake were among the eight players who remained undefeated going into the second day of action, while sixteen players were left on the one-loss side. Sanchez’s path to the hot seat match featured wins against Manny Stamatakis 7-4, Trevor Heal 7-5, Jerry Tarantola 7-4, Gail Glazebrook 7-4, Lidio Rasta 7-4, and Shawn Sookhai 7-6. But, Junior Sanchez would then be stopped by Dennis Lake, who won the hot seat match at 8-6.
Coming back strong on the one-loss side of the bracket on the C/D side after losing his first match of the event was Andrew Cleary, who had an impressive weekend as he bounced back to win eight straight matches after his opening loss. Cleary also successfully came back from being down in a number of these matches, including his final hill-hill win against Ambi Estevez at 7-6.
John Ortiz was also on the warpath on the one-loss side of the A/B bracket, and he eliminated Shawn Sookhai from the event at 7-1, before being matched up against Andrew Cleary in the quarterfinal. With Cleary being rated a C+ and Ortiz rated an A, Cleary would be spotted three games on the wire in a race to eight. Ortiz brought out the firepower of his game in this match, and only allowed Cleary to put one more game up before he reached eight, to make the final score 8-4. Ortiz then moved on to the semifinal, while Cleary’s strong run landed him in fourth place.
The semifinal would be an even race to seven for John Ortiz and Junior Sanchez, who would hope to get redemption after his prior loss in the hot seat match to Dennis Lake. Ortiz and Sanchez had a very tight battle in the beginning of this match, tying at 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3. But, it would be Sanchez who established control of the match from there, going on to take a three-game lead at 6-3. Ortiz then put up two more wins, but Sanchez would finish off the match to win at 7-5.
This win put Junior Sanchez back in the ring against Dennis Lake in the final match, which was held on one of Steinway’s feature tables, named in memory of George “Ginky” SanSouci, table 10. After their handicaps put a three-game spot up for Lake, Sanchez won four rack while Lake won one rack, to tie at 4-4. Dennis Lake then put away the next three racks to get to the hill at 7-4. Sanchez came back to win the next two and go 7-6, but an interesting turn of events in the next rack would put an end to the match. Junior Sanchez would break the next rack, and stayed at the table after making the six. But, he was left with no shot on the one ball, so he opted to play safe. Lake was unsuccessful in contacting the one, and with ball in hand, Sanchez played another safety, with intent of winning the game by forcing Lake to foul three consecutive times. Again, Lake missed the kick, and gave Sanchez ball in hand. Sanchez then played safe for a third time, but instead of leaving Lake hooked, the one ball landed paired up with the nine ball. With a stroke of brilliance, Lake kicked at the one ball, and combination-banked in the nine to win the match in jaw-dropping fashion. Congratulations to Dennis Lake on his first tour win, along with all of the other top finishers in the event.
1st: Dennis Lake – $1,500
2nd: Junior Sanchez – $1,000
3rd: John Ortiz – $700
4th: Andrew Cleary – $400
5th/6th: Shawn Sookhai/Ambi Estevez – $275
7th/8th: Bob Toomey/Rikki Ragoonanan – $200
9th-12th: Rene Villalobos, Lidio Rasta, Doug Masiero, Joel Parker – $125
13th-16th: Jason Smith, Joe Torres, Jerry Tarantola, Jose Batista – $75
17th-24th: Nick Chan, Bob Schlott, Jose Cruz, Gail Glazebrook, Lenore Donovan, Travis McKinney, Alex Borukhovich, Tony Ignomirello – $50
On the second day of the tour stop, the Open/Pro 10-Ball division was held on a single day, and featured both top international competitors and area emerging players in the 20-player field. NYC has been a consistent hotspot for touring pros to take up residence either permanently or temporarily, and the season opener’s Open/Pro 10-Ball event exemplified this. Among the top names in the event, we saw former two-time US Open Champion Mika Immonen, along with two of the most renowned players of the Philippines, Ronnie Alcano & Warren Kiamco, five-time US Open Champion Earl “The Pearl” Strickland, and WPBA pro Jennifer Barretta.
However, it was Connecticut-based top American pro Jeremy Sossei who would be the strongest force in this event. Sossei would claim the hot seat position following his run of wins against Mike Wong 7-5, Gregg McAndrews 7-6, Earl Strickland 7-6, and Warren Kiamco 7-4. Kiamco had previously won a one-sided match against Mika Immonen at 7-3, who moved on to defeat Spanky Koba 7-4 in the final four of the one-loss side. Koba had a strong showing to finish tied for 5th/6th with Earl Strickland.
Immonen then moved on to the quarterfinal, but would first wait for the upper half of the bracket to catch up to determine his opponent. Ronnie Alcano would move through the left side of the bracket with wins against Zion Zvi 7-4, Travis McKinney 7-1, and Earl Strickland 7-5, to go up against the “Iceman” Immonen in the quarterfinal. Alcano got out to an early 4-1 lead in this match, but Immonen won the next three games to tie the match at 4-4. Ronnie Alcano kicked his game into high gear at this point, and kept Immonen in his chair for much of the next few games, leading to a 7-5 win. Ronnie Alcano followed up his quarterfinal win with another win against Warren Kiamco. After taking an early lead in this match, Alcano finished off the set with a final score of 7-4.
With this win, Ronnie Alcano earned a chance to win the event, as he moved on to the final match against undefeated Jeremy Sossei. This match would have an extended single-race format, so if Sossei reached the hill (eight games) first, he would only need to go to nine. If Alcano reached eight first, the match would be extended to eleven. In this final, Jeremy Sossei maintained his high level of consistent play and trademark even-keel pace, and took the lead early on in the match, to then get to the hill first at 8-3.
In the next rack, Alcano had a chance to keep the match going with a combination on the two ball into the ten, but the ball hung up in the pocket. Sossei then had another chance to pocket the ten with a thin cut on the two, but again the ball stayed out of the pocket. With yet another breath of life, Alcano skimmed the cue ball off the two, in hopes of kicking in the two…but he hit the wrong side of the two, and both balls dropped into the pocket. The ten ball was spotted, and with ball in hand, Jeremy Sossei executed the final run out to take the match, and win the Predator Tour’s first tour stop of the season.
1st: Jeremy Sossei – $900
2nd: Ronnie Alcano – $450
3rd: Warren Kiamco – $300
4th: Mika Immonen – $150
5th/6th: Earl Strickland, Spanky Koba – $100
The end of the Open/Pro 10-Ball final concluded a well-run event for the Predator Tour staff, Tony Robles, Gail Glazebrook, and tournament director William Finnegan, alongside the staff at Steinway Billiards, who set the atmosphere with great food and service.
The second stop of the 2013 Predator Pro/Am Tour season will also be held at Steinway, on the weekend of February 9-10. For more tour information and schedule, visit www.PredatorProAmTour.com.