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Teams Set For Mosconi Cup

With the announcement of the final “wildcard” selections by the opposing captains, the final rosters for Team USA and Team Europe are set with four weeks to go before the 23rd Mosconi Cup commences at the Alexandra Palace in London, Dec. 6-9.

Team USA captain Mark Wilson used his wildcard picks to add Mosconi Cup veteran and recent Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee “Rocket” Rodney Morris and 29-year-old Justin Bergman to the roster. It will mark the tenth Mosconi appearance for Morris and the third consecutive appearance by Bergman. The duo will join Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward and Mike Dechaine, who earned automatic spots on the team by finishing in the top three in points over 28 tournaments throughout the year. Only Morris did not play on the 2015 team that fell to Team Europe, 11-8, in Las Vegas. (Corey Deuel was the fifth member of Team USA in 2015.)

Team Europe captain Marcus Chamat handpicked reigning World 9-Ball Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria and England’s Darren Appleton, who will be making his eighth consecutive appearance, to join Holland’s Niels Feijen, Scotland’s Jayson Shaw and England’s Mark Gray. The three automatic berths on Team Europe were awarded to the points champion of the EuroTour (Feijen), the top European points earner on a World Events Rankings (Shaw), and the highest-ranked player on the Combined (Gray, who placed third behind already-qualified Shaw and Feijen). Feijen, Appleton and Ouschan also appeared for Team Europe in 2015.

As is customary, the wildcard announcements were greeted by second-guessing in social media. American fans questioned Wilson’s selection of Bergman, ranked sixth on the U.S. points list, over fifth-place finisher Oscar Dominguez. (Morris finished fourth in points.) Given the fact that the 2015 squad was made up of the top five point-earners, and the fact that Bergman lives in southern Illinois, not far from Wilson’s St. Louis home, charges of favoritism and “politics” were bandied about as fans weighed in. “I don’t have a bias and I don’t give those claims any credence,” said Wilson. “I simply picked the team that I thought gave us the best chance of winning this year. I analyze things like late-season performance, strengths and weaknesses and how they fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team.

“In the case of Rodney,” Wilson continued, “He went to the last six events. The effort and results were there. He gives us the best chance of winning.Last year it just happened that the team I chose finished one through five in points. That doesn’t mean that is the way it was meant to be. People seem to have a hard time with the concept of what the wildcard pick means.”

The concept of a “wildcard” selection was even more pronounced in Chamat’s selection of Appleton for Team Europe. While the former World 9-Ball Champion has been a member of six Mosconi Cup-winning squads, Appleton suffered through a subpar 2016, failing to crack the top 10 in the European Combined points list.

“No player really stood out for me for the last spot,” said Chamat. “There are so many good players in Europe, but I had to weigh the ups and downs. Darren is a big-match player with huge experience. And he is an awesome team player. I could have picked other players, but I believe in Darren. This is the biggest event for all of us and the pressure will be amazing. I think Darren will be amazing, too.”

Destiny’s Child

Fulfilling the promise of his vast potential, Taiwan’s Pin Yi Ko wins the World 9-Ball Championship, dashing Shane Van Boening’s hopes of bringing the title back to the U.S.

By Mike Panozzo

Photos by Richard Walker

There is little argument that the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World 9-Ball Championship is the toughest tournament in the world to win. Unlike the sporadically staged WPA World 10-Ball and World 8-Ball championships, the World 9-Ball Championship has been staged every year since 1990, with the exception of 2008 and 2009, when the event failed to secure sponsorship. Among the game’s elite, it is the title revered above all others, and every nation’s champion players fight for the opportunity to wedge themselves into the talent-laden 128-player field.

“With some dazzling shot-making (and a few fortunate rolls), Ko jumped into the record books.”

And as if the sheer depth of talent isn’t enough, the fickle and unpredictable game of 9-ball itself makes the task of advancing through the treacherous group stage gauntlet and winning six single-elimination matches even more daunting. One only need look at the unlikely finalists in recent years to realize the degree of difficulty the annual WPA championship provides. For every Darren Appleton, Niels Feijen and Thorsten Hohmann that have reached the title match, the 9-ball world championship has seen its share of Albin Ouschans, Yukio Akagariyamas and Ronnie Alcanos — all world-class players, but hardly perennial international champions. No, the WPA World 9-Ball Championship is not often kind to predetermined favorites.

In 2015, however, the World 9-Ball Championship delivered perhaps the perfect title match — heavyweights from opposite ends of the globe, each seemingly predestined to win the coveted world championship at some point in their careers.If there are players more devoted to the game or more obsessed with practice and perfection than Taiwan’s Pin Yi Ko and America’s Shane Van Boening, they’ve yet to be discovered. The 26-year-old Ko, a wunderkind since winning back-to-back WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships, has finally met the pool world’s lofty expectations with wins at the CSI 10-Ball Championship and, more recently, the WPA World 10-Ball Championship in late February. Van Boening, arguably America’s best player since three-time world champion Earl Strickland, has dominated U.S.-based tournaments for nearly a decade, and has shed his reputation for underachieving on foreign soil with back-to-back World Pool Masters titles.

“Van Boening appeared headed to his first world title, having thrashed his first five opponents in the final bracket by a margin of 55-15.”

All of which made the pair’s epic battle in Doha, Qatar such a delicious treat for the thousands of pool fans from around the globe who hung on every shot while viewing the match on a live stream from the mostly empty Al-Arabi Sport Club. And when Ko pounced on an errant Van Boening safety attempt to secure the title, 13-11, in a nail-biting finale, the overwhelming sentiment was that the finalists had not seen the last of one another on pool’s biggest stage.The win made Ko, who battled through several close calls but never wavered in his resolve, the first player to claim two WPA world titles in the same year. For Van Boening, who had authored several otherworldly performances en route to the title match in hopes of becoming the first American player to win the World 9-Ball Championship since Strickland’s 2002 triumph, the loss was bitterly disappointing, although it further dismissed any notion that he can’t stand up to top-flight international competition.The long road to the World 9-Ball final began with a play-in stage for 13 open spots, a stage of uninvited hopefuls that included former World 9-Ball champions Akagariyama and Fong Pang Chao (both of whom advanced). That was followed by the double-elimination group stage, which produced four players from each of 16 eight-player groups who advanced to the 64-player single-elimination rounds. Despite spreading the top-ranked players through the groups, upsets traditionally abound in the opening stages of the tournament and 2015 proved to be no different. No fewer than five former world champions booked early flights home during the topsy-turvy group stage, the most stunning of which was defending World 9-Ball champion Feijen. After winning his opening match, the normally consistent Dutchman suffered through back-to-back 9-8 losses, first to Alexander Kazakis of Greece, then to unheralded South Korean, Ryu Seang Woo. The 30-year-old Woo overcame deficits of 5-1 and 8-5 to stun Feijen and advance to the knockout stages. Feijen had company on his return trip to Holland, as his World Cup of Pool teammate and Euro Tour Player of the Year Nick van den Berg also failed to survive Stage Two.

“Time and again in the finale, Van Boening found himself on the wrong end of Ko’s unintentional safeties.”

A pair of Brit former champions also got to share in one another’s misery on flights back to the United Kingdom, as Karl Boyes (2010 World 8-Ball) and Daryl Peach (2007) failed to advance. Boyes dropped successive matches to Lo Ho, 9-5, and the resurgent Chao, 9-7, while Peach’s elimination at the hands of Mishel Turkey, 9-4, gave the host country its first-ever player in the final 64.

To complete an unusual trend, two former champions from Germany also departed Qatar on what is now deemed “Judgment Day.” Oliver Ortmann (1995) and two-time winner Thorsten Hohmann (2003 and 2013). Not surprisingly, the always-lethal contingent of players from the Philippines led the finals bracket with nine players while Taiwan (7) and China (6) were close behind. What was a surprise, however, was Van Boening being joined by two other Americans (Mike Dechaine and Hunter Lombardo) in the single-elimination stage. Young Canadian challengers John Morra and Jason Klatt joined the fray as well.

One by one, however, the mighty Filipinos were sent packing, with eventual champion Ko, who opened with an easy 11-7 win over Australia’s Justin Campbell, dispatching Carlo Biado (11-4) and Warren Kiamco (11-9). In fact, the only Filipino player to reach the quarterfinals was the nation’s top player, Dennis Orcollo.

Ko advanced to the semifinals with an 11-6 win over Morra, who had displayed plenty of nerve with back-to-back come-from-behind wins over England’s Mark Gray (11-10) and former champion Mika Immonen (11-8). Morra won the final seven games in his win over Immonen.

Tracking Ko to the semis was Jia Qing Wu of China. A decade ago, Wu, then called Chia Chung Wu and hailing from Taiwan, shocked the pool world by winning the World 9-Ball Championship at the tender young age of 16. The baby-faced lefty appeared to have regained that form in Qatar, rolling past world No. 1 Ouschan of Austria, 11-6, countryman Wang Can, 11-9, and surprising Aloisius Yapp of Singapore, 11-7.

“When the opportunity arose, Ko delivered the knockout punch.”

America’s hopes rested on the other side of the 64-player bracket, where Van Boening was starting to find a groove. Painstaking preparation has long been the South Dakota native’s calling card, and Van Boening spent hours on the practice tables in Qatar fine-tuning his break shot. The results were staggering, as Van Boening blasted through four consecutive opponents (Poland’s Tomasz Kaplan, Spain’s Francisco Diaz-Pizzaro, Taiwan’s Yu Chang and Orcollo) by a combined score of 44-14. Particularly impressive was Van Boening’s beatdown of Orcollo. The Filipino (losing finalist to Van Boening in the last two U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships) came into the match on a roll of his own, having demolished Turkey, 11-1, Lombardo, 11-7, and 2012 champion Appleton, 11-2.

But Van Boening ran from the break on virtually every opportunity in the alternate-break format and pounced on every Orcollo mistake to seize a 10-0 lead before winning, 11-1.

Dechaine, arguably America’s second-best player, performed admirably in his first foray overseas. The East Coaster showed plenty of nerve in winning back-to-back 11-10 matches against Taiwan’s Chang Yu and Estonia’s Denis Grabe. In the round of 16, Dechaine battled Pin Chung Ko, the 20-year-old brother of Pin Yi Ko, 9-9. Trailing, 10-9, but en route to forcing a case game, Dechaine jawed the 9 ball. The younger Ko, winner of the 2014 CSI 8-Ball Championship, advanced to the semifinals with a convincing 11-5 win over Poland’s Wojceich Szweczyk.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Dechaine, who will partner with Van Boening for Team USA in the World Cup of Pool. “I learned some things here. I need to stay calm. I also need to figure out my sleeping pattern. But I’m really looking forward to traveling to more of the international events.”

The semifinals offered a number of juicy storylines, with the possibility of the Ko brothers meeting for the title at the top of the list. Having split the 2014 CSI titles, with Pin Yi topping Pin Chung for the 10-ball title and Pin Chung topping Van Boening for the 8-ball crown, the brothers threaten to dominate pool for years to come. Some observers go so far as to contend that the younger Ko is the better player and simply needs more seasoning. Regardless, the duo figures to be dynamic in international events.

Of course, the storyline in the U.S. was the chance for Van Boening to reclaim the title that was won by American players six times between 1990 and 2003. And in the semifinal between Van Boening and Pin Chung Ko, that potential result looked increasingly possible. Continuing his incredible success on the break, Van Boening streaked to a 5-0 lead before Ko scratched out a game. Undaunted, Van Boening simply raced through the next six racks for a startling 11-1 win and a place in the final.

Meanwhile, the elder Ko and Wu were engaged in a tense battle of wills. Wu bolted to an early 6-2 lead, but Ko chipped away and forged a tie at 7-7 when Wu botched an easy safety. The miscue turned the tide in Ko’s favor, and the Taiwanese star edged ahead, regaining the break advantage he had earned by winning the lag. The match was tied at 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10, but Wu could only watch helplessly in the case game, as Ko broke and ran out for the win. The title match was close throughout, due in large part to some good fortune in Ko’s favor. At 4-4, Ko scratched and missed in the same rack, only to leave Van Boening stymied both times. Ko eventually won that rack, then, at 5-5, and botched a 2-9 combination, only to see the 9 carom across the table and into the side pocket for a 6-5 lead.

Van Boening maintained pressure, eventually forging an 8-6 lead that easily could have been 10-4. Ko fought back to tie the match, 8-8, but another scratch handed Van Boening a 9-8 lead in the extended race to 13. Van Boening appeared to be headed to another two-game advantage when a positional error left him hooked on the 7 ball. His jump attempt railed and Ko again tied the match, regaining his serve.

The combatants battled nerves and tough run-outs to 10-10 and 11-11. Ko broke and ran out to reach the hill, 12-11.

As it had several times during the match, Van Boening’s break yielded a pocketed ball, but no open shot. He pushed out to a tricky kick attempt, which Ko quickly handed back. Van Boening’s kick was thick and the 2 ball was left in the open. The unflappable Ko calmly picked his way through the rack, pumping his first at the drop of the final 9 for the 13-11 victory. “I definitely didn’t play perfect in the final,” admitted the elated Ko. “But it is the final of the World 9-Ball Championship and you know so many things can happen. I think we both played good and both made some mistakes. I feel that I got a few lucky rolls to help me win the match. But at the end of the match, I played good. I was able to stay patient.”

“He got a lot of fortunate rolls and got lucky to hook me a couple of times after misses,” said Van Boening. “But I also made mistakes that I should never have made. He played great. I think I made more mistakes than he did and that is what cost me. My break wasn’t working, but that’s the way the game plays.

“It’s an honor to play in the world championship final,” Van Boening added. “I know I can’t win every tournament. I’ll be back.”

“When I won the World 10-Ball Championship, that was great,” said Ko, $30,000 wealthier for the win, “But winning the World 9-Ball Championship is unbelievable. I’m really happy.”

Orcollo Undefeated at Carom Room Fall Classic

dennisorcolloEarly on, it looked as though one way or another, it was going to be over quickly.

Dennis Orcollo and Johnny Archer met up in the finals of the $10,000-added Carom Room Fall Classic up in Benoit, WI, a 10-ball, bar table event held on the weekend of August 28-30. They broke and ran their way through the first five games of that final matchup, until, ahead by one, Orcollo jumped on Archer’s first dry break of the match to take a lead he’d never relinquish. The event, streamed live, by Ray “Big Truck” Hansen and his crew at PoolActionTV, drew 96 entrants to The Carom Room in Beloit, WI.

They’d met first in the hot seat match. Archer had just sent Josh Roberts to the loss side. Orcollo sent Jason Klatt over. Archer broke dry five times in the hot seat match that sent him to the semifinals 9-5.

Still playing on the loss side when the first money rounds came around were (among others) Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward, John Morra, and Tony Chohan. Billy Thorpe was still playing, too. He’d sent Van Boening to the loss side, and they were both working their way to a potential head-to-head rematch in the quarterfinals. Working on that loss side, Thorpe got by Chohan and Morra to pick up Klatt. Van Boening had defeated Jesse Bowman and Skyler Woodward to draw Roberts.

Roberts spoiled the Thorpe/Van Boening re-match by eliminating Van Boening, while Thorpe took Klatt out. Roberts then defeated Thorpe in the quarterfinals 9-6.

Roberts then ran into the buzz saw of Johnny Archer smelling the finish line. Mindful of his break problems in the hot seat match, Archer had spent much of the intervening time between the hot seat match and semifinal (during the quarterfinal match) practicing that break and it paid off. Roberts broke to get things underway, but Johnny took the first game and then, sunk three on his subsequent break to jump start his way to taking the second. On the third rack, Roberts broke dry, but left Archer a long, rail-first shot at the 1-ball, nestled against the 10-ball, pointed right at a 6-ball, sitting just off-center of the side pocket. Acting as though he did this sort of thing every day, Archer stroked the ball and sure enough – rail first, cue hit the 1-ball, 10 slid over, nudged the 6-ball out of the way and dropped into the side pocket.
3-0, Archer. He won six more to shut Roberts out and the re-match versus Orcullo was on.

Though Orcollo would win by four racks, he and Archer both were handed and squandered numerous opportunities. Immediately after Archer broke dry to give Orcullo the 4-2 lead, Orcollo broke dry to hand Archer his third rack. Archer then broke dry a second time, and for the second time, Orcollo made him pay. It was 5-3.

The 9th rack created a problem that was, much to Archer’s chagrine, solved by allowing Orcollo to break rack # 9 a second time. Within a shot or two of Orcollo’s initial break that saw three balls go down, the 1-ball was locked up in a tight pack of balls and could not, without foul, be touched. Archer and Orcollo took turns giving each other ball in hand, by shooting at a ball that either tied up the 1-ball even further or just moved a different ball, away from the pack, in some random direction. The game and match came to a halt, before it was determined, by TD David Coles, that the game was a stalemate, and that, by rule, Orcollo (the original breaker) would be allowed to break again.

Orcollo did so, made two balls and was looking at a decent table for a run when he put himself out of position, shooting at the 5-ball and gave the table to Archer. Archer, in much the same way, gave it right back and Orcollo finished it – 6-3.

Archer broke dry for the third straight time, but Orcollo chalked up another unforced error, missing a ball completely to give Archer ball-in-hand, and eventually, the game. It was 6-4 and still looking interesting.

A quick break-and-run for Orcollo moved him back out in front by three (7-4), before Archer broke dry for the fourth straight time. Again, Orcollo failed to capitalize, and when he turned the table over to Archer, Archer jumped on it to complete what proved to be his final winning rack.

Orcollo broke rack # 13, sinking two balls, and though he’d make a tricky 1-8 combination, the position result was not what he’d hoped for. He played a safety that left Archer snookered, and went on to reach the hill first at 8-5.

Archer broke the final game, and though he did sink a ball, he was left with a difficult shot on the 1-ball that he missed. Orcollo stepped to the table and completed his undefeated run to claim the Carom Room’s Fall Classic title.

WILSON ANNOUNCES FINAL SELECTIONS FOR TEAM USA

After making “some of the roughest telephone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson announced his five-man team for the 21st Mosconi Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1-4, in Blackpool, England. The squad features a mixture of veteran players and youth.

Not surprisingly, newly minted U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening will lead the U.S. squad, which has dropped four Mosconi Cups in a row (and six of seven) to Team Europe. The 31-year-old Van Boening will play in his eighth Cup, and will be joined by Cup veterans Corey Deuel, also making his eighth appearance, and John Schmidt, who played in 2006 in Rotterdam. Making their Mosconi Cup debuts will be 27-year-old Justin Bergman of Fairview Heights, Ill., and 26-year-old Justin Hall of Palm Harbor, Fla.

The “tough calls” Wilson made were to Brandon Shuff, Oscar Dominguez and Jeremy Sossei, who have been offered coaching positions in Blackpool. Dominguez and Shuff have each participated in one Mosconi Cup, with Dominguez being a member of the last U.S. team to win the title, in 2009.

“This represents a new era for Team USA,” said Wilson, who was named captain by Matchroom Sport in January, just a month after Team USA was humiliated by Team Europe, 12-2, in Las Vegas. “And I’m counting on these players to be leaders. “The final decisions were difficult,” Wilson added. “Every player put a lot of time and effort into their game over the past nine months. And they all represented the sport and the U.S. well during that time. There were a few close calls, but I’m confident in these picks. It was a pretty thorough process.”

According to Wilson, the three players left off the final squad were asked to travel with the team to England, expense-paid, to assist during the event. “This won’t be a holiday,” Wilson added. “Each player will be assigned special duties, setting up little refresher drills for the team before each round.” Wilson said the duties include an Offensive Coordinator, a Defensive Coordinator (to work on safeties and kick shots) and Specialty Shots Coordinator (for breaking and elevated cue shots).
“I will have drills for the players to work on,” said Wilson, “and the coaches will help the players run through the drills.”

According to Wilson, the team will meet in St. Louis, Nov. 20-21, for intensive practice sessions at Lindenwood University, where Wilson coaches the billiards program. The team will participate in Mosconi Cup-style match play at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Ill., the following two days. After several more days of practice in St. Louis, the team will share a Thanksgiving dinner, before leaving for Blackpool on Friday, Nov. 28. “I feel great about Team USA,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to go to war with these guys.”

SEALs Of Approval For Team USA

In his new book, “Play Great Pool,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson recounts a special guided tour he took of the U.S. Navy SEAL facility near San Diego in 2009. He refers to the trip as one of the most inspiring, motivational and uplifting experiences of his life. In late May, Wilson hoped to get a similar response from his Team USA squad. Seven of the eight Mosconi Cup hopefuls were scheduled to visit with the Navy SEALs, May 22-25, as part of a combined training and charity mission in preparation for Mosconi Cup XXI in Blackpool, England, Dec. 1-4. (Shane Van Boening had a scheduling conflict with the San Diego dates.)

According to Wilson, in addition to a tour and lecture at the Navy SEAL facility, the San Diego camp will include a visit to a Veterans Administration hospital, a full clinic, a charity event and challenge matches. “This is all about motivation, discipline, core values and professionalism,” said Wilson. “If this visit doesn’t get the players dialed in and pumped up, nothing will.”

Wilson has expressed interest in getting the team together for several “boot camps” before selecting the final five players who will compete in Blackpool. He added that he would be compiling physical evaluations on each player — statistics on break speeds, cue ball control, spot shot accuracy and more (“like the NFL Combine,” he said) — and plans to post the results on a Team USA fan page.

To listen to Team USA promotional spot, click on the link.
http://billiardsdigest.com/audio/Mosconi-PEP.mp3

Wilson Names Team USA Hopefuls

Mosconi_CupAs was his original intent, Mosconi Cup Team USA Captain Mark Wilson worked quickly to select the players who will compete for the final five roster spots for the 2014 event in December in Blackpool, England. Wilson announced the selection of eight players who will train and compete together through the summer, before the captain whittles the list down to the five players who will wear the red, white and blue in Blackpool.

Not surprisingly, Wilson tabbed America’s No. 1, Shane Van Boening, and immediately announced that he will expect the taciturn star to provide leadership to the 2014 squad. “Shane sets a great example,” Wilson said in a press release. “And I expect to rely on him for leadership this year.”

Wilson also named seven-time Mosconi Cup veteran Corey Deuel, who many thought should have been on the team in 2013, to the squad. John Schmidt, Oscar Dominguez and Brandon Shuff, each of whom has participated in one Mosconi Cup, were named to the team was well. Leaning on America’s youth, Wilson rounded out his selection with Southern Classic One-Pocket champion Justin Bergman, Derby City titlist Justin Hall and Connecticut’s Jeremy Sossei.

“I’m really excited by this team,” Wilson said. “Every player seems so genuinely appreciative and excited. They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to develop a strong team and a strong sense of unity.”

More interesting than who Wilson selected, of course, was the list of players who weren’t invited to “camp.” The most notable omission was Johnny Archer, whose string of 17 consecutive Mosconi Cup appearances will come to an end. Fourteen-time Cup participant Earl Strickland and nine-time team member Rodney Morris were also left off the roster. In fact, Van Boening will be the only holdover from the 2013 squad that lost 21-1 to Team Europe in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t interview those players,” Wilson admitted. “And I explained to Johnny that I thought it best to go in a completely different direction this year. A lot of it is about attitude. Last year I felt there was no sense of urgency. There seemed to be a sense that it was a yearend bonus, and if the team won, great.”

Another player conspicuous by his absence is Mike Dechaine, one of the most consistent American players over the past three years.

“I spoke to Mike,” said Wilson. “In the end I felt that his reputation among the players wasn’t a good fit at this stage for a team event like the Mosconi Cup.”

Wilson added that his plan is to get the players together several times over the summer and fall for practice and team bonding. Wilson said he planned to make the final cut to five players after the U.S. Open, and that Team USA would meet and practice together for a week at Lindenwood University near St. Louis before departing for London. The dates of the 2014 Mosconi Cup are Dec. 1-4.

Van Boening Tops at Super Billiards Expo

Van Boening repeats as champion with an 8-4 win over Thorstan Hohmann in the final's third set.

Van Boening repeats as champion with an 8-4 win over Thorstan Hohmann in the final’s third set.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Allen Hopkins moved the 2013 Super Billiards Expo from the Philadelphia area to Edison, N.J., just outside of New York City. The April 4-7 consumer trade show that boasts a host of amateur and professional events also saw the Pro Players 10-Ball Championship switch formats — from the usual single-set, double-elimination chart to a single-elimination event that matched players in best-of-three races-to-8.

But with a new venue and new format, the champion remained Shane Van Boening. The reigning Player of the Year took his fourth Pro Players title, and second in a row, with an impressive run through a field of 61.

Starting with wins over Donnie Mills and Robb Saez, Van Beoning then ran into 2011 champ Ralf Souquet. The American dropped the second set, 8-6, but bounced back with a clinching 8-2 set to advance to the quarterfinals.

Souquet was hardly the only big name to be sidelined early. Efren Reyes drew German superstar Thorsten Hohmann in the first round — and the Filipino legend dropped consecutive sets to end an uncharacteristically quick event. Johnny Archer, Francisco Bustamante and Mika Immonen also crashed out before winning two sets.

In the quarterfinals, Van Boening took two close sets against Darren Appleton; Warren Kiamco edged Corey Deuel; Alex Pagulayan thumped Jeremy Sossei, and Hohmann outlasted Scotland’s Jayson Shaw.

In a rematch from the 2003 World Pool Championship, Hohmann took his spot in the final by edging Pagulayan. Van Boening then topped Kiamco in straight sets, 8-6 and 8-5, to take the other seat in the championship match.

Van Boening struck first in the final, taking the opening set, 8-6. He then worked his way to within a 10-ball of the title in the second when he got on the hill, 7-6. But Hohmann responded with a pair of racks to force a decisive third set.

In the final race-to-8, Van Boening turned a 3-2 lead into an insurmountable 7-2 advantage. Hohmann took a pair of racks to edge within shouting distance at 7-4, but Van Boening then broke and ran the 12th table for the 8-4 win.

His second consecutive Pro Players title netted Van Boening $10,000 while Hohmann pocketed $5,000 for his runner-up finish.

DCC 9-Ball: Alex Roars in Final

Pagulayan was all smiles after taking the 9-ball title. (Photo by David Thomson-mediumpool.com)

Pagulayan was all smiles after taking the 9-ball title. (Photo by David Thomson-mediumpool.com)

With three players left in the Derby City Classic’s 9-ball division, Shawn Putnam caught a bit of a break when he received the bye into the final, leaving Mike Dechaine and Alex Pagulayan to play in a de facto semifinal, with both players already having exercised their buy-back options.

Dechaine, fresh off a dominant 9-2 victory over Shane Van Boening, kept pace with Pagulayan. With the 9-ball event extending races to nine racks, a change to meet BCA-mandated specifications for points events, Pagulayan and Dechaine met on the hill, 8-8. Following an exchange of safeties, the Filipino hit a table-length kick on the 1 ball on his way out, securing his spot alongside Putnam.

And while Putnam kept pace with Pagulayan, the Lion proved too much for the 41-year-old American. After Putnam closed to within a rack at 7-6, Pagulayan forced his opponent to foul in each of the next two racks to take the $16,000 title by a final count of 9-6.

With that victory, Pagualayn capped the 15th Derby City Classic where the majority of the big prizes went to the always-formidable Filipino contingent. Francisco Bustamante, winner of the banks division and runner-up to Corey Deuel in one-pocket, took home the $20,000 Master of the Table all-around award. Dennis Orcollo, meanwhile, snapped off the Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge to pocket the $20,000 first prize.

ESPN to Stream Mosconi Cup

Just hours before the 2012 Mosconi Cup kicks off in London, Matchroom Sport announced that ESPN will broadcast all of the action live on its ESPN3 network. Here is the full release from Matchroom Sport:

With the 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup set to start at 2 Eastern time on Monday 10th December, pool fans across America will be able to follow all the action live on ESPN 3 as Team USA goes in search of Team Europe’s crown.

Taking place at the legendary York Hall in East London between Monday 10th and Thursday 13th December, this is the 19th annual running of pool’s biggest event as two five man teams from the USA and Europe go at it over four days of sheer adrenalized 9 ball action.

Team USA are aiming to win back the trophy they last won at MGM Grand in 2009. The Europeans retained their trophy in Vegas 12 months ago, defeating USA 11-7 in Vegas.

Captained by CJ Wiley, Team USA members Johnny Archer(Georgia), Shane Van Boening (South Dakota), Dennis Hatch (New York) and Mike Dechaine (Maine) are joined by rookie Brandon Shuff (Virgina) for Mosconi Cup XIX.

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Team USA Set for Mosconi Cup

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Here’s the official release from Matchroom Sport announcing the five players who will compete for Team USA and captain CJ Wiley:

Following from his undefeated run through last week’s U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, Shane Van Boening cemented his place at the head of the American 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup rankings to secure his spot on the team as one of the top two automatic spots.

“I’m so happy to be on my sixth appearance as Mosconi USA team member,” Van Boening said. “As I just won the U.S. Open, I know I’m playing well this year and will try my best to help the team take home the title.”

Such was Van Boening’s dominance of the five-event series that he beat the second placed player Mike Dechaine by an incredible 218 points. In his previous five Mosconi Cup appearances, the South Dakota Kid sports a record of 12 wins from 26 matches.

For second placed Dechaine it will be a return to the team following on from his debut in Las Vegas last year and he will be relishing the chance to show what he can do in front of a partisan, sold-out crowd at the York Hall, London, from December 10-13.

“I am very excited to compete in my second consecutive Mosconi Cup, especially with this one being in London,” Dechaine said. “With the crowds being heavily in Europe’s favor, this is without a doubt the team I’d want going against it.”

The first of the remaining three wildcard picks is Virginia’s Brandon Shuff, who caps off a fine season to make his Mosconi Cup debut at the age of 29.

“When I was growing up, it was an American pool player’s dream to play on the Mosconi Cup,” he said. “This is definitely a blessing and hard work is paying off and I’m excited for this accomplishment and I’ll be training hard to help our team bring that Cup back where it belongs.”

Back for his third Mosconi Cup is Dennis Hatch. An MVP in his 2009 debut when his gung-ho team spirit helped propel the team to victory, Hatch will be hoping for a successful return to the York Hall where he made his last Mosconi Cup appearance in 2010.

“It’s always an honor and privilege to represent the US,” he said. “I am so fired up and hungry that the only thing I plan on tasting while in Europe is victory, because I believe this is one of the best teams yet.”

The final spot in the team is filled by Georgia’s Johnny Archer who will be making a record-breaking 16th consecutive Mosconi Cup appearance. With a winning percentage of 53, the Scorpion made his debut at the event in 1996 and has been an ever-present since.

“It is an honor to represent the USA team for my 16th straight year,” he said. “And I will do whatever it takes to help the boys take that cup from York Hall and bring it back to America where it belongs.”