Zvi comes back from semifinals to defend his Empire State 10-Ball Championship title while
Carandang goes undefeated to capture Amateur title
L-R Mieszko Fortunski, Konrad Jusczyzszyn & Zion Zvi
L-R Steve Romann (2nd), Frank Cutrone (4th), Jason Carandang (1st), and Shawn Jackson (3rd)
L-R George Poltorak (2nd), Mike Callaghan (1st), Debby Buyukdeniz (3rd/4th), and Dan Faraguna (3rd/4th)
L-R Max Watanabe (1st) and Mike Salerno (2nd)
Complete Payouts
1 Jason Carandang
2 Steve Romann
3 Shawn Jackson
4 Frank Cutrone
5-6 Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Ada Lio
7-8 Paul Everton, Jose Kuilan
9-12 Manny Stamatakis, Travis Hopkins-Walker, Matthias Gutzmann, Adam Miller
13-16 Eugene Ok, Bryan Toolsee, Amy Yu, Monika Callaghan
17-24 Mike Panzarella, Tom Wan, Aaran Moody, Eli Trajceski,
Dave Callaghan, Ron Bernardo, Kris Bisram, Chris Ganley
Complete Payouts Pro
1 ISR ZVI Zion 2,000
2 POL FORTUNSKI Mieszko 1,500
5 USA YEDNAK Michael 100
2nd Chance
1 Mike Callaghan
2 George Poltorak
3/4 Debby Buyukdeniz and Dan Faraguna
3rd Chance
1 Max Watanabe
2 Mike Salerno
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At the conclusion of the 2017 Empire State 10-Ball Championships (Open/Pro division), at which Zion Zvi had gone undefeated through a field of 25, he spoke of coming back from a break that he’d taken over the past few years.

“I’m going to be more active,” he said at the time, noting that he’d be “coming back one step at at a time.”

One week later, he’d claimed the 8th Annual New England Hall of Fame Tournament title, and before the year was out, he’d pocketed the best recorded earnings in his 15-year career. On Sunday February 25, he began 2018 the same way, by successfully defending his title at the 11th Annual Empire State 10-Ball Championships. He missed going undefeated by a single game, battling for the hot seat, but came back to defeat Mieszko Fortunski in the finals. For the second year in a row, the $1,000-added Open/Pro division of the Championships drew 25 entrants to the event’s traditional venue, Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY.

Commencing on Saturday, February 24, Raxx Billiards also played host to the annual Amateur division of the Empire State Championships, competing in 9-Ball. This year’s $2,000-added event drew 111 entrants, three more than it had last year. Jason Carandang went undefeated through the field to claim his first major title.

Zvi’s trek to the winners’ circle advanced through to a winners’ side semifinal match against Michael Yednak. Fortunski, in the meantime, met up with Joey Korsiak in the other winners’ side semifinal. Zvi and Fortunksi got into the hot seat match with identical 7-4 wins over Yednak and Korsiak. Fortunski claimed the hot seat 7-2, and waited on Zvi’s return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Yednak picked up Konrad Jusczyzszyn, who’d defeated Mike Panzarella 7-3 and survived a double hill match versus Jorge Rodriguez. Korsiak drew Greg McAndrews, who’d chalked up two straight double hill wins against Tony Robles Frankie Hernandez to reach him.

By identical 7-4 scores, McAndrews and Jusczyzszyn advanced to the quarterfinals over Korsiak and Yednak. Jusczyzszyn then downed McAndrew 7-3 in those quarterfinals. Zvi put a stop to Jusczyzszyn’s run 7-3 in the semifinals, and then, in a successful 11-7 re-match against Fortunski, claimed the event title.

Carandang and Romann battle twice for the Amateur title

They met early and late. Jason Carandang sent Steven Romann to the loss side in a double hill match early in the Amateur event. Caradang advanced to the hot seat, as Romann chalked up seven wins on the loss side to meet him a second time. The finals fell a game short of being a second double hill match (7-5), but the result was the same.

Caradang advanced through the field to a winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio, the Predator Pro Am Tour’s top female at this early-in-the-season juncture. Shawn Jackson and Frank Cutrone met up in the other winners’ side semifinal. Carandang sent Lio to the loss side 7-2, as Jackson sent over Cutrone over 7-5. Carandang and Jackson locked up in a double hill fight that left Carandang in the hot seat, and Jackson on his way to the semifinals.

It was Lio, who picked up the eventual runner-up, Steve Romann on the loss side. He was four matches into the loss-side streak that was taking him to the finals. He’d most recently downed Adam Miller 7-5 and Jose Kuilan 7-4. Cutrone picked up teenager Lukas Fracassso-Verner, who’d eliminated Steinway Billiards’ owner, Manny Stamatakis in a double hill fight, and Paul Everton in an almost-double hill fight (7-5).

Romann defeated Lio 7-4 and advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Cutrone, who’d put Fracasso-Verner on the wrong end of another double hill fight. Two more, apparently very popular 7-4 wins, in the quarterfinals against Cutrone and in the semifinals, against Jackson, gave Romann a second shot against Carandang. To no avail, as it turned out. Carandang completed his undefeated run with a 7-5 win in the finals.

A Second Chance event that drew 16 entrants was Mike Callaghan defeat George Poltorak 7-3 in the finals. Dan Faraguna finished third, with Debby Buyukdeniz in fourth place. Max Watanabe defeated Mike Salerno 7-2 in the finals of a Third Chance event that drew 8 entrants.

Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, NAPL, Ozone Billiards, The DeVito Team, PoolOnTheNet.com, BilliardsPress.com, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and PoolMag.com. Robles also extended thanks to his entire Predator Staff, including his wife, Gail Robles, Mandy Wu, William Finnegan, Irene Kim, and Rob Omen. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for March 3-4, will be hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.

Story by Skip Maloney AZBilliards

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