AZB Coverage Post NBL Stage 1 Amateur Qualifiers

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Levie Lampaan

Three locations post winners in first League qualifiers

National Billiard League (NBL) director Ed Liddawi promised people entertainment and on Sunday, January 10, beginning at 1 p.m., he delivered. A part of the interior of Liddawi’s pool room, Sandcastle Billiards in Edison, NJ, was turned into a stage, and with stage lighting, interior fireworks and live music, it became the focal point for the launching of Liddawi’s league. As host/MC, he used the stage to introduce the Facebook Live Stream commentators (Earl Strickland, Jennifer Baretta and Neight Mindham) and the 32 players who competed for the top prize of a free entry to the league’s Main Event (a $1,000-dollar value), free flight to the venue, hotel accommodations, a tour card and a league jersey. He also introduced performers Ciara Brooke, Telli MusicHead Stonemen, and 17-year-old Kellie-Anne, who sang the National Anthem. These introductions and the manner in which Liddawi stage-managed the entire process of launching the league, reflected his desire to elevate the experience of a garden-variety tournament into a grand event, complete with a half-time show. In addition to the grand event he hosted personally, the league held two other premiere Amateur 10-ball events in Texas and California.

In the signature event at Sandcastle Billiards, Levie Lampaan took home the coveted first place prize and became the first competitor in the newly-formed league to qualify for the one of league’s Main Events. These Main Events, as well as a number of the scheduled qualifiers have had to be rescheduled due to the pandemic. Liddawi has had to requalify rooms for the league’s events, because some of the original establishments that signed on have closed due to the pandemic, some of them permanently. This requalifying process has already altered the schedule that Liddawi had set for this league’s first year; eight qualifiers, in Jan/Feb, April/May, July/August and Oct./Nov, followed by four Main Events. With the pandemic still exacting its price from the pool community, Liddawi has had to scale the original eight qualifiers, down to six and the Main Events down to three, as he continues to complete the process of scheduling the rooms and dates for the year ahead.

At Big Tyme Billiards in Spring, TX, the NBL qualifier drew 15 entrants, and was won by Ernesto Bayaua, who defeated Blaine Barcus in the finals. Tommy Tokoph and Carl Honey finished third and fourth, respectively. In California, where The Rack Billiards in Fresno drew a full field of 32 entrants, Spencer Ladin took home the top prize. Al Moreno was runner-up. Daniel Campos finished third and Curtis Partch finished in fourth place.

“Overall,” said Liddawi on the league’s Facebook page, “things went very smoothly, especially for a first time. I give all credit to the incredible “A-Team” I assembled and am honored to have supporting me with their experience and distinguished professionalism.”

“All the players involved were excited and enjoyed their time, while being very patient and cooperative,” he added. “It was great to see a nice, clean organized event once again with the pandemic still going on.”

With the National Anthem signaling its start, the NBL got underway

As the table assignments were being handed out at Sandcastle Billiards, Neight Mindham and Earl Strickland were introducing themselves for the first time on the live stream. From their booth, they explained the event’s format; 10-ball, first round matches were races to five, while all other ‘A’ side matches were races to 9. All loss-side matches were races to 5.

“Sounds like the movie, Airplane, to me,” Strickland quipped. “Too complicated for me.”

And so it began.

Lampaan faced Jerry Dunne three times in the event; once in the hot seat and twice in the finals, when Dunne forced a second set in the event’s true double elimination final.

Lampaan had opened his march to the finish line by winning 14 of his first 16 games, downing Marco Danielle 5-1 and then, Keith Guenzel 9-1. Moving into the winners’ side quarterfinal, things tightened up a bit, as Lampaan battled to double hill versus Mark Nanashee before prevailing and advancing to a winners’ side semifinal against Paul Spaanstra.

Dunne, in the meantime, opened the same way Lampaan did, with a 5-1 victory, over Rick Massa. He then got by Steven Persaud 9-5 and Ed Woolley 9-3 to draw Jason Crowe in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Lampaan sent Spaanstra to the loss side 9-5 and was joined in the hot seat match by Dunne, who’d defeated Crowe 9-7. Lampaan took the first of his three against Dunne 9-4 to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Spaanstra picked up Rich Ng, who’d lost his second-round match to Nanashee and had won four on the loss side, including 5-3 wins over Ed Wooley and Jose Estevez. Crowe drew Sean Emmitt, who’d lost his opening match and was working on a five-match, loss-side streak that took him as far as the quarterfinals. He’d knocked Nanashee out of the tournament in the fourth loss-side round by defeating him in a double hill match. He’d most recently eliminated Joe Palone and shut out Brian Grube, Jr.

Emmitt and Ng handed Crowe and Spaanstra their second straight loss, by the same 5-2 score. Ng then ended Emmitt’s loss-side run with yet another 5-2 win. Dunne, though, in the semifinals, put up a stronger fight, and bringing the match to double hill, before prevailing for his second and third shot at Lampaan in the hot seat.

With that old, intangible ‘friend,’ momentum on his side, Dunne took the double elimination’s opening set 9-6. Now, with a single loss each, the race went down to 5. Lampaan re-caught his gear in the second set and gave up only a single rack to claim the NBL’s first title 5-1. 

“A very sincere ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who played a part in the first of many National Billiards League qualifiers to come,” said Liddawi. “I’ve learned a lot of things that still have to be addressed for the next one, locally, as well as nationwide.”

Recorded matches from all tables, event brackets and photos are available through the league’s Web site – The NBL Music Album is now available on Spotify.

Liddawi was generous in his appreciation of a vast list of people and entities which contributed to the planning and ultimately, the success of his league’s launch. He began with recognition and thanks to his own Sandcastle Billiards’ staff – Tom Bedard, Paul Lieb, Joel Kahn, Brian Cosme, Melissa Smith and the “special assistance” from Mike Knips. He thanked hostess, Jennifer Baretta, commentator Earl Strickland and the live stream’s special guest, Neight Mindham, as well as his tour directors (Jose Burgos and Elvis Rodriguez) and referees (Chrissy Martinez, Jeff Martinez, Anamarta Silva and Greg Restivo.

He thanked the people who helped create the entertainment of the stage opening of the proceedings and its half-time show – M2P Record LLC, KS & Owner Music Production: Kilroy Records, Steve Kolakowsy, Mick Jerzii Drone and Photography, as well as performers Kellie-Anne, Ciara Brooke and Telli Music Head Stonemen.

He gave a shout out to all of the players who competed and the event’s official providers – Outsville Pool and Billiards, Aramith Billiard Balls and Iwan Simonis Billiards.

Texas – Big Tyme Billiards in Spring, TX – 15 entrants – $1,100-added (10-ball, amateur)

1st Ernesto Bayaua $430
2nd Blaine Barcus $300
3rd Tommy Tokoph $220
4th Carl Honey $150

CA – Racks Billiards in Fresno, CA – 32 entrants – $1,200-added (10-ball, amateur)

1st Spencer Ladin
2nd Al Moreno $560
3rd Daniel Campos $320
4th Curtis Partch $150
5th Todd Speakman $85
Rodney Wynn

NJ – Sandcastle Billiards – Edison, NJ – 32 entrants – $2,800-added (10-ball, amateur)

1st Levie Lampaan $800
2nd Jerry Dunn $600
3rd Rich Ng $400
4th Sean Emmitt $300
5th Jason Crowe $200
Paul Spaanstra
7th Jose Estevez $150Brian Grube, Jr.

Skip Maloney – AzB StaffJanuary 16, 2021Ernesto BayauaLevie LampaanSpencer Ladin

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