Blaze 9-Ball Tour / West Hempstead, NY
by Jerry Tarantola
Marlon Manalo swept the Tri-State Tour’s September 26 event and then headed over to the Blaze 9-Ball Tour the next day, taking no prisoners on his triumphant march to the finish. The Blaze Tour was hosted by Raxx Bar & Grill in West Hempstead, NY, where a field of 29 players came out to play in the $1,000-added event.
Manalo, who was visiting New York in preparation for the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships, led the top half of the bracket with wins over Pat Byrne 7-2, Ariel Rivera 7-2, Oscar Bonilla 7-4, and Pete Tascarella Sr. 7-3. Leading the bottom half of the bracket was reigning U.S. Open champ Mika Immonen with wins over Joey Korsiak 7-6, Antonio Guerrero 7-1, Rob Pole 7-3, and Mike Fingers 7-0.
Facing off to play for the hot seat were the two favorites in this event, Manalo and Immonen. This was a well-played match, with Immonen pulling away late in the set to win the match 7-5 and send Manalo to the one loss-side.
On the one-loss side, Korsiak had fought his way back after a hill-hill loss to Immonen to meet Bonilla in the quarterfinals. The two Long Island-based players had a close battle, but Bonilla eked out the final game in the hill-hill match. In another closely contested match, Bonilla was up 5-3 on Manalo in the semifinals, but Manalo pulled it together and made it another hill-hill bout. With his monster break in the final rack, he smashed the rack and ran out to win 7-6.
The finals were a rematch between the undefeated Immonen and Manalo, which would be a true double-elimination. With Immonen recently winning the Galveston World Classic 10-Ball event, it appeared that no one be able to best him at Raxx. And in the first set that’s exactly how it appeared, as he jumped out to a big 5-1 lead. However, the tables turned after he missed a 7-9 combo, and Manalo began to rise from the ashes. He managed to tie the match and then surpass Immonen to win 7-5.
In the second set of the finals, Manalo started out flawless, reaching a 3-0 lead. He only hiccupped when he overcut the 6 ball in the fourth game, putting Immonen on the board, but Manalo recovered and dominated the second set. Manalo showed his strength in the final match, making it his second win of the weekend.