All-American Affair at Mizerak Championship
Steve Mizerak Championship / Hollywood, FL
by Raymond Linares
With the final four of the Steve Mizerak Championship, the crown of the Seminole Pro Tour’s 2009 season, all being former U.S. Open champions, there was no doubt that the match play for Saturday evening would be of the highest caliber. It was even more impressive that these four players have all been members of the U.S. Mosconi Cup team. This event is hosted by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL.
In the winners’ side final, Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer battled with John “Mr. 400” Schmidt. Schmidt arrived to the hot seat match by defeating Shane Van Boening 8-6, while Archer displayed his championship prowess by running four racks and out on “Rocket” Rodney Morris to get to the winners’ side final. The hot seat match proved that Archer’s play would not subside in the slightest. His big break and methodical play kept Schmidt in his chair for most of the match. Ultimately Archer capitalized on several Schmidt errors and captured the hot seat by a seven-game margin, 8-1.
Sent to the B-side, Schmidt had to await the victor of an epic hill-hill battle between Morris and Van Boening. Morris took an early lead at 3-2, displaying some great shot-making and after winning the next game, he came with a great four-rail position shot past the 7 ball. The 7 was a ball and a half distance off the rail, and after Morris’ cue ball danced gracefully past it, he extended his lead to 5-2. Van Boening pulled one game back after winning a safety exchange but came up dry on his next break with the score 5-3. Morris ran out that rack and pushed his lead further to 6-3. It was starting to look like it would be smooth sailing for the Hawaiian native.
However, an unforced scratch on his next break turned the tides in Van Boening’s favor. “The South Dakota Kid” came with a tough out and after a safety exchange in the next rack closed the gap to 6-5. The next two racks were followed by the quintessential Van Boening break and run, bringing him to the hill first 7-6. ” Rocket” was ever resilient, and after winning a safety battle in the 14th game, Morris joined Van Boening on the hill. The delighted spectators in the stadium arena honored these two players’ performance with thunderous applause. The last game would see a terrific safety battle with Van Boening and Morris displaying excellent safes and kick-safety exchanges. The exchange culminated with Morris kicking the 1 ball one rail straight in to the corner. The drama was far from over, though. After getting on the 8, the crowd thought that Morris had pulled it out, but a missed 8 ball left Van Boening almost entirely hooked on the 8. Van Boening, in disbelief, took his break and left the crowd to sweat the layout on the table. Several players and spectators approached the table speculating on his next move.
Van Boening returned and attempt a two-rail, two-way kick shot on the 8 where he tried to cut the 8 in the corner, but if he missed he’d leave the 8 in the middle of the foot rail. However, he didn’t execute as planned and left Morris a long, easy shot on the 8. Morris ran the last three balls and advanced to the semifinals.
After a brief intermission, the battle was on between Morris and Schmidt. The two players shot, on average, 3 1/2 minutes per rack—a blistering pace considering the stakes. An interesting turn of events occurred at the end of the fourth game. Schmidt missed a makeable 7 ball and conceded the last three balls to Morris. However, on the Seminole Pro Tour, in the last day of competition, any ball concession constitutes a one-game penalty to be assessed in favor of the opponent. Frustrated with that mental error, it would seem that Schmidt’s tournament hopes would be finished. But quite the opposite happened, trailing 4-1, Schmidt’s error seemed to light a fire for him. Picking up his pace, Schmidt began to reel off game after game, bringing the match to a very close 6-5. Exhibiting some creative carom and combination shots on the 10, Schmidt looked like he was going to tie the match. After a missed bank, however, Schmidt watched Morris make a nice out and get on the hill at 7-5. Schmidt was not discouraged and followed with a win in the 13th game. Being down 7-6, Schmidt beat Rodney to the first shot and seemed like he was going to push this set to the limit and make it a hill-hill clash. But it was not to be, as Schmidt barely hung an 8 ball in the jaws of the corner pocket. Schmidt conceded the last two balls and graciously accepted the appreciation from the audience on his third-place finish.
Advancing to the 5 p.m. final match Sunday, Morris will have a chance to reclaim his title as the Steve Mizerak champion, a title that he won in 2007 against Seminole-sponsored Corey Deuel. In order to reclaim his throne atop the 10-ball charts, Morris is going to have to get through the Player of the Decade in the 90’s, and king of the hill for this event, Johnny Archer. Morris will be chomping at the bit for his shot at revenge against “The Scorpion,” seeing that Archer was the one who put him on the one-loss side. The finals will be one race to 9 and will be filmed in the stadium setting of the Hard Rock Live at the beautiful Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The match will be broadcast next month on Fox Sports Network and Sunshine Sports in Florida. For the latest information and news stay tuned for the final day’s coverage. Two American champions, and only one can win.
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