For the first time in six years, the annual Ocean State
9-Ball Championship has been won by someone not named Shaw
or Dechaine. On the weekend of November 11-12, the title
went, for the third straight time, to a European –
Alexandros (Alex) Kazakis. In the absence of the two-time
defending champion (Shaw), and three-time champion Dechaine
(’12, ’13 & ’14), Kazakis went undefeated
through a field of 87 entrants at the $5,000-added, 29th
Annual Ocean State Championship, held under the auspices
of the Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour, and hosted by Snooker's
in Providence, RI.
Though well known in European circles, dating back to his
days as a European Junior Champion in 2009, and subsequent
appearances on the International Billiard Promotion Foundation
(IBPF) and European Pocket Billiard Federation’s (EPBF)
EuroTour, Kazakis entered the Ocean State Championship without
a US title on his resumé. He’d come close,
though. In January of this year (his best recorded earnings
year, to date), he was runner-up to Jayson Shaw in the Derby
City Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge, and the week before the
Ocean State ‘challenge,’ he’d been runner-up
to Jorge Rodriguez in the Grand Masters division of the
NYC 8-Ball Championships.
At the very start, it seemed as though Kazakis and Albanian
teenager Eklent (Klenti) Kaci were destined to knock heads.
Kaci, who, in the past year, had already won the Aramith
Masters Division and Predator Grand Finale of the 8-Ball
World Pool Series (April and November, respectively), two
stops on the Joss Tour, one on the Predator Tour and was
runner-up to Shaw in the US Open, was poised to add a sixth
US title to his growing list. In back-to-back matches, Kazakis
and Jeremy Sossei kept the youngster out of the Ocean State
Championship winners’ circle.
Kazakis and Kaci met first, predictably, in the hot seat
match. Kazakis had sent Sossei to the loss side 9-7 in one
winners’ side semifinal, as Kaci was busy shutting
out Tom D’Alfonso (winner of the Ocean State title
in 2011). Kazakis prevailed in the hot seat match 9-7, sending
Kaci to the semifinals from which he would not return.
On the loss side, a number of potential ‘threats’
lay in wait. Sossei picked up one of them; Jorge Rodriguez,
who’d been sent to the loss side by Kaci in a winners’
side quarterfinal, and defeated Stevie Mack 7-4 and Zion
Zvi 7-3. In a battle of Joss Tour veterans, D’Alfonso
drew Ron Casanzio (recent winner of the Al Conte Memorial
earlier this month), who’d most recently defeated
Rich Kravetz 7-5 and Paul Dryden, double hill.
Sossei gave up only one rack to Rodriguez and advanced to
the quarterfinals. He was joined by D’Alfonso, who’d
eliminated Casanzio 7-5. Sossei moved on to defeat D’Alfonso
7-4, and then, in what had to have come as a surprise to
many (except Sossei), Sossei dashed Kaci’s hopes for
a sixth US title with a 7-5 win in the semifinals.
In the finals that followed, Kazakis, in pursuit of his
first US title, was facing an opponent, Sossei, who was
vying for his 39th US title in 10 years. The two came within
a game of having to play a single, deciding game, but in
the end, Kazakis pulled out in front 9-7 to win the 29th
Annual Ocean State 9-Ball Championship.
Tour director Mike Zuglan thanked Steve Goulding and his
Snooker’s staff for their hospitality, as well as
regular tour sponsors Joss Cues, Turning Stone Resort &
Casino, Simonis Cloth, Poolonthenet.com, AZBilliards, Aramith,
Billiards Press and World Class Cue Care. Stop #6 on the
Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for November 18-19,
will be a $1,500-added main event with a $500 added second
chance event on Sunday, hosted by Union Station Billiards
in Portland, ME. That event will be the last reguilar season
event before the Turning Stone Classic XXIX at the Turning
Stone Casino in Verona, Ny on January 4th - 7th.