by Meredith Lynch (http://www.meredithlynchpool.com/)
There was a unified quiet as the matches started morning October 1, the final day of the NAPT Freedom Classic. The crowd that had gathered at Eagle Billiards in Dickson City, Pa for the three-day event would occasionally let their emotions out together, all at once reverting to quiet respect as the balls rolled to a stop. There was a lot at stake at this event, with $6400 added and 1st place paying $3200 in a 53-player field, and the spectators could feel it. Karen Corr took home the shining metal eagle statue, but 22-year-old Briana “Killer” Miller very nearly snatched that from her.
The event kicked off Thursday, September 28, 2017 with a pro-am benefiting Casen Boniewicz, a local young child who suffers from seizures. His father is a regular league player at Eagle and the pool community steadily takes care of each other. The main event started Friday, streamed by Railbirds Productions, as the event was packed full of some major talent. Karen Corr was there, hoping to string a second NAPT title on to her Grayslake victory in August, along with the likes of April Larson, Briana Miller, Janet Atwell, Jia Li, just to name a few. LoreeJon Hasson made her NAPT debut after a decade-long absence from competitive pool. Speaking with her after, Mrs. Hasson made clear her intent to get back to top competing form.
LoreeJon Hasson intimidatingly holds the Guinness World record for the youngest player (male or female) to ever win a world title (World Straight Pool at age 15) and holds eight world titles, three national ones, three WPBA US OPEN titles also. She had fallen to Briana Miller for her first loss, speaking admiringly of the young gun’s game. Her second loss came to Canadian Champion, Naomi Williams. In a moment of grace, humility, and humor, LoreeJon literally threw a towel onto the table when Williams landed straight on the final ten-ball. The room giggled in thorough appreciation.
This win was only part of Naomi Williams great showing. In addition to finishing 3rd, Williams was also at one point leading Karen Corr 6-2. On what would have been her case game, Naomi missed a 6-ball in an effort not to disturb other balls on the table. Heartbreakingly, that was all it took. Karen came back to win five games in a row, taking the match and leaving Williams to wonder what happened. Naomi turned the heartache into a challenge and not only went on to beat LoreeJon, but headed confidently into her match with April Larson.
Larson, 19, is one of the most promising players to come from the current Junior’s generation, and had just pulled off a revenge win against Brittany Bryant. April and Brittany met in what was an uncanny rematch from the previous tour stop. In the same finishing place in the bracket, on the one loss side, Brittany had taken the match in Grayslake. This time, April emerged victorious, 7-4. Going into the match against Naomi feeling steady, however, April would only make it to the hill in that match. April finished an impressive 4th place, with Naomi waiting for her next opponent.
While Larson and Williams finished, Karen Corr at the same time was playing a thrilling hill-hill match against Briana Miller in the hotseat (winner side final). Miller, having bested Karen in June at a regional stop and just a couple rounds earlier taken down LoreeJon, was feeling confident. The score reflected that. The games between Karen and Briana went back and forth, with few errors on either side. In the end, an error ended the match at hill-hill, Karen Corr squeaking by with the win. She now had the pleasure of waiting for her challenger in the finals.
Briana then met Naomi to decide who matched up with Karen in the finals. Both clearly wanted another chance to take down the Irish Invader. Naomi pulled out an early lead, only to have Briana tie things up 4-4. That was the last Williams would see of her lead. Briana charged through the next few racks, leaving Naomi to settle for 3rd place with a score of 7-4 and a rematch left unfulfilled. It was Briana who would have a shot at hers.
The final match was so thrilling, it deserved a play-by-play, included at the end of this article. Karen started off with a 3-0 lead, but Briana kept taking opportunities, and tied things up, 3-3. Karen notched another game with some safety play, but Briana answered back with a forceful break and run! Karen took the next two racks to make it 6-4, but Briana ran out from the 1 twice in a row to make it hill- hill first set. The crowd was completely enthralled.
In the final rack, with a very clustered table, Karen aimed to 3-foul Briana. Corr played a jam up safe that looked impossible to hit, but “Killer Miller” did hit it with an incredible 3-rail kick and even managed to leave Corr safe!! The crowd erupted! They volley incredible hits and safes for several innings, neither wanting to leave anything. Finally, Briana failed to make a hit with the 2 in the open. Karen lined up ball in hand for the 2-10 combo in the side TO WIN!!!!! This makes the second NAPT in a row Karen Corr has won with a combo, and this was not an easy shot. The audience loved it. The young gun shook hands with the legend, knowing this would not be their final meeting.
They posed for pictures only moments after the final ball rolled in, as fans came forward to shake hands and get signatures. There is an energy at the end of all tournaments, as if one could go run a marathon. This time the energy felt aimed, almost shooting forward. The future awaits, and the talent is there already.
For info about the 10-ball Pro Tour, brackets, and full match replays, head to www.playnapt.com. The NAPT would like to thank Railbirds Productions for their coverage, Eagle Billiards for hosting a wonderful event, and the players for their excellent performance. They look forward to their next event, the Desert Shoot Out 2017 at Griff’s Bar & Billiards in Las Vegas Nevada, November 2-5. Tune in to see if Karen Corr can make it 3 in a row or if a challenger will de-throne her!
Start of the Final Match. Race to 7, Briana must win two sets.
Karen wins the lag. After a safety tradeoff, Corr makes a fantastic masse’- kick on the 1-ball. The table is not a neat one, however, and both struggle. Briana makes an amazing draw shot to get in position, but ultimately Karen gets a chance at the 8 and runs out. Score is 1-0 Karen
Briana breaks, makes the 9-ball, and has a shot on the 1. Runs to the 4, lands too close to it. Plays safe, but nothing hits a rail. Ball in hand for Karen, who finishes the rack. Score is 2-0 Karen.
Karen breaks, makes the 7, has a shot on the 1, but misses trying to break out the 2. Briana plays safe, Karen misses the hit trying to beat the shot clock. Briana sets up for a bank on the 4, but misses. Karen makes a couple lovely shots to get back in line and finishes with a tough 10-ball. Score is 3-0 Karen.
Briana breaks, makes the 9, safes. Karen attempts a jump-bank at the 1, leaves it in the pocket for Briana. Showing immense mental stamina, Briana runs out. Score 3-1, Karen.
Karen breaks, runs to 3, plays safe. Briana chooses to jump, nearly makes it cut into the corner! Leaves Karen safe. Karen hits, but leaves an open shot. Briana tries a safe, unsuccessfully. Karen returns with a more secure safe, but Briana JUMP-BANKS it right in and runs out, powering a difficult 9 in. Score 3-2, Karen.
Briana breaks, makes the 4, has a tough cut on the 1, with natural shape to the 2, but the 8 gets in the way. She kicks, accidentally making the 3. Karen, having the choice to give it back to her, decides to take the shot and plays the cut, making it. She unfortunately scratched on the 6, trying for position. Briana takes advantage. Score 3-3, tied.
Karen breaks dry, leaves the 1 tied, Briana calls her extension, plays safe. Beautiful hit from Karen, but leaves the 1-10 closely lined up. Briana tries and barely misses, leaving the 1 safe in case. Karen calls her extension, makes a good hit and tries to play safe. Briana makes a good hit, but leaves a shot in the side. Karen makes and runs, but not far. There are 2 safes from Karen, answered with 2 jumps from Briana. Good hits on both, but on the second shot, the 3 is left slightly open and Karen runs out. Incredible. Score 4-3, Karen.
Briana breaks and runs out! Score 4-4, tied!! The room is ignited with drama.
Karen breaks dry, an open shot on the 1 for Briana, but it was a clustered rack. Briana misses an 8-10 combo and Karen punishes Miller for her error, closing out the rack with a very difficult 10. Score 5-4, Karen.
Briana breaks dry, leaving an open 1, but a tied-up table. Karen gets to the 6, but opts for a safe. Briana kicks, hits, but leaves it open. An uncharacteristic miss for Karen on the next ball lets Briana back up, but she did not execute her 8-ball safety. Karen takes that rack, score 6-4 Karen.
Karen breaks and scratches. With ball in hand, Briana runs out a beautiful, complex rack to make it 6-5 Karen.
Briana breaks dry, with the 1-ball slightly hidden. Karen opts to try a safe, but leaves a shot. Briana makes it and runs out! HILL- HILL (score 6-6) in the first set. If Briana wins the next rack, she must still win another set.
Game 13 – FINAL RACK
Karen has the final break, it comes up dry with the 1-ball resting on the long rail and the cue ball sitting near it on the short top rail. Briana tries to run it to the corner, but misses. The 1-ball is left open after the miss, but not near a pocket.
Karen goes for the cut, makes it, has a shot on the 2, but bumps some balls on her way to it. There is an awkward cluster now with the 4, 5, and 6 near a rail. She opts for a safe. Briana makes contact, pushing the 2 into the cluster and leaving Karen to kick. Karen returns the favor and Briana fails to make a legal shot. Karen aims to 3-foul, playing a jam up safe that looks impossible to hit, but “Killer Miller” does hit it with an incredible 3-rail kick and even manages to leave Corr safe!! The crowd erupts!
They volley incredible hits and safes for several innings, neither wanting to leave anything. Finally, Briana fails to make a hit with the 2 in the open. Karen lines up ball in hand for the 2-10 combo in the side TO WIN!!!!!
Upon questioning later, Briana lamented that she made the 1-ball in the final rack. Asking if she wishes she took a different shot, she said “No.” and described her other options that were present. “(the 1-ball cut down the rail) was a difficult shot, but I make it 90% of the time” and said she absolutely took the right shot.