Williams, Villarreal Suprise Finalists
by Mike Panozzo May 17, 2002, 11:24 AM EST
The unpredictable 2002 Billiard Congress of America Open 9-Ball Championships offered up more surprises Thursday night at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, with a pair of unfamiliar faces earning spots in the Saturday afternoon title matches.
Tireless men's players association chief Charlie Williams of Florida assured his place in the championship match with a thrilling, see-saw 11-10 win over close friend and road roommate Tony Robles of New York. The ESPN-taped title match will be the 24-year-old Williams' second lifetime appearance on TV. His first ESPN appearance was in a losing effort against Allen Hopkins in the opening round of the 1998 Ultimate 9-Ball Championships in Orlando. In the women's division, Vivian Villarreal was guaranteed her first title-match appearance in nearly two years after she rattled off back-to-back wins over Allison Fisher (9-8) and top-seeded Karen Corr (9-5). "Yes!" exclaimed Villarreal following her win over Corr, "It's about time I kicked both of their butts! It's been a long time since I beat either of them."
Despite their losses, both Robles, whose successful table-length jump shot resulted in a cue-ball scratch in the case game against Williams, and Corr earned spots in Friday night's ESPN-taped semifinal matches. Robles will take on Cory Deuel who defeated Ralf Souquet, 11-8, late last night, while Corr will face Fisher, who ousted defending champ Jeanette Lee to get to TV.
Thursday night's action in the side-by-side 64-player fields saw the end of several remarkable runs. California State champion Melissa Herndon reached the semifinal of the women's winner's bracket before falling to Fisher and Lee, while 2001 BCA amateur 8-ball champion Lee Heuwagen posted wins over Earl Strickland, Dave Matlock, Ismael Paez and Buddy Hall before losing to Souquet and settling for a seventh-place finish. The BCA Open 9-Ball Championships will award $15,000 to its 2002 champions from a total purse of $120,000.