|PWPT Pinland Champion, John Deantoniis|
On January 24, 2010, Pinland Lanes in Dundalk, Maryland played host to one of the higher scoring tournament events that professional duckpins has seen in recent years. Although Glen Burnie, Maryland's John Deantoniis wasn't among the higher pinfall totals for this particular event, his gritty and bulletproof game paid off big when he really needed it. With that being said, it seemed appropriate that he come away with the championship, based on his overall high-level of performance throughout the course of the entire 2009-2010 season.
As is usually the case with the Pop Whitten Pro Tour, loads of intrigue and entertainment were provided for the spectators, and the pinnacle of excitement was experienced by the players fortunate enough to make it to the Sunday semi-finals. After 5 games of head-to-head match play, a formidable 7-man stepladder final round was established. In the early matches of the ladder round, Smithsburg, Maryland's Jimmy Burns stole the show from the wildcard position, gaining wins over young lion, Shawn Braun from Baltimore, and College Park, Maryland's tough veteran, Buddy Turner. In Match 3, Burns faced off against DPBA multi-tour champion, Larry Lipka. The match was a highlight reel, to say the least. As he had done in the previous 2 matches, Jimmy asserted himself early, opening with a strike. The bowlers essentially traded marks in the first 5 frames, with Lipka shouldering a 3-pin lead at the halfway point Interestingly, Jimmy left 5 consecutive single pin spare breaks in frames 3-7, and he successfully converted the last 4. (In what would ultimately prove the deciding frame, Burns spared in the 6th, while Larry left 4-7-10 split). In the game's latter stages, Jimmy doubled in 8th and 9th frames. Lipka hung tough, weathering the storm, and threw a double-header of his own in the 9th and 10th boxes, forcing Burns to count well on his double. Burns dropped an 8-count, leaving the 7-10 split, thus escaping with a hard-fought 166-163 win.
Match 4 on the ladder pitted Burns vs. the Pinland Open Champ from 2009, Mark Callahan. Jimmy opened the match with 10, after leaving the baby split, 3-10. Callahan converted the 5-10 split in his opening box, and an omen appeared to have shown itself. In frames 3-6, Burns started another assault, while Callahan struggled, marking once in his 3rd through 6th frames. After 5 frames, Burns had some breathing room, with a 15-pin lead and a count working in the 6th, and a chance to widen the gap. Burns proceeded to chop out the 1-3-9 on his first ball, thus opening the 7th. Callahan jumped on the opportunity, striking in the 7th, but went light in the 8th, leaving the difficult 3-9-10 split, which led to an open frame. But, Jimmy couldn't put the match away, opening in 8th and 9th frames. Mark converted the 6-pin single in the 9th, but again went light in the 1-2 pocket in the 10th, leaving the 3-5-10 break, and eventually ended with a 9 frame. Burns now needed 9 to win. Leaving no room for mistakes, Jimmy struck on his first ball, and counted full to gain a 139-127 victory.
With 2 matches to go to successfully scale the stepladder to the title, Burns was ready for the challenge of arguably the hottest bowler in duckpins, John Deantoniis. The match began, and Jimmy started with a strike, while John began with a mildly shaky start, in which he converted the 1-2-4 for a spare, but then chopped 3 out of the middle in the next frame, leading to a score of 23 after 2 boxes. Burns showed slight signs of fatigue, as he hit light leaving the 4-5-7-8 to open the 2nd box, and then chopped the 1-5 clean in the 3rd frame. Deantoniis, with two frames under his belt, now started to warm up. John immediately got on track with 2 solid frames, converting single pins for spares in frames 3 and 4. Burns answered, with marks in his 4th and 5th frames. But John stayed focused and kept the pressure on, with a spare in the 5th, and 2 more strong marks in frames 6 and 7. Burns roared back in his half of the 7th frame with a strike and then dramatically converted the 2-4-6 split in the 8th. Burns counted 7 in the 9th, therein tieing the game after 8 frames, but couldn't convert the 1-2-4 spare leave. The door was now opened for Deantoniis to seize the moment. John did just that, converting singles in the 9th and 10th for spares to finish with 156. Burns still had a chance, needing a double and 9 to win. A valiant effort ended in Jimmy leaving the 10-pin single in his bid, and John was a 19-pin winner, 156-137.
The championship match was now at hand, as Deantoniis became the new ascender in the stepladder finals. A Battle of Baltimore would climax the event, as John would take on another of the rising young stars in the sport—Rosedale, Maryland's Wayne Lipka, who earlier in the day provided quite a stir, pitching two '200' games during his match play. Lipka nearly lapped the entire field, with a whopping 877 total for his 5 game block, in which he went 5-0 in his division. The only bowler close in pinfall was Baltimore's Dave Jones, who had a tremendous 851 score, but a 3-2 won/lost record wasn't enough to earn Jones a spot in the stepladder finals.
Lipka elected to start the match, and converted the 8 pin for a spare. Deantoniis, however, was primed, and opened with an emphatic double-header. Lipka opened 2 of the next 3 frames, while John played the part of steamroller, converting a 5-pin single in the 3rd, struck in the 4th, and then topped himself with a split conversion of the 5-9-10 in the 5th. At the halfway point, John's dominating performance looked to be just a case of coasting in for the PWPT title. But sometimes you just can't be too sure of anything in duckpins. Deantoniis, still sharp, met with misfortune, as he ripped out the middle in 3 of the next 4 frames, with a lone strike in the 8th. Lipka on the other hand made great strides to turn the match around. After chopping the 1-5 in the 6th, Wayne's next 3 frames were huge, as spared, struck, and spared, and suddenly the match was up for grabs. After Deantoniis had ripped out the middle in the 9th, he knew he had to try to make something happen, which unfortunately led to his only bad ball of the match, in which he chopped the 3-9 in the 10th. An experienced pro, however, John played it safe, cleaning up his wood as much as possible, and scored a 9 in the final frame for a strong 159 effort. With Lipka on a spare in the 9th, the task was simple—he needed a double-header to win the contest, or a strike and spare to tie. Wayne was true on his first ball, decimating the rack with a decisive strike. Now, one more strike would secure victory, but a spare would at least provide a tie, after what looked to be a hopeless cause earlier in the bout. Lipka went for the double, but hit light in the 1-3 pocket, leaving the difficult 2-4-7-8 break. Wayne's spare attempt was slightly off the mark as he slid by the object 2 pin, and thus only picked up one of the necessary 4 remaining pins, leaving Deantoniis as the winner, 159-156 in a fabulous finale match by both bowlers.
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