LAS VEGAS – Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Mich., ended a four-year television drought when he defeated collegiate star Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., 221-216, to win his second Professional Bowlers Association Tour title in the Scorpion Championship at the South Point Hotel and Casino complex.
The Scorpion Championship, which aired Sunday on ESPN, was the final animal pattern championship conducted as part PBA World Series of Bowling V, and the fourth in a series of seven events conducted during the World Series. It also featured the innovative blue oil that has been used during all animal pattern tournament finals to give television fans a unique opportunity to see the lane conditioning challenges PBA players face.
Smallwood, who won his only previous PBA Tour title in the 2009 PBA World Championship, ended a personal six-appearance television drought when he out-lasted 2011-12 PBA Rookie of the Year Josh Blanchard of Gilbert, Ariz., in a PBA-record five-frame sudden-death roll-off, followed by another thrilling victory over Kent for the title.
Blanchard started the stepladder finals with a 234-226 victory over Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., but lost to Smallwood in the semifinal match roll-off. A six-count on his final shot in the 10th frame tied the match at 232-232. After throwing matching strikes in four one-ball, sudden-death frames, Smallwood ended the longest televised sudden-death roll-off in PBA history with a fifth strike while Blanchard left a 10 pin.
In the title match against Kent, a two-time Collegiate Player of the Year who was competing in the World Series on a special PBA Commissioner’s exemption, Smallwood struck on six of his first seven shots, but failed to convert a 3-10 split in the fourth frame. Kent, with a four-strike string of his own, held an early 13-pin lead, but a 7-10 split in the ninth frame proved to be the difference. A spare and nine-count on his fill ball in the 10th frame clinched the title for Smallwood.
“I thought if I ever made another show and won, I’d bawl like a baby,” Smallwood said, “but I was so emotionally drained, I didn’t have any emotions left.
“It’s amazing,” he added. “I never dreamed in my life I’d have one (title), so to have two? As a kid, all I ever wanted was a chance to be there. I watched these guys on TV forever. I’ve bowled bad enough on TV enough times it’s nice to be on the other side of a bad break. That last time I was (on TV), I got knocked out of the World Championship when I left back to back 4-9s, so I know the feeling.”
Smallwood said the difference was finding his shot to the pocket in the roll-off against Blanchard.
“In the roll-off (against Blanchard), my timing got really good. The first shot was perfect, it was like, there it is,” Smallwood said. “After that, I never missed until the fifth shot and I apparently missed in the right place on that one, so it worked out well.”
Smallwood joined the list of animal pattern finalists who said the blue oil had no bearing on his game or the outcome.
“(The blue oil) doesn’t matter as long as you can see the target you’re looking for,” he said. “It’s so clear I could see the board I was looking at, so it had no effect on me at all.”
The Scorpion Championship telecast also included the fourth and final PBA League Challenge segment, called the “T.O. Challenge.” The skills competition among PBA League franchise players called for each of the eight bowlers to try to match the exact pinfall of a shot thrown by PBA League owner and long-time NFL all-pro wide receiver Terrell Owens. Owens threw a strike for five of the eight players, but the only player to match his effort was Australia’s Jason Belmonte, who won the T.O. Challenge and the overall competition.
As the PBA League Challenge winner, all of the proceeds from an upcoming fund-raising auction will be donated to Belmonte’s designated charity, NBA star and PBA League owner Chris Paul’s CP3 Foundation.
“I had the easiest (shot) because all of us who got to shoot at strikes, that was the easiest one to try to duplicate,” said PBA Hall of Famer and Dallas Strikers franchise player Norm Duke. Owens struck on his first attempt, but Duke failed to match his effort, leaving two pins standing.
Owens got a seven-count for Silver Lake Atom Splitters owner Chris Barnes, and Barnes successfully matched the pin count.
“The T.O. Challenge could have been anything,” Barnes said. “He got lined up, which gave a few guys a chance to do what they do best, which is throw strikes, but only one of them did it. I was lucky to get seven pins and that gave me a chance.”
“We were all hoping (Owens) would get a strike, so I was fortunate that he pulled my name out and he struck,” said Belmonte, L.A. X’s franchise player. “It was just a matter of throwing a good shot and hoping all 10 pins fell, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m glad he pulled my name out, glad he struck and glad I won everything.”
ESPN coverage of the PBA World Series continues next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with the finals of the PBA World Championship, the final major championship of the season. Smallwood will make his third consecutive television appearance, bowling against PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., in the opening match. Other finalists are No. 3 qualifier Mike Fagan of Fort Worth, Texas; No. 2 Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., and top qualifier Dom Barrett of England.
A recap of the Scorpion Championship and a preview of the PBA World Championship, along with other features, will be available Monday on “The Bowling Center” on YouTube.com. Xtra Frame subscribers who may have missed Sunday’s telecasts will be able to watch the finals “on demand” in the Xtra Frame archives three days after the original show airs.
2013 SCORPION CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
1, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., $20,000.
2, a-Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., $10,000.
3, Josh Blanchard, Gilbert, Ariz., $7,000.
4. Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., $5,000.
Match One – Blanchard def. Jones, 234-226.
Semifinal Match – Smallwood def. Blanchard, 232-232, 10-10, 10-10, 10-10, 10-10, 10-9 in five-frame, one-ball sudden-death roll-off.
Championship – Smallwood def. Kent, 221-216.
PBA LEAGUE “T.O. CHALLENGE”
(Franchise Players from eight PBA League teams were challenged to duplicate a shot thrown by Dallas Strikers’ team owner Terrell Owens. Points were awarded based upon difference between T.O.’s pin count and PBA player’s pin count)
1, Jason Belmonte, L.A. X (T.O. strike, Belmonte strike), 15 points.
2, Chris Barnes, Silver Lake Atom Splitters (T.O. 7 count, Barnes 7 count), 11 points.
3 (tie), Osku Palermaa, Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits (T.O. 8 count, Palermaa 7 count); Mike Fagan, Motown Muscle (T.O. 9 count, Fagan strike); Pete Weber, New York City WTT KingPins (T.O. strike, Weber 9 count), 6 points each.
6 (tie), Norm Duke, Dallas Strikers (T.O. strike, Duke 8 count); Sean Rash, BROOKLYN STyLES (T.O. strike, Rash 8 count), 2.5 points each.
8, Bill O’Neill, Philadelphia Hitmen (T.O. strike, O’Neill 5 count), 1 point.
PBA LEAGUE CHALLENGE FINAL STANDINGS (after four events)
1, Jason Belmonte, L.A. X, 35 points.
2, Chris Barnes, Silver Lake Atom Splitters, 30.
3, Sean Rash, BROOKLYN STyLES, 29.5.
4, Mike Fagan, Motown Muscle, 27.5.
5, Bill O’Neill, Philadelphia Hitmen, 25.5.
6, Pete Weber, New York City WTT KingPins, 24.5.
7, Osku Palermaa, Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits, 20.5 points.
8, Norm Duke, Dallas Strikers, 17.5.