Brooklyn, NY, WPH Press, 8/21/16- The fourth edition of the Coney Island 1-Wall Small Ball Player’s Championship, in memory of Mal Cohen with a special tribute to Steven G. Kraft, featured the New York’s best 1-Wall Small Ball superstars competing in New York City’s third and final 1-Wall Small Ball major of the 2016 season. Tyree Bastidas won the inaugural Coney Island Player’s Championship in 2013, as well as last year’s event. Tyree was aiming to defend his Player’s Championship, while 2014 Coney Island Player’s Champion William Polanco was looking to dethrone Tyree and regain the Player’s Championship title. New York’s 2016 Speaker’s Cup champion Mike Schneider was aiming to add his second major title of the summer, while tournament director Billy O’Donnell, Joe Kaplan, Jurell Bastidas, Alvaro Rebaza and Victor Lopierre rounded out the outstanding seeds in Coney Island.
The top half of the draw featured spectacular performances from two unseeded stars, as Race 4 Eight superstar Stephen Cooney defeated Joe Kaplan and Joshua Garcia to advance to the quarterfinals, while two-time WPH RFC 1-Wall Small Ball semifinalist Jason Ke stunned Billy O’Donnell in the opening round and advanced to the quarterfinals to face Cooney. Cooney and Ke played one of the best matches of the event, as the two surprise quarterfinalists traded the lead throughout the contest before Cooney ultimately prevailed, 25-23. “Ke has a monster serve and really impressed all of the top players this weekend,” stated WPH reporter Jared Vale. “Cooney earned the pro MVP honors for his incredible play and advancing to the semifinals as an unseeded player.”
Tyree Bastidas upheld his number one seed, advancing to the semifinals with a close quarterfinal victory against longtime rival Pee Wee Castro. Bastidas then ended Cooney’s Cinderella run with a 25-18 victory to advance to the final.
William Polanco kept his hopes alive for a second Player’s Championship title, surrendering just 37 points in his four bottom bracket matches en route to the final, including a dominant 25-7 victory against Jurell Bastidas in the bottom bracket semifinal.
Tyree and Polanco met for the second consecutive 1-Wall Small Ball major this summer, with Tyree claiming their first encounter in the finals of the USHA 1-Wall Nationals earlier this month. Tyree started quickly in the one-game to 25 final, leading 19-7 after just 15 minutes on court. “Tyree was just playing great handball, using the whole court, and moving Willie from side to side,” stated WPH reporter Jared Vale. “It looked like the game was going to be a runaway, but Willie just started chipping away, eventually tying the score at 20.” Tyree appeared to be completely exhausted at 20-all and called his last timeout. “When Tyree called his last timeout he could be overheard saying that he had nothing left,” reported Vale. Despite Willie scoring 13 of 14 points and tying the score at 20, Tyree returned to the court following the timeout and scored two quick points with two ace serves. The ace serves were the boost Tyree needed, as he held off another Polanco rally to win the title, 25-22. “The guys really played a sensational match,” stated Vale. “The final was more than one hour long and featured a lot of really great rallies and shots.”
- Bastidas def Castro 25-22
Cooney def Ke 25-23
- Bastidas def Schneider 25-9
Polanco def Garcia 25-7
- Bastidas def Cooney 25-18
Polanco def J. Bastidas 25-7
- Bastidas def Polanco 25-22
The third year of Master’s Singles at the Coney Island Player’s Championship also featured an outstanding draw, with Senior Race 4 Eight superstar Andy Rousseau, Jesus Ayala, Jared Vale, Milton Jones, Eddie Perez, Joe Kaplan, Darwin Lee, Rob Sostre, and Rich Mascia. Two-time world champion Joe Kaplan cruised to the title, defeating surprise finalist Jesus Ayala in the final.
Players were able to compete for sensational prize money because of the generous donations of Gold sponsors Elliot Joseph, long-time friend of Mal Cohen and member of the Cross Island YMCA handball club, Silver sponsor Jared Vale, President of ValeU Group, Inc., contributors Adam Gittlitz, Joe Kaplan, and Zeav Robbins, and clothing sponsor One Wall Ink. “We are really proud of the tournament and what we’ve created with the Coney Island Player’s Championship,” stated Vale. “Mr. Kraft and Mr. Cohen and their families were honored by all of the players, we had the barbeque going throughout the weekend, and everyone had a great time. I want to thank tournament director Billy O’Donnell and all of the sponsors and players and we are looking forward to next year’s Player’s Championship.”
The 2016 Coney Island Player’s Championship was held in memory of the great Mal Cohen and as a tribute to the beloved Steven G. Kraft. Mal Cohen died playing handball, with his closest friends later saying, “How fitting if he had to leave us, he did it doing what he loved most.” Close Mal Cohen friend Elliot Joseph stated, “Mal Cohen was a people person and everyone loved him. Whether it was weekly card games at his house, or the weekly Friday handball games at the beach or on the handball court, Mal was at the center of a web of friends.”
Thank you to WPH reporter Jared Vale for the updates.
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WPH Senior Writer