With the tournament’s namesake PBA Hall of Fame partners in the crowd for the finals of the event that was presented by BowlerX.com, O'Neill and Belmonte defeated brothers Darren and Michael Tang of San Francisco, 205-185, at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. The finals of the fourth event of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season aired Sunday on ESPN.
After a dominating performance in the preliminary qualifying rounds where they averaged a combined 238.31 for 76 games, earning the top berth in the finals by 327 pins, Belmonte and O’Neill finished in convincing style. The win was the 17th of Belmonte’s career and the ninth for O’Neill.
The championship came down to age-and-experience out-matching the youthful exuberance of third-year PBA member Darren Tang, 24, and his 22-year-old brother Michael, a PBA Tour rookie. O’Neill and Belmonte threw only four strikes in the title match – including one double – and converted six single-pin spares. It was enough to stave off the Tangs, who had won three consecutive matches to reach the title contest, but were unable to put together back-to-back strikes in the final match. And one missed 10 pin spare by Darren Tang in the eighth frame was a setback that proved costly.
“The lanes transitioned in a way I didn’t see coming, but during the semifinal match you could see they weren’t right,” O’Neill said. “Marshall (Kent) isn’t going to bowl a game like he did very often. We decided we’d be content to hit the pocket and if (the pins) fell, they fell. We were hoping we could get it done with a 2-oh game, and fortunately that’s what we did.”
“It wasn’t playing defense; it was more that we were playing safe,” Belmonte said of the team’s conservative approach. “The adjustment either one of us could have made to be more aggressive was a risk, so if (the Tangs) couldn’t show us they were going to put together a string of strikes, there was no reason to take that risk.
“We bowled amazing all week,” Belmonte continued. “Winning was kind of getting the monkey off our back. We’ve been there three other times when we didn’t perform amazingly and today we didn’t have to perform amazingly, but we did exactly what we needed to do.”
In the alternate-frame format, where each teammate bowled five frames on one lane, the Tang brothers came out of the gate on fire, putting together a string of six strikes early on their way to a 223-203 win over Texans Shawn Maldonado and DJ Archer in game one. Splits and open frames in the final two frames by the Tangs were the only flaws that kept the score close in the end.
In game two, Brandon Novak of Chillicothe, Ohio, and Kris Prather of Plainfield, Ill., looked like they were going to eliminate the brother team when they put together a string of five early strikes. But the Tangs started with three strikes, converted two single-pin spares and combined for three strikes to take the see-saw battle into the 10th frame where Michael Tang doubled and Prather, after a strike on his first ball, left a 10 pin on his second. The Tangs escaped with a 243-235 decision.
The semifinal contest against two of the PBA’s top high-rev power players, Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., and EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., was a struggle for both teams as they quickly degraded an oil pattern that had already undergone the wear-and-tear of two earlier matches. Kent was especially vulnerable, throwing three consecutive splits he was unable to convert. Michael Tang also failed to convert a split, but otherwise the brothers left single pins they were able to spare in posting a 172-151 win to advance to the title match.
PBA players now head to Syracuse, N.Y., where the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour continues with the United States Bowling Congress Masters. All qualifying and match play rounds of the USBC Masters in the Oncenter Convention Center in Syracuse, Tuesday, April 10 through Saturday, April 14, will be live streamed on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. To sign up, visit xtraframe.tv. The stepladder finals will air live on ESPN on Sunday, April 15, at 1 p.m. ET.