“Final Four” Set for Historic Battles as Inaugural PBA Playoffs Concludes

by Bill Vint, Professional Bowlers Association 0

PORTLAND, Maine – Two players who have already locked up their futures as Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famers and two others who represent the elite among the rising young stars of the PBA will return to center stage at Bayside Bowl this weekend as the inaugural PBA Playoffs concludes with live telecasts Saturday at noon and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. EDT on FOX.

The PBA Playoffs, a showcase competition that began with 13 Go Bowling! PBA Tour events just to qualify for its elite 24-player field, is the spotlight event in the PBA’s first year of broadcast and cable television coverage by FOX Sports on its FS1 and FOX networks. It will conclude Sunday when the two winners from Saturday’s semifinal round matches meet on FOX in a “race to 2 points” finale with a $100,000 first prize at stake.

The weekend script goes like this:

On Saturday at noon, the semifinals will begin with 27-year-old Kris Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, taking on 22-year-old Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas, in the opening “race to 2 points” match.

Kris Prather: a native of Milton, Florida and a former Wichita State University star, used his new-found confidence to win his first PBA Tour title in the PBA Scorpion Championship during the 2019 PBA World Series of Bowling. Six championship round appearances in 2018 without a title suggested that Prather was on the final lap of his title chase, and he finally took the checkered flag in Detroit. He barely missed earning a first-round bye for the Playoffs (qualifying as the No. 9 seed), but he made his presence known quickly by knocking off Darren Tang of San Francisco, 207-183, in the one-game Round of 24. He then eliminated Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Florida, 2-0, in his Round of 16 “race to 2 points” match; and pulled off the biggest upset of the Playoffs when he sent No. 1 seed Jason Belmonte of Australia to the sidelines with a 197-165, 224-214 sweep in the quarterfinal round. The enthusiastic fans in Portland, Maine, call Prather “the Shark.”

Anthony Simonsen: Simonsen, a six-time PBA Tour title winner, is the youngest player ever to win two PBA major titles (2016 USBC Masters at age 19 and the 2019 PBA Players Championship at age 22). He won the Players Championship title by defeating fellow two-hander Jason Belmonte, 232-212. Simonsen enters Saturday’s match as the highest-seeded survivor in the Playoffs, seeded No. 4, after eliminating Rhino Page of Orlando, Florida, 2-1 in a match decided by his 49-39 win in a two-frame roll-off in the Round of 16 followed by a similar 56-39 two-frame roll-off victory over Colombia’s Andres Gomez in the Round of 8. Simonsen, a fan favorite in Portland, has been nicknamed “Juiceboxx” in reference to his tender age.

The winner of the match between the two young 20-something stars will bowl for the Playoffs championship on Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal match between a pair of future PBA Hall of Famers, 37-year-old Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and 36-year-old Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois:

Bill O’Neill: the former Saginaw Valley State collegiate star punched his future election into the PBA Hall of Fame in the 2019 season-opener when he won his 10th career title in the PBA Hall of Fame Classic. A 14-year PBA member, O’Neill was PBA’s 2006 Rookie of the Year and won his only major title in the 2010 U.S. Open. Four championship round finishes in 2019 helped him earn the No. 7 seed and a first-round bye in the PBA Playoffs. He then rolled his way into the semifinals with a 57-39 two-frame roll-off victory over Sweden’s Jesper Svensson in the Round of 16 followed by a 229-217, 246-202 sweep of Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas in the Round of 8. His fans call him “The Real Deal.”

Sean Rash: an Alaska native and former Wichita State star, Rash also is PBA Hall of Fame title-eligible based upon his 13 career titles including two majors (2007 USBC Masters and 2012 PBA Tournament of Champions), plus 2012 PBA Player of the Year honors. He won his 13th title in partnership with Matt Ogle of Louisville, Kentucky, in the 2019 Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship, and earned the No. 6 seed for the Playoffs to also earn a first-round bye. In the Round of 16, he dispatched young Kyle Sherman of O’Fallon, Missouri, 227-175, 237-214, and then earned his berth in the semifinals with a come-from-behind battle with England’s Dom Barrett. After losing the first game, 268-205, Rash out-lasted Barrett, 268-253, to send the match into overtime where Rash won the two-frame roll-off with a perfect four-strike performance, 60-40. The Bayside Bowl faithful know Rash as “Rash.”

In keeping with the format used throughout the PBA Playoffs finals (except for the single-game Round of 24), the semifinal and championship rounds will be decided in “race to 2 points” matches. Each game is worth one point. If the match is tied at 1-1 after two regulation games, the final point will be determined in a ninth-and-10th frame roll-off. In the Rounds of 16 and 8, seven of the 12 matches were decided by roll-offs.

Sunday’s championship telecast will be a 90-minute telecast beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT. In addition to the championship match, the special live FOX telecast will include the traditional broadcast team of announcer Rob Stone, analyst Randy Pedersen and sideline reporter Kimberly Pressler, plus input by PBA Tour competitors Jason Belmonte and Kyle Troup as bonus commentators. The telecast also will include the special analytics introduced by FOX for the 2019 season plus the addition of a second super slow-motion camera, and a “jib” camera that will provide unique perspective shots inside Bayside Bowl.

A limited number of standing room only tickets are still available. To order, visit: https://www.pba.com/Tickets.

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