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Williams Jr. falls short in quest for win

Walter Ray Williams Jr.'s path to the all-time victory record was stopped just short of the TV finals.

Again.

Mika Koivuniemi was the culprit.

Again.

Williams, who needs one more win to match the record of 41 established by Earl Anthony, was ousted in the round of eight Friday night at Lava Lanes.

— Koivuniemi captured the match, 4-3, winning the final game of the best-of-seven affair, 235-206, in the Earl Anthony Medford Classic.

He advanced to Sunday's championship round along with Ritchie Allen, Brian Himmler and Tim Criss.

The finals will be televised live on ESPN beginning at 10 a.m.

Koivuniemi faces Allen, who knocked off reigning player of the year Patrick Allen, 4-1. In the other semifinal, Himmler, who defeated defending champion Mike Wolfe, 4-1, takes on Criss, a 4-2 victor over Tom Daugherty.

Koivuniemi didn't seem the least bit concerned about intervening in history, just as he had a month ago. Then, The Big Finn downed Williams 4-2 to get to the semifinals of the Keystone State Championship in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where he lost.

I don't let him get it, if it's up to me, Koivuniemi said after putting himself in position to win career title No. 7. I have a feeling he will get it sooner or later, but I hope I'm not his victim that time.

When they met last month, Koivuniemi rolled a 300 in the second game and completed his win with a 278.

Despite that kind of success, he said drawing Williams is seldom pleasant.

He's not my first choice, said Koivuniemi. Even though he's not having that good of a season, I don't want to bowl him. Plus, he does good in this house.

For the second straight season, Williams came to Medford with a chance at the record. And for the second straight time, he got close enough for a whiff of it.

Williams finished fourth last season, losing in the semifinals to Wolfe.

Williams acknowledged that Koivuniemi has bowled well the past couple times they've met, and there's no disgrace in making it to the round of eight.

It's nice, he said, but making the TV show is much better. All in all, I was pretty happy with the way I bowled this week. As I said last week, the volume of oil they're putting down on the lanes makes it very difficult.

Both players had trouble finding a comfort zone Friday. Koivuniemi got out of the gate fast with a 279, then lost the next two games. Williams, however, rolled back-to-back games in the 180s to fall one game behind. He then squared the match with a 210-176 win in Game 6.

It was an exciting match, said Koivuniemi. We both started out good but struggled after a couple of games. We were trying to find a reaction. We both found it back-and-forth, and I found it in the last game, I guess.

In the final game, Koivuniemi switched away from the ball he'd used most of the match, then came back to it and sought a line that gave him a lighter hit in the pocket.

I tried to stay light because I had so many splits, he said, adding that he moved way left, then came back toward center and finally found a path that worked. At that time, it was the right position.

This one was a struggle to survive, he said. I had to grind it out. Sometimes they're like that.

That wasn't the case for Ritchie Allen, who sailed through what turned into a contentious match in Game 2. Ritchie Allen noticed a piece of tape on Patrick Allen's ball when it returned in the fourth frame ' after a fourth straight strike.

Ritchie Allen, aware its forbidden to have a foreign substance on a ball, called for a ruling to see if the shot should stand. The alternative was to have Patrick Allen throw it over.

The two players jawed at one another before the shot was allowed, the reasoning being that no one knew when the tape latched to the ball. When it happened later, it became evident the tape flew out of the ball when it hit the pins.

If I get the ruling to go my way, said Ritchie Allen, and he throws a split, then it's to my advantage. He was starting to warm up a little, and once that happened, he cooled back down.

Ritchie Allen's first four games were 258, 235 (which he lost to a 237), 247 and 278, and put him in position for his second career title. His only other TV show was four years ago.

Himmler has three titles over a full-time career that stretches to 1993. He's won once each of the past two years.

He prevented Wolfe from repeating with a dominating performance. After winning with a 278 to open the match, then seeing it knotted, he won three straight comfortably.

It can look easy sometimes, said Himmler, but it's really not. If you take your foot off the pedal, Mike's capable of turning around and shooting 800 his next three games.

Himmler threw five strikes in a row in the last game, then after an open, was fortunate when a flying head pin produced another strike in the seventh frame.

I got a lucky break on that strike, he said. That set me up to where I just needed to stay clean.

Criss has five career titles, but none since 1999. His 123-event streak without a win is the seventh longest among current players.

It's been three years since he made the TV finals.

It's been an unbelievably long time, said Criss, who made it through a match of attrition against Daugherty. Half of their combined 12 games were under 200.

I've struggled in the new (match-play) format, but hopefully I'm starting to figure things out, said Criss. For whatever reason, the format just hasn't really matched up with my game. I've been trying to work on throwing the ball straighter, and so far it's working for me.

Williams Jr. falls short in quest for win "ttrower@mailtribune.com.

2006 Earl Anthony Medford Classic

ROUND OF 8

Single elimination,

Best-of-seven-games match play.

Losers earn &

36;5,000.

(Pos., name/hometown)

No. 9, Tim Criss, Bel Air, Md. def. No. 16, Tom Daugherty, Tampa, Fla., 4-2 (258-187, 234-192, 214-214 (7-10), 198-255, 191-157, 205-192).

No. 2, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich. def. No. 10, Walter Ray Williams Jr, Ocala, Fla., 4-3 (279-207, 228-258, 214-236, 234-186, 213-182, 176-210, 235-206).

No. 22, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C. def. No. 30, Patrick Allen, Tarrytown, N.Y., 4-1 (258-184, 235-237, 247-234, 278-201, 206-192).

No. 28, Brian Himmler, Cincinnati def. No. 20, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 4-1 (278-212, 210-225, 247-221, 239-203, 219-211).

ROUND OF 16

No. 16, Tom Daugherty, Tampa, Fla. def. No. 1, Wes Malott, Austin, Texas, 4-3 (217-119, 222-183, 204-206, 244-184, 181-187, 179-197, 231-226).

No. 2, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich. def. No. 18, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 4-0 (242-172, 276-269, 209-189, 224-189).

No. 30, Patrick Allen, Tarrytown, N.Y. def. No. 19, Jim Tomek Jr, Camp Hill, Pa., 4-3 (206-188, 202-212, 269-177, 210-214, 197-213, 223-184, 224-165).

No. 20, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind. def. No. 4, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 4-1 (237-180, 231-179, 220-204, 223-268, 218-167).

No. 28, Brian Himmler, Cincinnati def. No. 21, Joe Ciccone, Buffalo, N.Y., 4-3 (194-198, 222-201, 216-199, 201-182, 183-217, 174-224, 182-172).

No. 22, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C. def. No. 27, Blaise Bedolla, Roseburg, Ore., 4-0 (201-168, 226-180, 243-147, 219-210).

No. 10, Walter Ray Williams Jr, Ocala, Fla. def. No. 7, Tony Reyes, San Bruno, Calif., 4-1 (257-203, 238-212, 223-200, 224-227, 236-220).

No. 9, Tim Criss, Bel Air, Md. def. No. 8, Christopher Collins, Fayetteville, N.C., 4-2 (174-225, 222-197, 226-203, 247-221, 196-229, 212-180).

ROUND OF 32

No. 1, Wes Malott, Austin, Texas def. No. 32, Tom Baker, King, N.C., 4-2 (244-269, 210-215, 215-204, 238-194, 195-181, 249-181).

No. 2, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich. def. No. 31, David Traber, Hebron, Ill., 4-1 (244-199, 212-264, 237-223, 203-200, 238-177).

No. 30, Patrick Allen, Tarrytown, N.Y. def. No. 3, Steve Jaros, Yorkville, Ill., 4-2 (214-214 (30-29), 233-195, 226-253, 227-194, 202-209, 233-198).

No. 4, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela def. No. 29, Nathan Bohr, Wichita, Kan., 4-3 (289-194, 200-257, 202-223, 222-214, 158-257, 221-204, 229-207).

No. 28, Brian Himmler, Cincinnati def. No. 5, Paul Fleming, Bedford, Texas, 4-1 (258-204, 218-203, 247-179, 169-223, 212-205).

No. 27, Blaise Bedolla, Roseburg, Ore. def. No. 6, Chris Barnes, Flower Mound, Texas, 4-3 (227-217, 237-213, 194-209, 202-194, 212-220, 173-200, 206-189).

No. 7, Tony Reyes, San Bruno, Calif. def. No. 26, Bill O'Neill, Levittown, Pa., 4-1 (206-142, 211-160, 205-206, 248-214, 261-198).

No. 8, Christopher Collins, Fayetteville, N.C. def. No. 25, DJ Archer, Mineral Wells, Texas, 4-0 (235-161, 189-156, 224-166, 187-156).

No. 9, Tim Criss, Bel Air, Md. def. No. 24, Mike DeVaney, Temecula, Calif., 4-1 (197-191, 197-211, 245-199, 216-202, 195-168).

No. 10, Walter Ray Williams Jr, Ocala, Fla. def. No. 23, Michael Haugen Jr, Las Vegas, 4-2 (226-207, 208-184, 203-216, 245-224, 171-193, 209-198).

No. 22, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C. def. No. 11, Tommy Delutz Jr, Flushing, N.Y., 4-2 (198-255, 238-255, 236-219, 227-207, 243-239, 216-191).

No. 21, Joe Ciccone, Buffalo, N.Y. def. No. 12, Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, 4-2 (177-177 (18-19), 221-200, 276-244, 241-236, 145-183, 269-234).

No. 20, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind. def. No. 13, Brian Voss, Alpharetta, Ga., 4-3 (199-200, 226-243, 217-199, 234-193, 217-248, 258-204, 223-202).

No. 19, Jim Tomek Jr, Camp Hill, Pa. def. No. 14, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 4-3 (188-149, 213-207, 186-233, 197-173, 216-235, 201-212, 225-176).

No. 18, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y. def. No. 15, Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., 4-2 (214-157, 236-254, 218-234, 220-197, 209-192, 223-219).

No. 16, Tom Daugherty, Tampa, Fla. def. No. 17, Robert Smith, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 4-2 (216-161, 182-209, 220-192, 159-208, 227-213, 265-189).

300 games — None.

Walter Ray Williams reacts after bowling a strike Friday at the Earl Anthony Medford Classic at Lava Lanes in Medford. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli