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Shaheem Nelson Takes Men's Open
By Tyrone Snell
Twenty one year old Shaheem Nelson, long regarded as the best
up and coming one-wall handball player in the City gave official
notice that he was of age by winning this year's Citywide Big Blue
Handball Championship Open Singles. Brenda Pares continued in her
domination of the women's field by adding the Citywide Women's Open
Singles to her impressive list of recent victories. In the open
doubles the story was continuity. Paul Yagual and Jaime Rivera repeated
last year's run to the top by taking Men's competition. Maggie Crespo
and Lori Acevedo repeated as women's open double champs.
This year's Citywide included close to 900 entries. The New York Handball Alliance (NYHA), a coalition of the major handball organizations including (USHA, West 4th Assoc, Lincoln Terrace Handball Association, St Albans Handball Association, AceTour, I.C.H.A. and O.O.H.A.) coordinated the event in cooperation with the NYC Parks Department. Many felt this year's citywide was the best run in years.
Men's Open Singles
Shaheem Nelson playing out of the 96th St, Manhattan handball courts on the preliminary day, had to face Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park winner Cisco Aponte in the first round of the finals on day two. Shaheem took a commanding 15-5, lead but was then put to the test by the tough, in shape Cisco who scored 13 unanswered points to lead 18-15. Despite the momentum shift, Shaheem remained clear, reached deep and came back to win 21-19 to the sheer delight of the crowd.
Shaheem then had to face none other than four time Citywide Champion John "Rookie" Wright. To everyone surprise, Shaheem took a 19-7 lead with a mix of killshots, well placed passing shots and line balls. Rookie showed why he is a champion also by coming back within 16-19 before falling to the new, younger star.
For the Final, Shaheem had to face two time King of the Court winner, George Figueroa George had previously demolished the great Emmitt Fitzpatrick in the other semi-final and seemed ready to dispel Shaheem as well. But the match proved to be about heart, heat and youth as the younger player seemed fresher and more determined to win this battle. After being down 10-15, Shaheem stormed back serving a killshot to the left corner 20-17 to make his dream a reality.
Men's Open Doubles
Reigning Open Doubles winners Pauly and Jamie made history becoming the
first team to repeat as champions in this event. It was particularly
exciting as they did it against last year's finalist Yuber "Peewee"
Castro, who was back with his 2004 Nationals Doubles partner Willie
Polanco. Peewee and Willie have been terrorizing the doubles circuit
in 2004 including convincing wins over Pauly and Jamie, but this year,
in their home park and in front of family and friends, the youngsters
dominated the veteran team to 21-11. In fact, during the entire finals
on Sunday, every team they faced had the same identical score, 21-11.
They first had to go through Angel Teron and Rick Montalvo (Midland
Beach, Staten Island) 21-11, then George Figueroa/Tony Roberts(Lincoln
Terrace, Brooklyn). When both Pauly and Jamie are clicking, they hit
monster killshots and power shots and cannot be out volleyed. They
are young, eager and strong in their handball game and will be around
for more years to come. Is it too early to wonder if 2006, will see
Women's Open Singles
Brenda Pares (Midland Beach, Staten Island) has returned to where she left off in 2004 by conquering all who faced her in the Women's category of this event. After winning the 2004 Queen of the Court as well as current National and Mayor's Cup small ball championships, Brenda is now considered the top female big blue player. She first had to beat out Bernice Torres, her own doubles partner, in the Staten Island site preliminaries, . She then beat Gladys Miranda and in the finals faced 2004 Citywide champion Maggie Crespo. Maggie burst on the scene last year winning her last 2 matches 21-20 to become a champion, but in 2005 she would not see a close game as Brenda closed her out 21-13 to claim her title.
Women's Open Doubles
For the second year in a row, Maggie Crespo and Lori Acevado who (both play out of Coney Island)beat Brenda and Bernice Torres(Staten Island). Maybe it was revenge for Maggie or it might simply be that the better team won, but this story is sure to continue into other tournaments as these four know each other well and are friends in and out of the handball community. In order to get the rematch of last year Maggie and Lori first had to dispense with Marisol Bravo and Catherine Porter, then veterans Karen McConney and Sydell Smith-Lewis(Van Cortlandt, Bronx).. Meanwhile Brenda and Bernice had to fight off a new tough team of Mickey McMillian and Sarah Soodkeo 21-14 as well as 2002 Citywide Winners Cheryl Howard and Gladys Miranda to complete their side of the draw.
The Women's B Singles
Playing out of the Central Park courts, Christina Bunch, the 2003 C Division
Citywide Handball Singles winner, toppled Elise Goris(London Planetree)
in the first round 21-15 then Maribel Rodriguez (Coney Island) 21-13.
For the finals, she had to face another young star Quasia Watson,
playing out of Lincoln Terrace, Brooklyn. Quasia, had defeated Yvette
Tiatt(96th st, Manhattan) and then Sabrina Roberts(Staten Island)
to face make the finals. Christina and Quasia know one another and
fear was not a factor, but the older Christina prevailed 21-17 to
graduate to the next level of handball class. The top big blue female
players welcome the new challenger and hopes to see more like her
The Women's B Doubles
On the ladies side, Vanessa Smith and Daneisha Lloyd (Far Rockaway, Queens) overcame major hurdles in winning 21-20 over Quasia Watson (who was also in the Singles finals) and her partner Lian Chin (2004 B singles finalist). Vanessa and Daneisha, welcome to the Open.
The Women's C Singles
The women now welcome Tammy Torres(Bronx) to the B level by her defeat of Elise Goris 21-19 in a tough final to claim the C crown of 2005. Elise beat out a game Anita Wheeler as Tammy beat Rocky Figueroa to all make the finals.
The Men's B Singles
Veteran handballer Angel Teron who always represents the Bronx, but played out of the Staten Island site shocked some but not many in returning to Open player form by coveting this year's Big Blue Citywide Title. His road was tough and hard as he had to face Lawrence Dubois(Central Park) then last year's finalist Carlos Espinal and finally, the toughest B player who hasn't graduated to the Open, Christian Rivas. Everyone complains that Christian should not be in the B division, but it was Angel they should have been worried about as he showed true handball skills in containing the younger and very fast Christian in a 21-13 victory. Christian on the other hand had to comeback from 13-20 to squeek out a victory 21-20 over another potential Open player Justin Richie. Justin is another rising as a star in this game. Christian has lost this event five times in five years as the 2005 season goes to an avid and consistent Angel Teron.
The Men's B Doubles
After being shortchanged in the singles, Justin did not want to fall in the doubles as he teamed with newcomer Selvin Barrios of Lincoln Terrace, to claim the B doubles division title over Medhi Majunder and Shiraan Hydar(Far Rockaway) With the B doubles events, handball gets two new graduates to the Open Divisions.
The Men's C Singles
Newcomer Victor Ayala came out of nowhere to capture the C title over Andreas Vigo and get welcomed into the B level for next year. He defeated a self proclaimed C undisputed champion, Jay Gomez in the semis, while Andreas toppled Jerry Amador in the other.
The Masters Division
Adding this division last year in 2004 lead to it actually becoming a reality
in the 2005 tournament. Eight crafty veterans reached the finals for
Sunday to duke it out and find out who is the master of the masters.
The Great Simmie "Buddy" Gantt would prevail over all by defeating
another great Pete Rivera(Bronx) 21-19 in the final. Buddy was using
his patented ace serves to just demolish his competition whenever
they came close to winning. In fact when Pete got his 19th point,
Buddy went to another level and ran off fivestraight once he got up
to serve. He also had to beat another top blue baller Jeff Davidson,
who at 57 looks great and still plays against kids thre times younger
than himself. Pete defeated great veterans himself as he faced former
pink ball champion Raul Fantauzzi in the first round and then Mike
Martinez in the semis. Raul looked real good in the beginning, but
faltered later in the 90 degree heat. This division was fun to watch
to see who still has the skills that we all emulate from even till
The Citywide handball tournament was the brainchild of handballer Tyrone
Snell, president of Our Own Handball Association, Inc. In 1999, Tyrone
asked players to donate $1 to his costs of building up an association
and in return he promised them a free tournament. He then went to
the City of New York's Parks Department to get funding to host a free
citywide handball tournament consisting of multiple categories and
skill levels. The Parks and Recreation Department then asked ICHA
president Paul Williams to coordinate the event. Paul did not want
to do a potentially large event this size alone and asked Dwight Worley,
(St Albans Handball Association President) and Tyrone to assist with
the event. This group had joined to form what is now The New York
Handball Alliance. Paul, also the then Vice President of USHA convinced
it's board to help fund the annual free citywide event known as the
Big Blue Championships. Since the year 2000, The USHA has been an
avid supporter and sponsor for this event. The Alliance and the big
blue handball community thank the USHA for their constant support
and effort in helping develop what has become the largest one-wall
Having PENN Racquet Sports Co to make their ball was a plus in this year's events. Players gladly accepted the bounce, texture and firmness of this ball as opposed to previous years. Many players touted they would love these balls for everyday use and would sell them to others for USHA if they could. So congratulations to USHA for getting it right on the money with this ball.
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