Tackett-Simonsen duel to highlight Thursday’s Round of 16

During Wednesday’s third round of qualifying at the PBA Illinois Classic, Marshall Kent had no expectations of catching EJ Tackett, who led the first two rounds of qualifying by 154 pins.

But while Tackett trudged to 175 in the 18th and final game of qualifying, Kent fired 253 and usurped the reigning PBA Player of the Year for the top overall seed heading into match play.

“It's nice to go into match play feeling like I'm bowling really well,” Kent said. “I'm going to try to configure some sort of game plan that works to my advantage for tomorrow since we haven't bowled best-of-seven matches since I've been out on tour. I'm gonna try to get to bed early, catch up with some rest, get the body moving in the morning and just be as ready as I possibly can.

Kent, like much of the field, started the first round of qualifying using urethane equipment. He scrapped that gameplan to start Round 2, jumping left and opening up his angles with reactive equipment on the 39-foot Don Carter pattern.

“I'm gonna get left eventually, why not just start there?” Kent said. “It was just a look I was really comfortable with and I knew if I got off my hand well, it was going to go through the pins. I feel like I'm throwing it really well and seeing the transition and seeing the moves very clearly. That helped me put some strings together to bowl some good scores this week. If I trust what I see and feel comfortable, then I'm going to feel pretty good about my chances in match play.”

Match play began with the Round of 24 on Wednesday evening and will continue with the Round of 16 on Thursday morning.

The four winners during Thursday evening’s Round of 8 will advance to the championship round, along with the highest-eliminated qualifier in that round. That means that Kent, the top overall seed, will be guaranteed a berth in Saturday’s televised championship round with a Round of 16 victory over Chris Via.

Tackett, along with the other top-eight seeds, still earned a one-round bye in the 24-player elimination bracket. His compensation for falling to the second overall seed, however, turned out to be a date with Anthony Simonsen in the Round of 16.

Simonsen, who was in 37th after Round 1 and 32nd after Round 2, charged into the No. 18 seed after firing 1,446 (+246) during the third round of qualifying. In the Round of 24, Simonsen defeated Andrew Anderson to set up a battle between the top two players of 2023.

“It'll be a fun match,” Simonsen said. “The best-of-seven format is fun. There’s a little bit of laneplay strategy that comes into play. It’s one of those things where at least if you don't really have great ball reaction, you can try to set yourself up for a better ball reaction or get a little defensive if needed. And it's a nice change of pace with not having to worry about how you're bowling every single game. It simply comes down to just beating the guy you’re bowling.”

After tying for the eight seed, Sean Rash defeated Jason Sterner in a one-game roll-off before match play began. Rash, competing near his current home of Montgomery, Ill., said his ailing back is feeling good this week.

“A year ago today, I went to the hospital and the back surgeon said I needed to fuse my back,” Rash said. “It's surreal that I'm still bowling at a high level — not the highest levels like I was there for a while — but I'm okay with that. I know where I'm at in my career, and I still feel like there's some gas left in the tank.”

Rash will face BJ Moore in the Round of 16, which begins at 10 a.m. Central (11 a.m. Eastern) on Thursday.

Additional Round of 16 matches include the red-hot Bill O’Neill vs. Tom Daugherty, Tommy Jones vs. Jason Belmonte, AJ Johnson vs. AJ Chapman, Jake Peters vs. Nathan Bohr and Sean Lavery-Spahr vs. Kyle Sherman

All rounds of match play will be livestreamed on BowlTV.

The PBA Illinois Classic finals will air live Saturday at 7pm Central (8 p.m. Eastern) on FS1.

Round of 24 Match Play Results

No. 17 Chris Via def. No. 16 Nick Pate, 4-2
No. 24 BJ Moore def. No. 9 Jason Sterner, 4-3

No. 18 Anthony Simonsen def. No. 15 Andrew Anderson, 4-2
No. 23 Nathan Bohr def. No. 10 Zach Wilkins, 4-3

No. 14 Tom Daugherty def. No. 19 Graham Fach, 4-2
No. 22 AJ Chapman def. No. 11 Kevin McCune, 4-3

No. 13 Jason Belmonte def. No. 20 Matt Ogle, 4-2
No. 21 Kyle Sherman def. No. 12 Ronnie Russell, 4-1

Full scores are available here.

Round of 16 Matches

No. 1 Marshall Kent vs. No. 17 Chris Via
No. 8 Sean Rash vs. No. 24 BJ Moore

No. 2 EJ Tackett vs. No. 18 Anthony Simonsen
No. 7 Jake Peters vs. No. 23 Nathan Bohr

No. 3 Bill O’Neill vs. No. 14 Tom Daugherty
No. 6 AJ Johnson vs. No. 22 AJ Chapman

No. 4 Tommy Jones vs. No. 13 Jason Belmonte
No. 5 Sean Lavery-Spahr vs. No. 21 Kyle Sherman

PBA Illinois Classic Schedule

Bowlero Mt. Prospect | Mt. Prospect, IL

All times Eastern

Thursday, Feb. 8
11 a.m. — Round of 16 (best-of-seven-games matches)
7 p.m. — Round of 8 (best-of-seven-games matches)

Four winners plus highest-eliminated qualifier in Round of 8 advance to championship round

Saturday, Feb. 10
8 p.m. — PBA Illinois Classic finals


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