When the field split and the top 11 were established the race was still on, and even heading into the final 4, who would claim the 5th NCA Tour title was still unknown. But after Justin Slater played spoiler and won his 3rd St. Jacob's title, Jon Conrad would fend off all challengers and become the 2012-2013 NCA Tour Champion.
One May 11th, 33 players entered the St. Jacob's Firehall for the ferocious finish to the 5th NCA Tour. The main attraction for the day was the question of who would win the NCA title; after Jon Conrad had led throughout the entirety of the Tour, he was looking to become only the 4th man to win the NCA Tour, and only the 2nd to win the title outright (Brian Cook won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, while Justin Slater and Ray Beierling tied in 2010).
Meanwhile, attention was also drawn towards who would win the Ontario Singles Championship, as the winner in St. Jacob's. While the history of the Ontario Singles tournament is quite vast, its recent resurgence on the NCA Tour had only seen two previous winners. Brian Cook had won in 2009 over Kent Robinson and in 2011 over Jon Conrad. While Justin Slater won in 2010 by defeating Jason Beierling and 2012 by overcoming Brian Cook.
After the preliminary round, the field was split into 3 groups. Making the top 11 A group was Brian Cook, Ray Beierling, Rob Mader, Justin Slater, Jon Conrad, Ab Leitch, Jason Beierling, Rex Johnston, Roy Campbell, Fred Slater and Bob Mader. Narrowly missing the cut were Louis Gauthier and Greg Matthison, behind only by 2 points each.
Through the preliminary round, a common theme for the day became quite obvious: 20's. While groups only played 7 or 8 games, a total of 4 players were on pace to score 100 or more 20's through a full 10 game round. Those players included 20's leaders like Justin Slater, Brian Cook and Robert Bonnett, but also included the self-proclaimed 20-shooting-cynic Ab Leitch who averaged the highest 20's count with 89 through 8 games, and on pace to shoot 111.
In the A group the 20's shooting continued, as the 11 players averaged a 20's score of 96 each through 10 games. While the high 20's scores were unfathomable, as Jon Conrad scored 128, Brian Cook scored 123 and Justin Slater had 113, the main goal was to make the top 4. Not surprisingly the aforementioned 3 did make the top 4, along with Ray Beierling. Just on the outside looking in were Jason Beierling and Roy Campbell.
The 20's scores were also high within the B group, that averaged 94 20's through 10 games, included a fantastic 20's score of 138 for Nathan Walsh, 116 for Louis Gauthier and 101 for Eric Miltenburg. Nathan Walsh later admitted that after 4 games his main concern was to try and break the world-record currently held at 142 by Justin Slater.
In the C group, advancing to the playoff portion were Alex Protas, Howard Martin, John Lichty and Bob Jones. While the top seeds of Protas and Martin held their ground through the semifinals, Howard Martin did get the better of Alex Protas in the final to win the C division
The B group playoffs saw Robert Bonnett overcome his 4th seed placement, by beating top qualifier, Nathan Walsh in the semifinals, while John Harvey was able to defeat Barry Kiggins in the 2nd v 3rd seed match. In the final, Robert Bonnett would be victorious after defeating John Harvey in two games.
Focussing our attention back on the A group, the top 4 qualifiers did not include Fred Slater, ruling him out of the NCA title race. So that left Brian Cook and Jon Conrad, with the possibility that a Cook tournament and a Conrad semifinal loss would mean that the two would share the title.
In the 2-3 semifinal, Ray Beierling was the first to play spoiler as he defeated Jon Conrad to advance to the final. It appeared as though it would be a rematch of the 2011 World Championships as Brian Cook held a lead in the 1-4 semifinal. But a comeback from Justin Slater propelled him into the final match and assured that Jon Conrad would be the sole victor of the 2012-2013 NCA Tour. In the Championship match, Justin Slater was extremely successful at grabbing the early lead in almost every round and would eventually win the match to claim his 3rd St. Jacob's tournament title.
Fred Slater won tournaments at the Ontario Doubles Championship and in London, as well as finished 2nd in doubles in Tavistock, but ended up tied for 3rd as Ray Beierling won the Hamilton tournament, and pulled out enough points to grab a spot on the podium with a runner-up finish in St. Jacob's.
Brian Cook won three tournaments in the middle of the season to quickly earn 200 points, and in the end finished inside the top 3 for the 5th consecutive year.
So after an incredible start to the NCA Tour, as Jon Conrad became the first to ever win the doubles and singles categories in Tavistock, Jon Conrad picked up several top 4 finishes and fended off all competitors to win the NCA title.
Here's the look at the final NCA standings for the 2012-2013 season:
|22||Rob Jr. Mader||127|
And what's the best part about the end of another NCA season?
It's that the World Championships is just around the corner!
Over the next couple of weeks we'll get you ready for the 15th annual World Crokinole Championship. So check back often for more updates, and get your game ready to play your best on June 1 in Tavistock, Ontario.