Turbo Bocce Wins 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place at Italian Fest

Every year the old Italian guys who play bocce on the courts at Onondaga Lake Park put on a bocce tournament at the Italian Festival, and every year (at least for the last six years) four guys from our league get together and win the thing.

Spoiler Alert. This year was no different.

Although the ultimate result looked familiar (four Turbo Bocce players jumping around celebrating on the main bocce court) a few differences did stand out. First of all, it was the largest Italian Fest bocce tournament ever, with 28 four-player teams competing in a double elimination tournament (eight of those teams were comprised of players from our league). The tournament itself took 12 hours to complete (and you thought our tournament was a marathon!).

The Italian Fest pays out for first, second and third place finishes – and though Turbo Bocce teams won first place for the past six years, and first, third and fourth for the last three years, we had never before won first, second and third – in other words taken home all the money. This year that changed.

This tournament is a double elimination tournament, which means it takes place in two different brackets. A winners bracket that keeps getting smaller as teams get knocked off, and a losers bracket that keeps expanding as teams get knocked off. Eventually the champion of the losers bracket plays the champion of the winners bracket, needing to beat them twice if they want to win the tournament.

When the winners bracket this year got down to four teams, they all happened to be Turbo Bocce teams.

Here are those four teams (the first player listed was the captain of each team).

Paul Colabufo, Greg Griffo, Gina Paduana, and Oscar Ocampo.

Mike Aylesworth, Rob Mead, Tim Maynard, and Colin Donahoe,.

Robb Jones, Jim Whipple, John Bowman, and Chris Chafee.

George Christou, Phil Martino, Andy Ingalls, Joe Mead.

The final four of the winners bracket pitted George’s team against Paul’s team and Robb’s team against Mike’s team. The George/Paul’s game was tied 4-4, when George’s team took control, ultimately winning the game 10-6.  While Robb’s team was able to defeat Mike’s team in a good game.

This meant that Paul and Mike’s team had to drop into the losers bracket and fight their way back to the championship game while Robb and George’s teams would play with the winner going straight to the championship where they would need to be defeated twice (being the only unbeaten team in a double elimination tournament).

In the six years we have participated in this double elimination tournament, the team that went into the championship game unbeaten has won every single time, so the game between Robb’s team and George’s team was a huge one.

The Italian Fest is played on grass courts that look like this.

By rule you have to roll the ball, and the ground is horribly slanted, pock marked, and generally lumpy, so the play is not as good as it is in our league, and there are much fewer aces and bocces. Keep this in mind (also keep in mind that Phil Martino won the bocce crown in our league this year).

Robb’s team was in the lead 9-8 (in a game up to 10 where you do NOT have to win by two), and they had a bocce ball an inch or two from the pallino, that was game point. George’s team had used three of their four balls. Luckily for them the one they had left was Phil Martino’s to throw.

I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say, Phil’s shot was the best I have ever seen at Italian Fest. He knocked out Robb’s ball (which was the game winner) and moved the pallino into two of his own balls, giving his team the unlikely 10-9 win.

Since the ground is hard to play on its hard to be consistent and everybody generally has their good moments and their bad moments. Up to that point Phil was having a bad game, but being the league’s bocce champ he asked to go last, and did not disappoint, putting his team into the championship while Robb’s team had to wait to play whichever team emerged from the losers bracket.

After four games on the winners side of the bracket, Paul’s team fell in its first game in the losers bracket (thus taking 5th place in the tournament).  Here is a picture of the (somewhat) happy team.

Mike’s team fared much better. Quickly dispatching the two remaining non-turbo bocce teams to set up a rematch against Robb’s team. Winner to play George’s team in the championship game.

Mike’s team was hot, while Robb’s team had been sitting around waiting for the losers bracket to be finished, so it might not be surprising that in this game Mike’s team jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead.

This late in the tournament the sun became a factor. Even though it started at 9am, the sun was now setting, and shining right in the players faces. Unlike in our league where you can move around, the courts are fixed, and the players were forced to throw basically blind shots right into the setting sun.

Conditions aside, Robb’s team was able to make a furious come back, and ended up winning the game 10-8. Eliminating Mike’s team who took home the third place prize, and putting themselves in position to play George’s team for the title, with George only needing one win and Robb needing two.

The championship game was fitting, as it was a rematch of the most exciting game of the day. However, the first game of this rematch was not exciting at all. Robb’s team (coming in with some practice after George’s team sat around inactive for hours waiting for the losers bracket to play out) won the game 10-0. A surprising game since you would not expect anything so lopsided this deep in the tournament.

The 10-0 “buzz-saw” set up a final game between Robb’s team and George’s team, winner take all.

As I mentioned, the Italian fest courts are blemished and it leads to inconsistent play, and this was extremely evident in the championship. Mere seconds after a 10-0 rout, Robb’s team could not seem to get their balls anywhere near the pallino and George’s team won the game and the championship 10-2. Proving once again that it is extremely difficult to beat a good team twice on the Italian Fest Ground.

The second place team.

Congratulations are in order to everybody who participated, as Turbo Bocce flexed its muscles and completely dominated this tournament. But special congratulations are in order for Joe Mead, Andy Ingalls, George Christou and Phil Martino who took home the crown. Phil winning his second Italian Fest title, and making the shot of the day.

2013 Italian Fest Champs!