Jason Ciliberto Wins the 2024 Tri-City Masters

All I can say is wow. Just wow. The 31st annual Tri-City Masters Tournament went down at Allie-Brandt lanes Sunday, February 25th in Lockport, NY. A record breaking 119 bowlers entered the tournament to fill up the house. With Covid wiping out the 2021 and 2022 events the Tri-City made a strong return in 2023 with 96 bowlers at Mallwitz’s Island Lanes. It was exciting to see the buildup of a tournament that would challenge and ultimately break the Tri-City tournament entry record set in 2002 at Rapids Bowling Center that saw 112 entries.
The Tri-City is made up of three USBC associations consisting of Lockport, Niagara Falls and the Tonawandas. 119 bowlers representing those associations along with bowlers from Buffalo, Rochester, Southern Tier and Canada signed up to compete on the 2020 World Bowling Montreal oil pattern (41 feet) laid out for the tournament. Spectators filled the concourse throughout the day to witness the bowling talent the Western New York area has to offer. Twenty four bowlers would make the cut to match play with an additional six bowlers receiving a cash prize. The tournament this day would pay out a record $10,451 in prize money.
With twenty four bowlers making the cut the top eight would receive a first round bye. During the four game qualifying round it appeared the lefties had the upper hand with three taking three of the top four spots. From the Tonawandas Association it would be Devon Miller leading the field with a 982 series. Devon came out firing starting the day with a 243 followed by games of 234 and 225. A monster 280 in his last game allowed him to make the jump into first place overall. Next up another southpaw in Jason Ciliberto representing the Lockport Association. Jason won the Tri-City in 2015. Bowling in a house that has treated him well Jason shot a 963 set with games of 231, 238 and a big 279 game to finish out his set. It would be a sign of things to come later in the day. The third seed would go to the Tonawandas very own Ryan Reese who finished with a 934 set on the strength of a 257 in game two. Your next lefty up was the 1996 and 2010 Tri-City Masters Champion Pat Brick. Consistent through the day Pat opened 236 and finished 254 to fire a 925 set and secure the fourth spot.
In the five hole would be Chris Racey as he opened the day as the leader with a 278 and finished out with a 923 series. The 2020 and 2023 Niagara Falls Association Champion and 2023 Tri-City runner up Taylor Maxner secured the sixth seed with a 921 series after finishing 269 and 267. After a slow start James Leslie came on strong to take the seventh seed with a games of 233, 258 and 246 down the stretch. Rounding out the top eight would be Curtis Foss. Curtis finished the round with 903 as he fired games of 226, 225 along with a 248 finish. The overall top twenty four cut would be plus 49 as Kara Mangiola held off about a dozen bowlers who all were within striking distance of making match play.
Scores of note in the top 24 and the field included Aaron Magliazzo 278, 896, Ryan Phillips 244, 895, Casey Smith 248, 892, Ryan Kress 238, 891, 2023 Tri City Masters Champion Kevin Bienko 258, 890, Andy Rettig 234, 888, Moe Davidson 228, 876, Tom Kress 267, 875, Stephano Cirrito 234, 871, 2024 WNY Queens Champion Haley Carroll 267, 869, Tom Sorce 269, 866, Mike Wozniak 267, 864, 2020 Tri-City Masters Champion Mike Zarcone 256, 857, Al Nicolette 242, 857, Steve Kosut 248, 856, Kara Mangiola 238, 849, Kevin Volker 266, Gary Preston 268, Nick Abdo 288 and three time Tri-City Masters Champion Gary Kinyon 257.
Six bowlers making the cash line cut at 842 consisted of 2021 Buffalo Obenauer Champion Dave Kirsch, Shawn McKee, Kevin Volker, Mike Krywcum, Matt Zasowski and Gary Preston.
Match play consisted of two game matches. The grind was on and if you were there watching you were treated to some great matches. While the lefties did well in qualifying the righties would start to turn things around in match play as the lanes continue to be carved out.
Round one saw Tom Kress, Mangiola, Nicolette, Sorce, Carroll, Phillips, Bienko and Zarcone all advance with Zarcone throwing a monster 533 set for two games. The top 8 would come into the mix in round two. Tom Kress was able to sneak by top qualifier Devon Miller 473-465. Curtis Foss rolled a big 503 set to get past Kara Mangiola. Taylor Maxner battled Al Nicolette to a 449-433 win while Tom Sorce brought the wheel barrow to carry the 511 pins as he advanced over Ryan Reese. Jason Ciliberto advanced 443-347 over Carroll, James Leslie moved on 432-348 over Phillips, Chris Racey defeated Zarcone 418-360 and Kevin Bienko rolled past Pat Brick 468-371.
Things got tighter in the top 8 as Tom Kress won another close one over Curtis Foss 382-370. Tom Sorce defeated Taylor Maxner 450-327 while Ciliberto advanced over Leslie 445-427. Kevin Bienko won the showdown against Racey in a high scoring match 506-482.
Now in the top four Bienko got closer to having the chance be the first bowler since Gary Kinyon in 2011 and 2012 to repeat as the Tri-City Masters Champion. Ciliberto, the lone lefty remaining in the field, had other ideas and he kept the hot hand as he moved past Bienko 479-406. In the other match the battle of the Toms would be a close one. Kress and Sorce both came out firing. The two bowlers traded bowling punches with each other and in the end it would be Tom Kress left standing in another close one 510-505.
The final match would take place on lanes 31-32 with Ciliberto the two seed versus T. Kress the sixteen seed. Ciliberto would take a commanding lead early starting out 247-195 and appeared to be running away with the title. As Lee Corso would say “not so fast my friend.” Tom Kress had been in tight matches all day and he wasn’t done yet. Tom still had some strikes up his sleeve but both bowlers would be at the mercy of the right lane. “I was completely lost the last game, lane 32 blew up for me” Jason said afterwards.
In the 8th frame Jason was treated to a wash out on that right lane and missed the conversion. Tom had reeled off a few strikes to tighten up the match. Jason’s open in the eighth put Tom back in the lead but in the ninth frame Tom went through the face and left the 4-6 split. The right lane gave the bowlers fits as they battled on. Jason put up a mark in the ninth to regain the lead briefly. A double by Tom would have forced Jason to strike in the tenth. Kress was able to put ten back on the first one but the right lane was troublesome again as Tom left the 4-9 split on his second shot to finish 213. For Jason that opening 247 game was light years away. Looking at the scoreboard he would need a mark to win the match. Cue the ugly right lane as his ball went through leaving his second washout in three frames. Needing to convert Jason was down to his last shot. A solid release at the line saw the ball curl to the right as everyone watched Jason make the spare. Ciliberto had won the match 415-408 to become your 2024 Tri-City Masters Champion.
Within the tournament the three associations have a champion and runner up within their own association. Each champion receives $300 and the runner up $100. Jason Ciliberto was the Lockport Bowling Association Champion ($300). It is his fifth time winning the Lockport title within the tournament. Tim Apthorp was the Lockport Association runner up ($100). In the Tonawandas Association we had Kevin Bienko and Tom Sorce finish together as Co-Champions ($200 each). In the Niagara Falls Association it would be Taylor Maxner finishing first for the third time in a row ($300) while Aaron Magliazzo and Stephano Cirrito tied for runner up ($50 each) Thank you to all who came out to compete along with Brian Borowski and the staff at Allie Brandt Lanes for being a great host for this event. We look forward to running another big tournament next year at Rapids Bowling Center with the Niagara Falls Association as the host in 2025!