Morra wins six on the loss side, double dips Deuel in NBL Inaugural Championship

Ec Liddawi and John Morra

Arguably the most remarkable thing about the National Billiards League’s (NBL) Inaugural 10-Ball Championships, held this past weekend (Dec. 18-19) at Sandcastle Billiards in Edison, NJ, was that they happened at all. Anyone who either knows or has had occasion to work with Ed Liddawi, owner of Sandcastle Billiards and founder of the league, wouldn’t, though, call it a surprise. Liddawi and a list of people he recruited to bring about the NBL’s inaugural league season, as well as that season’s finale, would have told you that the pandemic wasn’t going to stand in his way, nor the closure of rooms originally destined to host the league’s qualifying tournaments throughout the year, nor the cost in players. Liddawi’s vision wasn’t casual and it survived it all, albeit at a smaller scale than originally envisioned.

“Due to the pandemic, it (became) an eighth of the original plan in size and money,” he said. 

The original plan for 64 qualifying events (32 locations, hosting qualifiers twice throughout the year) turned into eight events, yielding eight qualified competitors going head-to-head with eight paying Pros. Those 16 were the field at the league’s first championship final. The plan had lost committed venues to closure (some permanent), tour directors to a variety of issues and players, right and left, to everything from the obvious COVID consequences to issues related to COVID, which grounded players in place, wherever they happened to be and kept them from hitting the road to attend the planned qualifiers. 

“We (Sandcastle Billiard) had two qualifiers,” noted Liddawi. “Wisconsin hosted two in two locations. Texas was there, Rhode Island had one that was won by a Massachusetts guy, and one of the players who’d won mine got sick from COVID and was replaced by Reggie Cutler from Pennsylvania. A California winner was replaced by Richard Ng, who had placed 3rd and 5th in the two held at Sandcastle Billiards.”

“Winners (of the qualifiers) got a full ride,” he added. “Entry fee (to the final event), airfare and hotel.”

Replacing players proved to be among the most difficult obstacles to overcome. There were players who’d qualified and were unable to attend, and pros, as well, who committed, but were unable to attend.

“Earl Strickland, Mike Dechaine and Jennifer Baretta were scheduled to compete,” Liddawi said, “but in the end, they were unable to attend and had to be replaced.”

“There were a lot of fires that had to be put out,” he added, “but overall, I’m pleased.”

The Inaugural 10-Ball Championships proceeded with the planned-and-promised fanfare that included entertainment (vocalists, dancers and NBL cheerleaders) before and after each day’s action, an opening ceremony that concluded with the National Anthem, referees, a 30-second shot clock at every table and uniforms.

“Everything is designed,” said Liddawi, “so that the popularity of the game is elevated.”

The 10-Ball Championships did yield some surprises. Most prominent among them was Canadian John Morra’s loss in the opening round of play, followed by his winning six on the loss side and then, double dipping Corey Deuel in the finals to claim the NBL’s first championship title. Another involved a winners’ side quarterfinal match between Jayson Shaw and New England-based veteran competitor, Joe Dupuis. Fargo Rate gave Dupuis a 3.3% chance of defeating Shaw in a race to 11. Not only did Dupuis defy those odds, but he did so by being seven games out in front and on the hill before Shaw came up with a few racks to make it look closer than it really was.

“I’m not going to say I was shocked,” said Dupuis of his win over Shaw. “I broke and ran my first three racks and didn’t make any mistakes against Jayson. He ended up winning four racks in a row near the end and I just played phenomenally against him.”

“I was fortunate enough where my break was working, maybe the best, ever. It was working just that good. I was making balls on the break, running out, the table worked with me and I just kept the pressure on.”

“He commended me for what I did,” he added, “and later on, he told me the pockets were easy and that when pockets are easy, he doesn’t concentrate as much. He made a few unforced errors, where he expected things to happen and they didn’t.”

John Morra, in the meantime, lost his opening match to Tri-State New York area’s Frankie Hernandez 7-5. Hernandez advanced to down Levie Lampaan 11-1 in a winners’ side quarterfinal and then, sent Joe Dupuis (fresh off of his victory over Shaw) to the loss side 11-5 in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Corey Deuel opened with a 7-5 win over Shaun Wilkie, downed Jerry Dunne 11-3 and then, sent Justin Bergman to the loss side 11-5 in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Deuel and Hernandez battled for the hot seat. In a match worthy of its place in the 10-Ball Championship archives (for which players will earn royalties based on pay-per-view showings of the recorded matches) Deuel and Hernandez battled back and forth, with Deuel edging out in front to claim the hot seat 11-8.

On the loss side, Dupuis ran into the eventual winner, John Morra, who, after his loss to Hernandez had downed Jonathan Giles 7-5, Ernesto Bayaua 7-4 and Oscar Dominguez 7-1. Bergman drew Shaw, who’d followed his loss to Dupuis with victories over Duncan Kaufman 7-5 and Jeremy Sossei 7-4.

A quarterfinal rematch between Shaw and Dupuis loomed on the near horizon and Shaw did his part to make that happen with a 7-4 win over Bergman. By the same score, Morra spoiled Dupuis’ bid for that rematch.

Morra and Shaw battled to double hill in the quarterfinals that followed, with Morra prevailing in the end to face Hernandez in the semifinals. A second double hill battle ensued and again, Morra prevailed for a necessary double shot at Deuel, waiting for him in the hot seat.

Morra and Deuel came within a game of double hill in the opening set of the true double elimination final, but Morra pulled out in front to win it 11-9. In the race-to-7 second set, Morra claimed the inaugural NBL 10-Ball Championship title with a 7-3 win over Deuel.

Liddawi’s list of folks to thank was prodigious, beginning with Pat Fleming of Accu-Stats for his support, along with Zach Goldsmith of Onsite Pool Network (OSPN Felt-Cam; cameras on tables) and Isaac Wooten of He also thanked his tour director, Jose Burgos of the Mezz Pro Am Tour and his assistant, Elvis Rodriguez, along with members of his Sandcastle Billiards staff Brian Cosme, Tom Bedard and Paul Lieb. He extended an additional ‘thank you’ to the NBL’s shuttle driver, Ben S. The event also featured a number of advertisers who appeared on the live stream; Uncle Jay’s Custom Boats, Perfume Ultra, New York Life Insurance, Dragon Billiards and Tap League (Jersey Shore Shops).

At present, the NBL is looking ahead to a single, planned 8-Ball event sometime in June, 2022 and a second Championship next December, as Liddawi continues his quest for further venues at which to hold event qualifiers and other main events designed into the original plans.

“Not many people can see a vision coming to fruition,” Liddawi said, “but now, hopefully, people will be more willing or at least less reluctant or skeptical to participate.”

“Naysayers,” he added, “may now say nothing.”

For further information on the NBL and to keep abreast of its plans, visit the league’s website at or its Facebook page at