Pagalayun goes undefeated on 2nd Annual Hard Times 10-Ball event

Alex Pagulayan (File photo courtesy of Dave Thomson - Medium Pool)

Alex Pagulayan withstood two strong challenges by Japanese billiard star Kenichi Uchigaki to go undefeated and win the Second Annual Hard Time 10-Ball Open on Mother's Day, May 8. The $5,000-added 10-Ball event drew a full field of 64 entrants to Hard Times Billiards in Bellflower, CA.

Pagulayan had a fairly easy, four-match trip to the winners' side final four, giving up only five racks in the first three, and then five to Jonathan Demet, before facing Chris Bartram. Uchigaki, in the meantime, had given up 19 racks through his first four matches, including eight in a third round, double hill battle against Sal Butera, before meeting Jose Parica. Pagulayan downed Bartram 9-6, as Uchigaki sent Parica over 9-7. Uchigaki got out in front 6-2 in the hot seat match that followed, but Pagulayan rallied to win five in a row, and then two of the next three to gain the hot seat.

Chris Bartram's move to the one-loss side put him right in the path of Efren Reyes, who, after being sent west by Demet in the third round, was in the midst of a four-match winning streak that had started with a 9-3 win over Mitch Ellerman and came up to Bartram after a 9-7 victory over Rodney Morris. Parica drew Louis Ulrich, who was on a six-match winning streak of his own. Reyes made it five in a row with a 9-6 victory over Bartram and moved into the quarterfinals. Parica, though, stopped Ulrich's run (cold) with a 9-2 victory and then dropped Reyes 9-7 to earn a rematch versus Uchigaki.

As they had done in their winners' side final four match, Parica and Uchigaki battled back and forth in their semifinal rematch, never allowing more than a two-game gap to separate them.  They were tied at 6-6, when Uchigaki opened up a two-game lead that put him on the hill. Parica made a critical error shooting at the 5-ball in what would prove to be the last rack of the match, and Uchigaki took full advantage. He ran easily to the 10-ball, completing his second victory over Parica for a second chance at the undefeated Pagulayan.

The two began quickly, trading racks to a 1-1 tie, and then, Uchigaki won two in a row. He sunk three on the subsequent break, but scratched. With ball in hand, Pagulayan ran the rack and closed the gap to a single game. In the 6th rack, Pagulayan awarded Uchigaki ball in hand on what was not an official foul (he'd moved a ball out of place; no touch of the cue ball), but Uchigaki couldn't take advantage. As the pace started to slow, Pagulayan eventually did, and it was tied at 3-3.

They traded racks, Uchigaki got out in front by another two racks and Pagulayan came back to tie it at 6-6. They repeated that process; Uchigaki ahead by two, Pagulayan coming back to tie, and it's 8-8. This time, though, it's Pagulayan who goes up by two and reaches the hill first. With two balls left in the 19th rack, Pagulayan misses a short, tough angle shot on the 8-ball, and turns the table over to Uchigaki, who promptly cleans up and pulls within one at 10-9. Pagulayan gets ball in hand in the 20th rack, but in an attempt to masse around the 9-ball, he strikes it, giving ball in hand back to Uchigaki. Uchigaki plays for position a little too strongly, shooting at the 8-ball, and scratches. With ball in hand, Pagulayan sinks the 9-ball, and though he's a little out of position for his shot on the 10, he lines it up carefully and wins the second annual Hard Times 10-Ball Open.