Shuff double dips Ussery in finals of MD State Bar Table 10-Ball Championships

Loye Bolyard, BJ Ussery, Brandon Shuff and Rick Scarlato

Brandon Shuff was runner-up to Grai Rasmechai, known as Pooky, in the 2019 MD State 10-Ball Bar Table Championships. Pooky had sent him to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal and Shuff had to win three on the loss side to get back to the finals. Shuff took the opening set of a true double elimination final, only to have Pooky come back and win the second set to claim the event title. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, this year’s MD State 10-Ball Bar Table Championships were, to a point, as Yogi once said (of Mantle and Maris hitting back-to-back home runs in a game), “like déjà vu all over again.” For the second year in a row, Shuff found himself at work on the loss side of the bracket in this annual event to earn a shot in the finals. This time, though, he got to the loss side earlier for a nine-game winning streak and eventually won both sets of a true double elimination final to claim the 2020 title. The event, held under the auspices of On the Hill Productions, drew 81 entrants to Brews & Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD.

Shuff was awarded an opening round bye before winning his first opening match against Louis Wehage 7-1. In his second round match, Shuff was sent to the loss side 7-5 by the opponent that he’d defeated in the quarterfinals last year, Dylan Spohr. Spohr followed Shuff over when he was defeated by Nathan Childress in the next round, 7-5. Childress, a former two-time BEF junior champion (’15 & ’16; 14 & under), had (after a bye) chalked up an opening round shutout over Dylan Carr, before defeating, in order, Brett Stottlemeyer 7-4, Spohr, and Johnny Archer 7-5, to draw Rick Molineiro in one of the winners’ side semifinals.

In the meantime, BJ Ussery, who’s recently been popping up and winning all over the US landscape (most recently, Nov. 19-22, as runner-up to Jeffrey DeLuna in the 9-ball division of the 1st Annual Meucci Classic in Florida) was working his way to the hot seat. He’d opened with a shutout over Josh Harget and followed with victories over Jordee Palmieri 7-4, Joshua McCauley 7-2, Joseph Tomkowski 7-5 and Tom Zippler 7-5, to arrive at the other winners’ side semifinal, versus Redgie Cutler.

Ussery got into the hot seat match with a 7-1 victory over Cutler. Molineiro joined him after sending Childress over 7-3. Ussery claimed the hot seat 7-2 and waited for the fateful return of Shuff.

Over on the loss side, Shuff was not being handed any sort of a free ticket back to the finals. Though he started with a 7-1 victory over Jimmy Bird and a 7-2 win over Stottlemeyer, Shuff’s next few opponents started adding more and more beads to their side of the wire. He downed Joseph Tomkowski 7-3, Kevin West 7-5, Clint Clayton 7-5 and downed Mike Saleh 7-3 (Saleh had just eliminated Johnny Archer in a double hill battle). It was Cutler who picked him up, those six wins into his loss-side winning streak. Shaun Wilkie, who’d won three matches on the winners’ side before Cutler had sent him to the loss side 7-2, got right back on the ‘horse,’ to down Shane Wolford (partner with Nathan Childress in winning the October MD State Scotch Doubles 9-Ball Championship) and Tony Long, both 7-5, to draw Childress.

Shuff chalked up loss-side win #7 against Cutler 7-4. Though there was a high degree of anticipation in place for the Wilkie/Childress match, based primarily on the young man’s winners’ side victories in this event and recent success in other On the Hill Productions’ tournaments, the hoped-for ‘nail biter’ didn’t happen. Wilkie shut the young man out and advanced to face Shuff in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals, too, were a highly anticipated match between two of the mid-Atlantic’s powerhouse players. And that match, to a certain extent, lived up to its billing. Shuff and Wilkie came within a game of double hill, but in the end, Shuff edged out in front to win it by two, 7-5.

Shuff took his final step toward a place in the finals with a similar 7-5 win over Molineiro in the semifinals.

It was getting late and there was little doubt that the two players in the finals – Shuff and BJ Ussery – were already tired. Though true, it is assuredly not an excuse that any player uses to validate poor play, or losing a match. Ussery lost the opening set of the final 7-2, and though he put up a fight in the second set, Shuff won the double hill second set to claim the title.

“Brandon’s a great player,” acknowledged Ussery. “I knew going in that he was the kind of player who maybe was only going to make one mistake, and not a big mistake at that.”

“He played absolutely perfectly,” he added. “He kicked the 10-ball in twice.”

On the Hill Productions, in the persons of Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues on the Boulevard for their hospitality, as well as sponsors the Chesapeake Bay TAP League, Aramith Balls, and Simonis Cloth.