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Gray goes undefeated to claim MD State 8-Ball title

Loye Bolyard, Tuan Chau, Dave Nangle, Jordan Gray and Rick Scarlato, Jr.

It is arguably heartening to know that Pro Football’s  “Any Given Sunday” rule is alive and well and living on pool tables from coast to coast. The unwritten rule dictates that on any given Sunday, a football team, no matter what its history or record going into the game, is capable of beating a team with a much better record and greater odds of winning. Translated to the fields of felt-covered slate, it means that in any given tournament, a player with limited history at the tables, with fewer earnings than any number of potential opponents can win a tournament, populated by players with much more robust track records. As in the way that the ‘rule’ is applied to football, it presupposes that the lesser-skilled team/individual player has some decent measure of experience on the playing field and that no one has to explain to a player how the game is played, or in the case of pool, which end of the cue stick to use when attempting to pocket a ball.

The 2021 Maryland State 8-Ball Championships, held this past weekend (July 24-25) drew 42 competitors to Champion Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, MD. Many of those in attendance were seasoned veterans; known competitors, not only in the mid-Atlantic region, but at nationwide events dating back years. Brandon Shuff and Steve Fleming, for example, who are former Tour Champions of the Action Pool Tour; Fleming in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, Brandon Shuff in 2015. Or Joey Korsiak, who’s been in the AZBilliards database since before the turn of the century. Or Bethany Sykes, who’s won Ladies events on the Action Pool Tour, the National Pool Tour (NAPT) and was the VA Women’s 8-Ball Champion in 2018. 

The winner (Jordan Gray) and runner-up (Tuan Chau) in this 2021 Maryland State 8-Ball Championship, combined, have recorded career earnings less than, as an example, Joey Korsiak earned winning this past May’s MD State 9-Ball Championships and this past June’s Dynaspheres Cup 8-Ball Championships. The winner, Jordan Gray, went undefeated through the field and it wasn’t entirely due to the luck of the bracket draws. He defeated the aforementioned Steve Fleming in the third round, and in his winners’ side semifinal, faced and defeated Bryan Jones, who’d sent Joey Korsiak to the loss side in the winners’ side quarterfinals.

It’s an “Any Given Sunday” reminder to veterans and a reminder to up-and-coming challengers, from wherever they may emerge, to “play the table, not the opponent.”

Gray’s path to the winners’ circle went through Randy Davis, Jeremy Mason and Fleming without giving up more than three racks in any of those first three matches, which put him into the winners’ side semifinal against Bryan Jones. In the meantime, Dylan Spohr, got by Randy Clepper, Leroy Taylor and the eventual runner-up, Tuan Chau, to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal matchup versus Brandon Shuff.

Spohr dispatched Shuff to the loss side 6-1. Gray joined him after surviving a double hill match against Jones. Gray survived a second straight double hill match in his battle for the hot seat and sat in it, waiting for Chau to complete his five-match, loss-side winning streak.

It was Jones who moved over and picked up Chau, who’d followed his shutout defeat at the hands of Spohr with loss-side victories over Joonick Jun 6-3 and Russell Obaker 6-2. Shuff drew Korsiak, who, after his defeat at the hands of Bryan Jones, had eliminated Clint Clayton 6-4 and just did survive a double hill battle against Steve Fleming.

In one of the more ‘classic’ matchups of the event, Shuff defeated Korsiak 6-4. Chau, in the meantime, had eliminated Jones by the same score to face Shuff in the quarterfinals.

Chau won two straight double hill matches to earn his spot in the finals. He downed Shuff in the quarterfinals and Spohr in the semifinals. Chau chalked up a third double hill win in the opening set of the finals. Gray, though, won the second set 6-4 to become the 2021 Maryland State 8-Ball Champion.

On the Hill Productions’ Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Championship Billiards for their hospitality, as well as their “generous tournament and streaming sponsors” AZBilliards, Aramith Balls, Mezz Cues, Turtle Racks, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Investments, Poison Cues, Gina Cunningham of Keller Williams Integrity. They also gave a shout out to Josh Parks, for his photography work at the events.

Next up will be the MD State 10-Ball Championships, scheduled for August 28-29. For further information, follow On the Hill Productions on Facebook.

Ussery, Manley split top prizes at 1st Annual Brian James Memorial Tournament in Bristol, TN

(l to r): Brian James and TD Herman Parker

If and when the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour holds its annual Tour Championship in September, it will once again honor one of its tour members with a Sportsmanship Award. The award will go to a player chosen by members of the tour. This year and in the years to come, that award will bear the name and honor the memory of Brian James of Rosedale, West Virginia, a long-time member of the tour, who passed away on June 3, following a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. James, a close friend of tour directors Herman and Angela Parker, had fulfilled a long-time dream earlier this year, when he competed at the annual Derby City Classic in January, finishing in a four-way tie for 5th place in the 9-Ball Mini Tournament. James was to have competed on the Q City 9-Ball Tour this past April, but the tour was halted due to the pandemic well ahead of his scheduled participation. By the time the tour was able to get back to the work of pool competition, James was no longer able to compete.

On the weekend of January 11-12 at Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN (where James enjoyed playing the most), the tour held a fundraising tournament, attended by James, to help defray the costs of his ongoing health care. Through the raffling of cues, balls and an assortment of other products from keychains to clothing, the event raised $3,300. Six months later, this past weekend (June 13-14), the tour went back to Borderline Billiards and drew 74 entrants to a celebration of life tournament. BJ Ussery and Sammy Manley ended up splitting the top two prizes of the commemorative event that drew 74 entrants.

“Brian’s daughters, Nina and Jesse, came to the tournament,” said Herman Parker, “and had a very emotional meeting with the players, thanking everybody.”

“He was the most genuine person,” said Parker of his friend. “There was just never any drama with him, which is why the Sportsmanship Award will be named in his honor. He was a good family man and always courteous when it came to the game. He was one of those guys; a 100% gentleman.”

And, as he most assuredly would have wanted, the tournament began.

The winner and runner-up at this event never competed. Though Ussery would go undefeated to the hot seat, Sammy Manley, who defeated Jeff Abernathy in the opening round of play, but lost to Scott Roberts in the second round, won nine matches on the loss side for the right to face Ussery in the final match that didn’t happen.

Ussery advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against junior player Landon Hollingsworth. Jordan Gray, in the meantime, squared off against Daniel “Papa John” Adams in the other one.

Ussery earned his spot in the hot seat match with a 12-3 win over Hollingsworth (racing to 6). Gray downed Adams 6-4. In what would prove to be his final victory, Ussery claimed the hot seat 12-3; like Hollingsworth, Gray was racing to 6.

With four wins of his nine on the loss side behind him, Manley defeated Travis Guerra 5-1 and Jody Musselman 5-4 (Musselman racing to 6) to draw “Papa John” coming over from his loss in the winners’ side semifinal. Hollingsworth drew Hank Powell, who’d defeated Josh Miller 7-1 and Dalton Messer 7-4 to reach him.

Manley downed “Papa John” 5-2 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Powell, who eliminated Hollingsworth 7-3. Manley then sent Powell to the figurative showers 5-3 in those quarterfinals.

In his 9th victory on the loss side and 10th, overall, Manley defeated Jordan Gray 5-2 in the semifinals. He and Ussery agreed to split the event’s top two cash prizes and the 1st Annual Brian James Memorial Tournament at Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN was in the books. According to the Parkers, future events in James’ name will be held around the time of his passing each year.

The Parkers thanked Janet Atwell and her Borderline Billiards staff, as well as title sponsor Viking Cues, Bar Pool Tables, Delta 13 Racks, AZBilliards, Tickler Pool Ball Washing Machine, Skyline Construction, Federal Savings Bank Mortgage Division and Dirty South Grind Apparel Co. The next stop on the Viking Cues’ Q City 9-Ball Tour, scheduled for this weekend (June 20-21), will be hosted by Randolph’s Billiards in Hickory, NC and feature two separate events. On Saturday, June 20th, the tour will mount its normal handicap event, which will, dependent on the number of entrants, conclude on Saturday night. On Sunday, June 21, the tour will hold an Open event (no handicaps), featuring races to 6.