Billiards

Pool teams pocket APA National berths at City-Wide Tournament

2013-06-24T22:00:00Z 2013-06-25T00:30:04Z Pool teams pocket APA National berths at City-Wide TournamentJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

GRIFFITH | Shortly after "Scratched" bested "The Survivor" to go undefeated in the 8-Ball bracket of the Illiana American Poolplayers Association City-Wide Tournament held June 7-9 at Griffith Billiards, someone from the winning team made an appropriate jukebox selection.

AC/DC's "Sin City."

Scratched claimed the first of four expenses-paid berths the tourney offered — three for 8-Ball and one for 9-Ball — to the APA National Team Championships Aug. 15-24 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Whether Scratched will go on to "win in Sin City" remains to be seen, but its players likely won't get much sleep.

"There really is no way to prepare for it," said Scratched team captain John Stuchlak, of Dyer. "We'll probably be playing until midnight, then getting up in the morning to do it again."

Other members of the team include co-captain Brandon Hanchak, Larry Ray, Russell Zych, Jamie Conners, Nichole Balucki, Dawn Copeland and Deanna Muffett.

The team is based out of Longshots Sports Bar in Schererville. Scratched went undefeated throughout the latest Illiana APA session, and was awarded the league's "Top Dawg" for most team points accumulated during the session.

"Most of us have been playing for a while, but this team has only been together for one year," said Hanchak, who like Stuchlak, was named league MVP in his handicap division.

Earning the other undefeated 8-Ball team nationals berth was Pick-Ups 8-Ball, who bested Pick-Ups Sticks in the final round which went down to the last game.

Both teams are based out of Pick-Ups Bar and Grill in Lynwood.

"There was never a rivalry between us before, but I've got to say there was one going on for this," said a Pick-Ups 8-Ball player, who insisted on being referred to as "Booch."

"It got pretty intense," Booch said, "but it was for Vegas."

"But we know most of those guys," said Steve Steffek, of Pick-Ups 8-Ball, which also includes Brian Madrigal, James Mathus, Jim McNair, John Petrungaro and captain Debbie Mittlebach.

"We're going to rooting for them to win the loser's bracket (for the third 8-Ball berth)," Steffek said. "It would be great if both of us go down."

From Pick-Ups 8-Ball, only Mittlebach has team nationals experience.

"It's going to be exciting," said Mittlebach, who tends bar at Pick-Ups, "like it always is down there."

The experience of being there before only helps according to Lauren Kreis of South Chicago Heights. Kreis has been to team nationals in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in both 8-Ball and 9-Ball play.

"First time I was down there, it was like being in that movie (The Color of Money) seeing all those tables lined up," Kreis said. "It affected my nerves. I could barely keep my hands still for simple shots.

"But when I went back again and again, I was able to play like I was back home."

By way of winning leagues from the three 16-week sessions throughout the year and placing in the Tri-Cup Tournaments held at the end of each session, 32 8-Ball teams and eight 9-Ball teams qualified for the City-Wide Tournament.

"We're a handicap league that grades players from 2 to 7," said Johnny Maricich, who co-owns Illiana APA with wife Gloria. "If you're a '2,' and you play a '7,' you only need to win two games before the other guy wins seven."

For each five-on-five team match, a team's sum handicap can not exceed 23.

"So you can't stack your team," Maricich said. "Teams need to have a number of '2s' or '3s' to keep that number down. This allows beginners a better chance to get on a team while learning more about the game.

"So if you have an uncle who sucks, you might ask him if he's free on Tuesday or Thursday nights."

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