Right on cue (VIDEO)

By Gus Bode

With one crack of a cue ball, a Carbondale billiards team earned a shot at $15,0000.

The six-member squad – formed of five Carbondale residents and one from Murphysboro – earned its spot in the upcoming American Poolplayers Association’s national tournament earlier this month with a tie-breaking shot from its youngest member.

The APA’s annual National Team Championships are set to take place in Las Vegas the week of Aug. 16.

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“As soon as the cue ball hit, I knew it was going in,” said 23-year-old Jeremy Hovell, who scored the winning points with a reverse bank shot at the regional tournament in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The local team, dubbed “Mugsy’s #1,” beat 33 teams in regional play to advance to the nationals, where it will compete against more than 400 teams for the $15,000 grand prize.

Carbondale residents Steve Gibson and Brad Robison formed the team in the winter with other players they compete with in the Mugsy McGuire’s billiards league. Also on the team with the founders and Hovell are Carbondale residents Larry Holland, Gene Phelps and Murphysboro’s John Weber.

Gibson said the team’s biggest challenge is to raise money for the trip.

While the APA is paying for the members’ rooms and transportation, extra money will go towards other travel expenses and help bring some loved ones along for the trip.

“Whose girlfriend or wife wouldn’t want to go with them to something like that?” said Gibson, who is trying to find a way to bring his wife along. “My wife’s been on the Internet for weeks looking for the cheapest way to get to Vegas.”

Gibson said he is considering a spaghetti dinner with some recreational pool playing as a fundraiser.

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Gibson and the other team members have also tried to find local sponsors to help with expenses and create matching shirts for the team.

The team will spend five days of play in Las Vegas, and if all goes well, it will come home with a giant trophy and the $15,000 purse.

Some members of the team already have plans for the money.

“I’m going to buy my wife a new car and fix my fishing pole,” Gibson said.

Hovell, who never lets his pool cue touch the ground while playing as a good-luck ritual, envisioned relocation.

“I might just move out to Vegas,” he said.

If they win, the teammates plan to take turns keeping the trophy. They eventually will present it to Mugsy’s.

Until Aug. 16, Gibson said the team would mostly look for ways to raise money and practice two or three times a week.

“At some point, we’ll probably all get together and have a few beers and get hyped up before we go,” he said.

David Lopez can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected]

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