Corteza Edges Gallego to Win Manny Villar Cup Calabarzon Leg

Lee Van Corteza

Youthful Lee Van Corteza at long last fulfilled his dream of winning the Calabarzon leg of the Manny Villar Cup with a pulsating 11-10 victory over Ramil Gallego before a jam-packed crowd at the SM City Mall Activity Center in Lipa City, Sunday.
Corteza, a three-time Southeast Asian Games goldmedalist came from behind two-rack deficits a number of times in the match to deny Gallego a second title while clinching his first in the prestigious island-hopping series presented by Senator Manny Villar's Villards:Tulong sa Pagsulong ng Philippine Sports.  
The moment he pocketed the 9-ball in the 21st frame Corteza screamed “At last!” He added, “I've long been chasing to win this Villar Cup and now I'm very happy that I finally did.”
Corteza became the seventh player to win the coveted tour stop after veteran internationalists Warren Kiamco (Alabang), Gandy Valle (Cebu) Gallego (Bulacan). Roberto Gomez (Davao and Isabela), Rodolfo Luat (Bacolod) and Francisco “Django” Bustamante (Baguio).
The victory earned Corteza the top prize of P300,000 or a little over $6,000 in the three-day event organized by the Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines, sponsored by Camella Communities and sanctioned by the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines headed by chairman Aristeo “Putch” Puyat and president Arturo “Bong” Ilagan which is officially recognized as the National Sports Association by the Philippine Olympic Committee.
It wasn't by any means an easy ride for Corteza who opened his bid by slipping past Joven Bustamante 97, then beating his regular nemesis Gandy Valle 9-4 before weathering a strong challenge in the quarter finals from rising star Ricky Zerna before pulling through 9-7.
In the semi finals Corteza was behind for a long stretch against Carloa Biado but eventually steadied himself to win 10-8 and arrange a finals showdown with Gallego.
In the race-to-eleven finals Corteza was down by two racks, three times in the match, the last at 7-9. He managed to tie the count at 9-9 but Gallego reached the hill first at 10-9.
In what turned out to be a crucial error Gallego missed a relatively easy shot on the yellow 1-ball in the 20th rack allowing Corteza to clean-up to tie the score at 10-10.
Corteza, displaying amazing composure broke and ran out the deciding frame to seal the victory with Gallego who beat Kiamco 10-5 in the semis content to settle for runner-up honors and a prize of P120,000 which is a little over $2,400.