Efren Stays Alive

Efren Reyes

Efren “Bata” Reyes scored a nerve-wracking 8-7 victory over young Polish star Radoslaw “The Choir Boy” Babica to keep his hopes of qualifying for the knockout round of 64 in the prestigious 2006 Philippines World Pool Championship alive.

In a match that was at times agonizing for the huge hometown crowd at the beautiful Philippine International Convention Center but much of the time enthralling for lovers of pool, Reyes looked like he would be ousted when he missed some comparatively easy shots similar to those he flubbed in his shocking 7-8 loss at the hands of young American Tony Crosby in an error-filled performance on opening day, Saturday.

A capacity crowd that cheered every magical shot of Reyes who is a national hero in the Philippines and regarded as the greatest pool player of all-time were restless as Babica won the lag and took the opening rack but soon relaxed as Reyes capitalized on an error by Babica to move ahead 2-1 before a break and run out saw him take a 3-1 lead.

The Polish star resorted to a game of attrition and put Reyes under constant pressure with some excellent safeties that forced Reyes to foul and after tying the count at 4-4 Babica, behind a superb break and precise pocketing grabbed the lead 5-4. Reyes whose break was not working for him switched to the right side of the table and it immediately paid dividends as he pocketed three balls on the break and ran out in style to once again draw level at 5-5.

It was Reyes' turn to resort to testing safeties and although Babica resorted to using his jump cue twice couldn't get anything down and Reyes with a series of exquisite shots edged ahead 6-5 . After Reyes missed the simplest of shots on the 2-ball when on the hill at 7-6, Babica clawed back to bring it to a hill-hill showdown. The Polish player had the edge since he was breaking and Reyes looked disconsolate in his chair with elimination staring him in the face.

But Babica wilted under the pressure when he missed a tough shot early in the rack and Reyes with a classic table length bank shot on the 1-ball eventually wrapped up the match to the obvious delight of the fans who gave him a standing ovation.

In a post match interview with the Manila Standard Today, Reyes said he was succumbing to the pressure in an unusual way pointing out that when he felt the pressure to make a shot in a tight situation he would make it but when he felt no pressure at all on easy shots, that's when he missed. Reyes said he was hoping to win by a big margin to give him a cushion in the event of a three-way tie for second place in their group of four. Reyes said he would have to beat Indonesia's Roy Apancho by a big spread in his final match to be assured of a place in the round of 64 after Apancho earlier defeated Babica 8-1.

Among the Filipinos who saw action yesterday Ramil “Bebeng Gallego scored an impressive 8-6 win over favored Rob Saez of the US to advance to the knockout phase after an earlier 8-4 victory over Tepwin Arunnath of Thailand. Promising young lefty Jeffrey De Luna, an emerging star who will represent the Philippines in the Asian Games in Qatar this December scored a masterful 8-6 win over England's Kevin Uzzel to the delight of Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines president Ernesto Fajardo who predicted a great future for De Luna.

Lanky Ronnie Alcano bowed out with his second straight defeat. After losing to Vietnam's Luong Chi Dung in a 7-8 heartbreaker on opening day Alcano was routed by German ace Christian Reimering 3-8. In an all-Filipino clash Rudy Morta beat Roland Garcia 8-6 while US-based Santos Sambajon lost by a 3-8 margin to Indonesia's Ricky Yang who was runner-up to Reyes in the Jakarta leg of the San Miguel Asian –Ball Tour recently.