Kiamco is Villar Cup Champion

Warren Kiamco bounced back from an early three-rack deficit and then held on to beat Efren “Bata” Reyes, 11-6, to rule the First Senate President Manny Villar Cup Billiards Tournament yesterday before a jampacked crowd at the Sports Center of StarMall Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

Playing against a pool icon backed by an overwhelming majority of the more than 1,000 spectators, Kiamco stood his ground to complete his rise from the one-lose side to hoist the Villar Cup and bag the P400,000 top purse in this P1 million-plus event.

“Finally,” blurted the 38-year-old Cebuano, who previous claim to fame was his becoming a three-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in 2003. “It's been so long since I won a tournament this big, and I'm very happy and proud of it.”

“This title is more special to because I won it against Efren, the best player in the world,” added the stalwart of the rising Negros Billiards Stable of businessman Jonathan Sy.

It was a tough road Kiamco trekked before becoming the last man standing in this five-day competition organized by the Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP), and supported by Bugsy Promotions, Puyat Sports, NBS and Star Mall.

After winning his opening match against Jharome Pena, Kiamco lost to Jundel Mazon to fall into the complicated losers' bracket.. There, he had to beat stablemate Panfilo Damuag for a slot to the knockout stage.

He then defeated fellow veteran internationalist Rodolfo Luat in the Last 16, another stablemate Elmer Haya in the quarterfinals and former Asian Games gold medalist Gandy Valle, 9-5, in the semifinals to arrange a title-showdown with Reyes.

Reyes came into the match undefeated in four previous outings, including a 9-5 thumping of reigning national champion Lee Van Corteza in the Final-Four.

“It was a good game. I have no dry breaks although I have some missed shots after my big start,” said Reyes who was personally congratulated by Senate President Villar after his win against Corteza.

Villar, overwhelmed by the huge crowd and great appreciation of the billiards community, reiterated his support to the sport.

“This is just the beginning of my all out supports to billiards because this is one of the sports were Pinoys have great potentials to excel,” Villar said.

“BMPAP officials expressed their gratitude to Villar whom they now considered as their biggest benefactor.

“I hope this tournament did serve as an inspiration to new and up and coming pool players. And BMPAP together with numerous sponsors are going to give you more of this. BMAP also extends our outmost gratitude to Senator Many Villar and his warm staff. It was a very festive event,” said Perry Mariano.

In the finals, Reyes won the lag but it was Kiamco, who pocketed the opening rack. Then after splitting the next two frames, Reyes uncorked a 4-0 run to seize a 5-2 lead.

But Kiamco, who has “warrior” as one of his monikers, didn't budge, and as soon as he got back at the table on the eighth rack, he unleashed an even longer 5-0 blast, capped by a golden break, to retake the driver's seat at 7-5.

A dry break on the 13th frame allowed Reyes back at the table, and he cleaned it up to close at 7-6. But the chance of tying the match at 7-all fizzled after Reyes broke dry and Kiamco immediately grabbed the opportunity to pad his lead and coast to victory.

Reyes, who leaves today for the United States to compete in the Predator International 10-Ball Championship, settled for the runner-up purse of P200,000, while Valle and Corteza brought home P50,000 each for reaching the semifinals.