Pagulayan And Orcollo Thru To The Guinness Semi-Finals

Alex Pagulayan will face Chi-Ching Wu

The Philippines' Dennis Orcollo and Alex Pagulayan booked semifinal seats after they finished in the top two of Group A in the preliminary round of the Guinness 9 Ball Tour 2008 Grand Final yesterday at the Mal Taman Anggrek.

The two Filipino cue masters finished with identical 3 – 1 records in Group A, but Pagulayan earned the top spot since he lost fewer racks. Pagulayan, who won the Singapore leg, will face Chia Ching Wu of Chinese Taipei in the first semi-final match today at 12 noon (Manila time) while Orcollo, who topped the Guangzhou leg, will tangle with longtime rival Ching Shun Yang of Chinese Taipei in the other encounter at 1:30 p.m. The winners of each match will meet in the finals later today. The semi-finals and finals will be aired live on STAR Sports.

Pagulayan actually dropped his opening match to Orcollo, 7 – 9, but bounced back to win his next three assignments. The 2004 World Pool champion beat last year's Grand Final winner Jung Lin Chang of Chinese Taipei, 9 – 5, late Friday evening then defeated Chinese Taipei's Hung Hsiang Wang, 9 – 8, and routed Korea's Ryu Seung Woo, 9 – 2, yesterday.

Orcollo, who is the current WPA world number one, swept all three of his assignments on Friday. He started his campaign with the victory over Pagulayan then followed it up with triumphs over Wang, 9 – 8, and Ryu, 9 – 5. The player known as "Robocop" dropped a no-bearing match to Chang, 7 – 9, yesterday.

Chang, who won the Grand Final in Bali last year, was eliminated after winning only two matches and suffering two defeats in Group A.

Eleven players were divided into two groups and players played in a single round robin format. The top two players from each group advanced to the semi-finals with the final two meeting in the final match today.

The champion will earn the top prize of US$36,000. Orcollo and Pagulayan are already assured of at least $5,400 for reaching the semi-finals of the six-city tour organized by ESPN STAR Sports.

Meanwhile, Antonio Gabica fell short of joining his compatriots after he ran out of steam and lost his last two matches in Group B.

The former Asian Games gold medalist started strong as he won his first three assignments. Gabica outclassed fellow Filipino Joven Bustamante, 9 – 5, on Friday then beat Malaysia's Ibrahim Bin Amir, 9 – 5, and survived Chinese Taipei's Chia Ching Wu, 9 - 7, yesterday.

However, the player known as "Gaga" faltered down the stretch as he lost to hometown bet Ricky Yang, 8 – 9, and Ching Shun Yang, 6 – 9.  Gabica, who played four straight matches in nearly seven hours yesterday, ended up tied in second place with Wu, but got the boot due to a tie-breaker.

Bustamante was also eliminated after coming up with only two victories in five matches over in Group B.

The Top Ten of the Tour's Order of Merit following the first five legs automatically qualified for the Grand Final. An additional wild card spot was awarded to Ricky Yang as he was the host country's top ranked player.

Up for grabs in the Grand Final is total prize money of US$72,000, with the winner taking home US$36,000. The Guinness 9 Ball Tour remains the only ranking tour in Asia for players to qualify for the WPA World Pool Championship. The six-city Tour previously had stops in Chinese-Taipei, Penang, Genting Highlands, Singapore, and Guangzhou.