The Iceman foils Filipino sweep in Galveston Classic 10-Ball Final

Mika Immonen

It was fitting that the first-ever Galveston Classic came to a close with a match that came down to a final set and then, a final game, before Mika Immonen spoiled a Filipino sweep of the three major men's events - One-Pocket, 8-Ball and 10-Ball. Immonen, in the hot seat for the 10-Ball event, dropped the opening set of the true double elimination final on Sunday night, September 20, then came back to defeat Warren Kiamco in the second set and capture the $25,000 first prize.

Though it would be misleading to describe any path to the finals of this 10-Ball event as ‘easy,' Immonen's path took him through an opening round bye and four opponents that put him into the event's final eight bracket. He defeated Dee Adkins 11-5, Dennie Strickland 11-8, Gabe Owen 11-5 and Rodolfo Luat 11-8. Once into the final eight bracket, things got a little trickier as he faced Shane Van Boening and had to survive a hill-hill match that put him into the hot seat match against Mike Dechaine.

Warren Kiamco, in the meantime, was embarked on an 11-match epic journey that began when Dennie Strickland sent him to the one-loss side, with a double hill win in the opening round. Kiamco then marched through John D. Hagar 9-3, shutout Hunter Blackwell and defeated John Schmidt 9-6. Things didn't get any easier as he faced Dennis Orcollo, defeating him 9-6, got by Steve Moore 9-3 and battled the eventual winner of the 8-Ball event, Ronnie Alcano in another hill-hill contest. A win over Luat 9-7 put him into the one-loss side of the final eight bracket, where he dropped Efren Reyes into the tie for seventh place 9-3, sent Johnny Archer into the tie for fifth with a 9-7 win and handled Francisco Bustamante in the quarterfinals in his second hill-hill match.

Ten down, with potentially three to go. Kiamco defeated Dechaine 9-7 to get into the finals and knew going in, that he'd have to take Immonen twice if he wanted to be out in front of the $13,000 that separated first from second place ($25K-$12K). He'd have to beat him in first, a race to 11, and if he managed that, he'd have to take him a second time in a race to nine.

Immonen won the lag in the opening game of the first set and took it to lead 1-0. Kiamco came back and used a carom off of the 9-ball to sink the 10-ball and tie it. The two traded racks to a 3-3 tie, at which point Kiamco reeled off a 6-pack that put him two games away from winning the opening set. He had a .908 average at this juncture (attempts/made balls), while Immonen was at .793. Immonen took the next two, and the Internet ‘buzz' of some 1,200 viewers started to sense a comeback. But Immonen missed an easy shot on the 6-ball in the 15th rack and Kiamco was on the hill. He took the deciding game of the opening set and the Galveston Classic 10-Ball competition came down to the final race to nine.

Kiamco took the lead in the second set, but not for long. They battled back and forth to their second 3-3 tie, when Immonen took two in a row, opening the largest lead he'd owned since the finals started. Kiamco battled right back to knot things at five apiece and then, back and forth they went; one game at a time to a 7-7 tie and then, a lead for Kiamco, that put him on the hill, breaking for the championship. The resultant tension didn't last long, as Immonen took advantage of a 3-10 combination that resulted in double hill and a single game for all the marbles. Immonen took it and the game, match and Galveston City Classic was over.

“Every time I play Mika” said Kiamco, moment's later. “it's always close.”

Commenting on his 2-to-1 advantage in safety shots during the final match, Immonen noted that he was “playing good defense all the time, but (Kiamco) kept coming back with good kicks.

“All in all,” he added, “it was a crazy battle; neck and neck in that second set.”