MANILA, September 2, 2003 (STAR) Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes failed to flash his old brilliance and bowed to Earl Strickland in the quarterfinal round but the American ace lost to Malta’s Tony Drago, who went on to beat Taiwanese Hsia Hui-kai for the World Pool Masters crown Sunday in The Netherlands.

Reyes, who booted out unfancied Tom Storm in the first stage of the three-day, $62,000 event which gathered 16 of the world’s top cue masters, absorbed a 6-8 beating from Strickland after blowing a 3-0 lead.

Drago, who nipped Strickland, 8-7, in the semis, took the plum with an 8-6 victory over Hsia worth $20,000.

In a thrilling duel that saw Reyes and Strickland break and run out their respective turns with clockwork precision, the Filipino drew first blood

as he won the lag, made the 5-ball off the break and ran out. Another classy run out increased his lead to two and there was more of the same in the next as Reyes raced to a 3-0 lead.

Reyes made a ball on his next break but with no shot on the 1-ball, he elected to hide the cue behind the 2 and 3 but he inadvertently scratched, giving Earl his first visit. With ball in hand, he ran out comfortably to get back to 3-1.

A run out from Strickland took it to 3-2, but with no shot on the 1-ball in the next, he laid a snooker, which Efren escaped from but left the 1-ball available. Strickland ran out of position on black 8 but made the cut. Similarly he left the cue ball a little too close to the 9 but made it under pressure to go 3-3.

Strickland made a ball on break in the next, but left tough snooker for Reyes whose escape left the two ball on. Strickland ran out to take the rack and move into the lead for the first time at 4-3.

Two balls on the break and a nice shape on the 1-ball set Strickland up for yet another run out and he increased his lead to 5-3. It was more of the same in the next as he moved into a 6-3

However, Strickland came out dry on the next to give Reyes a chance to make amends and he had the opportunity to trap Strickland in a snooker. Earl’s escape left the 3-ball on for Bata who ran out to move to 6-4 behind.

Reyes found himself snookered on the 1-ball after his next break. He pushed out and after an exchange of safeties, Strickland played a superb cross bank on the 1-ball to set up another great dish to get to the hill at 7-4.

Strickland appeared to be on his way to a scratch in the next as the cue ball rolled towards the top corner pocket but Earl intercepted it with his cue to give Efren ball in hand. Reyes nearly blew it as he snookered himself behind the 9-ball needing the 8 but a neat masse saw it home and a straight 9 completed the clearance to leave Efren trailing 7-5.

Luck went Reyes way in the next when a clumsy double on the 3-ball saw it cannon off two other balls to drop in and from there he executed a very difficult run out to go to 7-6.

Three balls on his break left Reyes favorite for the rack but with no pot on the 3 ball, he left a snooker for Strickland. He was clumsy in his escape but Reyes missed the long pot on the red 3 to give Strickland the chance to clear the table and take the match.

Earlier, two-time winner Francisco "Django" Bustamante fell by the wayside, absorbing a 6-8 loss from Nick Van Den Berg.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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