HONG KONG, April 19, 2004
By Dante Navarro - Efren "Bata" Reyes’ stirring streak of victories on the San Miguel Asian 9-ball Tour came to an abrupt end Sunday night when he bumped into a talented Yang Ching Shun of Taiwan and lost, 8-11, in the semifinal round of the $50,000 event at the Hong Kong Football Club’s sports hall here.

Reyes offered no excuses to his setback that snapped a magnificent run of 13 wins in the circuit that netted two leg crowns in Singapore and Vietnam as Yang simply proved to be the better player in their race-to-11 duel watched by a predominantly Filipino crowd.

Combining luck with talent, Yang capped what many considered a big upset over the former world champion with a spectacular jump shot on the 19th rack, scuttling Reyes’ fightback from as many as four racks (2-6, 3-7, 4-8, 5-9) and arranging an all-Taiwanese clash for the third leg crown with Hsia Hui Kai.

Yang turned back Hsia in the final, 11-9, to rule the event and win the top $10,000. Hsia and Reyes took home $5,000 each.

"Hindi ko na nga binigyan ng banda ang tira nya pero naipasok pa rin yung jump shot. Wala na tayong magagawa pag ganun ang laro ng kalaban," said Reyes, referring to his well-covered safety shot on No. 1 which Yang effortlessly sank that paved the way for his victory.

Before Yang unleashed that gem of a shot that had the cue ball sailing over the green 6 and the blue 2 before slamming on No. 1 into the corner pocket.

Reyes, egged on by the crowd during lulls, looked headed for another rally–the way he beat Chao Fong Pang despite going 4-9 down in Vietnam–when Yang came up with nothing on the break and the score pegged at 9-6.

But the frail Taiwanese cue master, who turned a couple of potential losing racks into rousing victories with two lucky shots in the early going, converted on a seemingly difficult safety play by Reyes to go four racks up again at 6-10 only to find the Filipino ace fighting back again by winning the next two racks.

But Yang had other things in mind.

"Hindi natin kakampi ang bola," said Aristeo "Putch" Puyat, the long-time patron of Reyes and company that included world No. 1 Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Warren Kiamco and Antonio Gabica.

But Reyes came out of the playing hall as if he had won the match as he was mobbed not only by the hordes of Filipino fans, who came over in full force to watch their idol play, but the Chinese and local crowd as well.

The post-game scenario became a virtual photo opportunity with the well-loved Hall of Famer whom many considered as the greatest pool player of all-time.

Despite the setback, Reyes remained sure of a stint in the World Championship set to start July 17 in Taiwan as he continued to pace the San Miguel Asian Tour ranking with 180 points. The top 10 players after five leg of the circuit, sponsored by San Miguel Beer and organized by ESPN STAR Sports Management Group, will gain berths to the world tilt.

Meanwhile, highlights of the two-day event will be telecast over STAR Sports on May 1 starting with the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. while the semifinal matches and the championship will be aired on May 2 starting at 2 p.m.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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