RENO, NEVADA, SEPTEMBER 10, 2006 (STAR) By Dante Navarro - Efren "Bata" Reyes and Dennis Orcollo survived the grueling Last 18 matches and came away with crucial victories to advance to the round-robin phase of the rich IPT World Open 8-ball Championship but erstwhile unbeaten Francisco "Django" Bustamante and Alex Pagulayan bowed out of the race for the top $500,000 purse with sorry setbacks at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada Friday (Saturday in Manila).

Reyes chalked up three wins in Group 81, including a crucial 8-3 victory over Dmitri Jungo to secure a spot in the Last 6 and keep the Philippines’ hopes alive for the richest purse ever staked in pool tournaments.

He dropped his final round match to Michael Hill, 2-8, but still wound up second to Oliver Ortmann of Germany, who finished with 4 points.

Orcollo, the least fancied among the four Filipinos who made it to Round 5 Thursday but equally talented, quickly worked his way up in Group 80, winning his first three matches which he used as the springboard to join the elite field that included Americans Rodney Morris and Corey Deuel and Finland’s Mika Immonen.

Bustamante, who led the pack in one stretch with 65 break and runs, found his streak snapped by Morris in the first game that saw him battle back from a 1-5 deficit to force a double-hill. Four balls into the final rack, Bustamante uncharacteristically missed a straight-in, length-of-the-table shot, enabling Morris to snatch an 8-7 victory.

He bounced back with two wins but dropped two more matches, including a 4-8 setback to Karl Doyles, and bowed out of the tournament he was favored to win.

Pagulayan, winner of the 2004 world 9-ball crown in Taiwan, took the spotlight when he battled back from 0-7 down to nip Jungo, 8-7, but faltered with three setbacks, including a 6-8 loss to Reyes. He also dropped his matches to Ortmann, 4-8, and Thomas Engert, 6-8, while winning over Hill, 8-1.

Bustamante and Pagulayan took home $36,000 each.

The battle for the top two berths in Group 80 proved to be the most exciting where one player’s chances depended on the result of the other. German Ralf Souquet lost to Immonen, 6-8, but still had a chance to advance had Orcollo lost to Niels Feijen of the Netherlands in the final match.

But Orcollo, who finished third in the North American Open last July, had other things in mind.

Seizing control early, Orcollo built enough confidence to sustain his pace and essay an 8-5 victory over the Dutch ace thus dashing Souquet’s hopes.

Orcollo leapt straight up in the air up after sinking the final 8 ball with a scream.

"I feel happy," he said. "I had a lot of chances but had a lot of misses, too. Of course, I am tired too. I was very nervous, my hand was shaky ... even now. All those guys are good players, but I will do good and try hard."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved