RENO, NEVADA, SEPTEMBER 11, 2006 (STAR) Efren "Bata" Reyes is no stranger to high-stake duels. But with the richest purse in pool history on the line in the IPT World Open 8-ball Championship Sunday, expect the Filipino Hall-of-Famer to dish out his very best against the best player to have come out of the grueling week-long competition among the worldís finest players.

Hawaiian Rodney Morris nipped Reyes, 8-7, to kick off his bid in the semifinal round among six players then went on to fashion out three more victories to top the round robin phase and secure the No. 1 spot in the final of the $3 million event at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Reyes, 52, bounced back from that opening game setback with victories over Finlandís Mika Immonen, 8-3, compatriot Dennis Orcollo, 8-6, and American Corey Deuel, 8-6, and clinched the other championship berth despite a 6-8 loss to Oliver Ortmann in a game he could afford to lose.

"Iím excited for tomorrow (today). This is a lot of pressure for both of us because this is for $500,000 (P25 million). You cannot find another tournament like this," said Reyes, who beat Mike Sigel to bag the $200,000 purse in the IPT King of the Hill tourney in Florida last December.

"Iím thinking to win because a lot of people in our country are expecting us to win," said the amiable Reyes, the last man standing among the 12 RP bets who started out in the 200-player field last Sunday.

Orcollo, who upstaged the fancied bets to reach the tough semis round, cracked in the round robin phase, winning just two matches, over Immonen (8-0) and Deuel (8-1), and losing three. He wound up fifth and took home $66,000 (P3.3 million).

Immonen dealt Morrisí lone setback, 8-5, and won two more matches but settled for third place worth $92,000, while Ortmann and Deuel finished fourth and sixth worth $80,000 and $50,000, respectively.

Reyes and Morris dispute the $.5 million purse Sunday in an interesting test of skill and nerve. The runner-up will receive $150,000 (P7.5 million).

The Filipino ace has experience competing for such a huge prize, but Morris is oozing with confidence after he broke-and-ran his way to the final.

"Iím feeling great, I could jump off this roof, Iím telling you," Morris said. "Iíll just make every shot."

Morris swept through match after match. Finally facing Immonen, Morrisís fast and loose style fell a bit short against the Finnís precise, measured play. Up 4-3, Morris scratched on the break, and Immonen cleared to win that rack and then broke and ran out the next two for a 5-4 lead. He scratched on his next break and Morris missed position on his last solid in the following rack and flubbed a cross-bank attempt, enabling Immonen to reach the hill before scoring a run-out on the final rack.

When asked on his thoughts on playing for such a huge sum of money and against the perhaps the best player in the world, Rodney said: "It feels wonderful. It feels likeÖI really feel good about myself. Efren is the greatest pool player who ever lived in my opinion. He was my idol growing up. But heís 52 years old, and Iím in my prime, I think. So Iím ready."

Morris said he beat Reyes in the US Open 10 years ago and is so excited on repeating the feat again.

"If I just play my game, I think Iíll be fine. And Iím not even worried about the money. I mean, Iím excited about it, but if I think about the money while Iím playing, Iím not gonna win. The moneyís not even a thought right now. I got one more race to 8. I gotta get 8 games tomorrow and thatís it. Heíll never get 8," said Morris. ó Dante Navarro

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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