by Kristel Satumbaga
Jeff De Luna and Fil-Canadian Alex Pagulayan arranged a mouth-watering quarterfinal showdown after pulling off similar dramatic wins in the Round of 16 of the US Open 9-Ball Championships Wednesday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
De Luna, 34, advanced to the quarters after edging past British Imran Mahid, 11-9, while Pagulayan, who once represented the country in various tournaments, rallied to beat Singaporean Aloysius Yapp, 11-10.
Given up for the dead after falling behind 8-4, Pagulayan dug deep into his bag of tricks to outlast his rival.
While De Luna and Pagulayan were delighted with their scary wins, they were not so happy they have to face each other in the next stage.
Still, the two declared to give their all for pride and honor.
Known as “Bata Junior” due to his similarity with the playing style of the legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes, De Luna, a silver medalist in the same event during the 2006 Doha Asian Games, hopes to make up for the defeats of former world champion Francisco “Django” Bustamante and Carlo Biado.
Also falling by the wayside were James Aranas, Raymund Faraon, Marlon Manalo and Johann Chua.
De Luna’s earlier exploits include victories over United State’s Chris Robinson, 11-9; 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold medalist Dennis Orcollo, 11-10; Japan’s Kenichi Uchigaki, 11-3; China’s Liu Haitao, 11-5.
Other early quarterfinalists include Germany’s Joshua Filler, who crushed Scotland’s Jayson Shaw, 11-4; Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, who clobbered Chinese Taiwan’s Ko Ping-Chung, 11-4; and Chinese Liu Haitao, who edged Taiwanese Hsu Kai-Lun, 11-9.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Ignacio prevailed over American Dennis Hatch, 11-5, in the loser’s bracket to breathe life to his title bid. He is playing Taiwanese Chang Yu-Lung at presstime for a spot in the quarters.