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It's Sigel vs. Reyes for King of the Hill!
Dec 4, 2005, 12:06 AM

In a dream match-up for pool fans, Hall-of-Famers Efren Reyes and Mike Sigel will meet in the finals of the International Pool Tour's King of the Hill event on Sunday afternoon, playing for the biggest payday in the history of billiards.

Forty-two of the world's best cue artists started play on Nov. 30 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. After four rounds of round-robin 8-ball play, Reyes emerged as the victor and earned a shot at Sigel and the $200,000 first-prize in the finals.

"This is the match that everyone of the planet wants to see," said Sigel. "It's classic. Half the people in the world think that he's the greatest player, the other half think I'm the greatest player."

In a typical gut-check performance for the legendary cue wizard, Reyes came back from a 4-0 deficit in a must-win match against fellow Filipino Marlon Manalo to win eight straight games and earn his berth against Sigel, 8-4.

"I'm coming after you - you wait for me!" Reyes said, after repeated promptings from the video production staff at the King of the Hill to say something for the cameras that sounded like he was taunting Sigel.

"I think it will be a very good match," Reyes continued. "I haven't played Mike Sigel in 10 years. He has a better record [against me]. Whoever gets the first break and breaks good may win it."

Just six players were left standing for the final round-robin stage on Saturday, and, perhaps to no one's surprise, three were ball-control mavens from the Philippines: Reyes, Manalo, and Francisco Bustamante. Perhaps the biggest surprise survivor was Hall-of-Famer Nick Varner, who underwent major heart-related surgery less than two years ago. The six were rounded out by Finland's Mika Immonen and America's Johnny Archer.

The Filipinos quickly took over the bracket, and going into the fifth and final match of the last round-robin, each Pinoy player had a record of 3-1. When Bustamante lost badly to Immonen to fall to 3-2, it was announced to the crowd and the players that the winner of the Reyes-Manalo match, which was still in progress, would meet Sigel in Sunday's final.
It was a wild match to begin with, as Manalo took a quick 4-0 lead. Reyes began to mount a comeback, and the score was 4-2 when play was forced to stop for 20 minutes after an incredible and embarrassing gaffe by the match's referee. Reyes had run out all the solids and had a clear shot on the 8, and decided to return to his chair for a moment before taking the shot. Evidently not paying attention, the referee absent-mindedly cleared the balls from the table before Reyes returned. Fortunately, each match at the King of the Hill was being videotaped, so the production crew soon was able to cue up a portion of the tape with the correct layout. After officials reset the balls, Reyes promptly sank the 8.

Soon, he was celebrating his big comeback and the potential to take home $200,000 from Sunday's match. The runner-up will receive $100,000.

Sigel told BD that he was concerned with Reyes' stellar record in high-pressure situations. Perhaps not so coincidently, Reyes holds the current record for most money won in a pool match: $160,000 for a Japanese event several years ago.

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