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30 Over 30

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No. 16
Strickland Tops Reyes in Hill-Hill Slugfest

1988 PBA Tara Open . April 24, 1988 . Atlanta, Ga.

After a seven-month vacation in the Philippines, Efren Reyes seemed to be back in stroke by the time he left baggage claim. Three weeks after snapping off the McDermott Masters, Reyes was in search of back-to-back Professional Billiard Association titles at the Tara Open.

(Click above to view the last rack of the match
Video provided by Accu-Stats Video Productions)

But Earl Strickland was equally impressive. Both players rolled through the early rounds and met in the hot-seat match. Reyes won, 11-4, but these two superstars would not be finished with each other. Strickland topped Mike LeBron in the third-place match to get a shot at Reyes in the single-set, race-to-15 final.

This classic match-up was an equal mix of break-and-runs and break-then-runs. An incredible nine times, one player came up empty on the break to see the other run out. Add to that another nine break-and-runs. This final was a true drag race, with two ultimate shotmakers seemingly trying to one-up the other.

Trailing 13-9, Strickland made his move.
Facing a 13-9 deficit, Strickland cleaned up Reyes' dry break and took the next three to tie the score. Then the Pearl came up empty on the break, and Reyes was on the hill.

In the next rack, Reyes scratched with a tricky angle on the 1, and Strickland quickly cleaned up to force a case game. Locked up behind the 3, Reyes again showed a little rust when he fouled trying to kick the 3 - one of the few mistakes by either player in the entire match. Strickland routinely ran out the decisive, yet routine, rack for the victory.

Unlike previous years, dominated by a handful of players like Buddy Hall, Mike Sigel and Strickland, the PBA had six champions in seven events. Strickland had to wait for his first tour title, but only got better after the Tara Open. The comeback win over Reyes propelled him to the '88 Player of the Year - his fourth in five years.

Other great matches in the series:
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