Rocket or Reyes? Both Are Glowing After Semifinal Play
by Mason King Sep 9, 2006, 10:03 PM EST
Though one match in the semifinal round remains, the final two players have already been determined: Rodney "Rocket" Morris and Efren "Bata" Reyes. One of them will be handed over a check for $500,000 — the biggest payout in pool history.
The semifinal round began this morning with a round-robin format between the six players left standing: American Cory Deuel, German Oliver Ortmann, Filipino Dennis Orcollo, Finland's Mika Immonen, Reyes and Morris.
Deuel's nine lives seemed to run out midday. In his first match against Ortmann, Deuel was down 6-1, but after Ortmann left the 6 ball hanging in the corner pocket, Deuel managed to control the table for the rest of the match and came back with an 8-7 win. After that, his game deteriorated, and his unforced errors piled up. He lost 8-3 to Morris, 8-2 to Immonen, and 8-4 to Reyes, securing Reyes' spot in the final. "I'm short-stroking everything," he said. "I just want to throw up every shot. Every shot I hit, I want to throw up, I'm hitting the ball so bad."
Morris and Reyes met in their first match of the day, and if it is any indication of how they'll play tomorrow, it's sure to be an action-packed match. They traded racks back and forth, splitting the first 10 racks. In the 11th rack, Reyes missed a long cross-corner shot by a large margin, and Rodney quickly cleaned up, then took the next rack. Morris came up empty on the next break, but Efren made another uncharacteristic miss. Rodney was left with no easy out, so he played a safety, leaving only a seemingly impossible kick shot. True to his nickname, "The Magician" managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and sunk the ball square in the middle of the side pocket. A break and run later, the score was hill-hill. Efren broke and was manuevering easily through the rack, when the cue ball landed frozen to the 2 ball with two balls left before the 8. He executed a slow-rolling cut shot, and the cue ball went two rails, just barely missing the object ball on its way to the hole. Reyes was left with bad shape on the next ball and faced a tough bank. The ball crawled to a halt just millimeters from the pocket. Before the crowd finished groaning, Rodney was on his feet and eight shots later, he was the winner.
Orcollo started out the day with an 8-0 blow out over Immonen, but couldn't pull out a close match against his fellow countryman, Reyes, who won 8-6 when Orcollo scratched on the break. Orcollo's break failed him against Ortmann as well, when he sent it soaring off the table when he was down 7-4. He also had some untimely dry breaks against Morris, who also beat him 8-4. "My break lost," Orcollo said.
After Ortmann fell to Deuel despite his 6-1 lead, he faced Morris, who ran five racks in a row on him for the win. "I'm still fighting," he said. "8-ball is not my favorite game; my favorite game is straight pool."
The stately German was able to ice Orcollo, 8-4, but he seemed to break down mentally in the next match against Immonen, losing 8-4. "It's a tough week. I couldn't find any sleep [last night]. I wake up like two or three times in a night, I just sleep like four or five hours and my legs are burning," he said.
Immonen also failed to muster enough wins to advance to the final. "I know I look good; now I just need to play good," he said to a spectator. His two wins weren't good enough, however.
Reyes beat Orcollo, Immonen and Deuel to earn his spot in the final. After winning the IPT "King of the Hill" tournament in December, he has experience competing for such a huge prize, but Morris' play radiated confidence as he broke-and-ran his way to the final. "I'm feeling great, I could jump off this roof, I'm telling you," Morris said. "I could go one-on-one with Kobe Bryant right now, I'll just make every shot."