Gandy Valle starts title defense in 2nd Sunstar Superbalita Mindanao Open 9-Ball Challenge; Davao’s Alanunay bags crown

HAIL THE NEW CHAMP. From left, event vice-chair Charles Maxey and Sun.Star Davao Publishing, Inc. general manager Joseph Grino award the trophy and P40,000 cash prize to Christopher Alanunay of Davao City who beat Eljun Daquiado of Tagum City, 9-8, in the finals of the 2nd Sun.Star Superbalita Mindanao Open 9-Ball Challenge held at the NCCC Mall B3 (Bowling, Billiards and Bar) Sunday night. photo by RENE B. LUMAWAG

Davao’s Alanunay bags crown

TITLE-hungry Christopher Alanunay of Davao City survived a 9-8 thriller over Eljun Daquiado of Tagum City to crown himself the new champion of the 2nd Sun.Star Superbalita Mindanao Open 9-Ball Challenge that came to a close at the NCCC Mall B3 (Bowling, Billiards and Bar) Sunday night.

Both giant killers stirred the final day of competition as Alanunay stunned defending champion Valle, 8-4, during their semi-finals clash while Daquiado knocked out second-seed Roberto Gomez, 8-5, in the quarter-finals. The latter took a 4 a.m. flight to Davao Sunday and barely had a two-hour sleep before he played  against Daquiado.

A golden break in the fourth frame stretched Alanunay’s lead, 4-0, but he later succumbed to costly errors, allowing Daquiado to surge a 7-5 rally. The 25-year-old Dabawenyo, however, recovered to force a 7-all tie and scored a runout to snatch the lead anew at 8-7.

Daquiado suffered a scratch break in the 16th rack then both players engaged into a series of safety exchanges. Alanunay would have already sealed the win but his eight-ball came short , thus, the Tagum darkhorse equalized the match, 8-8.

The Dabawenyo, on his break, went through minor hitches but he never turned back to secure the win and the P40,000 top purse. He also received a creatively-designed champion’s trophy awarded to him by Sun.Star Davao Publishing, Inc. general manager Joseph Grino and Sun.Star Superbalita 9-ball vice-chair Charles Raymond A. Maxey during the awarding rites.

“I’m so thankful to God, my family and supporters who cheered me on. I thank God for giving me strength, for sustaining me and giving me this victory,” Alanunay said in the vernacular during a post-awarding interview.

He continued, “I really felt the pressure when I was trailing the match. My opponent was very strong. But I just went lucky. I had a great game. I didn’t expect to climb my way up to the finals beating the reigning champion in the semis. It is indeed my lucky day.”

He then thanked the organizers for staging the cuefest sponsored by SkyCable, Viktoriano’s Place, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., NCCC Mall B3, 8990 Housing Development Corporation, Microtel Hotel Resorts Davao, Grand Men Seng Hotel, G.Q.W.E.S.T., Sunpride Foods, Inc., City Government of Davao, Jack’s Ridge Resort and Restaurant and San Miguel Corporation.

“Thank you Sun.Star Superbalita 9-Ball for giving local players like me an opportunity to be a Mindanao Open champion. This is truly my sweetest victory and my most memorable experience,’” he added.

Gomez and Valle were all praises to the new champion.

“Maganda ang inilaro niya at magaling siyang player. Totoong may lakas ang mga probinsiyano at mas may igagaling pa kapag nabigyan ng mga oportunidad katulad nito (He played so well and he’s a good player. It’s so true that provincial players are strong and they will do even better when given opportunities like this),” Gomez said.

Valle, during a press conference held on Friday, earlier cited Alanunay as a must-see player in the tournament and yet it turned out to be at his expense that the latter will indeed shine.

The 1998 Bangkok Asian Games gold medalist admitted, “I had a bad game while he (Alanunay) was really playing the best of his game. When he beat me, I already thought he would win the title and he did. I’m so happy for him. He deserves to be a champion.”

Runner-up Daquiado went home with P15,000 while Daryl Cubillan, who overcame Valle in their battle for third, received P10,000. Valle instead settled for P5,000 in the two-day event organized in cooperation with the Davao Billiards Association, Inc. (DBAI).

Quarter-finals losers Gomez, Arnel Corcilles, Richard delos Reyes and Sonny Aton each received P1,500.(pr)

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REGIONAL and local cue artists are expected to give defending champion Gandy Valle a run for his money as the 2nd Sun.Star Superbalita Mindanao Open 9-Ball Challenge opens at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 28, at the NCCC Mall B3 (Bowling, Billiards and Bar).

The 32-year-old veteran internationalist Valle himself admitted this year’s edition might be a tougher field than when he won  the inaugural staging of the cuefest presented by Sun.Star Davao and Superbalita last year.

“The pressure is always on the player who is defending the title. I have that burden now having failed to keep my crown in the 6th Sun.Star Superbalita 9-Ball in Cebu City two weeks ago. But I will do what it takes to defend the title despite stiff competition from local players,” he said during a press conference at the BMW Restobar, Jack’s Ridge Resort in Shrine Hills, Matina, Friday.

Valle, who is part of the Philippines’ billiards and snooker “Dream Team” seeing action in the 27th  Southeast Asian Games in Laos in December, thanked organizers for institutionalizing the cuefest.

He said, “Tournaments like these are what players in Mindanao need. They just need  that big break and a shot to become a champion in a prestigious tournament such as this. Winning a Mindanao championship would pave the way for anyone to establish a name in the  billiards community. Billiards stables are just in the lookout for the next rising stars.”

Davao Billiards Association, Inc. vice-president Alexander Villadores, on his part, said not only Davao City players are eyeing the P40,000 top purse but also those from Butuan, Kidapawan, General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro City, Mati and Cotabato, among others.

“Davao City players are no pushover. You will see new faces who might even pull off surprises. There is even a 12-year-old player Jun Natividad who can play against any other seasoned players. But of course, veterans like Danny Otacan, Christopher Alanunay and Romeo Timcang  are expected to live up to their billing,” Villadores said.

Event vice-chair Charles Raymond A. Maxey, meanwhile, said the 9-ball event will give Mindanaoans a venue to showcase their talents that may somehow  open more opportunities for them in the future.

He added, “This is our second year of holding this event. We also look  forward to having more categories in the future just like in Cebu where elementary, high school and college students can play provided that they are enroled at a certain school. We want to promote billiards as a special sport not just for out-of-school but also for school-based youths.”

Registration is ongoing as of Friday’s presstime in the two-day tournament sponsored by Sky Cable, Viktoriano’s Place, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Grand Men Seng Hotel, Microtel Hotel Davao, 8990 Housing Development Corporation, NCCC Mall B3, Jack’s Ridge and Restaurant, Sunpride Foods, city government of Davao and San Miguel Corporation.

The elimination knockout stage will be on a race-to-seven winners’ break format while the knockout quarter-finals and semi-finals will be a race-to-eight alternate-break and the finals will be a race-to-nine alternate-break event.

The runner-up will pocket P15,000 while the next two placers will go home with P10,000 and P5,000, respectively. The fifth to eighth placers will each receive P1,500.(pr)

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