During the early going, American 10-ball hero Shane Van Boening seemed stuck in low gear. Facing Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan in a three-day race-to-100 marathon last weekend, the wiry pool shark from Rapid City, South Dakota would put together two racks in succession here, three racks there. And the misses were aplenty.
"He's weak. He's broken down," commentator Billy Incardona noted of the South Dakota Kid's early performance.
But all that changed Sunday, the last day of the much anticipated Action Report challenge match, when the man many believe to be America's greatest 10-ball player suddenly found his groove. Van Boening buried opponent Pagulayan beneath a torrent of pocketed balls on his way to what suddenly became an easy victory.
Final score after three days: Shane Van Boening: 100. Alex Pagulayan 84.
For his effort in the two-man ActionReport.com tournament, Shane Van Boening goes home with $20,000. Pagulayan goes home empty-handed. Both players put up a $10,000 entry fee. The event was streamed over the Internet from Las Vegas.
What had began as a trickle ended in a flood.
Pagulayan, a former U.S. Open nine-ball champion, Canadian snooker champion and World Pool Masters champion, is a dangerous opponent who beat Van Boening during an earlier Action Report challenge match. The first two nights of the rivals' latest confrontation where characterized by exchanges of safeties. Bothh players also appeared flummoxed by the extra-tight table pockets.
Van Boening, also a former U.S. nine-ball champion, committed several unforced errors during those first nights, and maintained a slim lead thanks only to his thunderous break and a big 7-pack on Friday. But he immediately won the first half dozen games Sunday, and then never let up. Pagulayan was stuck in his chair for most of the night.
In all, SVB outscored Pagulayan 30-17 during the final night of the event. He played quick, and played aggressive. His famous break smashed open the balls so thoroughly that those that weren't pocketed immediately ended up spaced on the table as if he had positioned them by hand.
"He blew him out tonight," Justin Collett, the event promoter, said of SVB's performance Sunday night.
The Action Report has sponsored similar challenge matches over the last several years, including those pitting Van Boening against 9-ball legend Earl Strickland and Van Boening against two-time U.S. Open champion Mika Immonen.
The outcome Sunday corresponded closely with fan predictions at the poolhistory.com Facebook page. By an 8-1 margin, fans predicted Van Boening would come out on top. The average margin of victory for Van Boening, among those predicting he would ultimately prevail, was 17.24 games. The actual margin of victory was 16 games.
-- R.A. Dyer