The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, October 2, 1995                TAG: 9510020152
SECTION: SPORTS                   PAGE: C3   EDITION: FINAL 
DATELINE: CHESAPEAKE                         LENGTH: Medium:   63 lines


Melanie Pierce said her husband had never beaten Efren Reyes.

That all changed in the finals of the 20th annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship when Reed Pierce won his first title by defeating the defending champion, 11-6.

Pierce, who has only been on the Pro Billiards Tour for 18 months, denied Reyes' attempt to become only the second man in U.S. Open history to win back-to-back titles. Nick Varner won it in 1989-90.

The 32-year-old Pierce won seven games in the final two days, including five on Saturday. He won 10 of 11 matches in the tournament.

Reyes tied the match at 6-6 in the 12th game when Pierce missed a side-pocket 9-ball shot that would have closed out the game.

From that point on, Pierce regrouped and seized control.

``When I missed the 9-ball, it gave me life,'' Pierce said. ``I started to loosen up and just play.''

Five times - Games 1, 2, 14, 16, 17 - Reyes didn't get a chance to take a shot because Pierce was knocking in every ball.

``I didn't have luck with the ball,'' said Reyes, the top-ranked billiards player in the world. ``He played good. He didn't give me a chance to get a ball.''

The 32-year-old Brandon, Miss., resident had his family behind him as he went for the title. He won five matches on Saturday to advance to the final four and defeated Francisco Bustamante 11-9 to reach the finals.

Melanie Pierce believes her husband's loss to Rodney Morris on Friday night was a blessing in disguise. Reed Pierce eliminated Morris 11-5 on Saturday night.

``He's doesn't like to sit around,'' Melanie Pierce explained. ``He's got to be moving around doing something. And if somebody beats him and he gets a chance to play them again in the loser's bracket, you can count on it he's going to get them back.''

His sister-in-law, Debbie Pierce, chewed on the same piece of Carefree bubble gum for three days for good luck. And when things got tight with Reyes in the finals, she left the room.

``She thinks it helps if she leaves,'' said Robert Pierce, Reed's brother.

The 1995 U.S. Open champion was very emotional at the match's conclusion. He dedicated the match to his father, who died two years ago, and to his wife's father, who died in March.

He said he had a feeling that he could win it for them and his wife.

``It's just unbelievable,'' Reed said. ``A great accomplishment. I didn't think I would be able to do this this quick.'' ILLUSTRATION: RESULTS

20th annual U.S. Open 9-Ball:

Finals: Reed Pierce d. Efren Reyes, 11-6.

Semifinals: Reed Pierce d. Francisco Bustamante, 11-9; Efren

Reyes d. Johnny Archer, 11-8.

Late Saturday night:

Loser's bracket: Reed Pierce d. Danny Harriman, 11-5. Reed Pierce

d. Rodney Morris, 11-5; Efren Reyes d. Earl Strickland, 11-3.

by CNB