Smith stops strong loss-side challenge by Rupard to win NE 9-Ball Series stop

Eric Newell, Steve Smith & Josh Rupard
He almost caught him. Steve Smith, a B+ player on the New England 9-Ball Series Tour, was more or less cruising along during the Saturday, January 13 stop on the tour, and after three matches, had made it to the hot seat. Josh Rupard, in the meantime, an A+ player, who’d been defeated in the second round of upper-bracket play, worked his way through seven matches on the loss side to eventually challenge Smith in the finals. Rupard took the opening set of the true double elimination final, but Smith came back in the second set to win it and claim the event title. The $500-added event drew 27 entrants to Legends Sports Bar and Grill in Auburn, ME.
Smith and Rupard might have met up in the third round of upper-bracket play had it not been for Derrick Burnham, who sent Rupard to the loss side, and advanced to a winners’ side quarterfinal against Smith. Smith sent Burnham to the loss side and faced Martin Flagg in a winners’ side semifinal. Two C players, Eric Newell and Steve Downs, squared off in the other one.
Smith survived a double hill fight against Flagg, while Newell defeated Downs 5-3. Smith claimed the hot seat with an 8-3 win over Newell, and waited for Rupard to complete his loss-side run.
It was Flagg who had the misfortune to draw the final-bound Rupard on the loss side. Rupard had chalked up wins #3 and #4 against Kyle Pepin (forfeit) and Sam Khiev (8-4) to reach Flagg in the first of the event’s money rounds. Downs picked up Lindsey Monto, who’d eliminated Randy Gilbert 6-2 and George Morgan 5-2 to reach him.
Rupard, obviously picking up some speed, shut Flagg out to advance to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Monto, who’d defeated Downs 6-1. Monto put up a fight against Rupard in that quarterfinal matchup, chalking up three of the five racks she needed to defeat the racing-to-9 Rupard.
Rupard followed that quarterfinal win with a second shutout; this time against Newell (racing to 5) in the semifinals. Rupard would carry that momentum into the finals, but Smith, in spite of his wait in the hot seat, wasn’t giving in easily. Smith came within a game of forcing a deciding game in the opening set of the true double elimination final (8-4, with Smith racing to 6). In the second set, Smith kicked it up a notch, edging ahead of Rupard when the score was tied at 5-5 (Smith on the hill). Smith chalked up the necessary sixth rack to win the second set and claim the event title.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Legends Sports Bar and Grill, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Molinari, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell, Championship Cloth, and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop (#13) on the New England 9-Ball Series tour, scheduled for Saturday, January 20, will be a B+ and below, non-handicap tournament, with an upper bracket (B+ and B) racing to 6, and a lower bracket (C+ and below) racing to 5. The brackets will combine in the quarterfinals, with races to 5 for the rest of the tournament.