Steele hardens to hold off one-loss side challenge in NE 9-Ball finale

Marc Dionne and Gareth Steele

Gareth Steele went undefeated to take first place in the New England 9-Ball All-Class finale on Sunday, July 11, but he had to fight off a challenge from John Smith in the finals to do it. The $1,500-added event drew 44 entrants to Buster's Billiards in Somersworh, NH.

From among the winners' side final four, Steele sent Dave Fernandez to the one-loss side 4-1, as Rich Minichello shut out Chris Arube. Steele repeated his 4-1 score in the resultant hot seat match versus Minichello, and waited for what turned out to be Smith's return.

Smith, in the meantime, was on a seven-match trek back to the finals. With two behind him, he defeated Stan Rupard 5-3 and Ryan Nicols 5-2 to reach Fernandez. Arube drew Ivo Petrov, who'd finished second in the Robert Dionne Memorial back in March at the same location. Petrov had defeated Terry McDermot 7-2 and Dennis Daniels 6-1. Smith, with a 5-5 win over Fernandez, and Petrov, with a 7-2 win over Arube, squared off in the quarterfinals. Smith survived a double hill match to meet Minichello in the semifinals.

Smith made a strong showing in what would prove to be his last match victory of the day. He defeated Minichello 4-1 to face Steele.  The two battle to double hill, before Steele preserved his undefeated day to capture the first place prize.