Van Boening tames a restless Earl Strickland to take 2nd Annual Steinway Classic

Shane Van Boening
The build-up to the finals of the 2nd Annual Steinway Classic was all about Earl Strickland. The final match, though, was all about Shane Van Boening, who completed an undefeated run with a victory over the Pearl to capture the event title. The $7,000-added event, held under the auspices of the Predator Tour, drew 49 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, NY.
By the time this event had worked its way down to the final 12 players, it seemed pretty clear that the winner was going to emerge from among the winners' side final four. On the loss side, only Darren Appleton, Warren Kiamco and Mike Davis seemed to be in a position to come back and challenge Van Boening in the hot seat. 
From among the winners' side final eight, Van Boening sent Oliver Ortmann west, while Shaun Wilkie, Jayson Shaw and Earl the Pearl did likewise to Stephan Cohen, Appleton, and Kiamco, respectively. This left Wilkie against the South Dakota Kid in one winners' side semifinal, with Strickland and Kiamco in the other. Van Boening made short work of Wilkie 9-3, while Shaw was busy defeating Strickland 9-6. Van Boening made even shorter work of Shaw in the hot seat match, 9-2, sending him to what would turn out to be something of a fireworks semifinal against Strickland.
Strickland moved to the loss side and picked up Ortmann, who, after his defeat at the hands of Van Boening, got by Mike Davis 9-5 and Cohen 9-7. Kiamco, sent over by Strickland, defeated Ralph Eckert 9-2 (Eckert had just ousted Mike Dechaine), and Appleton 9-5 to draw Wilkie.
Strickland and Kiamco moved into a quarterfinal re-match with identical 9-4 wins over Ortmann and Wilkie. Strickland was, at this point, clearly on some kind of mission, a phenomenon that can be identified by increasing commentary, and a tendency to distract his opponents. He distracted Kiamco enough to get out in front by five games in the quarterfinals, but the generally unflappable Kiamco methodically fought his way back to double hill, before he hooked himself badly, leaving Strickland a clear table. Strickland took advantage and defeated Kiamco a second time 9-8.
Like many players familiar with Strickland's style of in-game communications with everybody in the arena, including himself, Shaw opted for headsets as he faced off against the Pearl in the semifinals. The two battled back and forth, with numerous lead changes and ties, until, tied at 13, the 'shuffle' function on Shaw's MP3 player stopped playing music and Earl's internal/external monologues were being heard. Shaw reacted and responded negatively to something Strickland said, which is generally a bad idea, and Strickland suddenly announced that he didn't want to play anymore. They continued to exchange words, with Earl being Earl, and Shaw trying to stay focused. In the 27th rack, Shaw, with a discernible path through to the 10-Ball, lined up for a clear shot at the 5-ball, and rattled it in the hole. Strickland finished the rack to reach the hill first. Strickland broke dry, but left Shaw with a low-percentage jump shot on the 1-ball. Shaw jumped and sunk that ball, but scratched and Earl ran out to finish it.
Shaw, with his jump cue still in his hand, snapped it in two and threw it onto the floor. Later, as he stepped into the InsidePool/NYC Grind broadcast booth, where Johnny Archer was holding forth, Archer asked him, "Would you like to buy a jump cue?"
The final matches were far less dramatic, because Van Boening was far less dramatic, going about his pink-shirt business with remarkable poise and unmatched shot-making. The two battled back and forth to a 3-3 tie, at which point, Van Boening took command and chalked up five straight. Strickland won the 12th rack, but by this time, with the outcome in five-racks-down jeopardy, Earl was starting to perform. He wins the 12th and 13th, but watches as Shane, in rack 14, shoots a ball long, corner to corner, while draw on the cue ball, backs it up and sinks the 10 (he'd called it) to give him a four-game lead again at 9-5. 
Strickland comes back to win the next, making it 9-6, but Van Boening comes back, too, for a 10-6 lead. Van Boening wins another to re-establish a five-game lead at 11-6. Strickland wins five of the next six games to pull within one at 12-11, but it's the last rack he'll win. Shane wins the three straight necessary to complete the journey to 15, breaking and running the final two racks to become the 2nd Steinway Classic champion.
The back-to-back events at Steinway Billiards - The 14:1 Straight Pool Championships the week before and the Classic, which began on Sunday - drew over six million 'views' to the InsidePool/NYC Grind broadcast, streamed for free. There were, at one point, some 1,600 people watching a single match. The broadcast booth, with World Alvin as main commentator, hosted a variety of the players, including Archer, Shaw, Dennis Hatch, and Arturo Reyes (to name just a few), which drew both positive and negative comments out of the chat room. With Archer in the booth, talking pretty much about anything anyone asked him or came into his mind, the quarterfinal match between Kiamco and Strickland ended without their noticing.  The chat crowd was evenly divided between people who just loved hearing Johnny talk, and those who wished he and World Alvin would restrict their comments to the ongoing match.
Archer promoted his appearance, tomorrow morning, on the Today Show (Wednesday, August 28, 9 a.m.), at which he will reportedly attempt a trick shot he has never done, other than in practice. He will be joined (assisted) by Dennis Hatch, and the two will reportedly engage Brooke Shields in this trick shot.
Steinway Billiards will now move directly into the Battle of the Atlantic; a scotch doubles, 10-ball race to 30, pitting the team of Strickland and Van Boening against Darren Appleton and Jayson Shaw on Thursday night, August 29. Two days later, Steinway Billiards will play host to the 3rd Annual George "Ginky" Sansouci Memorial Tournament (Open and Amateur events), set to begin on Saturday, August 31. The tournament, with last year's champion, Earl Strickland, competing, is a cooperative effort between the Tri-State and Predator Tours and, like the Battle for the Atlantic, will also be streamed free by InsidePool TV and Jerry Tarantola's NYC Grind.