Road To The Olympic Games

Curling

Jones, Mallett to play for Hearts title

Jennifer Jones is one win away from a second consecutive Tournament of Hearts title and third in five years after a wild 12-8 semifinal win over Quebec's Marie-France Larouche on Saturday night in Victoria.

Jennifer Jones is one win away from a second consecutive Tournament of Hearts title and third in five years after a wild 12-8 semifinal win over Quebec's Marie-France Larouche on Saturday night in Victoria.

Following three straight last-rock victories, the Winnipeg skip built an early 5-0 lead against Quebec but gave it all away before holding on in the second half to edge Larouche.

The eighth end was the difference, as Larouche had to settle for one point with the hammer when her raise attempt with her final stone slid a few inches too far.

Jones responded by scoring three points in the ninth end, and ran Quebec out of rocks in the 10th.

Jones, third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin will now face top-seeded British Columbia skip Marla Mallett, who punched her ticket to Sunday's final by beating Larouche 7-5 in Friday's 1 vs. 2 Page playoff.

Jones edged the conservative Mallett, who gave up the fewest points in the round robin, by a score of 7-6 in the 17th and final draw on Thursday.

Jones needed the hammer in the last end to win that game and earn a spot in Friday's tiebreaker, where she scored a nailbiting win over P.E.I.'s Rebecca Jean MacPhee before scraping past Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton in the 3 vs. 4 Page playoff on Saturday afternoon.

"I feel like we've stepped it up in the playoffs, which is nice," Jones said. "This is the best we've played as a team all week.

"We love it. We love playing in these big games. We're not scared of them, and we just love being out there together and enjoying the moment."

Flair for the dramatic

Jones has shown a flair for the dramatic in each of the last two Canadian women's curling championships. Last year in Regina she battled back from a 3-4 start to the round robin to take eight straight must-win games en route to her second national title.

This year Jones needed to execute a draw to the eight-foot with the last rock of the last draw against Mallet just to force Friday's tiebreaker, where the only thing that kept her from being eliminated were a pair of botched tap-backs by P.E.I.'s Robyn MacPhee in the 10th and 11th ends.

Jones looked to be in greater control in Saturday's 3 vs. 4 Page playoff, leading 8-7 with the hammer in the final end. But her penultimate rock smashed into a Saskatchewan guard, sending it into another Saskatchewan stone. The guard spun slightly and stopped directly in front of a Canadian rock, leaving Lawton lying one.

The Saskatchewan skip then played her final stone to the back of the four-foot, forcing Jones to draw around a guard to the button. The delivery was a bit heavy, but luckily had the Saskatchewan stone as backing and came to rest about an inch closer to the button.

Jones said she had little doubt her final shot was a winner.

"When I let it go, I knew it was close," Jones said. "I knew we could come to the back [stone], and the line was good. I was pretty confident when it was coming down the sheet."

Lawton wasn't so sure, hinting that ice conditions may have played a role.

"It timed like it should keep on going," Lawton said. "But it hit the slide path kind of like mine did, and it stopped.

Wiht files from the Canadian Press

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