Making do with makeshift team

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

It's not the way you want to start a provincial championship.

First, third Martin Bailey moved up to replace Heather's Clare DeBlonde and qualified for the Strathcona Senior Men's Provincial Championship without him. Then DeBlonde decided to stay in Palm Springs, Fla., telling the rest to go on without him.

But Bailey failed to make it to the squad's opening match at the West Kildonan Curling Club yesterday because he was bedridden with the flu. So, John Helston moved up to replace him at skip with Garry DeBlonde, Clare's brother, promoted to third and Greg Milloy, the team's spare, inserted at second. To make matters worse, lead Gary Smith leaves today for Edmonton, where he has tickets to the Brier.

"Hello, my name's Martin Bailey," Helston joked after clipping Thompson's Rae Hainstock 9-7 in spite of the rejigged lineup. Then he added with a shrug, "What do ya do?"

ALMOST LOST

Helston actually almost lost Smith for the end of that game because it looked like it was headed to an extra end and he had to get to his job as a school bus driver. So, Winston Warren, who is in the spare pool, was warming up on an open sheet just in case. Should Helston be short both Bailey and Smith today, Warren will fill in, he said. And Milloy will remain for the rest of the weekend.

The revamped foursome actually overcame a 4-1 deficit to post the victory.

"It was kind of nice that we were able to struggle back after we gave up that three on the first end because I missed my shot there," Helston said. "We went to a quieter game after that and the guys played well."

'WEATHER'S GREAT'

The team did try to convince Clare DeBlonde to return in time for the provincials, especially when Smith said he was headed to Edmonton.

"He just said the weather's great down here and you'll do well without me," Helston said.

Bailey, who won last year's national Masters championship with Helston, lost this year's provincial final to Doug Armour of Souris in Portage la Prairie last week.

"We played well but that's the way it goes in this game," said Helston, who was playing Brandon's Cliff Gouldie on last night's late draw.

In another game of note, Carberry's Larry Broatch upset East St. Paul's former national senior men's champ Carl German 9-8.

Meanwhile, Brandon's Sharon Pedlow upset St. Vital's two-time provincial champ Elaine Jones 7-5 at the Pacesetter Senior Women's Provincial playdowns in Dauphin.

Playoffs for both provincial championships go Sunday with the respective finals on Monday.


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