Unlikely champions

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Call them the kids from nowhere or even the comeback kids, and while you're at it, call them provincial champions.

Travis Bale and his teammates from West Kildonan stunned the field at the Manitoba Junior Men's Curling Championship yesterday at Wildewood, roaring back from two big deficits to claim their first provincial title.

Competing in his first provincial junior playdown, the 17-year-old lefty made the big shots all week, knocked off top seed Adam Norget 9-8 in the semifinal and then edged Kyle Flett of Petersfield 7-6 in the championship game.

Bale won both games yesterday after falling behind early, 3-0 in the game against Norget and 4-0 against Flett. In the final, the unseeded Bale made a draw for two with his last rock in the 10th to win it.

"It's our first time at provincials even, so we were just looking to go with a winning record," Bale said. "So, it's great to win. It's kinda hard to believe."

Bale, brother and third Curtis Bale, 15, second Nigel Milnes, 18, and lead Alex Mitchell, 19, will represent Manitoba at the Canadian Junior Curling Championship in Thunder Bay, Ont., Jan. 21-29.

"We played really well and the field was pretty equal ... all the teams could beat each other, and we just had a good week and came out on top," said Bale, whose team played five games in just over 24 hours, including a tiebreaker victory over Ryan Coy and a win over Curtis Joyal in the Page playoff 2-vs.-2 game Saturday.

"I'm pretty tired, but if we'd lost I'd be a lot more tired. Adrenaline kinda keeps you going."

The big turning point in the final came in the fifth end when Flett, leading 4-1, tried to go for the jugular with a takeout that could have resulted in multiple points. Instead, his shot jammed and left Bale with a steal of two.

'RIGHT BACK INTO IT'

"It wasn't looking so good for a while, but that really helped because it brought us right back into it," Bale said.

In the seventh, Flett was protecting a 5-3 lead when his last rock picked and left Bale a shot for two.

"That was the turning point to me," said Flett, whose team was unable to regain control after that crucial end.

The Petersfield skip had one final chance to bail his team out but was unable to execute a double takeout with his last rock of the 10th.

Still, he was a gracious second-place finisher.

"They are a hell of a team," Flett said of the Bale foursome. "To do what they did was phenomenal. They played well, and the better team won."

Doug Bale, coach and father to the winning skip and third, could barely contain his excitement during the closing ceremonies.

"I never did this when I was a kid, never got to provincials even," he said. "This is quite an accomplishment, and I'm enjoying it right now.

"I'm damn proud."


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