Schard rink KO's Middaugh

DONALD DUENCH -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- In a heavyweight boxing match on pebbled ice, Sherry Middaugh put up a valiant fight after being knocked to the canvas in the first round.

But in the end, Krista Scharf's arm was raised as the announcer boomed: "And still champion ... "

Scharf's foursome from the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay repeated as provincial women's curling champions by taking the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Dixie Curling Club.

Scharf scored four points in the first end of the final yesterday, then hung on to beat Middaugh, of the Coldwater & District Curling Club, 7-5.

The big first end was set up by a runback takeout by Scharf vice Tara George, and a precise hit-and-roll by Scharf that just got past an outside guard. Middaugh tried to draw to cut down her losses with her last rock, but her rock stayed in the open, allowing Scharf the takeout for four.

"That was really a big shock," Scharf said of the first end.

Scharf put the pressure on Middaugh in the second and third, but Middaugh used a double raise to score one in the second, avoiding a steal of two, and a triple in the third to force Scharf to take one point.

After that, Middaugh's team used a deuce and a pair of steals to tie the game with three ends left.

"Did we grind ... holy cow!" Middaugh said. "I thought we controlled the majority of the game."

After a blank in the eighth end, Middaugh's team executed perfectly to force Scharf to take a point in the ninth and give Middaugh the hammer in the 10th.

Middaugh had a chance to send the game into an extra end with her last rock of the 10th, but her draw was just wide. "It was a tricky spot," Middaugh said. "It was very weight-sensitive."

"It was definitely a shot that could be made," Scharf said, surprised at the result of the draw. "She's Sherry Middaugh and she's a great curler."

Scharf's team, which includes George, second Tiffany Stubbings and lead Lorraine Lang, advances to the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Lethbridge. Their first game is on Feb. 17 against New Brunswick.

Last year in London, Scharf's team was 4-7 at the national championship. "We know the hard work that it takes to win it," Scharf said.

This will be the seventh Tournament of Hearts for Lang, a world champion as Heather Houston's third in 1989.

"It's just as exciting to win the provincials as it was 20 years ago," said Lang, 50, whose first national Tournament of Hearts was in 1983.

Middaugh was trying to win her fourth Ontario title, but her first with new teammates Kim Moore, Kate Hamer and Andra Harmark. "Tomorrow, we'll look back at it and think it was a great week," Middaugh said.

Now Middaugh turns her attention to cheering on husband Wayne in the TSC Stores Tankard, the provincial men's curling championship, which starts Feb. 12 in Sarnia.


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