Protecting the throne

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Having prevented a coup from the former ruler, Canada's reigning curling queen now has to face her heir apparent.

The odds would obviously say Jennifer Jones has a 50-50 chance of retaining her Scott Tournament of Hearts crown, but history backs that up.

Team Canada has reached the national women's curling final 10 times -- winning five -- since the concept was launched here 20 years ago.

And Jennifer Jones has a chance to put Team Canada over the .500 mark thanks to a 10-4 win over Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia, who won three in a row as Team Canada until last year.

Team Canada now faces Kelly Scott of B.C., the round-robin leader at 9-2, in today's final (12:30 p.m., CBC). Scott won their round-robin game 7-5 Thursday morning.

"Lead through skip, they're solid," Jennifer Jones said. "I expect it to be a fun game."

What Jennifer Jones couldn't have expected was a subpar effort yesterday from her counterpart, who struggled throughout and missed several shots at key moments.

The killer blow came in the eighth end, when Colleen drew the back of the button with her last shot but left it exposed, giving Jennifer a clear shot at a double, which she made for a game-ending four points.

"The biggest thing for us in that end was just to score a point," Jennifer Jones said. "We'd just got the momentum and we didn't want to throw it away.

"I never felt we were in trouble today. Both teams were playing well early, but unfortunately for them they were on the wrong side of the inch today.

"I thought we were even sharper today than we were yesterday," she added of a 10-4 playoff win Friday night over Eve Belisle of Quebec. "It felt really good out there."

It showed in her 91-per-cent rating for the game. Her inturn pick-and-roll set up a three in the sixth end that broke a 3-3 tie and made a couple of tough shots in the eighth end to set up her four.

Colleen Jones said she only had herself to blame.

"I didn't have a good game. My team put me in situations where we could score some points, but I just had a bad game. It was one of those bad days at the office, but Jennifer played well and I can take a little consolation from the thinking that even if I'd played lights-out, she still would have one-upped me."

Colleen Jones struggled from the outset. She hit and stayed instead of rolling out in the first, taking only one instead of blanking the end; she jammed on a double in the second, giving Jennifer Jones an open draw for two; she went through the rings on a draw to the four-foot for two in the fifth; she curled too far on a hit and roll behind cover in the sixth, giving Jennifer Jones her draw to the eight-foot for three; and she was a tough light on a bump for two in the seventh.

All in all, not the way the six-time champ wanted to go out.

"I definitely had trouble with my draw weight and when the skip's not drawing, the team loses," she said, adding she switched rocks with third Kim Kelly starting in the eighth end.

"And they curled hard for her, too," Jones said, "but when you're not playing well, you tend to question everything?"

At 46, Colleen Jones knows the career hourglass is more empty than full, but any talk of retirement is just that for now.

"I felt good and ready going in, but maybe the toll of the pressure, knowing you have to perform and always make the shots, takes something out of you after a while.

"Sometimes you're not quite there. You're realizing time may be running out for you, so maybe you over-try. Maybe as you age, the pressure of the week gets to you.

"This will be something we'll talk about over the summer on Nancy's (lead Delahunt's) deck. A lot of people had us written off after the Olympic trials, but third in Canada isn't bad. Now, do we build on this or do we say we're not good enough -- to curl or not to curl, I guess that's the question.

"There's not really a clean lean right now. At the end of a week like this it's so easy to say uncle, but when the fall comes around you find yourself itching to get back out there.

"If we'd come here and not made the playoffs, the decision would have been cut and dried. You don't want to hang on past your prime, but third in Canada is still primish in my book."


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