Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Another one for Drama Queen

Jones wins thriller -- again; frustrated Carey can only shake her head

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PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- Jennifer Jones did best here Sunday afternoon what Jennifer Jones has always done best -- better than any other women's curler in the game today and maybe even better than any other women's curler, period.

With her hair on fire and her back to the wall -- a condition Jones has always seemed to prefer at major curling events -- Jones coolly stepped into the hack for the final rock of the 10th end at Portage's PCU Centre and played an exceptionally difficult, exceptionally delicate tapback to the button for her fifth Manitoba women's curling championship.

She made it, of course. Because Jones always makes it.

The drama of the moment was delicious -- a packed house of almost 2,000 spectators that was the largest to see a Manitoba women's game; a false start out of the hack thanks to a knucklehead with a flash camera; the game tied in the 10th end with a Manitoba title on the line.

But for all that drama, there was no one who should have been too surprised when Jones's tapped rock slid perfectly between two opponents' stones nestled on either side of the button and came to rest atop the pinhole for the winning point in a 6-5 victory over Chelsea Carey in the 2012 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts final.

And that includes Jones's opposition.

"Unfortunately," Chelsea Carey third Kristy McDonald said matter-of-factly, "we live in a province where the Kevin Martin of women's curling lives."

It is unfortunate for McDonald, Carey and those like her -- including Barb Spencer, who Jones dispatched in the semifinal earlier on Sunday. But it is a huge and delightful bonus for the rest of us.

It is high praise -- and entirely legitimate -- to compare Jones to the greatest men's curler in the history of the game, Edmonton's Martin.

But there is one key difference between the two. Whereas Martin has achieved his success by being ruthlessly and almost robotically efficient, Jones has used a much different -- and much more entertaining -- recipe for greatness.

If former Manitoba curling great Connie Laliberte was the Ice Queen, then Jones is, unabashedly and rightly so, the Drama Queen.

This is a woman, remember, who first became a household name in 2005 when she authored what many still regard as the greatest single walk-off shot to win a Canadian curling championship -- an in-off for four against Ontario's Jenn Hanna to win the 2005 Scotties final in St. John's, Nfld.

And so it has gone ever since as Jones proceeded in the intervening years to win three more Manitoba titles, three more Canadian titles and a world title using that same formula of high drama, almost without exception.

Jones is one of only a handful of skips ever to win a Canadian women's title after having to first qualify through playoff tiebreakers. And with her victory here on Sunday, she has now used the same sudden death tiebreaker route to win two Manitoba titles -- this one and another back in 2007.

It is as though Jones only truly gets interested once the adversity becomes almost overwhelming. And then once it does, she simply finds another level of focus -- one no other curlers seem to possess, with perhaps the exception of Martin -- and romps the rest of the way.

Indeed, it bears reminding that in losing last year's Canadian final -- after winning the three before that -- Jones actually had a 6-3 lead on Saskatchewan's Amber Holland at the fifth end break.

Can anyone doubt Jones would have beaten Holland had that fifth end score been reversed and it was Jones who was trailing, seemingly on the verge of losing and with everyone doubting her except herself and the three women who support her these days -- third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin.

It is what Jones does -- maddeningly and remarkably without fail -- and it'd be hard to blame an opponent like Carey if she was a bit frustrated to be on the wrong end of all that drama.

"I don't know what you want me to say," said Carey, who had her heart broken in similar fashion in last year's Manitoba final by Cathy Overton-Clapham. "It's the second year in a row we put everything out on the ice, we played a really good game, we made two absolute pistols in 10 and we still didn't win. I mean, I don't know what else to do...

"We lost the final to the best team in the world and we made her make a hell of a shot to do it. Do I feel any of that right now? Absolutely not. And I bet I won't for a long time. I probably won't until I finally win one of these damn things."

History will record that Carey did get her chance on Sunday, however. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth end, Carey had a short and very makeable runback for three that would have put Jones in the kind of hole maybe even she couldn't have dug herself out of.

But Carey missed, Jones stole one in what was a four-point swing and what was Carey's best chance to actually beat Jones had floated away.

And so with that, Jones goes back to the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer, Alta. next month for what will be her eighth consecutive appearance at a Canadian women's championship since 2005 -- four times as Team Manitoba and four times as Team Canada.

That matches a run of eight straight national Scotties appearances in a row by the legendary Colleen Jones foursome of the late '90s and early 2000s and establishes Winnipeg's Jones -- if there was any lingering doubt -- as one of the greatest female curlers this country has ever produced.

She is not only the very best at what she does -- she is the only one who does it the way she does.

paul.wie cek@freepress.mb.ca

notebook / c4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2012 C1

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