Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jones couldn't escape the wrong arm of the Lawes

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RED DEER, Alta. -- Look, the truth hurts sometimes -- just not very often when it's come to fans of Jennifer Jones over the years.

But this ending's going to sting, so how about I give you Jones fans the fairy-tale ending that never happened first.

That one -- the fake ending -- goes like this. Manitoba third Kaitlyn Lawes -- perhaps the brightest young light in all of Canadian curling, a two-time Canadian junior champ and Scotties finalist already at the tender age of 23 -- shocks everyone by playing absolutely brutal in her team's two playoff games here at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts this weekend.

After finishing first in the round-robin with a 9-2 record and all four members sweeping the all-star selections, her team loses the page-playoff 1 vs. 2 game to B.C. Friday night when Lawes shoots just 60 per cent through the first five ends.

And then, when they get that rarest of gifts in sport -- a second chance -- Lawes does it all over again Saturday night against Alberta in the semifinal, shooting exactly 60 per cent again through the first five ends.

Her team gives up a three-ender in the fifth end against Alberta when Lawes badly misses both her shots and then spends the entire second half of the game trying to catch up. They finally tie the score 5-5 in the tenth end and have the game-winning point in the extra end buried on the front four-foot.

Alberta skip Heather Nedohin attempts to draw the four-foot with the final rock of the extra end, but her attempt is a little heavy and Lawes -- who has been beating herself up all game over her performance -- sees the most glorious opportunity at redemption ever as the Alberta rock hits the tee-line and it's still sliding.

Broom in hands, Lawes starts hammering the ice, sweeping as fast and as close to the Alberta stone as she possibly can until it comes to rest in the back of the four-foot.

It's too close to tell who's closer with a naked eye, so an official is summoned to measure the two stones for the winning point.

With me so far? Well, everything you just read is exactly how it happened. But here's the fake part -- the happy ending that has seemed in recent years to be the exclusive property of Jones as she rattled off four Canadian championships, almost of all of them in the most dramatic manner possible.

In our fake ending, what happens is the official measures the two rocks and determines that by the closest of margins -- say a couple hundredths of an inch -- Lawes has swept the Alberta stone just far enough to give Manitoba the winning point and earn sweet, sweet redemption for herself.

Quite the tearjerker, no? I see Jennifer Aniston as Lawes, Meryl Streep playing Jones.

Alas, there was no Hollywood director in the house here last night and what happened instead was exactly the opposite. And the result was almost too much for Lawes to bear.

The final result, just like the disappointing performances by Lawes that helped engineer it, hadn't changed -- Alberta was in the final and Manitoba was punted to the most humiliating of games in curling -- this morning's bronze medal tilt against Quebec.

To her eternal, everlasting credit, Lawes took full responsibility for the loss on her shoulders after the game.

"I'm disappointed in myself," said Lawes. "The girls played great and I just struggled."

And to their eternal, everlasting credit, her teammates were having none of Lawes taking the blame for this one on herself.

"She just missed a couple shots early that could have maybe changed the game around. But she's just an amazing teammate and I couldn't imagine playing with anybody else," said Jones.

Lead Dawn Askin also came to Lawes' defence. "She's an amazing player. Everyone has a few blips in her game," said Askin. "She's also won quite a few games for us... I wouldn't want to play with anyone else." Told of her teammate's comments, Lawes's eyes filled with tears.

"We live and die as a team and I love those girls," said Lawes. "I know I will be harder on myself than they ever will be on me. They would never say anything bad about me. And I appreciate their support because I'm going to kick myself for awhile."

It's not the kind of ending that will sell a romantic comedy. But it's not a bad one either -- friends rallying around a friend who made a mistake, professing love for one another as they ponder an uncertain future.

It ain't clean, it ain't tidy. But it'll have to do.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2012 B5


Updated on Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM CST: takes out that Lawes was World Junior champ

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