Jones clutch to score spot in Scotties final after semi bounce of Cameron

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Jennifer Jones couldn’t have scripted her farewell to the Scotties any better …

Although a win Sunday night for a historic seventh title take at the Canadian women’s curling championship would certainly be the way she’d want it to end.

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“My last one, so … yeah … it’s fun to be in those big games,” said Jones, who announced just hours ahead of the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts that it would be her last.

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“All Scotties have been great, but this one’s been pretty awesome,” continued Jones. “So I don’t think that I could’ve scripted it any better.”

And with quite the ending, to boot.

Jones met Rachel Homan — herself looking for a fourth Scotties crown and skipping the hottest team on the planet — in Sunday’s championship draw at Calgary’s WinSport.

It was a third meeting between the two legendary skips and their teams during the 10 days of these Scotties.

Both round-robin head-to-heads came down to the final stone, with Homan coming out on top each time to conclude epic contests.

And the final was expected to offer the same kind of drama, with emotions for Jones hitting an all-time high.

“I just wanted to soak it all in,” Jones said. “The crowd’s been awesome. I just really wanted to enjoy it. I’ve never not enjoyed playing.”

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Hugs and tears were plentiful on her final day Sunday — from fans, foes, officials and her Manitoba team of third Karlee Burgess, second Emily Zacharias, lead Lauren Lenentine and coach Glenn Howard from the St. Vital and Altona curling clubs.

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So, too, were the accolades for one of the best and most successful athletes the sport has ever seen, as she chased the chance to stand alone on top of most Scotties wins — one more than Colleen Jones.

“Jen’s been a force for 20-some years now,” added Howard. “Her uncanny ability to make the big shot is what sticks in my mind. She makes clutch after clutch shot.”

SEMIFINAL SHOT

Jones executed another clutch shot in winning Sunday’s semifinal 12-7 over fellow Manitoba skip Kate Cameron and her team from Winnipeg’s Granite Curling Club.

Unlike many of her memorable shots, this one came early — in the first end to secure a five-ender.

Although the double-takeout wasn’t a circus shot — fairly straight-forward, in fact, for Jones — it was certainly clutch.

“It was,” agreed Cameron. “There was both teams going back and forth on some bad shots in that first end, I’d say. And then I put my first one as good as we could, and then I could never bounce off (Jones’ rock) with my last one, and that’s what I did. And it’s Jen — she’s going to make those shots more than she’s not.”

It was her second five-count of the week.

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“If you keep lots of rocks in play, you never know,” Jones said. “You might get a big end. And we got fortunate when Kate rubbed off and left me the double. That was obviously a big turning point in the game.”

Really, it was the end of Team Cameron, which unleashed quite the run at these Scotties all the way to the semifinal.

“We just tried to maintain the scoreboard at that point and hoped that we’d get a couple of breaks along the way,” said Cameron of trying to rebound after the five-ender. “Statistically, I don’t think it’s good odds after that point, but I think it was just focusing one end at a time and seeing if we could make something happen out there.”

Cameron, third Meghan Walter, second Kelsey Rocque, lead Mackenzie Elias and alternate Taylor McDonald managed to score deuces in each of the second, fourth and eighth ends, but Jones & Co. managed those in the third, fifth and seventh frames to continue their dominance on the scoreboard.

“As much as that loss sucks right now, the girls are going to take a lot from that,” Cameron said. “I think that’s one of the biggest games they’ve played in. Lots to learn from.

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“This whole week we can pull from,” continued Cameron, a 32-year-old Winnipeg native. “We turned some heads and won a few games people weren’t expecting. We knew we could. We just had to stay in that mentality of one game at a time — our backs have been against the wall since Thursday morning. So I think it was pretty impressive to make it to Sunday.”

Jones thought just as much of her rival.

“I have a real soft-spot for Kate,” Jones said. “I think she’s just an awesome person and an awesome competitor. I love playing against them, because they just love the game and I see awesome things for them in the future.”

That, however, will be one without Jones — at least at the Scotties.

“Jen’s a really great person and obviously a really fierce competitor,” added Cameron. “We’ve been playing against her for a long time. And even growing up curling in Manitoba, you saw her just shape what a lot of athletes wanted to be, so you looked up to her. I think it would be wonderful for her to end on a high and win this thing.”

EXTRA ENDS

The 2024 Scotties all-stars — including the Robin Wilson First Team — were announced Saturday, with Team Homan placing all four regular members on the two squads. Homan herself is the first-team skip, joining her third, Tracy Fleury, and her second, Emma Miskew, on the star-studded top line-up honouring Robin Wilson, who was the driving force behind Scott Paper Limited’s decision in 1982 to come aboard as the title sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship … The first-team all-star lead wasn’t even supposed to be a regular, but Canada’s Krysten Karwacki stepped in for Briane Harris, who was deemed inexplicably ineligible just hours ahead of the Scotties start-up. Canada dominated the second-team all-star squad, with skip Kerri Einarson and second Shannon Birchard among the honourees. They’re joined by third Karlee Burgess, of Jones’ Manitoba crew, and Homan’s lead, Sarah Wilkes … The Marj Mitchell Sportsmanship Award went to Ontario skip Danielle Inglis … Calgary’s Brenda Rogers is recognized as the 2024 Joan Mead Builder’s Award winner as a passionate curling volunteer, including as the chief umpire for these Scotties. Rogers has spent 20 years as the head official for various Alberta curling organizations, including Curling Alberta and the Southern Alberta Curling Association … And Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press is the recipient of the 2024 Paul McLean Award, presented by TSN to a person behind the scenes who has made a significant contribution to the sport of curling. Spencer has attended 16 Scotties, 13 world championships and nine Briers, in addition to three Winter Olympics.

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