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Homan into Tournament of Hearts final, Jones and Cameron to clash in semifinal

Team Manitoba-Cameron skip Kate Cameron encourages her teammates as they play Team Alberta in Page playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Rachel Homan booked an express ticket to the Canadian women's curling championship final with an extra-end 5-4 win over Jennifer Jones in an intense playoff game Saturday night.

Jones needs a win over fellow-Manitoban Kate Cameron in Sunday afternoon's semifinal to earn an evening rematch with Homan for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts title in Calgary. 

Cameron downed Alberta's Selena Sturmay 6-4 in an earlier elimination playoff game Saturday.

The winner of Sunday's final represents Canada at the world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S., and returns to the 2025 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as defending champion.

In a battle of skips with a combined nine titles between them, Homan stole a point in the extra end when Jones missed a tricky angle raise to score. 

Homan beat Jones to the pin with a draw in the 10th that brought people to their feet in the WinSport Event Centre and forced an extra end.

"It was thrilling," Homan's lead Sarah Wilkes said. "I'm still shaking."

The urgency in the skips' voices throughout the game and Homan's shouting triumphantly "that was unreal" to her teammates upon winning reflected the competitiveness of the two teams in what was a non-elimination game.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to be able to to beat Jenn at her absolute best," Homan said. "It was a very emotional game."

Homan won the last of her three championships in 2017 before losing three straight finals from 2019 to 2021.

Homan, third Tracy Fleury and the front end of Emma Miskew and Wilkes remained unbeaten in Calgary with the win over Jones.

Homan's team didn't allow a stolen point in the tournament until Saturday's sixth and eighth ends, when Jones took a 4-3 lead. Homan blanked the ninth to take hammer into the 10th when she executed her precision draw.

Jones's attempt at a corner freeze with her first shot of the 11th was too heavy and she was unable to execute a tricky angle raise to score with her final shot.

"I just missed my last shot," she said. "Both teams played well. I thought it was a great game. It was fun to be out there. Hopefully we'll come out and play like that tomorrow."

The six-time champion has said she'll retire from team curling at the end of this season. Jones, 49, can still become the first woman to win seven championships before she's done. 

Her team could return next year as defending champion without her, as long as it retains the three remaining members under Curling Canada rules.

Jones, Homan and Einarson have long been the big three in Canadian women's curling. 

Cameron wormed her way into that conversation at this year's Hearts when she halted Einarson's run of consecutive titles with a playoff victory Friday night.

"I hope, but we put this team together knowing this was a building year, so I'm happy we're moving forward right now," Cameron said. 

A national title was tantalizingly close, however.

"That would be wicked," Cameron said. 

Host Alberta topped its pool at 7-1, but exited on back-to-back playoff losses.

Three of the four Albertans, including Sturmay, made their Hearts debuts in Calgary. 

Sturmay's teammates held their own against Cameron with accuracy percentages in the 90-per-cent range, but Sturmay struggled to hold her shooter in the rings when she had chances to hit for two.

"Honestly, it sucks that I didn't have a good game," said the 25-year-old skip. "I feel it was probably the worst game all week, but that's just curling. You're good some times and not good other times. It's just unfortunate it came out in this game."

Cameron brought the experience of six Hearts appearances playing third, but the 32-year-old from New Bothwell, Man., skipped a team this season for the first time in a decade.

"She's a fierce, but calm leader of our team," said third Meghan Walter.

Regular second Taylor McDonald in advanced pregnancy was replaced before the tournament by Kelsey Roque, who is a career skip and two-time world junior champion. 

Lead Mackenzie Elias rounds out the foursome that gained entry to the national championship as the highest-ranked, non-qualified women's team in Canada this season at No. 7. They finished third in Manitoba's provincial championship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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