The heated boys basketball rivalry between Central and Jackson had been a bit one-sided of late.
Jackson defeated Central four times in four meetings last year, and defeated the Tigers in the opening round of the district tournament each of the past two years.
But the teams have been going in opposite directions recently, and that trend continued on Tuesday, as Central defeated visiting Jackson 61-59.
Central improved to 12-9 with its fourth win in its last six games and first win against Jackson since 2003.
Jackson, meanwhile, fell to 16-7 with its third straight loss and fourth in its past five games.
"In high school basketball, it comes down to who's playing the best basketball at the right time," Central coach Derek McCord said. "We're steadily trying to improve one step at a time. I think right now we're playing better. It's obvious."
The win improved the Tigers to 2-1 against district opponents. Jackson fell to 0-3 against district opponents in nontournament games.
"This game was big," McCord said. "I wish we could say this is another game, but this should solidify a No. 2 seed [in district]."
Jackson looked poised to end its losing streak, as the Indians came out on fire in the opening quarter. Central turned the ball over on its first three possessions, and thanks to eight points from sophomore Spencer Goodman the Indians led 10-0 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds to play in the first.
Central finally got on the board nearly four minutes into the quarter, but Jackson led 20-6 lead after one quarter.
"I thought we came out ready to play," Jackson coach Darrin Scott said.
Jake Leet hit a 3-pointer to start the second quarter, giving Jackson its biggest lead at 23-6. Adrian Cox hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 23-9, and a Jajuan Bell 3-pointer following a Jackson basket sparked a 14-0 run which tightened the score and set the tone for the second half.
"I knew it was going to come down to the wire," McCord said. "It's a marathon, not a sprint, though, thank goodness."
Jackson's lead was five points at the half, and the Indians' lead did not surpass five the rest of the game. Central squared the game for the first time early in the third quarter at 32-32, the first of three ties in the quarter.
Darnell Wilks finally put the Tigers ahead with a jumper with 2:17 left in the third for a 39-37 lead. Central led 41-39 heading into the final period.
Jackson's 6-foot-11 center Aaron Redecker picked up his fourth foul less than 3 minutes into the third quarter, and starting point guard Kyle Pridemore also was in foul trouble before the second half started.
"We played the entire second half with Aaron in foul trouble," Scott said. "Kyle got his third foul in the second quarter. Those things affected us somewhat."
The Indians also were affected by a hounding Central defense, led by sophomore guards Derek Walker, Cox and Bell. Central's guard trio forced several key turnovers down the stretch.
"I thought our defensive pressure bothered them some," McCord said. "Our sophomore guards really pressured the ball well tonight."
The Indians were able to battle through Central's pressure early in the fourth to regain the lead. Sophomore forward Hunter Grantham hit consecutive inside shots to open a 47-44 lead.
Wilks would not let the Tigers fall, scoring the next eight points for Central to put the Tigers ahead for good. After a timeout with the score knotted at 48-48, Jackson turned the ball over on consecutive possessions and Central took advantage.
A layup by Bell put Central up 55-48 late in the game, but Jackson made three late 3-pointers to stay in the game.
"They took the lead and we battled back," Scott said. "We felt if we had one more possession, we had a chance to tie it or take the lead."
Without any timeouts, Jackson climbed to within 57-56 on Goodman's 3-pointer with 22 seconds left. Wilks was sent to the line and hit both free throws.
Jackson had the ball with 19.6 seconds left down three, but Walker was able to tap the ball away from a Jackson player and Wilks recovered the turnover. Another two free throws from Wilks put Central up five. Goodman hit a 3-pointer in the waning seconds, but Central was able to run out the clock.
"There's not another guy in the gym I'd rather have at the line in crunchtime," McCord said of Wilks.
Wilks led all scorers with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Bell added 13 points and Cox had 10.
Goodman led Jackson with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Grantham added 16 for Jackson.
"Tonight, I don't think we struggled," Scott said. "We played at Central, and they played well. I feel pretty good where we're at. People forget quickly about your last game."
Central 61, Jackson 59
JACKSON (59) -- Spencer Goodman 20, Hunter Grantham 16, Aaron Redecker 9, Ryan Leet 7, Jake Leet 3, Kyle Pridemore 4. FG 25, FT 3-10, F 23 (3-pointers: Goodman 4, J. Leet 1, R. Leet 1. Fouled out: Pridemore)
CENTRAL (61) -- Darnell Wilks 25, Jajuan Bell 13, Adrian Cox 10, David Deisher 6, Jeremy Kimble 5, Garrett Ozbun 2. FG 18, FT 21-30, F 17 (3-pointers: Cox 2, Bell 2. Fouled out: none)
JV -- Jackson 43, Central 38