The first 5 1/2 minutes of Thursday's Class 5 District 1 girls basketball championship game could not have gone much better for Jackson senior Bobbie Jones.
But the last minute was the sweetest.
Jones scored the Indians' final 10 points, including five in the final 30 seconds, to lift Jackson to a 54-51 victory against Farmington at Central High School.
She finished the night with 26 points, as Jackson (22-4) advanced to the sectional round for the first time in three years. The Indians play St. Joseph's Academy (23-5), ranked No. 3 in Class 5, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Farmington Civic Center. St. Joseph's beat Webster Groves, which had handed Jackson its first loss of the year, 77-51 on Thursday night.
"It's going to be a tough road," Jackson coach Sam Sides said. "As they say, we'll take it one at a time."
The Indians still were taking in Thursday's win, their third of the season against Farmington (20-7). Jackson, No. 9 in the state and the top seed in the district, won a title for the first time since 2003.
"I'm happy for the seniors," Sides said. "They won a district championship in their last year of high school, and that's special. They're not easy to get."
Farmington made it tough on Jackson after recovering from a 10-4 deficit that included plenty of Jones. She had eight points and an assist to go with five steals in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
"She's a gamer." Sides said. "She's just a competitive person. She made a lot of steals, and she shot the ball well."
"I wasn't going to let us lose," Jones said. "All day long, I told the girls I'd rather die than lose."
That determination was needed after Jackson's first-half dominance wavered. The Indians' 17-11 lead turned into a 17-17 tie late in the first half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cody Goodpasture and Kylie Werner late in the half helped right Jackson's ship for a 23-19 halftime lead.
The Indians opened a six-point lead in the third before Farmington rallied for its first lead. The Knightettes scored five unanswered points to close the third period and added a 3-pointer to open the fourth for a 41-36 edge.
Werner, who finished with 16 points, hit a 3-pointer to pull Jackson within one, and then Jones hit a fadeaway jumper for a 42-41 lead with 5:46 to play. The Indians never trailed again.
But the score was tied 49-49 heading into the final minute, and each team took a possession with the ball in the hands of its best player. After Jones scored off an inbounds play with 30 seconds left, Farmington's Sydney Winslow, who finished with 20 points, was unable to convert inside.
All that was left was free throws for Jones. In a stellar night from all over the floor -- she made 10 of 14 shots from the field -- she had missed five of her first seven free throw attempts.
"I knew that," Jones said, "but I knew I had to make them to win. I'm better under pressure at the end."
"She always tells me she can make them when she has to," Sides said. "I tell her she always has to. But under pressure, she's a better free throw shooter."
She hit three of four in the final 20 seconds, and a desperation heave by Farmington fell short at the buzzer.
"We knew we had to stop Jones and Werner, and we didn't do a good job of it," Farmington coach Steve McFarland said.
The duo combined for 42 points.
"Some players stepped up a little, but some other girls have to contribute some points," Sides said, pointing to his team's shooting chart. "For us to be successful, everyone has got to contribute a little bit."
JACKSON 54, FARMINGTON 51
FARMINGTON (51) -- Natalie Sago 4, Erin Parks 4, Briley Milfield 6, Sydney Winslow 20, Kristen Hayes 5, Danielle Littrell 17, Holly Russell 5. FG 20, FT 3-8, F 19 (3-pointers: Milfeld 2, Littrell 1, Russell 1. Fouled out: Milfeld)
JACKSON (54) -- Cody Goodpasture 3, Kylie Werner 16, Gabrielle Garritano 4, Kelci Keith 2, Bobbie Jones 26, Amanda Peiffer 3. FG 17, FT 15-22, F 11 (3-pointers: Werner 3, Goodpasture 1, Jones 1. Fouled out: none)