For the third straight meeting, Jackson's girls basketball team struggled early with rival Central.
But on Tuesday at the Farmington Civic Center, the Indians recovered in time once again and routed the Tigers 42-19 in the Class 5, District 1 semifinals.
The top-seeded Indians improved to 23-3 and will face No. 2 Poplar Bluff in the finals at 6 p.m. Thursday. Central ended its season 6-19.
"You'd think we'd have learned from the other two, but it didn't look like we did," Jackson coach Sam Sides said.
The Tigers came out fired up, getting an early steal and causing problems for Jackson on the offensive end with physical play. Erica Schabbing put the Tigers ahead 2-0 with an early basket, and Megan McDonald gave Central another lead at 4-3 minutes later.
Jackson used an 8-2 run to open up an 11-6 lead, but a late McDonald 3-pointer cut the lead to 12-11 at the end of one quarter. Central used its first-quarter momentum to grab the lead 14-12 on a McDonald 3-pointer to start the second.
"They were ready to play and we weren't," Sides said of the early going.
McDonald's 3-pointer woke up the Indians. Jackson turned up its intensity on defense, applying full-court pressure which caused numerous second-quarter turnovers.
While the Indians were not hitting shots from the outside, they used interior players Bobbie Jones and Ashley Bartels to spark their run. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Jones and Bartels had scored 10 points, and the Indians led 25-14.
"We recovered in the second half, and that's what matters," Bartels said.
Even though Jackson's offense continued to have its share of struggles in the second half, the Indians were not threatened. Central managed just two field goals the entire second half and suffered two nine-minutes scoreless stretches in the game.
"It took us a long time, but a lot of that comes from Cape's play," Sides said of his team's ability to take control of the game.
Bartels led all scorers with 15 points, and Jones added 12. Jackson's three starting guards managed just 12 points combined.
"When the outside shots aren't falling, we can go to the inside shots," Bartels said.
McDonald, Central's lone senior, led the Tigers with eight points.