Mizzou Arena was speckled with green and red on Saturday afternoon at the Missouri Class 3 boy’s basketball state championship game between Barstow and Cardinal Ritter. The stop-and-go tempo on the court was perpetual to match.
Ultimately, Cardinal Ritter won out 57-48. The Lions curbed Barstow’s hopes to bring home the school’s first state championship since 1995, leaving the Knights wishing the green on their jerseys contained some Irish luck.
“As we all know, basketball is a game of runs,” Barstow coach Billy Thomas said. “(The team that) makes the last run, most of the time, wins. And today was no different. We matched up with them ... and they came through and really picked it up there in a stretch that kind of put the game out of reach.”
The final score was not indicative of the previous 32 minutes.
Barstow won the opening tip and Knights sophomore Jeriah Horne scored first. Twenty seconds later, Cardinal Ritter answered. The trend continued throughout the game with a mixture of acrobatic dribbling, dunks, fouls and antsy turnovers.
By halftime, Barstow led 26-25. Horne led Barstow in height and points at the half. The 6-foot-6 forward dominated in the paint to the tune of eight points on 44 percent shooting, three rebounds and a block.
It’s fitting that Horne and freshman guard Jacob Gilyard wear No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Horne led the team with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Second to him was Gilyard, contributing 10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
Four other Knights combined for 18 points.
It was impossible for Cardinal Ritter to ignore Horne. Cardinal Ritter senior forward Isaiah Williams adjusted his defense after he picked up two early fouls.
“At the beginning of the game I was playing up on him really tight,” Williams said. “I saw how the game was called. So, I sort of gave him a little space and allowed him to dribble the ball, and I just attacked it with my quickness.”
Horne was frustrated, but he doesn’t think it affected his game.
“It’s an adjustment that I had to make,” Horne said. “I just had to calm down, which I didn’t do that well today. But it happens like that sometimes, you know? I got frustrated, but it didn’t affect my game play that much.”
Horne trudged into the interview room following the game with his hood up and his arm around Gilyard. The two wore shirts that said “All Determination” and “All Knights.” And with that, next season began.
“We want to be the last team standing,” Thomas said. “And we were just, just that close. Understand the feeling that it is to be that close and not accomplish it is all the fuel and motivation we’ll need to try our best to get back to this point.”