Barstow’s Missouri Class 3 boys basketball state semifinal against Mountain Grove wasn’t a game of two halves, but rather a game of two quarters.
After a sluggish start, Barstow throttled the Panthers in the second and third quarters. The Knights turned a nine-point deficit into a 13-point lead and cruised to a 63-49 victory on Thursday.
The triumph rewards fans with an anticipated championship matchup between Barstow, in its third consecutive trip to the state tournament, and Father Tolton Catholic. Tolton junior Michael Porter is ranked No. 2 in the nation in his class, according to Rivals.com.
In Thursday’s semifinal at Mizzou Arena, Mountain Grove made six of its first eight three-pointers and had the Knights on their heels. Barstow’s top three players — Jeriah Horne, Shea Rush and Jacob Gilyard — all were called for player-control fouls early in the second quarter.
Then Barstow woke up, ending the quarter on a 8-0 run. The Knights also turned up the defensive pressure and outscored Mountain Grove 12-3 in the second period.
“It was a testament to our starting five’ ” Barstow coach Billy Thomas said. “Our kids are calm and very poised. We just knew we had to play better.”
Barstow started the third quarter with a 13-0 run and outscored the Panthers 17-4 in the period. So what did Thomas say to the Knights at halftime?
“I just reminded them ... that we’re a defensive ballclub,” he said. “Let’s continue to be who we are.”
Horne led Barstow, 27-3, with 25 points. Rush added 14 points and Gilyard 13. Mountain Grove coach Duane Hiler said he knew his hands were full with Horne and Rush, but ...
“Jacob Gilyard. Good Lord,” Hiler said. “He is quick on quick on quick. “
So can Barstow and its three Division I prospects, with Horne (Nebraska), Rush (North Carolina) and Gilyard garnering top-level interest, repeat as state champion with a win over Father Tolton and Porter?
“We’re looking forward to an unbelievable high school basketball game,” Thomas said.