Five things to watch at the Missouri high school basketball state tournaments:
1. Barstow back in Columbia
Barstow has the experience. Father Tolton Catholic has the No. 1 ranking.
Barstow, 26-3, will make its third straight trip to the Class 3 boys Final Four, when it meets Mountain Grove at 5 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena. Columbia’s Father Tolton, the top-ranked team in the state poll, plays Whitfield in the other semifinal Thursday.
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If Barstow and Father Tolton meet in Saturday’s championship, it would feature an array of talent. The defending-champion Knights have three Division I prospects, with seniors Jeriah Horne (Nebraska) and Shea Rush (North Carolina) already making their commitments official and junior Jacob Gilyard garnering top-level interest.
Father Tolton junior Michael Porter is ranked No. 2 in the nation in his class, according to Rivals.com. His brother, sophomore forward Jontay Porter, has committed to Washington.
2. St. Pius X breaks the drought
For the first time in 16 seasons, the St. Pius X girls basketball season includes a spot in the Class 3 Final Four.
As it proved in Saturday’s rout against Boonville, St. Pius X, 25-3, can formulate scoring spurts from a variety of sources, with four players averaging at least 7 points per game. Abby Hipp is just shy of a double-double average with 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Antoinette Mussorici is at 13.6 points per contest.
In Thursday’s semifinals, St. Pius X will meet Strafford at 1:40 p.m.
3. The drama in Class 5 boys
If the district championship games are an indication of what’s to come in the Class 5 boys state tournament, it could be a fun couple of weeks.
Raymore-Peculiar defeated Lee’s Summit West 47-44 in overtime Friday when Cole Kruse hit a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left. And that was after Ray-Pec guard Nathan Janssen forced overtime with a three-pointer as time expired in regulation. Ray-Pec will play undefeated Lee’s Summit at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
Liberty North edged rival Liberty 45-44 for the Class 5, District 15 title Saturday when senior Michael Hughes swatted Jalen Lewis’ game-winning layup attempt as the horn sounded. Liberty North will play Park Hill South at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
4. A second chance for Grain Valley
A resurgent Grain Valley girls program saw its season come to a close in the Class 4 sectional round last season.
It has another opportunity. Against the same opponent, no less. The Eagles, 22-5, will face Bolivar at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Blue Springs High School.
Gain Valley guard Kendyll Bailey is averaging 21.3 points per game over her last four outings.
5. Tough terrain in Class 5 girls
While the four-year dynasty from Columbia Rock Bridge will come to a close, the Class 5 girls bracket remains a challenge.
Fourteen teams left in the 16-member bracket feature a winning percentage of 70 percent or better.
Liberty, 24-3, will play St. Joseph Central, 21-6, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. William Chrisman, 21-6, faces Belton, 15-12, at 3 p.m. Wednesday.