When Barstow coach Billy Thomas stepped onto the Hearnes Center floor this week, he joked he felt a pain in his stomach. The previous two trips for Thomas, a former Kansas Jayhawk guard, to the old home of the Missouri Tigers didn’t leave pleasant memories — top-five ranked KU teams were dealt losses in back-to-back seasons.
This felt a little better.
Barstow erased an early double-digit deficit and defeated College Prep at Madison 55-47 in the Missouri Class 3 semifinals Thursday. Searching for their first state championship since 1995, the Knights will play Cardinal Ritter at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
“I told my kids — this is the only way I’m happy with being in Columbia,” Thomas said with a smirk. “We have to take care of business. Other than that, I don’t want to come.”
It looked bleak early.
College Prep, the defending state champions, raced out to a 15-1 lead in the opening quarter. Barstow’s leading scorer, Jeriah Horne, brought the Knights back. He scored seven straight points, part of a 24-point, 14-rebound afternoon, to kick-start a comeback that took full flight in the second half.
Barstow freshman point guard Jacob Gilyard banked in a three-pointer from half court at the halftime buzzer, and the Knights used the momentum to outscore College Prep 30-18 after the break.
“I just wanted to give some momentum to the team (and) inspire them,” Gilyard said. “I tried to give us a little boost coming out of halftime.”
Barstow, 27-2, took its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter when Horne grabbed a steal in the backcourt and punctuated it with a one-handed slam. Horne scored at least five points in every quarter despite battling foul trouble.
Tripp Wallsworth buried three three-pointers in the second half.
Barstow made 19 of 21 free throws, including 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
“Just making it here is big,” Gilyard said. “To know we just beat the team that won it last year, it brings us even higher. (Saturday) should be fun.”