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.
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.