LOWER POTTSGROVE — When your leading scorer is under the weather, others have to pick up the slack. And that's what the Pope John Paul II boys did in Monday night's battle for first place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division as several players made key offensive contributions down the stretch.
The Golden Panthers also played tough defense throughout in a 46-36 win at Pottsgrove.
Tim Tadros and Mikey Cianciulli each scored 13 for PJP (5-2, 7-6), which had dropped its previous two league games.
Deyon Doctor scored 10 off the bench to lead the Falcons (4-3, 5-9) and Jaden Wade followed with nine points.
"Anyone in the game can do that for us,' Panther coach Jack Flanagan said concerning some key baskets and free throws by his team after the Falcons had sliced a 15-point deficit just before the half to 37-33 with 4:10 remaining in the contest. "James Bleming (the team's leading scorer with 13.5 points per contest) was sick. We needed contributions from guys to come up and make the plays. And we got it tonight.'
After Nazir Goldston (eight points) scored off a PJP turnover to bring the hosts to within four, James McKeon put in a layup off a pass from Matt Mesaros (eight points, nine rebounds) and then made a free throw the next time down court for a 40-33 advantage.
Goldston scored again off a steal, but Cianciulli took the ball down the middle for a basket for a 42-35 lead with two minutes left. Then after Doctor made a free throw, Bleming — who was held scoreless while taking just six shots — came up with a steal and two free throws each by Cianciulli and Tadros wrapped up the win.
"I told them a couple games ago, I thought every game in the league was going to go that way ... down to the wire,' said Flanagan. "You've got to be mentally tough and make the plays down the stretch, and we made more than they did.'
"They threw a press at us and started picking up full court,' said Tadros, who grabbed five of his game-high 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter. "But we kept our composure and started getting it back at the end. It should help us out later in the season.'
PJP had scored the final six points of the opening quarter for a 15-6 advantage and held a 28-13 lead late in the second quarter before Mike Fowler and Ryan Klotz scored for the hosts for a 28-17 spread at the half.
Falcons coach Scott Palladino was happy with his team's defense, but the offense never did click for any extended period of time.
"It was stagnant,' he said. "I think we had some missed opportunities in the beginning of the game. We dug ourselves a hole.
"When you hold their leading scorer to zero points and give up 46 points, you have to feel good. I can't fault the kids' effort defensively.'
The defense forced five turnovers in the third quarter and held the visitors to just five points as Pottsgrove crept back into contention. But the Pope John Paul defense was also strong as it held the hosts to 15-for-48 shooting from the floor on the night and forced 16 turnovers.
"They play good team defense,' Palladino added. "Their rotation was there. They played solid defensively tonight. We just didn't execute offensively. A little better execution on our part and it could have been a little different game. We were getting some stops, but we weren't cutting into the lead.'
The Golden Panthers had lost four out of their last five overall after a fast start.
"We just needed to play together more,' said Tadros, who scored nine in the first quarter. "We needed to keep our composure and we did that really well tonight.'
Fowler and Anthony Hedgepeth each had nine rebounds for the Falcons, who enjoyed a 38-32 advantage on the boards. ... The Golden Panthers turned the ball over just once in the first quarter and finished with 13 miscues. ... PJP shot 18-for-48 from the floor. ... Each team shot just 11 free throws.