BOYERTOWN — At this point of the season, the Pope John Paul II boys basketball team knows all about being chased.
In the standings or on the scoreboard, the Golden Panthers are making a living trying to fend off the teams bearing down on them.
But to be the chased means one important thing: You are in the lead.
On Monday night, PJP senior Tim Tadros had a lot to do with keeping his team there.
Tadros gave his team a scoring spark by netting 20 points and Pope John Paul II was able to inch ahead in the second half and never allow the Bears to get all the way back in a 55-51 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory.
Pope John Paul II (7-3 PAC-10, 9-8 overall) has shown a knack for winning tight contests this season and the win over Boyertown was certainly that.
"Six or seven games ago I said to the guys, ' buckle your seat belts' because every game is going to be like this,' PJP coach Jack Flanagan said. "It's going to come down to the last three or four minutes and whoever is more composed and confident is going to win the game. And we did that tonight. We just made one or two more plays in the last two minutes than they did.'
That ability to win in crunch time has allowed the Panthers to lead the Frontier Division and stay ahead of chasers Pottsgrove (6-4) and Pottstown (4-6).
Boyertown (5-5, 7-11) was neck-and-neck with PJP thanks to a hot-shooting night from Tyler Bauman, who scored a game-high 21 points.
The Bears also got eight points apiece from Ryan Corcoran and Ben Longacre. As the focal point of PJP's defensive effort led by James Bleming, Corcoran was held below his season scoring average (17.8 ppg entering Monday).
PJP has been balanced in scoring all season. According to Tadros, it just happened to be his night.
"I got going pretty early so I was feeling good as the game went on. That enabled me to open up some other parts of my game,' Tadros said. "Opportunities came and I just took advantage of them. Anyone can go out and be leading scorer on a given night, tonight it was just me.'
He got it going early with a series of drives along the baseline in the first quarter and remained PJP's top scoring threat throughout, much to the praise of Flanagan.
"He has played so well lately. Every game he plays it seems like every game is better than the last one. He's being patient with the ball but not passive. He's shooting when he's open and getting to the foul line late and knocking down shots.'
Bauman was brilliant in the first quarter, scoring 10 points including two 3-pointers, to give Boyertown a 13-10 lead after one. The game was back-and-forth through the second and third quarters with plenty of lead changes.
Eventually, the lead changed hands for the last time thanks to a not-so-likely contribution.
Rosario Peloro (seven points) came off the bench late in the third quarter and hit a 3-pointer and another jumper on consecutive possessions to turn a 39-38 deficit into a 43-39 lead.
"They have really bought into the fact that it's about the collective strength of this group,' Flanagan said. "I think you see it when Rosario Peloro comes in, hits a 3 and hits another shot and spells James Bleming at the end of the third because he was spending a lot of energy guarding Ryan Corcoran, who is a great player.'
Mike Cianciulli raised his game for PJP in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his 11 points in the frame, and gave the Panthers their largest lead of the game — five points at 48-43 — on a drive with under four minutes to play.
Boyertown kept battling to reclaim the lead and cut the deficit to two points twice, first on a Longacre 3-pointer, then free throws from Colten Moyer (six points).
The Bears liked their situation in the closing seconds, Corcoran getting the ball behind the 3-point line with a chance to tie.
"I think Ryan played a complete game,' Boyertown coach Mike Ludwig said. "It's not about scoring, it's about trying to winning and doing what the team needed. At the end of the game he hit a couple key shots and I think he got fouled at the end and would have had a chance to tie it. But they didn't call the foul.
"He's too good of a shooter to shoot a 20-foot airball.'
Ultimately, both coaches felt the game was won on the slightest of margins.
"I thought both teams played well and shot very, very well,' Ludwig said. "In the end, they just made a couple more shots than we did.'
In the process of being chased, the Golden Panthers are doing some chasing of their own — a place in the PAC-10 playoffs, which they now need just one more win to clinch.
"We're doing well so far, we just have to keep focused on the goals which are making the Final Four and making a state tournament appearance,' Tadros said. "Right now, we're in position to make the Final Four so I think it's going well.'
Both teams shot 50-percent from the floor, PJP going 19-for-38 and Boyertown going 17-for-34. ... Bauman hit five 3-pointers. ... At the free-throw line, PJP was 11-for-16 while Boyertown was 6-for-6.