UPPER PROVIDENCE — The offense of the Pope John Paul II boys basketball team had the sweet melody of smooth jazz Saturday afternoon.
The offense of Pottsgrove, meanwhile, more resembled clashing cymbals.
The end result was the Golden Panthers cruising to a 56-42 District 1-AAA quarterfinal victory thanks to a balanced effort led by guard Mikey Cianciulli's 18 points.
Matt Mesaros scored a season-high 13 points and James Bleming delivered all 10 of his points in the first half as third seed PJP (14-9) advanced to Wednesday's semifinal against second seed Lower Moreland (15-8) — a 48-41 winner over Upper Moreland — set for 6 p.m. at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
"We played a complete game,' said Cianciulli. "Probably one of our best of the season from start to finish.'
Bleming got the proceedings started by nailing a long 3-pointer to kick-start a game-opening 11-2 run and the sixth seed Falcons (9-14) never could find any kind of consistency.
"It seemed like their shots were in rhythm and ours were forced,' Pottsgrove coach Scott Palladino said. "That's been our Achilles' heel all year. We've just been struggling at the offensive end. Too many gaps when we don't score. Too many droughts.'
The Golden Panthers led 19-8 when Cianciulli finished a drive 17 seconds into the second quarter before the Falcons began to finally show some life with a seven-point spurt ignited by Mike Fowler's jumper.
But reserve Nick Giampietro and Mesaros both had 3-pointers to help PJP open a 30-19 halftime lead.
The quick start — highlighted by an 8-for-13 shooting performance in the first quarter — had Golden Panthers coach Jack Flanagan smiling, given the fact his team was returning to action for the first time since falling to Methacton in the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals Feb. 7.
"In our four years, we've had this two-week layoff, and this is the best we've come out from start to finish,' Flanagan said. "I was a little worried about us being rusty or ragged play early, but the guys just did a great job of coming out and playing well.'
Pottsgrove, which had fallen 46-36 and 47-42 in the regular season to Frontier Division champion PJP, came out strong in the second half behind Fowler (team-high 12 points), and pulled within 32-27 on Fowler's pull-up jumper with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
That, however, was as close as it would get. James McKeon finished a nice feed from Cianciulli to begin a 15-point run that lasted well into the fourth quarter. After Fowler's hoop, the Golden Panthers shut the Falcons out from the field for a span of 8:04.
"To me, it was our inadequacy at the offensive end,' Palladino said. "It was bad. We missed a lot of close ones, too. You can't do that in district play.
"We've been up and down all year. Defensively, we played hard again today. It's just that we don't score. I give Pope a lot of credit. They made plays today, they took care of the basketball, they moved the ball well and they got easy shots.'
The Golden Panthers also knocked down foul shots — going 22-for-24 from the charity stripe boosted by a 9-for-10 effort from Cianciulli.
"We're a good foul shooting team,' Flanagan said. "That's how you win games late in the year.'
Bleming's 3-pointer raised his area-leading season total to 67. Cianciulli, who had 12 fourth-quarter points, enjoyed his second-most prolific game of the season. And McKeon had nine rebounds and Mesaros had seven boards as PJP enjoyed a 34-25 advantage on the glass.
"We just wanted to come out and execute,' Cianciulli said. "We wanted to do what we knew how to do, and do what we did to get us to where we are right now.'
Ryan Klotz had eight points and Fowler finished with a team-high nine rebounds for Pottsgrove.
"Somebody brought up to me that Spring-Ford had the same situation with Methacton,' Flanagan said of facing a squad for the third time in a season. "I think the difference with us, compared to theirs (which was in the PAC-10 final), was that this was survive-and-advance. Right now, you just have to be one point better than the other guys.'
And thanks to a veritable offensive symphony, the Golden Panthers were much more than that in the third meeting with the Falcons.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD