Pope John Paul II’s Mikey Cianciulli and the Golden Panthers topped Pottsgrove in a District 1-AAA quarterfinal over the weekend. (Photo by John
Pope John Paul II's Mikey Cianciulli and the Golden Panthers topped Pottsgrove in a District 1-AAA quarterfinal over the weekend. (Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury)

With Pope John Paul II's boys basketball team connecting for an area-best 160 3-pointers (and hoisting 460 attempts), its easy to stereotype the Golden Panthers as a group of H.O.R.S.E. specialists with a chuck-and-duck mentality.

Upon further review, the Golden Panthers are a lot more than that.

A good case in point came in Saturday afternoon's 56-42 District 1-AAA quarterfinal victory over Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division foe Pottsgrove, when PJP looked good in every facet of the game.

True, the Golden Panthers did get one 3-pointer apiece from area leader James Bleming (67 treys on the season), Matt Mesaros, Mikey Cianciulli and Nick Giampietro.

But they didn't simply settle for the first perimeter look in defeating the Falcons for the third time this season.

There was crisp ball movement, highlighted by the extra pass.

Smart ballhandling that didn't turn the ball over in a first quarter that ended with the Golden Panthers up 17-8.

And generally smart shot selection, most notably the 4-for-8 effort from the floor from Matt Mesaros — who finished with a season-high 13 points.

"We're a tough defensive team, and we're a good offensive team,' said Mikey Cianciulli, who delivered a team-high 18 points. "When we're shooting the 3, we're very good. But we can also get to the rim, too. We're not just a 3-point shooting team like everybody says.'


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Pope John Paul II (14-9), the third seed, faces second seed Lower Moreland (15-8) Wednesday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh in a District 1-AAA semifinal, and can qualify for the PIAA tourney with a win.

 

SECOND CHANCE

Phoenixville thought its season was over when the District 1-AAA pairings were released Feb. 11 and the Phantoms weren't among the eight-team field.

The Phantoms were originally figured as the No. 8 seed, but got bumped out of the field when one of their opponents, Gospel of Grace, was forced to forfeit 19 games — causing Sun Valley to vault ahead of Phoenixville on power-rating points.

After an appeal was filed, the District 1 committee voted the Phantoms would face Sun Valley in a play-in game. Phoenixville won the encounter 59-50 Thursday thanks to 17 points from DeAndre Gadsden and 14 points from Christian Kelly and a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter and erase a seven-point deficit.

Though the Phantoms' season ended for good in Saturday's 65-52 quarterfinal loss to top seed Holy Ghost Prep, Phoenixville (8-15) — which got 15 points on five 3-pointers by Eric Wallace — hung tough by cutting a 13-point hole after three quarters to six with 36 seconds left.

"I saw a tremendous amount of improvement as a team over the last third of the season,' Phantoms coach Randy Reber said.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP MATERIAL

Hill School got a game-high 17 points from 6-foot-8 center John Carroll Saturday in bringing home its first Pa. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship with a 56-50 victory over Westtown at Malvern Prep. The Blues, who matched their season-high nine 3-pointers, opened a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter and held on to close out a 19-3 campaign. It was Hill's first PAISAA final victory in three appearances after losing in the tourney final in both 2007 and 2008.

 

CONSOLATION CHATTER

PAC-10 champion Spring-Ford saw a nine-game winning streak halted Friday, when the Rams fell 69-52 to visiting Pennsbury in a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal. The fourth seed Rams (23-3), who have already qualified for the PIAA Tournament for the first time in program history, return to action Tuesday and will host defending state champion and ninth seed Lower Merion in a 7 p.m. consolation contest.

 

STATING THEIR CASE

Methacton is one win shy of its second straight PIAA tourney appearance, thanks to Friday's nail-biting 42-41 victory over Penn Wood in a District 1-AAAA playback.

The 17th seed Warriors (17-9) got 14 points from senior forward Zach Jenkins to advance to Tuesday's state qualifier at Oxford at 7 p.m.

 

MILLER TIME

Pottsgrove resident Henry Miller, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, is averaging 21.5 points for Delco Christian and was named the Bicentennial Athletic League Player of the Year. He had 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Friday's 59-50 overtime 1-A quarterfinal win over Faith Christian as the Knights advanced to Tuesday's semi against Church Farm School.

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.