Just by looking at the score of Monday’s District 1 Class AAA opening round game between Lower Moreland and Pope John Paul II, one might think that Lower Moreland just eased past the Panthers as it had in the last 23 of 24 games prior.
PJP had the Lions on the ropes for the first two and a half quarters, hitting them with all they could handle. It took Lower Moreland a bit to respond but it swung the game by ending the third quarter on an 18-2 run to allow the Lions to run away with an 89-69 win.
“We always talk about punch, counter-punch,’ Lower Moreland coach Seth Baron said. “Pope John Paul gets a lot of credit, they came strong. They were the more rested team and they looked it.’
Early in the contest, PJP, which concluded its season with a 9-14 record, was getting much of its offensive production from its guards as Mike Cianciulli, Nick Giampietro and Rich Dunham combined for 23 of its 31 first-half points. The trio however faded down the stretch as the swarming Lion defense locked in on them.
“What we try to do offensively, no matter what anyone is doing, is all the basics,’ PJP coach Jack Flanagan said. “Be strong with the basketball, have good spacing especially when someone is going to come and trap.’
A strength of the Lions they have been able to use all year is its depth. Guards Nick Smolda and Dicky Rhoades scored 13 and nine points, respectively, off the bench including six 3-pointers between the two.
“We’re eight deep. We think we have eight starters,’ Baron said. “The kids who come off the bench, they know what their role is and all eight know that if you perform you’re going to stay out there and you’re going to play.’
Waiting next for the 25-1 Lions is a second round date with the No. 3 Glen Mills coming fresh off a 67-51 win over Bishop Shanahan.