Lower Moreland rallies late

Matt Cerruti plays defense on his knees against Pope John Paul II's Mikey Cianciulli late in the game.
Matt Cerruti plays defense on his knees against Pope John Paul II's Mikey Cianciulli late in the game.
Posted: February 28, 2014

Thanks to freshman Matt Cerruti's increased playing time and maturation over the last two months, Lower Moreland's bid for the District 1 Class AAA boys' basketball title remains alive.

Cerruti scored 17 points, including the deciding basket with 5.5 seconds to go, to help the Lions overcome a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter and rally for a 59-58 semifinal victory over stunned Pope John Paul II on Wednesday evening at Colonial Elementary School in Plymouth Meeting.

The 6-foot-1, 140-pound Cerruti, a sixth man who netted eight points in the first half and nine in the second, decided matters with a left-side, pull-up jumper.

"Obviously, I was looking for Danny Duffey, our team's most valuable player," Cerruti said. "But since he's such a good player, they were all over him. I had to try to make a play."

Lower Moreland, advancing to the Class AAA final for the first time, will play Holy Ghost Prep, a semifinal winner over Glen Mills, for the district crown at 8 p.m. Saturday at Villanova's Pavilion.

The second-seeded Lions (16-8) trailed the third-seeded Golden Panthers, 48-36, in the third quarter, and were down, 57-51, with 1 minute, 38 seconds to play.

"That has to be the best win we've had since I've been here," said Seth Baron, Lower Moreland's third-year coach. "That's a very talented team we beat. I couldn't be prouder of our kids for the way they battled."

Cerruti's brother, Nick, a 6-4 senior forward, added six points for the Lions.

"We play each other in the driveway at home," Matt Cerruti said. "That pull-up shot at the end, that's his move. I copied it from all the times he's used it on me."

Duffey a sophomore guard, registered a game-high 20 points, five boards, three assists, and two steals. His left-side drive with 33 seconds remaining trimmed Pope John Paul's lead to 58-57.

Matt Cerruti, who hit a buzzer-beating winner for the JV squad this season, shot 6 for 7 from the field (2 for 2 from beyond the arc) and 3 for 3 from the line.

"He's so poised with the basketball," Baron said. "That's a freshman going against bigger, stronger kids."

Dickey Rhoades and Phil Madden (six boards) each chipped in six points. Stefan Zoubroulis grabbed nine boards.

Pope John Paul II (14-10) went 10 for 25 from three-point range. Mikey Cianciulli paced the Golden Panthers with 13 points, four assists, and two blocks.

Pope John Paul II 14 19 15 10 - 58

Lower Moreland 16 14 8 21 - 59

PJP: James Bleming 8, Matt Mesaros 9, Tim Tadros 12, Mikey Cianciulli 13, James McKeon 4, Nick Giampetro 12.

LM: Dan Duffey 20, Dickey Rhoades 6, Nick Cerruti 6, Phil Madden 6, Stefan Zoubroulis 4, Matt Cerruti 17.


robrien@phillynews.com

@ozoneinq

www.inquirer.com/ozone

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