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Bucher, Adekunle lead Providence into semifinals

ATLANTA -- It's never easy to defeat a good team three times. But that is the task facing the Providence Christian boys.

Despite a regular-season division title and a trip to the Region 5-A semifinals, the Stars haven't clinched a berth in the 32-team state tournament bracket yet.

That will only come with another victory over St. Francis on Friday at Wesleyan because only the top two teams in Region 5-A automatically make the state field. The third and fourth finishers have to advance through a preliminary game against Region 9-A.

"It's always tough to beat a team three times," Providence coach Ivan Iverson said. "St. Francis is a good team, but we'll be ready. We've got a day to get ready and we'll know what to work on."

The Stars (17-9) advanced with a 56-34 quarterfinal victory over Atlanta International on Wednesday at Holy Innocents' as Nate Bucher scored 18 points and Kareem Adekunle pulled down 16 rebounds.

St. Francis (15-11) will get a third shot as Providence after a 53-46 victory over Division B second-seed Pace Academy (10-16) behind 19 points by Conner Smith. The game is the finale on Friday, with a tentative start time of 8:30 p.m.

Providence, the No. 1 seed from Division B, stretched a 14-9 first-quarter lead 29-11 by outscoring Atlanta International 15-2 to start the second quarter and coasted to the victory. The Stars led 32-17 at halftime and 55-27 after three quarters before going into a delay game and then clearing the bench.

Adekunle had eight points and four blocked shots to go with his big game on the boards. Charlie Scott had 13 points, while Nikko Cormier scored nine and ABJ Kushanu added eight.

Darius Scott had 10 points to lead Atlanta International (5-15). Mustafa Thomas scored nine.

Bucher has been battling a tender ankle and sore left wrist and both injuries flared up during the game. But he had 15 points in the middle two quarters when Providence took complete control of the game.

"He'll be OK," Iverson said. "He's been banged up for a while and he's played through it. He'll feel better after a day off."

Wesleyan 55, Fellowship Christian 47

Shane Smith scored 22 points and Wesleyan (17-9) advanced to the 5-A boys semifinals with a 55-47 victory over Fellowship Christian (15-12) on Wednesday night.

Down by 10 points early in the fourth quarter, Fellowship cut the Wesleyan lead to four points with less than a minute left. But Shane Smith hit three free throws and Will Clifton one as the Wolves held on.

Clifton had 15 points, 11 in the second half. He and Smith combined for all except 18 of the Wesleyan points.

Wesleyan, which won a tie-breaker with St. Francis for the No. 2 seed from Division B, expanded a 12-10 first-quarter lead to 27-18 in the second quarter before Fellowship closed back to 32-26 at intermission. After back-to-back 3-pointers by Clifton, Wesleyan led 38-28 in the third quarter. But Fellowship was back within 42-36 going into the fourth quarter.

Roger Rickman had 12 points and Walker Tuten scored 11 for Fellowship.

The Wolves will play in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at Wesleyan.