Slow Start dooms Providence

FAIRBURN -- For Providence, the defining moment of its state playoff game came in the first quarter.

The Stars fell behind 15-0 to start the game and scored just three points in the opening quarter as they fell 57-49 to Landmark Christian in the first round of the Class A state boys basketball tournament.

"We just didn't come out ready to play," Providence head coach Ivan Iverson said. "We told our kids that 24 (Houston Kessler) could shoot ... he made some big shots and that got them rolling."

Kessler, who scored a game-high 27 points, put Providence in a 3-0 hole, part of a 7-0 Landmark run in the first minute of the game.

Providence found itself in a bigger hole as Kessler hit another triple to help extend the deficit to 15. Guard Nikko Cormier made a free throw for Providence's first points.

The Stars scored just one field goal in the quarter and trailed 18-3 after the first eight minutes.

Providence showed signs of life in the second quarter as guard Nate Bucher, who led the Stars with 17 points, made shots from the perimeter to chip away at the deficit.

However, turnovers haunted Providence and Landmark Christian extended its lead thanks to a five-steal effort from Jacob Ross, who also had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Providence's offensive struggles hampered its key defensive plan.

"Our gameplan was to try to pressure them all game, but we needed to convert some baskets in order to get that set up," Iverson said.

Providence trailed by 19 at the half and was unable to cut into the lead during the third quarter, but the Stars started to make some headway in the final quarter thanks to an eight-point, 10-rebound effort from Karem Adekune.

Providence scored early in the quarter and Adekune's rebounding and defense helped Providence cut the lead to 10 with just under two minutes remaining.

In the closing minutes, Landmark Christian hit its free throws and put the game away, denying Providence's late comeback attempt.

"You give a good team that cushion (in the first quarter) it's hard to recover." Iverson said.