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Providence has late-game heroics this time

Photo: David McGregor  Providence's Nikko Cormier drives past Wesleyan's Takim Williams during the Stars' region victory over the Wolves on Friday night in Norcross.

Photo: David McGregor Providence's Nikko Cormier drives past Wesleyan's Takim Williams during the Stars' region victory over the Wolves on Friday night in Norcross.

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Photo: David McGregor Providence's Nate Bucher (14) puts up a shot over Wesleyan's Shane Smith (4) during the first half of the Stars' region victory over the Wolves on Friday night in Norcross.

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Photo: David McGregor Providence's Charlie Scott rejects a shot by Wesleyan's Brandon Gilliam during the second half of the Stars' victory over the Wolves on Friday night in Norcross

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Photo: David McGregor Wesleyan's Charles Mack walks off the floor shortly after the Wolves region loss to Providence on Friday night in Norcross.

NORCROSS -- As the full-court pass made it almost all the way to the Wesleyan basket, Providence Christian coach Ivan Iverson had a horrible flashback.

"I was afraid we might have another miraculous ending," Iverson said.

That wouldn't be a good thing for the Providence boys, who lost at home to Wesleyan on Will Clifton's shot from beyond half court as the buzzer sounded on Jan. 10.

But there wouldn't be a buzzer-beater to win Friday night's game. The Stars can thank ABJ Kushanu for that.

Kushanu, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, blocked Shane Smith's shot from the right of the lane and Providence had a 45-44 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak to rival Wesleyan.

"No way they were going to beat us again like that," Kushanu said. "I had to block that shot."

The teams' first meeting this season can't be matched when it comes to a miracle game-winning shot. But the second Region 5-A, Division B game between Providence and Wesleyan was unique in its own way.

In game of wild momentum swings, Wesleyan (13-7, 3-2) scored just one point in the third quarter. But when Clifton completed a 3-point play with 53.8 seconds left, it looked like the Wolves were headed for the victory.

But Nate Bucher drove the lane and scored for Providence (12-9, 3-2) with 12 seconds remaining, putting the Stars back ahead.

There was still more excitement to come, though.

After Bucher missed the front end of a 1-plus-1 with 1.1 seconds left, Wesleyan rebounded and was awarded a timeout with 0.9 remaining.

The inbounds pass made it all the way up court. But Kushanu was there to block Smith's shot and touch off a wild celebration on the court and in the Stars' student section.

Nikko Cormier, who was scoreless in the earlier loss to Wesleyan, led Providence with 16 points, all in the first half. Charlie Scott scored 13 for the Stars and Kareem Adekunle grabbed 11 rebounds.

Clifton was the leading scorer for Wesleyan with 17 points, 11 coming in the first half. Smith, who scored 30 in a victory over Pinecrest Academy while reaching the 1,000-point milestone on Tuesday, was held to six.

The game was originally scheduled for Wesleyan's smaller Marchman Gymnasium, rather than the newer Yancey Gymnasium, as part of a throwback celebration.

But Providence didn't think that Marchman was big enough to hold the crowd and the venue was switched. What was missing in intimacy was more than made up for in excitement as the teams traded momentum swings. With Cormier scoring eight of the points, Providence led 14-1 midway in the first quarter. But Wesleyan then went on a 19-0 run to go up 20-14 with five minutes left before halftime.

The Wesleyan lead reached 27-20, but Providence scored the last seven points of the second quarter to go into halftime tied.

Then the Wolves went ice-cold in the third quarter, going without a field goal. Providence completed a 13-0 run by scoring the first six points of the second half and pushed the lead to 37-28 going into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was almost all Wesleyan, though. But Providence held the Wolves off thanks to Bucher's basket and Kushanu's block.

Wesleyan hurt itself at the foul line, going 4-for-9.

"It was a game of runs," Iverson said. "But we were able to make some stops and the big plays when we needed them."

The Providence coach had to sweat out the win right to the end, though.

Wesleyan girls 59, Providence 23

The Wesleyan girls coasted past Providence Christian 59-23 behind 15 points from Holli Wilkins. But it was a potentially costly victory for the No. 1-ranked Wolves, who have a highly anticipated home game with Buford tonight.

Junior forward Katie Frerking, the Wolves' second-leading scorer and rebounder, injured her right ankle in the opening minute of the second half and was on crutches after the game.

Wesleyan, 17-3 overall and 5-0 in Region 5-A, Division B, received 10 points, six steals and four assists from Brittany Stevens in the win over Providence. Jordan Frazier had six steals and five assists, Kaelyn Causwell has a team-best five rebounds and Lauren Frerking blocked three shots.

Providence (8-12, 2-3) was led by Erika Gotfredson's 13 points. The Stars have lost 22 straight games to Wesleyan after winning six of the first seven games in the series.

The Wesleyan-Buford girls game will begin at approximately 7:30 p.m. after the 6 p.m. boys game.

Wesleyan, which has eight titles in the past 10 years, has won four straight state championships, the last three after dropping from Class AA and Class A. Buford has won three straight Class AA state titles since Wesleyan moved down.

Buford is the last team to defeat the Wesleyan girls at Yancey Gymnasium, winning an overtime game in 2010. Wesleyan won the rematch at Buford last season.